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How to 'hack' online dating to find your Valentine

Mary C. Gardella / Courtesy Amy Webb

Amy Webb 'hacked' online dating to meet her perfect match, her husband Brian.

Looking to meet your valentine online? The secret to finding love in the digital world may be more scientific than you think. “Data, A Love Story,” a new memoir from author and digital strategy consultant Amy Webb, offers what seems like the holy grail to frustrated daters: a formula for cutting through all the bad dates to skip to the optimal mate.

Webb was a successful, career-driven single woman, but found herself striking out in love — both in the real world, where she spent too long in relationships with men who were all wrong for her, and online, where she went on a series of nightmare first dates before nearly giving up on the whole proposition.

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So she took her search to the next level, "hacking" the system to figure out what she was doing wrong. First she reverse-engineered the process by creating 10 profiles as men – inventing doctors, lawyers and high-achievers to scope out her competition. She then took copious notes on how the women on the site presented themselves and communicated with these male profiles, gathering piles of data on what worked best.

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While it wasn’t the most scientific of experiments, Webb managed to develop a strategy she thinks will help other daters. After all, she’s had 100 percent success with it so far: After creating her system, the first date that passed her new test turned out to be her future husband.

Step 1: Make a list — and stick to it

“Online dating sites are excellent places to find casual and serious long-term relationships, but only if you have a plan first,” Webb told TODAY.com. “I don't advocate crunching numbers like I did, but I do strongly recommend that you start off with a list. What, exactly, are you looking for in a partner? Be extremely specific, even when it feels embarrassing...If having someone who's three inches taller than you is important, for whatever reason, then write that down. If you absolutely cannot stand cats, write that down, too. Don't self-edit.”

Once you have your criteria in place, use it to weed out people who don't make the cut. "Come up with a system to evaluate any potential future dates," Webb says. This way, you won't waste time with anyone who wouldn't be a good match.


Mary C. Gardella / Courtesy Amy Webb

Amy Webb and her husband Brian met online.

Step 2: Create your own "super profile"

 You can't find your soul mate if you're attracting the wrong people. Webb's research made her realize she was ending up with losers because she was putting out the wrong signals, by doing things like posting her entire resume as her dating profile instead of a few fun tidbits about herself. "I'm not suggesting you dumb yourself down," she writes in the book, but "your online profile isn't the place to show off your near perfect SAT score." On that note, here are her tricks for putting your best foot forward:

*Keep your profile short, about 90-100 words (three sentences), and use vocabulary that's "aspirational, positive and optimistic"
*Post three to five flattering pictures of yourself where you're the only one in the frame
*Don't talk about yourself in the third person
*Wait to talk about your job until you end up on an in-person date
*Don't lie about your physical appearance

Step 3: Start dating!

Being single this Valentine's Day could be the best thing that's happened to your dating life, Webb says, because you can take the opportunity to get organized.

“I know it's rough to face Valentine's Day, and that a lot of people will ultimately wind up on bad dates feeling even worse than had they stayed at home alone watching a great movie,” Webb says. “While you can't turn a blind eye to all the pink and red hearts festooning storefront windows, you can decide to dedicate this year's V-Day to yourself...Thursday night, pour yourself a big glass of wine (or your drink of choice) and dedicate the evening to writing out a list of what you want in a partner. Make a scoring system. Then resolve to honor your list before you log back on to the dating site you're using.”

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Another option is to round up your single friends and do it together. “I've been getting a lot of email and tweets from people who've read my book saying that they're hosting 'list parties' on Valentine's Day," Webb says. "Groups of single friends are getting together, writing out lists like I did, and then sharing them with each other for ideas on how to score the traits. That's a great way for online daters to feel empowered and excited – rather than despondent – on Valentine's Day.”

"Data, a Love Story" is the memoir of how one woman "gamed" online dating to find her husband.