Online dating is no longer the super secretive practice that only “desperate” daters use to find a mate. Now, instead of determining on your third date how you’ll tell people you met just in case it ever comes up, people are proudly proclaiming which of the countless dating apps they used to find their one true love. (Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration). While online dating is more popular than ever, it can be incredibly frustrating to try to sift through hundreds of profiles that all start to look the same, to find someone worthy of spending your Saturday evening with.
While different apps utilize different interfaces, varying requirements for messaging, and range from free to surprisingly expensive, they do share one thing in common: it can be hard to spot both the red flags and the signs someone could be a great match, from the profiles alone. But it isn’t impossible.
I spoke to online dating and relationship experts as well as people who work for different dating sites to find out how to tell if a guy could be boyfriend material, based on his profile alone.
His profile is polished and shows effort
While every dating app is different in terms of how many characters one can use to answer a prompt or provide information, even the most stringent of character limits still allow for complete, polished responses.
Megan Murray, senior content strategist and editor-in-chief at Zoosk, told me, “The more a guy invests in his profile ― he adds good photos, his description is filled out, or he’s verified his profile using whatever features the site or app you’re on has available ― the more invested he is in finding someone who’s a good fit for him.” She went on to add that people who have more photos tend to spend more time on the site getting to know people, adding, “If someone has just one photo, they just aren’t putting as much effort into things.”
Licensed clinical psychologist Erika Martinez agreed. She told me, “The best gauge of [whether a man will be engaging on a date] is how attentive he is in completing his profile and the quality of the responses he provides. Low effort here suggests low effort in real life.”
He uses humor and shows his personality
Along with the amount of effort he put into his profile, look for signs that his personality is shining through. Does he use humor? Can you tell right away that he’s super passionate about traveling or playing guitar?
Dr. Venessa Marie Perry, founder and chief relationship strategist at LoveWrite, told me, “If a guy has a profile that communicates who he is and what he’s looking for with a certain amount of humor, he’s more likely to be engaging and fun on a date.” So skip over the guys with the generic answers and look for the guys who seriously stand out.
He’s smiling and seems approachable in his pictures
In addition to seeing his personality shine through in his profile, a picture is worth a thousand words. So if the words that pop into your head when you see a guy’s photo are words like “intimidating,” “serious,” or “angry,” swipe left. Perry said that photos that show the types of activities they enjoy doing, or feature them engaging with friends and family can be signs he’s boyfriend material — just be sure that the activities he enjoys aren’t mean-spirited and petty.
Alex Reddle, online dating expert and chief editor of Flirt.com, said “strange” photos should raise red flags. “Throwing pickles into nose holes, licking some objects, throwing water bombs on pedestrians? Girl, be careful. Usually, [pranksters] are not good in relationships.”
He isn’t shirtless in his photos
While you want his photos to be appealing and represent what he’s interested in, shirtless photos may not be ideal if what you’re looking for is a long-term connection. Perry told me that photos of him shirtless and showing off his abs can be warning signs. “A man without a shirt or a woman with a bikini typically indicate that the person is more likely to want a fling, or sex, than a long term relationship,” she said. “It also shows that they are more concerned with their physical appearance than other aspects of their personality.” Reddle agreed, adding, “If a guy is showing off his abs in every photo there is a possibility that besides his dieting and gym life you, will have nothing to talk about.”
Mary T. Sambrosky, the founder and president of the dating and relationship coaching site Be Plus One, took it a step further. She said, “Pictures that are primarily of possessions, selfies, half-naked, [flexing] in the mirror are all large indications that this person is not capable of having a meaningful relationship currently, or is definitely choosing not to, by only presenting a very superficial front.”
He’s specific about what he’s looking for
A good way to know that a guy is looking for a relationship is if he actually knows what he’s looking for. A guy who doesn’t just talk about himself in his profile, but also mentions what he’s looking for, has given some thought to the kind of relationship he’d like to have, even if he doesn’t come right out and say he wants a relationship. Murray told me there are some keywords to look for.
“Every guy says they want someone fun, but if they go into more than that, it’s a good sign they may be more relationship-minded. Some popular words guys use are things like caring, loving, smart, down to earth, happy, best friend, and even someone who’s interested in family,” she said. “If a guy says he’s looking for someone fun with a sense of humor, he may or may not be very serious. But if a guy says he wants someone smart who can be his best friend, you can bet he’s put some thought into what kind of person he wants and is looking for something more long-term.”
He talks about things that are important to him
Just like a man who is clear about his expectations in a relationship, a man who mentions things that are important to him, like his career and family, is showing you right away that he’s either ready to settle down or sees that in his future. He wants you to know from the get-go what’s important in his life, and that if you hit it off, you’ll be fitting in amongst those other priorities as well.
Scott Valdez, the founder of ViDA (Virtual Dating Assistants) told me, “A guy who is looking to commit will put more effort into the image he’s presenting on the dating app. If he’s highlighting things like his career and the importance of family in his profile — and his photos don’t make you cringe — that’s a good sign he’s boyfriend material.”
He mentions his flaws
Everyone wants to put their best foot forward, especially when it comes to dating, but if his profile is full of his accomplishments and everything he loves about himself, it might be a red flag. If, however, he mentions flaws or things he’s working on, like his tendency to work longer hours than he needs to, it means he’s serious about personal growth and wants you to know exactly what you’re in for, with him.
“This suggests he is keen to be real and will lay all his cards on the table before entering into something,” Reddle told me. “Men who seem too good to be true, generally are. Female friends of mine have noticed that those who are happy to talk about their flaws tend to be more genuine.”
He isn’t online all the time
No one wants to wait forever before hearing back from someone they’ve messaged on a dating app, but if a guy is online all the time, it’s a sign he doesn’t have anything better to do. Or even worse.
As Reddle told me, “This would suggest that he is always on the lookout for someone new to chat to.” A guy who is always looking for the next thing is definitely not what you want in a boyfriend. On the other hand, a guy who isn’t online all the time has other priorities in his life and is looking for someone who can fit into that life, which is a sign that any potential relationship might be a bit healthier.
You’re using a paid site or app
While it isn’t necessary to use a paid site to find someone who is boyfriend material, Murray told me that chances are the people who are paying to use a site are more serious about finding a potential mate. “One of the things you’re getting with a paid app is a more serious pool of daters,” she said. “They’re literally invested in finding the right person.” It makes sense. After all, who is going to pay for a hookup? Don’t answer that.
He specifically says he’s looking for a relationship
This may seem like a no-brainer, but Sambrosky explained to me that many women ignore the simple red flag that a man has said he’s “looking to have fun” or “looking to make friends” in his profile. “It amazes me how many women don’t take that seriously or think that he’s just saying that but will change his mind,” she said. “Don’t. He said it, you best believe he means it!”
On the other hand, some men do come right out and say they want a relationship. While Murray said this is typically truer of older men, it isn’t limited to them. “A lot of guys who are on dating apps looking for a more serious relationship will just come out and say it,” she told me. “We found that ‘relationship’ is the third most popular word men over 50 mention when describing who they’re looking for. And it’s the 10th for men in their 40s. For younger guys, it’s not one of the top 20 phrases but they do still mention it.” So believe him when he says he’s looking for something serious (and believe him if he says he isn’t).
Know what you’re looking for
At the end of the day, you can’t know whether a guy would be good boyfriend material until you know what it is you’re looking for in a boyfriend. All of the experts I spoke with were quick to point out that what makes someone boyfriend material can mean a lot of different things, depending on the type of boyfriend you’re looking for or relationship you’re looking to have.
Consider each of these suggestions in combination with your own deal breakers and must-haves to help inform your dating choices. Even if you go on a first date, you might decide he isn’t worth a second date. But who knows, with this lens you may be able to quickly spot your Mr. Right amongst all the Mr. Wrongs. Get swiping!