Now that you’ve had a week or two to write up your profile and dip your toe into the world of online dating, it’s time to take a step back and take stock.
How has it been going so far? Have you had much success with meeting people? Or are you sending a lot of messages out into the void, never to be heard from again? It can be frustrating, can’t it? Much like in real life, the only reaction that really infuriates is no reaction. Even a terse “Fuck off, cave troll” means that at least you’re being heard.
It can be frustrating, even a little confusing. It’s one of those times that makes you feel like you’re ready to scrap the whole idea and try your hand in places where you might have more success… like randomly approaching strangers and demanding that they get coffee with you.
But now that you’ve had some time to try things out… have you considered that maybe, just maybe, you’re going about it all wrong?
Much like dating in the real world, online dating presents an almost infinite number of ways to shoot yourself in the foot and kill your chances before you even get started. Much like in the real world, first impressions count for everything; in online dating, women have even more information to judge you by, so when you want to make contact with someone you have to shine.
Before we get into the art of crafting the perfect introduction, let’s look at the other way of contacting someone: the wink, poke, nudge, smile, flirt function. Just about every online dating site out there has some variation on this. In theory, it is supposed to be a cute and flirty way to tell someone that you’re interested in them, get them to check out your profile and maybe send you a message.
In reality, it’s seen as a passive-aggressive way of trying to bait someone else into making the first move. It’s a message that says “I’m too chicken-shit to/couldn’t be bothered to take the effort to write you first and so I’m hoping you’ll do the hard part for me.” It’s the Platonic Friend Gambit of online dating. Never use it. At best, it’s not going to get you anywhere. At worst, you’ve just sent the wrong message before you’ve said anything.
No, my friend, what you want is to cowboy up and actually write.
A proper first contact message is convoluted; you want to set certain expectations and convey an attractive image of yourself. You want to stand out from the crowd of men who are messaging her already. You want to defy her expectations and tempt her into replying to you.
Sounds complicated? It’s not really. You need to keep certain guidelines in mind and build yourself a first contact template.
Yup. A template. It sounds a little cold-blooded and impersonal, but you’re going to want to have a stock first message. One that doesn’t feel like a cut-and-paste job, but one that you can modify on the fly for any girl you might want to get in touch with.
And why, exactly, do you want to do this? Shouldn’t you be carefully reading each girl’s profile and crafting each message to the girl like a special poem indicating just how special she is?
Well… kind of. You see, you are reading her profile, and you want to make sure she knows you have. However, online dating is very much a numbers game; it’s more efficient for you to be messaging many girls instead of one at a time. Too many people spend too much time focusing on one particular girl at a time, developing an online version of one-itis. They expend time and energy waiting checking her activity dates, wondering if she got that message, if he should send a second one… when he could be spending that time contacting other girls, or actually going on dates. Approaching women out in the world is like spear-fishing – one at a time. Treat approaching women on online dating sites should be like dynamite fishing; you want to toss your messages out there and see what floats to the surface. And so,with an eye towards efficiency, you want to use your template to streamline the process while still maintaining that personal touch.
Now keep in mind: you’re not doing a complete copy and paste here (er… like I used to do at first). This is a template, not a one-size fits all process. This is a base for how you craft your email and what you want your first message to convey.
Before we get into the nitty-gritty, there are two hard and fast rules.
First: Use proper goddamn spelling. I don’t care if she wrote her entire profile in l337sp34k, you are going to use proper grammar and spelling. Anything else a) makes you look like an illiterate and b) is going to turn her off about as fast as telling her you like to roll naked in week-old fish guts.
Second: You are conveying a specific attitude of confidence and curiosity. You are approaching her almost as though you are auditioning her; approaching her as though you are begging for her attention is just going to make you look like a loser. Keep this in mind.
Now, as for the structure:
The Subject Line: The subject line is the first line of defense you have to get past. Women are usually outnumbered by a factor of 10 at least and are being messaged all the time. The subject line of the emails then proves to be an initial filter. This is why I am a great fan of the Dadaist subject line. Personally, I’ve written things like “Pirates Are Much Cooler Than Ninjas” or “Who Ordered The Large Cheese Pizza, Double Anchovies”; anything that comes to mind. It helps you to stand out from all the people who title their emails “Hi”, “Ur Hottt” or “I Like You.” Being unique works in your favor here and ups your chances of not being deleted unread.
Why You’re Contacting Her: You aren’t going to mention anything about her physical appearance. If you weren’t attracted to her, you wouldn’t be writing to her in the first place, and it sounds like a pick-up line at best. Instead, you want to start with”You look like you might be interesting.” “You seem like you could be cool.” “Something about your profile intrigues me.” See the common thread here? First of all: you’re interested in her, but you’re not quite sure. There’s something about her that isn’t just her looks that attracts you, but you’re still holding back some in the hopes that she’ll prove herself to be as interesting as you might think. It’s basically a gently teasing challenge, and sets the tone that you aren’t grovelling for her attention.
What Is It About Her That You Like: Your immediate follow-up; what part of her profile is it that made you click on “message her”. This is the part where you make clear that you have read her profile, and you’re going to be specific about it. “I guess it was that you said you love Neil Gaiman’s graphic novels; have you ever read ‘American Gods’?” “Maybe it was that you’ve been scuba diving. I love the water!” You’re still not quite sure she’s worth your time, but you’re definitely interested in finding out. You want to make it clear that you’re intrigued by what she’s had to say about herself.
Did I mention that you’re not talking about her physical appearance? Because you’re not. She’s attractive to you because of something about who she is, not just how she looks.
You’re Interested In Finding Out More About Her: You want to know if she’s as interesting and attractive as she is in her profile. You’re warming up to her.
Acknowledge The Obvious: You know damn good and well that you’re the 10,000th person to message her. Probably that day, even, and she’s starting to get sick of the idiots she’s been hearing from. Fortunately, you’re not one of them.
About You: This is where you introduce/brag about yourself in miniature. You want her to know that you a) have a life and b) have your shit together. In one paragraph, describe a little about you that makes you special. You know your way around a camera, you’re an excellent dancer, you play classical guitar, you have awesome tattoos, you make a killer chicken almondine. Personally, at the end of this I like to say something along the lines of “…and I’m modest too!” A little self-aware humor goes a long way; you don’t take this too seriously. Online dating is a lark, a game. Something you’re doing for fun.
No, But Seriously: You drop the slightly cocky facade to be real: she seems like a cool person. You wanted to say “hey” and let her know that you’d love to get to know her. And if she’s interested in fun times and great conversation, then she should definitely write back. Notice the key words here: “fun” and “great conversation”. You’re a fun person; people enjoy their time in your presence. Great conversations mean you have something to offer intellectually, not just that you’re angling for the fast lane into her panties.
The Sign Off: “Talk soon,”
Obligatory disclaimer: Obviously, there are no sure things in life, and there is no formula that will guarantee a response from every girl online. That’s life; nobody goes 5 for 5 when they’re approaching women, online or off. Knowing what you’re saying in advance and the messages you’re conveying, however, will improve your chances.
Take the time to write up a few variations on this initial email so that you can customize them and save them some place where you can access them easily. Contact many women, adapting your approach to each them and let the conversation flow.