I have always had trouble constructing dating profiles. I have engaged in online dating for several years now but have never quite been able to nail the content.
In the early days, when composing my bio, I simply listed my favourite activities in order of preference. Whilst this bullet-pointed blurb made effective use of the space, it was utterly lacking in charm.
I tried to offset this charisma-free zone by placing greater emphasis on my photographs. When viewing my rivals, I noticed they adhered to the same conventions. The idea, it seemed, was to showcase oneself in a variety of situations: with friends, in work attire, and of course on a skiing, no - snowboarding holiday. I took this one step further by asking a photographer friend of mine to accompany me for a weekend whist I went about my business - the resulting image-library reflected my many interests.
I showed my friend Beth the photos on my phone:
"What the hell?"
It was a shot of me hailing a taxi with a folded newspaper.
"What yourself," I said, "that's my best suit - it's a Paul Smith."
"I don't care, you look like some kind of eighties catalogue-man."
In the others, I was seen climbing out of a Maserati, raising a glass at a black-tie event, and shaking hands with an elderly vagabond.
"Hold on," Beth said, "is that David's car?"
I snatched the phone away.
"That's not the point."
Anyway, I quickly came to realise that, as with all social media, it's just one big sales pitch. We are all trying to say 'I am a good person' - no mean feat when using imagery alone - sure, I had the shot of me befriending a tramp, but it wasn't enough.
This is where 'words' come in handy. It's strange, they come so easily in person, yet the moment I try to capture words on a page; they come out a jumbled mess - a cryptic rant, about as useful as Bronze Age rune-stones. What I wanted to do was capture my inherent goodness, sprinkle it with danger, then add a dash of compassion - instead I had unwittingly chronicled the ravings of a madman.
Again, when scanning the others for inspiration, I noticed a certain pattern. Everyone listed their pass-times in the same manner. They all spoke of their love of socialising, carefully balanced against their deep passion for spending time indoors.
Perhaps it makes sense, after all, if we are to consider our main activities, they can be lumped into two categories: those which take place outside the home and those which take place within, neatly summarised as:
a. going out
b. staying in
Given we have started from a limited position, it is crucial to make these processes sound as exciting as possible. To that end, any description of going out is usually peppered with glib references to hitting the dance floor and general mayhem, references clearly intended to sound vivacious, but actually bring forth images of binge drinking and violence.
Equally, staying in cannot be left alone to be regarded as the simple non-activity that it is. No, staying in is an event in itself, oft described as a sofa-bound thrill-a-rama, there is implied parity with going out. A rival activity that threatens to usurp going out's primacy, staying in is our way of expressing our sensitive side, with just the tinniest hint that we are in it for the long haul.
In the end, my profile sounded just like everyone else's. Once I thought it through, it made sense. Why reinvent the wheel? We all like going out and staying in, why pretend otherwise? It was honest, which was more than could be said for me. At my friend Beth's insistence, I deleted the picture of me climbing out of a sports car and replaced it with one of me in a coffee-shop thumbing through the Guardian. I was disheveled, wearing a battered plaid shirt and my reading glasses. So be it, I thought as I clicked 'submit' - I still had my looks.