Top 5 Online Dating Mistakes Guys Make

It’s been a couple of weeks since I taught you how to make that first introduction count, and it’s time to take a look at how you’re doing. As I’ve said before, online dating is very much a buyer’s market for women; their mere presence on a dating site is going to trigger an avalanche of winks, “added to favorites” and clutzy, fumbling emails. So assuming you’ve been taking my advice to heart, you should be enjoying some profound success in the online dating scene and having more dates than you can handle.

But hey: what if you’re not? What if it feels as though all of your emails are being sent out into the great uncaring void? Or worse, if you have a great connection that suddenly cuts off with no warning?

Well, dating’s always going to be a crapshoot, right? Email can be flakey and really, who knows what girls really want anyway, right? Bitches be crazy, right man?

Don’t leave me hanging, bro.

There’s no denying that there are no sure things in dating world;  even the greatest profile in the world, with Annie Leibowitz taking the profile photo and Bruno Mars writing the emails for you will get nothing but dead air from time to time. But if you are consistently not getting any responses or you’re finding them dwindling away into nothing, perhaps the problem isn’t exactly with them. I hate to say it, but you’re the only common denominator.

It’s time to take a step back and look at your game. You need to ask yourself if you’re the problem here.

So let’s fine tune things. Let’s make sure you’re not making these surprisingly common online dating mistakes.

#5: U Tlk Lik3 thz.

I can’t emphasize this enough: use complete sentences, correct spelling and proper fucking grammar!! Tattoo this backwards on your forehead. Shave your head if you need the room. Online dating is all about text-based communication; you have to seduce a women with your words. Using TxtSpk, 1337sp33k or any other cutesy non-standard style of writing just makes you look like a goddamn idiot with a speech impediment to boot. Texting shorthand came about because of the inherent character limits in cellphone text-messaging services. Unless you’re trying to pick girls up via Twitter (don’t) you have all the time and space that you need to compose your reply. Typos are one thing; being completely illegible is another entirely.

And don’t think just because she writes her e-mails or profile like this, you have an excuse to do the same. In fact, if she does write like that, you probably should be asking yourself some very serious questions as to whether you actually want to a go on a date with someone who never got past the 10th grade socially.

#4: You Didn’t Actually Read Her Profile

Remember when I said you had to make it clear that you actually read her profile when you contacted her? I didn’t mean just skim the damned thing and look for something you could plug into your introduction e-mail. Y’see, one valuable part of online dating is that it lets you pre-screen your potential dates. You can look for matching goals in life, you can look for similar interests or even just filtering by the fact that you like Amazonian red-heads.

Thing is, it also lets you screen for potential deal-breakers. And many women will helpfully tell you in advance what those deal breakers are.

“But women shouldn’t pre-judge me based on an arbitrary standard!” I hear you cry. “I’m a special little snowflake! Surely I’m awesome enough that she can overlook whatever strange objections she might normally have in me!” And then I start laughing and reaching for my bottle of Jefferson’s Reserve.

Yes, some of them are arbitrary. If you aren’t her desired height, income level, educational level or are slightly older than her stated preferences, you may want to throw your hat in the ring anyway. There are times when you might be so damn charming that you can actually overcome the little pet-peeves she has that would otherwise keep her from being interested in dating you. But sometimes she lists those deal-breakers for a good damn reason. She doesn’t like dogs because she’s allergic.  She has health issues which means she has to stick to a specific diet and exposure to other types of food might kill her. She doesn’t like smokers because she has a history of lung-cancer in her family. You talk about loving Ayn Rand.

Some deal-breakers simply can’t and shouldn’t be ignored; all you’ve ended up doing is wasting her time and yours when you could have been moving on to someone more receptive.

#3: You Took Too Long To Make The Date

Online dating isn’t a sprint. You don’t want to propose meeting up in the first or second e-mail; after all you don’t want to look too pushy or needy. But if you’ve traded e-mails back and forth five or six times, I’m fairly certain you can safely move things to off-line. This is a surprisingly common problem among nerds. The anxiety of “Does she like me? I don’t know… I can’t risk rejection, so I should just keep treading water until she makes the first move” is almost an axiomatic part of being a nerd and it can follow you even into the world of online dating.

Out in “the real world”, taking too long to make a move is going to kill your chances. The same applies to online dating. Going back and forth via the dating site’s e-mail system can feel “safe”; after all, you can usually tell when she’s logged on and it’s a safe bet that she at least read your email instead of having it get caught in the spam filter. But if you don’t move things to a more intimate level, she’s going to get bored of waiting for you to take the initiative and move on. Moving from e-mail to instant messaging or texting is at least progress, but if she likes you well enough to give you her number, you really should already be asking her out on a real goddamn date.

#2: You Coped An Attitude

Women like “bad boys” because they’re confident and aggressive. Women love confident men. Confidence is sexy. You want to at least appear confident.

But there is a very fine line between confidence and arrogance and between aggressiveness and an attitude of entitlement. It is entirely too easy, especially in a text-medium to cross the line between confidence and acting like you’re owed a response/a date/ nonstop head right then and there. This shows up in any number of profoundly unattractive ways. Some guys push for the date way too hard and way too fast, sometimes within the first e-mail. Even better, if the site has an instant message function, they’ll start haranguing the girl for not going out with them immediately.

“I totally wasn’t going to go out with him, but the constant harassment really won me over!”

The passive-aggressive version of this is what I like to call the “WHY DON’T YOU LIKE ME!!?” e-mail. When some guys are either met by silence or the girl seemingly has dropped off the face of the Earth, they’ll send another e-mail full of cranky bluster and spite-filled demands for an apology, explanation or some sort of response. This is the online dating version of drunk-dialing the girl you have a crush on and complaining that she keeps ignoring you when you’re trying to work up the guts to ask her out. Yeah, it kind of sucks that some women don’t give a polite “Thanks but no thanks” form letter, but it’s life. Life’s a full-contact sport, shit happens, wear a hat. And really, there’s nothing sadder than impotent nerd-rage.

#1: You Lied.

Oscar Wilde once famously said: “Telling the truth means never having to remember what you said the night before.” This applies to online dating just as much as it does offline. Women already know that men tend to… let’s be kind and say “exaggerate” in their profiles. Most guys lie about their height, rounding up by an inch or two. They also lie about income levels, what they do for a living, how many sex partners they’ve had and, critically, they lie in their profile photos. The camera may add five pounds, but Photoshop takes off twenty.

I should know. I’ve been paid rather well to do some… shall we say, touch-up of photos that were destined to be on dating site profiles.

But just like many politicians and public figures, liars get caught out. The more you lie, the harder it is to keep all your stories straight. Having those lies recorded online, where much about you can be independently verified through Google and Facebook… well that’s not just a bad idea, it’s goddamn stupid.  Quit doing it.


  • Kelly


  • Squirrel

    You forgot: "You insulted her." Seriously, I don't know why guys think this is a good way to start off an e-mail (I do, actually, but I refuse to acknowledge its existence, especially not as a valid resource for dating advice). ESPECIALLY about something in her profile. I get not understanding why she likes Furry Anime or Tea Kettle Painting, but telling her you think those things are dumb will not win you dates. Using any particularly misogynistic language will also not win you points.


    She doesn’t like dogs because she’s allergic. She has health issues which means she has to stick to a specific diet and exposure to other types of food might kill her. She doesn’t like smokers because she has a history of lung-cancer in her family. You talk about loving Ayn Rand.

    I feel like this might be a girl you know personally, but I can't quite put my finger on why…



    (seriously, I about died when I read that.)

    • Dr. NerdLove

      I may or may not have encountered ALL of those examples at one time or another.

      Well, not the Ayn Rand part. But there WAS that one time I accidentally went on a date with an White Power girl.

      • Squirrel

        That's really the sort of thing people should put in their profile, if only to warn off everyone else.

        • Dr. NerdLove

          In fairness, she kind of did. At the time I didn't realize that 88-SCREENNAME-88 and being interested in her heritage were code. It wasn't until I saw the RAHOWA and WPWW tattoos that things clicked. And then things got entertainingly awkward. I may have to talk about it in a future column.

          • J.L.

            Okay, I know this is an old article and I’m sorry for the “thread necromancy” but I *really* want to hear (read) the White Power date story. Maybe even in a spin off site… Weird Tales of Doctor Nerdlove!

  • Elizabeth

    Not reading the profile is a BIG one, and something that never ceases to amaze me. You're right that it's often worth throwing your hat into the ring if you're *slightly* outside her preferences, but if you're way off? You're either an entitled douchebag or you're not reading her profile. For example, when I say I'm not into something long-distance, that doesn't mean I would necessarily mind a few hours' drive for a fantastic person. But if I'm in Boston and you're in LA, it's not happening. And as it turns out, it's because I have *experience* with LDRs and I know how emotionally exhausting they can be and don't want to go through that again. Same with every thing else – A year or two older than I'd like is one thing, but if you're 10 years above or below my limit, you need a reality check. Going for someone who wants a college graduate if you're still in college is okay, but if you haven't graduated from high school, why do you even bother? And if you're going to assume that despite making it clear I'm not looking for casual sex I *must* be open to your threesome request because I'm bisexual, just leave now.

    This comes off as a lack of respect because, in some cases, it is. I try to give people the benefit of the doubt and assume they didn't read my profile and see I'm not interested in someone of their age/location/educational status/political affiliation/etc. but I have had a couple of cases where it seemed like guys deliberately ignored it because they thought it was dumb. Certainly, I've met people who had stupid dealbreakers on OkCupid – my favorite was the girl who rejected me because of my astrological sign (which I could have told her doesn't exactly fit me) – but I think they're rarer than people think, and regardless, it makes you look like you don't respect someone if you refuse to respect their dealbreakers. And if it's something super-common like age, location, educational status or, for fuck's sake, gender (I can't tell you how many lesbians have told me about dudes messaging them on dating sites claiming they can "turn" them), you're really just going to look like a douche if you can't figure out the obvious reasons they exist simply because they get in the way of what *you* want.

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  • Prettyinblackxx

    To add:

    Never write one word/phrase responses. Writing something like “Hi” or “Good morning” as an initial response is lame. It’s also not going to get you a response back.

    • Pizkie

      It might get you a response (because many people like to maintain their green reply status), but don't expect more than one. It's such a lame opening line.