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Online Dating Tips From Hollywood Casting Directors

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I will always be the first to say that I have a pretty sweet gig. I get to read, write, and coach people about relationships every single day, which is exactly what I've always wanted to do. The downside is that I'm also bombarded with online dating tips from other experts and coaches every...single...day...which, if I'm being honest, can get a little boring.

Sometimes I like to mix it up a little. Sometimes I like to hear from people who aren't your average 'dating experts' and 'love coaches.' That's where Damona Hoffman and Sarah Monson come in. They may consider themselves dating experts now, but once upon a time they were toiling away in an entirely different career: Hollywood casting director.

One worked on 'some wildly popular prime-time hits' as well as a few 'pilots that never saw the light of day.' The other took what she learned as a casting director about developing a personal brand for actors and transformed it into advice for online daters.

So what did casting teach these ladies about life and love?

Lesson 1: Guys Are Never As Tall As They Say They Are

Ok, so it's not just guys. There's a lot of white lying going on online, and men and women are both at fault. Subtract a few pounds here, add a couple of inches there...what's the harm, right? There are certainly worse lies you could tell, but the truth is that it's always better to avoid the lies in the first place.

Lesson 2: A First Date Is Just Like a Reality Show Audition, Minus the Background Check

No matter what guidelines you sent out, you still might end up with someone totally different from what you expected. Maybe you'll get lucky, and it'll turn out that what you needed wasn't what you thought you were looking for. But maybe you won't. In that case, you could try ducking all the post-date phone calls, but it's better to be an adult about it. Let them down gently, but be honest and clear about your feelings.

Lesson 3: Most People Have No Idea How To Advertise Who They Are Or What They're Looking For

Think of yourself as a product. Online dating is the release of the premium version of the 'You' product after years of beta testing. Identify your strongest assets, then design a marketing plan for your profile that presents those assets to potential dates. Understand your product inside and out, so you know exactly what's going to make a casting director or future date say "Yes! That's the one!"

4 Online Dating Myths That Are Holding You Back

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Is it just me, or are friends really bad at selling online dating?

First they say "Oh, you should totally try it! Online dating is a great way to meet people!" Then they follow it up with "This one time, this awful thing happened to me..."

They get you all pumped up about online dating only to tear you right back down again with a horror story of a fake profile, creepy message, or incredibly awkward date. And now we've got a constant barrage of warnings coming from the media to contend with (Scams! Con men! Catfish!), too.

With that cloud of negativity hanging in the air, it's a wonder anyone ever ventures to dip a toe in the Internet dating pool. I can't even remember what finally convinced me to do it - I'd just had enough of the crazy rumors and wasn't going to let anything scare me out of it.

I'm glad I took the plunge, because it turns out that there are a lot of totally bogus myths out there, and online dating is actually a lot of fun. If MythBusters tackled online dating, this is what the episode would say:

  1. Online dating is not just for 'old people' who are divorced and lonely. Not even close. Online dating these days is an indispensable tool for meeting people from all walks of life. Young, old, middle aged...single, separated, divorced, attached...everyone is logging on to meet romantic partners, casual hookups, and new friends.
  2. Online dating isn't just for weirdoes, either. Yeah, you might encounter a weirdo or two (just think of it as added entertainment value when you do), but most of the men and women on dating sites aren't. It's easier than you think to identify the nuttier profiles, and if you look hard enough you might even find someone who's the same kind of weird as you.
  3. People who date online aren't just after sex. Maybe you are, and that's ok. There are plenty of sites that cater to casual encounters. But if you're not, don't let those sites scare you away. There are also plenty of people online who are looking for love and long-term relationships. Just be sure to choose a site that's designed for what you're looking for.
  4. Meeting someone online isn't embarrassing. Was it cozy beneath that rock you've been living under? It's 2013, and we're totally over the online dating stigma. In fact, I have friends who lied and said they met online because they were too embarrassed by how they actually met (shh...don't tell them I told you). How's that for a switcheroo?

And this is what it looks like when you blow up a computer, because no MythBusters episode is complete without an explosion.

Social Media Guidelines for Dating

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Most of us are at least familiar with social media like Facebook, Twitter, FourSquare, and the like. Many of us have accounts and check them on a regular basis. Some of us keep privacy settings high while others put themselves out there to gain a larger client and networking base. Some feel compelled to post constantly - where they are going for dinner or what they just said to a work colleague, while others prefer to post only occasionally with meaningful advice or news.

We all perceive social media in different ways and use it for different reasons. This is why it can get tricky when you incorporate dating into your virtual mix.

Obviously, there are a lot of opportunities for connecting with other singles over social media. But reaching out to people virtually comes with risk. How do you feel about potential dates - and strangers - knowing so much about you through Facebook or Twitter before you even meet face to face?

Following are a few basic guidelines to remember when dealing with social media and dating:

Don't be afraid to connect. There are many dating tools that utilize the power of Facebook to connect you with people in your social circles that you don't necessarily know. Check out CoffeeMeetsBagel or TheDatable if you want to promote your other single Facebook friends in the dating pool. These apps are selective about the information shared, limited to your likes and profile photos.

Know your privacy settings. You don't have to make your social media posts public to everyone. It's important to know your privacy settings, especially on Facebook or Google+ where you can customize by post or picture. It's good to be aware of how you present yourself online to people who don't know anything about you. This goes not only for dating, but also for your career.

Don't post rants about your dates. Think about it - if you were interested in someone, friended him on Facebook, and then saw posts about how terrible his last five dates were, you might reconsider asking him out. Try not to scare off potential dates by making them think you'll write about them, too. Keep your dating life discussions limited to in-person gatherings with your friends.

Exchange numbers first. While it might seem easier to connect on Facebook and drop a casual message to someone you just met at a party, it's better to exchange phone numbers. When you let someone into your Facebook world too soon, they have access to all kind of information - your exes, where you went to school, those party pics from last weekend. People often draw inaccurate conclusions quickly. Instead, keep a little mystery and send a text instead. Friend him later.

How To Spot A Date With Potential

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One of the best things about online dating is its ability to connect you with more potential partners, from anywhere in the world, than you would ever encounter in real life.

One of the worst things about online is its ability to connect you with more potential partners, from anywhere in the world, than you would ever encounter in real life. All that choice is more than a little overwhelming, and when we're faced with an overwhelming number of choices we tend not to make any decisions at all.

What's the point of spending all that time browsing profiles if you're only going to window shop? Online dating doesn't do you any good unless you actually remember to do the 'dating' part, too.

Learning how to online date efficiently wasn't easy, but after enough wasted hours and dead-end profiles I've finally figured out a few key ways to identify dates with real potential. If you're in the market for something more serious than a few flirty messages or a quick hookup, be on the lookout for these four signs you've found a promising partner:

  1. They've got a positive outlook on life. You wouldn't want to spend your life with someone who was consistently pessimistic, so why start a relationship with someone who is already showing off their negative side? Profiles that are cynical about relationships, whine about their exes, or otherwise talk about the ways life gets them down are not good date material.
  2. They're confident but humble. There's a fine line to walk when you're dating online - you have to present your positive qualities (because if you don't, who will?), but you don't want to come off as arrogant or narcissistic. Avoid profiles that cross the line and seem more interested in talking about themselves than learning about you.
  3. They've got something going for them. That 'something' can be pretty much anything - an intriguing hobby, a passion for travel, an interesting job - as long as it exists. What you don't want is a profile that seems totally directionless. If every picture takes place in a nightclub and is captioned with something about how wasted they were that night, long-term dating probably isn't in the cards.
  4. They're taking it seriously. We've all run across those profiles that consist of only a few sentences, one of which is probably something about how they don't know what to say or aren't really sure about the online dating thing. Don't date a waffler. Unless it's clear that they have a profile because they're genuinely interested in meeting someone to date, don't waste your time.

9 Ways To Be An Online Dating Superstar

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The big news in the dating world these days is that relationships formed on the Web may last longer and be happier than relationships that start offline. With explosive research like that hitting the scene, online dating is bound to be on the agenda of just about everyone - even the ones who never thought they would try it.

But it can be tricky to navigate the brave new world of online dating profiles if it's totally unfamiliar territory, and the difference between a newbie profile and an expert profile is vast. That's why I've put together 9 of my best tips to get you started on your journey to becoming an online dating superstar:

Superstar Secret #1: You don't have to do it alone.

Your friends are a valuable source of support as you begin your online dating adventures. Ask them to help with your profile if you can't figure out what to write. Sometimes they know you better than you know yourself.

Superstar Secret #2: Clichés are not cute.

It seems like obvious advice, but a lot of people who are new to online dating get it wrong. 'Long walks on the beach' may very well be a hobby for you, but they're not an interesting conversation starter. What really makes you unique?

Superstar Secret #3: When you talk about your interests, focus mainly on sociable hobbies.

Potential dates want to envision how they'll fit into your life. If your hobbies are all things that are best done solo, like reading or surfing the Web for LOLcats, they won't be able to.

Superstar Secret #4: Use photos that spark conversation.

Action shots say more about who you are and what you're into, and they offer potential dates an easy way to start a conversation. Show off what makes your life exceptional.

Superstar Secret #5: Stay upbeat.

Positive profiles get way more traction than negative ones. Be positive about yourself, about dating, and about life in general. Negative tones are a big turn-off online.

Superstar Secret #6: Be honest.

Honesty is always the best policy online. A relationship founded on lies is no relationship at all. And even if you think you can keep up your lies online, they're going to be much harder to maintain once you meet in person.

Superstar Secret #7: Be specific.

The more clear you are on the type of person you want to date, the more likely you are to find them. And the more specific you are when you talk about yourself, the more likely they are to find you.

Superstar Secret #8: Spelling and grammar matter.

Poor grammar and spelling are turn-offs for a lot of people. A profile that's full of mistakes says 'I don't care enough about this online dating thing to make an effort.'

Superstar Secret #9: Update regularly.

Consider your online dating profile a work in progress. Keep your photos and information up-to-date to present the most accurate picture of yourself.

How to Choose the Right Online Dating Photos

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First impressions count, especially in online dating. There are so many people registered on online dating sites that it's more important now than ever to stand out from the crowd. And the most effective way to do that is to optimize the first point of contact for any potential date - your photos.

I'm always surprised to see people posting grainy photos, or shots with so much glare you can't make out the person's face, or pictures taken while staring at a reflection in the bathroom mirror. These are all online profile don'ts, because it doesn't give potential dates a snapshot of the real you.

How many times have you met someone for the first time and were disappointed because she didn't look like her pictures? Well, don't make the same mistake yourself. Posting great pictures isn't just about looking your best, it's about giving people a glimpse of who you are.

Following are some ways to choose the best online dating photos:

Stay current. While you might think you look the same as you did on that trip to Vegas five years ago, you don't. It's important to show who you are now, even if you have a few more wrinkles or an extra ten pounds. Honesty goes a long way in online dating.

Pick one headshot and one body shot. Potential dates want to see who you are. Don't be sly and post grainy, blurry, or otherwise poor quality photos. Choose one nice headshot and another that is full-length. If you only post photos from the neck up they will assume you have something to hide. So show off!

Pick at least one "active" picture. This is really important. You want to tell a story with pictures, because many people flip through photos first before they even start to read the profile. If you tell them your interests in photos - whether it's a shot of you hiking, sailing, horseback riding, or playing the guitar, they have a conversation starter.

Don't hide your face. Stay away from photos with hats and sunglasses as they hide your features. People like to see your eyes, your hair, and your whole face - not what you're wearing.

Don't stand beside your toys, friends or exes. Many guys like to take pictures next to their expensive cars, houses, or boats. This is not attractive to women. It makes you look like you have something to prove. Instead, choose pictures of you - just you. And ladies - don't include a group shot with friends, otherwise he might never figure out which one is you. (And do you really want to know he thought he was emailing your friend?) And for both sexes - choosing pictures with exes is a big no-no. We can tell even if you Photoshop them out. Leave them out of the mix.