NEW YORK - "Long walks on the beach, a passion for music and movies" just isn't going to cut it anymore in the rough and tumble world of online dating.
Struggling at finding love on the web? Start by blaming your online dating profile, which may contain out-of-date photos, bland descriptions, or one too many white lies. Correcting these common mistakes should go a long way toward avoiding another Valentine's Day alone.
"Look around; you tell me - how good are profiles these days," said Evan Marc Katz, dating expert and author of "I Can't Believe I'm Buying This Book: A Commonsense Guide to Successful Internet Dating." Katz has written some 500 profiles for clients on his online profile writing service, E-Cyrano.
"People, after years of doing this, they've gotten the message that they've got to do better," he said. "But most people don't know what that means."
Just ask Mark Sweeney how the wrong profile can doom dating. Sweeney, 49, a gay retired mental help aid in upstate New York who bought his first computer last year on friends' recommendations, had been out of the dating scene for seven years.
When he first put up his dating profile, he suffered through a number of bad experiences and mismatches. "People were just looking to regularly exchange with as many people as they can," he said. "They were just perverts."
Sweeney later joined Match.com, which helped him polish his image. "They can help put into words if you're not a good writer."
He said his new and improved profile helped him land a date 3-1/2 months ago with Joe, who lived 30 minutes away. They're heading to Bermuda on a cruise soon.
Still, Sweeney admits, he initially worried that he wouldn't find anyone online. "It was kind of depressing at first," he said.
Looking for love?
If you're alone, you're in good company. Some 82 million adults were unmarried in the United States in 2000, or about 40 per cent of the population, according to the US Census bureau. The unmarried adult population is projected to reach 106 million by 2010.
"There's a lot of people looking for love; they don't know what they don't know," Katz said.
Avoid being one of them by starting out with a few tips.
The profile sprucing begins with the very first line - your user name. Make it pop, advises Gail Laguna, spokeswoman for Spark Networks, owner of sites including JDate.com, ChristianMingle.com and BlackSingles.com.
Forego generic abbreviations of your name such as JSmith101. Laguna suggested something more expressive, like Live2Laugh or WhiteWaterWarrior.
Experts also suggest that you try to be more specific in your profile. Anyone can say they love candle-lit dinners and sunsets, said Janet Siroto, the editorial director of Match.com, a division of IAC/InterActiveCorp.
"Try to replace them with things that are more specific or unique to you," she said. "If you're a great vegetable gardener, not everyone can say that. You like bluegrass music on weekends, share that."
Another pet peeve among experts: Don't bother telling prospective companions how gorgeous or fit you are. Show them with photos, which leads to the next point.
Lose the seventies get-up. If your main photo makes you look like an extra on the film "Boogie Nights" or was shot more than 12 months ago, it's too old.
Old photos, in fact, are the No. 1 shortcoming of profiles. "Photos that are old or if you're wearing an outfit you had in the 1970s, the one where you're on the dance floor. That's probably the biggest complaint," Laguna said.
Another piece of advice is to drop the bad vibes. Most people know exactly what they are not seeking, but pointing that out repels potential dates.
Instead of saying certain types need not apply - an alcoholic who can't pay his bills, say, or old men under five-feet - tell people what you are looking for, Katz said.
"Your job is not to stop the wrong people from writing to you but attracting the right people."
Most of all, be honest. "The reason that people are on there ... is they want to meet in person. So why waste your time not being honest?" said Thomas Enraght-Moony, chief executive of Match.com.
However, on dating sites, especially those courting users seeking longer term relationships, it doesn't help to bare it all.
Sweeney said: "I would tell people to go to a legitimate site like Match.com where they don't allow naked pictures, where you can get help with your profile