6 Jerks to Avoid Online

How to tell whether your online suitor is a jewel or someone who should set the jerk-o-meter shooting sky high

When you meet a guy face-to-face, you can quickly determine whether he's worthy of your heart. There's the way he expresses himself, as well as how he carries himself (not to mention the chemistry). You can tell immediately whether his body language is shifty or open. Other questions also find fast answers: Does he expect you to go Dutch? Is he considerate or catty toward the waitress?

With online dating, however, it's much harder to judge. There are many smooth typists in cyberspace. So how can you swiftly but accurately tell whether your online suitor is a jewel or someone who should set the jerk-o-meter shooting sky high? Read on.

Jerk #1: Soon-to-Be Separated. At least the guy sporting this obnoxious online handle is honest about his marital status. If he doesn't come right out and admit he's an adulterer wanna-be, how can you know to keep your cursor clear? Says Linda Burns, who has tried many dating sites, "If he doesn't have a photo posted, or his photo is so fuzzy or far away even his mother can't recognize it, or he's wearing big sunglasses that show off his body but hide his identity, chances are he's married." The New York publicist adds, "Another big clue is when his profile states he's looking for casual sex. Well, hello." These days it's easier and easier to spot the married cybercruiser. As online dating veteran Rosalind Hines points out, "Many men don't even try to hide that fact. If they don't directly state the obvious, ask, 'Hey, you sound married -- are you?' They'll confess."

Jerk #2: Wink, Wink. What is the definition of a cheap guy? Someone who keeps sending you "winks" and/or "collect calls," those free options offered on most sites to send an email without writing a message -- or paying a subscription fee. Rosalind, recipient of too many such communications, fumes, "This is just plain wrong. He's sending it because it's free. Pony up and pay $1 to send me an email response, or just send me silence." Elaine Calvo, coauthor of 25 Words or Less: How to Write Like a Pro to Meet That Special Someone through Personal Ads, adds, "In addition to being cheap, it's a sign that he's contacting lots and lots of people. If his email makes no effort to respond specifically to items in the woman's profile, then she feels very lost in the crowd. Everyone wants to feel special. There's nothing special about a wink."

Jerk #3: One-Track Profile. You know the type. His profile describes -- and requests -- the perfect woman. She must have everything from a 36D chest to a size-two figure to well-manicured hands and straight black hair. In other words, none of his words are about whether his Ms. Dreamboat is well read, well mannered or cares about the homeless. Character isn't a factor as long as she resembles Gwyneth or J.Lo or whichever star best exemplifies his type. And what sort of activities does he enjoy doing with his gal pal? Movies, theater, boating? No, no and no. Chances are he's looking for all sex, all the time. Buyer beware.

Jerk #4: Not So Picture-Perfect. While a man who posts no photos might literally be otherwise engaged, a man who is posed arm in arm with a gorgeous babe who is clearly not a sibling -- well, he's probably a player. Rosalind laughs, "My favorite was a guy in a tux. You can see his bride's arm. If that isn't a lack of respect toward women, I don't know what is." While on the surface it appears that photos of a man with a pet or children show he wants to start a family, there might be more here than meets the eye. As Linda Burns recalls, "I emailed one guy saying how adorable his puppy was. Turns out he doesn't have pets. He thought a dog would make the women come running." The lesson here, ladies: You can't take everything in the profile at face value. Ask now so you won't regret later.

Jerk #5: Busy Signal. He leads such a full, happy life it's too much bother to complete the online questionnaire. Question after question is followed with the answer "Will Discuss Later." Linda says, "If he's too lazy to be thoughtful for a few minutes, it gets my antenna up." Her greatest ire is reserved for guys whose emails are riddled with "IM speak." She explains, "A guy trying to catch my attention will instant message something like 'U R hot.' That ceases to be remotely appealing if once we start privately emailing each other he's still using annoying abbreviations rather than 'you' and 'are.'"

Again, remember that this is the courtship phase. If he can't muster the energy to type complete sentences, his inaction might spell P-A-S-S.

Jerk #6: Bitter Pill. Sharon Hodgson warns, "A sure sign he's a jerk is if he blasts ex-girlfriends in his profile." The assistant dean at the University of Maryland School of Social Work continues, "One of the dating sites has a question for singles: 'What contributed to the end of your last relationship?' Well, some guys go to town: 'The bitch cheated on me,' or, 'Like all women, she was only out for herself.'"

A man who rants at the opposite sex in a forum where he's trying to promote his soft, appealing side is flashing a bright red flag. Don't blindly charge ahead; sidestep this joker and move on to the next profile.

The moral: Read a potential special someone's online musings with care. These casual posts can be a window into a man's soul. Beverly Appel, coauthor of A Guide to Online Dating, says, "People's online dating [behavior] often echoes their offline dating, with all the same problems. Don't read your emails through rose-colored glasses. What would be obvious red flags to an unconcerned observer is often overlooked by correspondents who don't use their perception skills." If you read between the lines, his personality is laid out for you in black and white. There are enough good guys out there; don't be waylaid by a jerk.

According to a survey conducted by iMatch.Up.com, these are six sure ways to distinguish the jerk from the keeper. Avoid the following:

  • Photos of a man with a woman's arms around him
  • No profile content filled out beyond the absolute minimum
  • Multiple profiles set up on the same site (seeing the same photo again and again)
  • Income marked at $75,000 to $100,000 a year without having A) the education or B) the career (as indicated in his profile) to support that claim
  • Members who advise you to contact them by phone only during certain times (many of these turn out to be married)
  • Men signing up as women and noting in their profiles that they are actually men (they do this to get promotions only available to women)
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