What Not to Do (and Some Things You Should) in Online Dating

Okay, so I promised to offer some advice to those of you who really have no idea how to do online dating.  Not that I’m a super expert, but I’ve had many successful conversations, meetings, and a couple of relationships that have all come out of it, so I’m at least semi-knowledgeable.  Most of this advice is directed towards men looking for women, but some of it applies to everyone.

So, guys, some general advice for those profile questions (the summary and such that show up first).  Please stop describing yourselves as laid-back, easygoing, or down to earth.  For one, it’s lazy.  It’s also rarely true (for instance, the large majority of men whose profiles I visit are not okay with me hanging out with an ex, whether frequently or ever.  This sounds less than laid-back to me).  And honestly, I don’t know that being laid back is a universally appealing characteristic.  I want a guy who cares about stuff, and is passionate about what he does or wants to do.  I think most women, frankly, most people, are attracted to others who are enthusiastic about something, especially if it’s something they have in common.  I don’t understand what is supposed to be so appealing about not caring about stuff.  This is part of why I can’t stand most hipsters: they can’t be bothered to really care about anything.  And it’s what I love about most geeks and nerds (at least, the ones who aren’t “nice guys” who are constantly complaining about the “friendzone”): they’re passionate about things. And if they care that much about an interest or hobby, there’s a better chance that they’ll care about me, or about the kids I’d eventually like to adopt.

Stop saying “I’m bad at describing myself” as a way to start of your profile.  No one really likes doing it, so you don’t need to tell us.  If it’s that hard, find a friend to write a little blurb for you.  You would never do this in an interview, and you often have to do something similar for those.  Now, I know there are a few things that I personally find irritating if mentioned in a profile, but these may just be me.  For instance, I don’t like if you need to stress that you drink or smoke (cigarettes or pot).  You can easily indicate these preferences in that “details” list that shows up in a column on the right.  So if you need to talk about them, you might be too interested in getting trashed for me.  Also, these aren’t particularly unique or interesting habits.  It’s like when someone writes that they like to “have fun and grab a drink with friends”.  We all like fun.  And most people will grab drinks with friends.  If this is all you’ve got, you are probably boring. 

This one is probably obvious to those of you who aren’t idiots, but if you fill out your profile and all you say is “If you want to know more, ask” or “I’d rather get to know you by talking to you”, I’m not going to message you, and neither are a lot of other women.  This is so lazy.  You don’t have to tell us a whole lot, but if all I know if what you look like, and that you can’t be bothered to tell us anything about yourself, I know that you’re already putting no effort into dating, so why would I think you would do any differently in person?

And as for pictures…smile.  And keep your shirt on.  Oh, and if you have a puppy, putting in the picture can’t hurt.  And for the love of god, stop trying to look like an emo guy playing an acoustic guitar on tiny stoop.  Okay, that last one might just be because I live less than 50 miles from Brooklyn.

On to more important things: the messages.  There are several types of message that the majority of women will ignore, regardless of how attractive you are, what your percentage match is, or how charming your profile is.  I, of course, am an anomaly, because I like to engage in shenanigans with online strangers, so I respond to almost everything.  Most women have gotten a message like this: “hey sexy”.  Sometimes it’s “Yo gorgeous” or “Hi beautiful lady” or “Wow u hot”, but you know what I mean.  Even if it’s grammatically correct, and more “polite”, it’s still demeaning.  You really shouldn’t start your message to a stranger with a comment about someone’s appearance.  Women aren’t objects.  We do not exist just for you to ogle.  If, as part or a longer message you mention that you really like something about one of our pictures (a smile, an outfit, how much fun it looks like we’re having), that’s fine.  Our appearance (or, in cruder messages, how much you want to kiss/stick it in/fuck us or “hit that”) should not be the entirety of your message. We write profiles.  Read them.  This is the internet dating version of street harassment.  I don’t know any woman who’s had “hey sexy lady” yelled at her from a street corner or out a car window who ever fell in love with, or even casually dated, the man who yelled.  On a similar note, the “how could you possibly still be single” message is pretty lame, too.  Someone’s attractiveness has no bearing on their relationship successes.  If anything, I’d argue that more attractive people are more likely to have short, crappy relationships, because a lot of shallow men are interested in them for their beauty, rather than for their common interests or their dazzling personalities (not that they don’t have dazzling personalities).  While I’m obviously on an online dating site, and currently single, I think part of why I’ve had some dating success (meaning that my “dating” tends to turn into meaningful relationships, even if they all eventually ended) is that I’m not what most people think of as traditionally attractive.  That means that I have a bit of an “automatic jerk filter”.  The guys who want to date me are usually the kind who find a lot of different types of women attractive, or who value intelligence, humor, and general awesomeness over attractiveness, and who don’t care what their friends might say if they date an overweight gal.  Of course, I do get some guys who have a thing specifically for larger women, which I don’t love, but that’s a subject for another entry.  Mostly, stop talking about how we look.  We know that you are attracted to us because you are sending the message.  You don’t need to make it a thing.

Another frustrating type of message is the “hi” or “hello” or “how’s it going?”.  In person, these are harmless, and makes sense.  When you meet a stranger at a party or social gathering, you usually don’t know anything about that person, so you have little to start with.  But online, you have an entire profile to work with! This is what I like about online dating – I have automatic conversation starters that don’t involve weather or current events.  These simple ones are the messages that I am most likely to ignore.  Occasionally, I’ll answer with something odd, like when I talked about my missing kangaroo.  One of us has to find something to talk about.  Mostly I just don’t answer, but sometimes you get the guys who don’t take no answer as an answer, and they just keep going.  What I need in order to reply to these messages is a response that manages to find a more polite and non-offensive way to say that I can’t talk to this person because he is “horribly, deadly boring”. But I haven’t figured that out yet.  If you have a suggestion, let me know.

One of the worst types is the “rant about me” message.  It’s usually braggy, but always talks just about the person sending the message.  It’s often an entire paragraph, and almost always contains information that can be found in the user’s profile.  Dude, if I’m interested, I will read your profile.  I don’t need a message that tells me what ivy league college you went to, or how tall you are, or that you love music.  It’s just like talking to people in person, folks.  Stop talking about you.  That is not going to make women excited to talk with you.  Unless maybe the thing you say is, “I am Johnny Depp/Stephen Hawking/Alan Rickman” or “I have a basket filled with puppies that I’d love to share with you” or “I just made pie – would you like some?”

So here is a fool proof way to write messages to women (or to anyone).  First, a greeting is always nice.  Hi, hello, howdy, cheerio, I don’t care.  If the woman’s name is in her profile, you can just use that.  After that, you only need to include two things.  The first is a mention of a shared interest.  This makes it clear that you have read my profile.  It also shows me that we have something in common, and that you are not just sending me a message because you like my pictures and want a piece of “dat ass”.  It can be something simple: a book, TV show, or band that I mention; a suggestion of a book that is similar to my tastes; a reference to Harry Potter, an interest in nonsense words; or even a discussion about ambiverts.  And, of course, if you know where my socks are.  I respond to anyone who claims that they have information about the whereabouts of my lost sock partners.  The second thing, and this is the most important, is that you need to ask me a question, and it has to be something better than “how are you” or “how was your weekend”.  I don’t know you well enough for that answer to be interesting to either of us.  Your best bet is to ask something about one of my interests, or a comment I made on one of the OKC questions, because you already know that I will enjoy talking about that subject.  If you have other more random questions that you like to answer, and they aren’t about sex or something intimate/personal right away, those are fine, too. 

There is no secret to getting people to talk to you.  It’s fairly simple – you need to engage the user by discussing something that interests them. You need to be curious about that person and what they care about.  You need to not insult us right away (this is a trend now, called “negging”.  Apparently it’s only for really pretty girls, of the 8/9/10 caliber.  Yeah.  If you ever want to be terrified, look up these things on Pickup Artist sites). Women really aren’t that complicated.  We just want to be appreciated for things we’ve actually done, or for how we are, not how we look, which have little control over.  Oh, and one last important thing.  While I think this type of message is appealing to most women, many women still will not be interested.  They might not like your body type.  They might think your political views are too different, or that you are too religious/not religious enough.  They have the right to those opinions.  And they have the right to not message you back.  When that happens, please don’t try to message them again.  They are not obligated to respond to you.  Just take the hint, and message someone else.  Or respond to some nice woman who messages you!

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