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Dating & Relationships


The Science of Matchmaking

Some insider tips for Internet dating success

Back before the Internet, matchmaking had to involve third parties: a friend setting you up with his cute cousin, or a coworker introducing you to a roommate who'd be so perfect. That surely still happens, but it's also now quite respectable to fish in a much larger pool by using dating websites such as the new AARP Dating powered by HowAboutWe. No dating site has a magical algorithm that can instantly home in on your ideal mate — but you can increase your odds of success if you understand what online strategies tend to work best.

See also: Tips for writing an online dating profile.

Man typing on computer keyboard candy hearts, Online Dating

CJ Burton/Corbis

There's a science to online dating. Take the time to understand what strategies work best.

Start with a broad search: Laurie Davis, an online dating consultant with, says: "I usually tell my clients they should first see what's really out there, then later on they can get more targeted." But, Davis adds, don't spend all day poring over profiles, because "you start becoming too judgmental." She suggests setting a time limit; perhaps plan to spend 30 minutes a day looking at and interacting with potential dates.

AARP Dating powered by HowAboutWe is different from many other dating sites in that users post an idea for a date, such as "How about we … go to a baseball game" (or "eat an ice cream sundae" or "try the new French restaurant downtown").

You don't necessarily have to go on the date you propose, says Erin Scottberg, of, but it allows you to project your personality and it works as a conversation starter. As Scottberg puts it, "If I say, 'How about we go and spend $5 at a jukebox in a dive bar,' that gives you a really good insight about how I like to spend my time." And it also gives potential dates something specific to message you about, for example: "I love that little bar on 15th and K streets, have you been there?"

Include key words: And be precise when using key words in filling out your profile. Davis says, "I often find that people who are 50-plus aren't comfortable talking about themselves online, but if you do it halfway, you're not going to see results that you're happy with." For example, she says, don't just say you're "adventurous," because "to some people that means skydiving, to others it means trying a new restaurant." If you can tell a story about what you did that was adventurous, you'll inspire more responses. Similarly, when evaluating others' profiles, look for thoroughness.

Find a face-to-face formula: There is actually a proven formula for a great first date, which, if you're using AARP's new service, you can suggest in your "How about we …" statement or when you arrange to meet. Says Scottberg: "The date is two parts — one part active, one part more intimate." The date might start with a long walk or maybe kayaking or biking. Then it's drinks, which may be coffee or a glass of beer or wine. It works, according to Scottberg, because "you have the activity to kind of break the ice and get to know each other. Then afterward you're feeling more relaxed."

Also, if there's no chemistry, you can bail out after part one without having to suffer through part two. One successful couple met after the man posted, "How about we go for a walk in the High Line (in New York), and then get dinner afterward." This woman was the third person he took on that date, says Scottberg, "and she was the only one who made it to dinner."

Published November 2012