For the modern gay man, writing an online profile is like something out of Hamlet’s famous ‘To be or not be’ speech…except that the gay profile variation on those words is ‘What the hell to include or not to include, that is the question!’ You get my drift.

Writing a profile for any website or app can be a hellish experience. Yip, I’m sure there are some of you out there for whom writing a profile is a snap, no problem at all. You are witty in your prose and you have pics worthy of GQ. Trust me, you are in the minority. For most of us, writing any personal profile, especially on a gay dating or hook-up site, is tantamount to root canal with a particularly nasty dentist. Suddenly one is racked with indecision about what to include in the profile – and not. The German word angst has never been more appropriate.

The American author Patrick Rothfuss had this to say: “It’s like everyone tells a story about themselves inside their own head. Always. All the time. That story makes you what you are. We build ourselves out of that story.” How very true is that. And our profiles are the natural offshoots of those internal stories that we build up about who we are, what we want, about what that other guy should look like, be like, speak like. That’s why writing a profile can be so unnerving – we are literally putting ourselves out there as we see ourselves and have constructed ourselves. And we too easily can have doubts about just how ‘interesting’ or ‘sexy’ or whatever that might be to other guys.

Description or photos – which is the worse? That’s a toss-up and completely up to the individual and can even change with one’s moods. Writing about oneself, even in the most ‘cool’ and pithy way can be bloody difficult because (1) what you think is cool might come across as cold or pretentious to other guys and (2) being witty doesn’t come easy to the best of us. Yet that’s what most people expect with other people’s profiles – the demanding bastards. As if that’s easily accomplished! And then there’s the eternal struggle of any profile description – what is too little, what is too much and when is it (ever) enough?

And then there are those blasted photos! Guys with terrific bodies instantly have a huge advantage on the rest, of course. Handsome guys also have an edge, although I wager that the body beautiful mostly have the ultimate upper hand in this day and age. And then there are those guys whose profile pics seem to suggest that they spend their entire waking existence in a perpetual state of foreign, jetset travel. ‘Oh, there he is frolicking in the blue Aegean with his perfect tan!’ ‘Ah, and there he is attending the Governor’s Ball at the Academy Awards and grinning next to George Clooney (nudge, nudge, wink, wink)!’ Yeah, we love those guys, don’t we. Is it just me or does one instantly ‘mistrust’ most of those oh-so-posed, oh-so-pukey profile pics? Perhaps that’s why the selfies on Hanky’s ‘Moments’ feature are so popular – realistic is sexier.

Profiles can also mean ticking boxes, meaning those nifty ‘preferences’ one has to fill out. It’s usually a case of ‘Yes, I want that and I’ll have a bit of that too’ and ‘No thanks to this and definitely no thank you to that!’ They can be very revealing and even fun to fill out (and even more fun to read on other people’s profiles). But they can also be pesky. Ticking off too much might make you look too eager or even the biggest whore this side of Babylon (!) but ticking off too little might reveal too little about you or make you look uncommitted and even dull. Again, it’s just choices and more choices. But, hey, it’s all in a good cause, whether for dating, for fellow interests or even just for a dirty hook-up. Profiles are a means to an end, we must remember.

Ultimately, I think profiles require two things from one: firstly, it requires honesty. Okay, well, as much honesty as possible. If not that, then why bother – and to what end? And, secondly, a profile is about reaching out to other people. I think of it as a conduit, even a bridge, that can help serve a worthy purpose in life, whatever that need might be. That’s not a bad cause. To quote the wise, wonderful (and gay) English author, EM Forster: “Only connect”.