You may have read how a Silicon Valley exec asked this humble writer to take over his Tinder account, double book him skeevy alcohol-only dates, and export his misogyny on unsuspecting women, but does any wiggle room exist at all in the world of online dating assistance? That's what Virginia Roberts a.k.a. The Heartographer (pictured above) explores in her seriously thorough response to my post.

I'll overlook for the moment her antipathy against my absolutely delightful picture I composed (which, for the record, others did happen to enjoy!), and get to the meat of the response, which is this: Online dating coaches are perfectly alright when operating in an ethical, candid manner.

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Now I'll be honest and say I had not considered that my post may offend professionals who perform similar, though not identical, services to those I described. It was absolutely not my intention to poop on anyone who makes an honest living in the world of online dating assistance. I DIDN'T EVEN KNOW THIS CAREER EXISTED. So I want to share her thoughts with you on how a professional, reputable online dating coach differs from the position described in that initial Craigslist ad.

Virginia makes some pretty great points, the most effective in my mind being that an online dating coach, contrary to being disreputable, is actually analogous to many other professions our non-digital world already has (emphasis hers):

If you're trying to meet people and you're failing to do so, it's natural to get some assistance. This is kind of like how people hire nutritionists, personal trainers,therapists, or even professional organizers—it's a category of professionals who can help you solve a problem, while teaching you how to establish more effective behaviors and improve your life in the process. A recent niche of life coaches has emerged, and while I've always felt uncomfortable with that title, it is in fact a pretty great descriptor.

This seems logical enough. If you don't know how to do your taxes, you go find yourself an accountant; so why can't you find yourself a dating coach if you don't know how to navigate Tinder? I think one of the reasons this may seem unusual to people (which she alludes to in her post) is that online dating is still a foreign world, one still fraught with social stigmas. Acknowledging to yourself that you need help with online dating may be the romantic equivalent of Googling "Do I have hemorrhoids?" But if you need help, then you need help! No use in avoiding reality. In time I think this whole prejudice will go away as online dating becomes more and more common.

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She makes the necessary distinction between what her budding profession performs and what our infamous Silicon Valley exec was looking for from me:

[E]very once in a while, I get a call form email from a potential customer who wants to outsource the entire online portion of the online dating process. (Most often they think their profile is awesome already and they just need help with logistics, haha.) They want someone to learn their mate selection preferences, comb through potential matches for them, pretend to be them while communicating with said matches to set up dates, calendar them, and then hand them the reins only for the in-person part. No way am I doing this.

Thank you, Virginia, for understanding where the line is drawn.

So what is it that she does? Her services consist of imparting such skills as choosing which pictures read better at thumbnail sizes, choosing which jokes play better than others, slight revisions to extended profile paragraphs, and maximizing your SEO on the respective platforms. (If you want to know more, I'm sure she'd love to help you!) I think these offerings are great because as she states, she's merely helping the client be himself better. At no point is she stepping in and taking over the "Girlfriend Experience."

All in all, I think her post provides a great primer on the nascent industry of online dating coaching and how it differs from the deception and masquerading I wrote about. You should definitely check it out!

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[Image by permission via The Heartographer]