Life Advice



Erika Ettin: Expanding your search criteria… without compromising your deal-breakers

Erika Ettin, Tribune News Service on

Published in Dating Advice

Knowing yourself and what you’re looking for in a partner is essential to online dating, whether you’re swiping through apps or browsing profiles on a computer. However, all too often, people are more focused on what they don’t want ... and swiping left or clicking out of a profile as soon as they come across a potential conflict.

Two photos with a beer in hand? Must be a heavy drinker.

Says “not sure” on children? Must not want them.

Too many selfies? Must not have a lot of friends.

These examples aren’t exactly red flags... maybe just orange ones. You’re making an assumption based on very little information, but you’re not alone — it’s something every online dater is forced to do without even realizing it. After all, a person can’t fit the entirety of their complex self into a 300-character bio and six photos.

Next time you’re browsing profiles, keep that in mind. Instead of immediately dismissing someone because one of their photos looks old or something else fairly minor, give that person a second glance.


Of course, everyone has their nonnegotiables, and that’s perfectly fine. In fact, it helps guide you through the dating process. Imagine the chaos of trying to message and develop conversations with each and every person you came across! But there may be people who suit you well but aren’t appearing in your searches.

Filters on sites like can also be limiting who you come across. Many nonsmoking people don’t want to date someone who smokes, so they check the box that excludes smokers from their search. However, a nonsmoker may be OK with someone who smokes the occasional cigar at an event like a wedding or family party — and there’s a “cigar aficionado” box that may be excluding potential matches from that search. There’s also the possibility that someone forgot to check that box even if they are a nonsmoker... meaning those people won’t pop up in search results for nonsmokers either!

I’m not saying you should expand your search to smokers if that’s not something you’re comfortable with. And you can insert anything there, from your desire to have kids to how far you’re willing to travel for a date to your feelings about marijuana use.

I’m saying that like all technology, there are some kinks, and knowing how to overcome them can help expand your search to more people. So uncheck a few filters and thoroughly read through the new profiles that come up every once in a while. You might be surprised who pops up on your screen.

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