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I am not good at internet dating. On swipe apps, I rarely match with potential romantic partners; when I do get a match, conversations tend to fizzle quickly. Some days I blame the algorithm; other times, I wonder if I’m bad at creating an appealing digital persona.

The lack of success with online dating has forced me to consider a devastating possibility: Maybe I’m just less charming and handsome than I’d previously assumed.

The Instagram discover page seems aware I’ve been striking out on the apps. Between ads for protein supplements and fashionable overalls, my feed is inundated with videos offering tips on dating and relationships. They suggest everything from learning attachment styles to harnessing my masculine energy through something called extreme chastity.

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Many of the posts also advertise dating coaches, promising courses and consultations to attract exciting matches and find lasting love. For a while, I thought this felt a little desperate. But after my targeted ads started suggesting an AI girlfriend, I decided to reconsider.

The idea of a dating coach is tied up with the misogynistic pickup culture of the early aughts. Previously, coaches offered tricks and strategies on how to bed women that at best read as inconsiderate and at worst border on sexual assault. A lot of the rhetoric has trickled down to men’s dating advice and YouTube influencers.

It’s something that luxury dating coach Blaine Anderson is actively trying to combat, asserting that building connection and mutual attraction will always win out long-term over manipulative practices. The viewpoint made her stand out.

“That was one of the reasons I created my course. I didn’t feel like there were a lot of reputable, trustworthy female voices in the space,” she said. “A lot of the guys I work with have worked with pickup artists in the past. They come to me and they’re like: ‘Wow, this actually makes sense intellectually and it’s stuff I feel good doing. I feel good making these connections.’ And both you and your romantic interest should feel good about a connection. You’re trying to create something you’re both excited about.”

Lesson one: online dating is digital marketing

For the past few weeks, I’ve been following Anderson’s course. After helping hundreds of single guys find partners, she asserts that dating is a learnable skill. It’s also something men assume they’ll be naturally good at when that’s rarely the case. Without actively knowing how to sell yourself, you’re not likely to get the results you want.

“Dating is a marketing problem, it’s not a product problem,” she said in her masterclass. “You are enough … you need to learn to market yourself in a way women can see and appreciate how awesome you are.”

The course is ripe with business analogies and mnemonic devices. Want to land a date? Think about the process like a marketing funnel, then pinpoint and optimize each step. What do women look for/avoid in a potential partner? Remember TIN: trajectory, investments and neediness. A dating profile is a landing page. Your profile photo is your hero shot.

The first three modules of Anderson’s course felt somewhere between a life coaching session, self-help seminar and undergrad marketing course. Follow these simple steps to present – and even become – a more dateable you. I could recognize the practical application of her advice. I also appreciated that so much time was being spent on better habits and attitudes rather than pickup lines. Still, it all felt very unromantic.

“If things aren’t working, and you’re not willing to market yourself more, it’s going be very hard for women to notice you. I don’t want to say you just throw romance out the door. But the more you can learn and authentically put yourself forward, the more open the romantic side of the world becomes.”

Anderson’s expertise doesn’t come cheap. While my experience was comped, masterclass packages can cost up to $5,000. That’s a huge investment for a lot of people. But in a time where urban loneliness is on the rise, and studies show that young people have fewer sexual partners than previous generations, a lot of people are looking for answers.

While I found Anderson’s tactics a bit gauche, teaching men to make positive changes through personal analysis and encouraging them to appear fun around women is infinitely better advice than “harnessing my masculine energy.”

Lesson two: If you’re not getting matches, it’s time for a new profile

A few weeks into the masterclass, I had my first one-on-one session with Anderson. The goal was to chat through any questions I had about the course, make sure I had followed through on the suggested homework – workbooks asking me to pontificate on my forward trajectory, hobbies where I could potentially meet new people, things that I liked about myself – and most importantly analyze my dating profile.

I don’t know if you’ve ever had a professional tell you why a photo you like of yourself is a bad choice for a dating app, but it’s a humbling experience. According to Anderson, a few of my favourite shots looked much younger than I currently am. Photos where I was clearly flexing were also cut. Selfies were axed. Overall, my dating profile was apparently giving a sullen and self-serious vibe. As a somewhat sullen and self-serious person, I wasn’t that surprised, but it did make me recontextualize the fact that maybe that didn’t make for the best first impression – especially when a person is making a three-second judgmental call about my face on their phone.

Anderson suggested getting a new lead photo (a professional quality portrait with emphasizing piercing eyes and maybe a smile) and offered prompts for rewriting a more appealing bio.

They’re the kind of suggestions that seem obvious in retrospect. They are also what I probably wouldn’t have considered without someone specifically pointing them out.

Lesson three: You’ll only get back what you invest.

So is a dating coach worth $5,000? On the surface, I don’t know if I could sign off on spending that money for a revamped profile unless you were independently wealthy or maybe worked at a hedge fund. But taking the time to really think about what I’ve wanted from my dating life, consider why I wasn’t finding it and making concrete steps to change things does seem like an investment worth making.

As for the results? I’m still waiting for the new photos to come in. After that, we’ll see what happens.

What do you get for $5,000?

  • Anderson has over 1,500 clients and helped create hundreds of matches and dozens of marriages
  • With a social following of more than 100,000, her work has millions of views on social media
  • Featured as a dating expert in the New York Times, VICE and more
  • The jump-start program involves one-on-one coaching sessions and a five-part masterclass

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