There’s a lot to love about online dating. You take the randomness out of trying to meet people, hoping that fate will guide you to THAT ONE SPOT you need to be AT THAT VERY SPECIFIC TIME in order to meet that special someone. If you have approach anxiety when it comes to meeting strangers in person, online dating gives you all the time you need to calm down and send that message. You can be as picky as you like, using various search functions and filters to ensure that you find that 5’9″ tall blonde Farsi speaking Zoroastrian of your dreams. You have total control over the impression you want to deliver, from that perfect photo to the charming and witty dating profile that captures and holds their attention.
Of course, there’s nothing quite so frustrating when you put all of that effort into your profile and start sending out all of those messages… and get thunderous silence in return.
In fact, that’s the reason why so many men1 quit online dating entirely; who wants to expend all of that emotional energy only to get kicked in the metaphorical nuts by that empty inbox every time you log in? Why the hell won’t people write back?
Well, to mangle an old saying: once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, three times means you’re doing something wrong. Sometimes you have to accept that you’re the only common denominator in all of those people you’re messaging. So it’s time to take a step back and take a hard look at what you may be doing that turns off your potential dates.
It’s A Zombie Profile
She’s hot. She’s single. She hasn’t responded to a single email you ever sent… because you’ve been emailing a digital corpse. One of the risks (for suitably inflated values of “risk”) that you’re going to come across in the world of online dating is the dating site account that’s dead yet still shuffling around: the zombie profile.
It looks for all the world like a normal account, but the person who owns it hasn’t logged on in over three months… and probably never will. Sending messages, winks, pokes, flowers or other signs of interest is the digital equivalent to ringing the doorbell of an abandoned house. You’re just wasting your time.
Zombie profiles litter every dating service – especially ones that rely on paid subscriptions. They may have let their subscription lapse, but never went through the procedure of actually removing their account – something that many dating sites make as difficult as possible in order to artificially inflate their numbers. They may have set up the profile on a lark and forgot about it after moving on when some other social network caught their attention. They may have started dating somebody they met on that very site and just never got around to closing their account or editing their profile to indicate that they’re no longer on the market. Ultimately it doesn’t matter: they’re never going to respond to you, so you may as well quit worrying about ’em.
How Do You Avoid This?
Start filtering for activity level in your searches. Most dating sites allow you to add “Active Within $TIME” to any search string. If the owner of the profile hasn’t logged in within two weeks, the odds are good that you’re looking at a zombie profile. Don’t bother hoping that they’ll notice the “You have a new message!” email and log back in to see who’s been trying to reach them; odds are high that any such emails are either ignored, sent to the spam folder or deleted without being read in the first place.
You may also want to watch out for active profiles by people who don’t actually spend the money to subscribe. Some dating sites will let you post your profile for free, but have to pay extra to actually send messages. These sorts of accounts will have unsubtle clues as to how to reach them elsewhere… and 9 times out of 10, they’re spammers anyway. Don’t waste your time.
You Were Lost In The Churn
Online dating is a seller’s market when it comes to women; they’re going to have a far higher response rate to their profiles then men – most of them unsolicited. Some women will get 10 to 20 new messages per day on dating sites; some may get that many in an hour, especially if there’s a suggestion that she’s looking for sex. When you’re constantly being deluged by strangers wanting to get to know you naked, you’re likely to start paying less and less attention to the actual content of the email. After all, why bother when 99% of them are troglodytes who think that “Yo bitch” is a proper way to start an email or make the immediate leap to “I can’t wate to eat ur puzzy” are appropriate ways to approach a woman you don’t know.
Hell, many of my female friends will delete emails – without reading them – based solely on the subject line because of the sheer volume of mail they receive.
Odds are good that your email got lost in the churn of every other guy out there who was trying to get her attention as well… and suffered the same fate as all the others, consigned to the digital garbage bin.
How Do You Avoid This?
You need to make a point of standing out from the crowd. This means no generic usernames – UTexas09 or Portland77 – or inappropriate ones – anything involving the word Love, Luv or implying that you are the A+ number one master of orgasms. This also means that you need to have an attention-getting subject line to your messages. The most common subject line that women receive is a variation on “Hello”: Hey, Hi, ‘sup, Yo, how YOU doin’, etc. The second most common? “You’re pretty”. The third most common usually involves sex. Avoid *all* of these.
If you want to keep her from automatically reaching for the delete button when your message hits her inbox, you need to grab her attention. A clever, attention-getting subject line – especially one that indicates you actually read her profile, is key. If she talks about sports, mention sports in the title. If you two have a mutual interest in books, put that in the subject!
Failing that, there’s always the Dadaist approach. I’ve always had good responses from “Pirates are inherently better than Ninjas” or “Zombies are superior to Vampires”. Almost never has anything to do with the message I send, but the WTF factor is often enough to at least get the email read… which is half of the battle right there.
You Sent Generic Message #14
So let’s say she did actually open your email… is she going to be charmed by what she sees? Or is it going to be yet another guy who thinks that she’s not going to notice that you’ve used a cut-and-paste message that he likely sent out to every other woman on that dating site?
Now to be sure: online dating is a numbers game. Men tend to treat it like stalking a wiley and elusive deer when they should be treating it like dynamite fishing – instead of spending all of their time trying to get that ONE person to go out with them, they should be messaging as many women who interest you as possible and seeing who bites. When you’re sending out all those emails, it can be incredibly time-consuming to craft a new and unique message to each and every person… so why not simplify things with some all-purpose material that works on everybody?
How about because most of the women you’ll run into on dating sites are already wise to that trick?And frankly, it’s kind of insulting. No matter what you think you’re saying, it tells her that you couldn’t be bothered to come with something original or even read her profile in the first place.
Why should she want to respond in the first place? This is another message that goes straight to the trash, if you’re lucky.
How Do You Avoid This?
If you want to message many women as possible in an efficient manner, you want to use a template for your email, not a cut-and-paste job. The benefit of the template is that it provides you a structure to work with, streamlining your process without going full-on cookie cutter. You do have certain beats that you want to hit in a first-contact email: who you are, why you’re interested in her, why she should be interested in you in return and a little bait to get her to respond. You can change and update a template as you need, making it longer or shorter, working with more detail as necessary or even keeping it short and direct. You don’t want her to think that you’re just messaging people at random in hopes that you’re going to get lucky… and there are a lot of people out there using that exact approach.
U t4lk lik thz
You’re on the Internet: a primarily text-driven communication medium. Your words are how you convey your charm and intelligence. You need to be able to seduce a woman with nothing but words. Men have been wooing women successfully with nothing but beautiful letters and witty messages full of spark and meaning, conveying their passion through text. On the other hand, nobody has ever gotten laid with “u r SOO hawut”.
I can’t emphasize this enough: using text-message abbreviations, l33tsp3ak or other cutesy, non-standard English2 grammar and spelling makes you look like a goddamn idiot. This all but ensures that your message got deleted without being read in the first place.
If I seem to harp on this issue a lot, it’s because I do. Poor grammar and spelling are one of the top mistakes people make in online dating and it cripples your chances of hearing from anyone. For fuck’s sake, every browser out there automatically highlights misspelled words. Sending a message full of misspellings, abbreviations and non-standard contractions is going to make you look you were too lazy to run the goddamned spellcheck before you hit “send”.
How Do You Avoid This?
Proper spelling and grammar. Proper spelling and goddamn grammar. Tattoo this backwards on your forehead, so you can see it whenever you look in the mirror.
You Sound Desperate
One of common issue that crops up when nerd guys try online dating is that they end up sounding… well, more than a little lonely. And needy. They have a tendency to be so submissive and eager to please in their messages to women that they come across as a mangy lost puppy rather than a potential fun Friday night. Their messages are full of praise and compliments and deprecating humor that ends up screaming “I have no self-esteem whatsoever!” They make mention of the fact that they haven’t been on a date in who knows how long and their last girlfriend dumped them and… and… well, it’s kind of pitiful, really.
And pity is the date-killer. Pity is the death of sex that brings nights alone at home, masturbating and crying, using your tears as lube.
How Do You Avoid This?
I’m all in favor of paying women compliments, but there’s a line between “compliment” and “obsequious”. You need to enter into any interaction with a woman you hope to date with the attitude that you’re awesome, you think she may be equally awesome and the two of you need to get together to see just what an amazing time the two of you could have together. There’s a certain value to be had in being a little challenging even, in a playful and charming manner; trying to supplicate your way into a woman’s pants just makes it look like you’re just hoping for a pity date… followed by pity sex.
You Were Insulting And/Or Creepy
There are the guys who are so desperate as to be sad, then there are the ones who swing around to the other extreme. There are an astounding number of people who mistake being an asshole for being charming. They’ve absorbed all the wrong lessons from The Game and have convinced themselves that “cocky-funny” means acting like a dick and that negging3 a woman is how he shows her you’re a big swinging dick who isn’t worried about what a woman thinks about him so she should totally fuck him. After all, nothing gets a woman hotter under the collar than being told that she’s almost cute or that her hair looks great… for extensions. If you don’t want to be seen as supplicating to a woman and acting like all the other chodes who’re trying to tell her how pretty she is, you gotta neg! Right?
Then there are the guys who go sexual right off the bat. They’re the ones who ask incredibly personal questions about a woman’s body or sex life in the very first email. They lead with “I luv ur ass/titties”. They’ll talk about what they imagine doing to her in incredibly vivid detail – often making us wish that there was a way to blind the mind’s eye.
Now admittedly, if you’re sending messages like this, you are providing a valuable service: these are the ones that get shared so that everybody can point and laugh and properly appreciate the horror.
How Do You Avoid This?
Remember whenI said there’s some value in being a little challenging in your approach? There’s a vast difference between some good-hearted gentle ribbing and being a complete cock. The idea of being cocky-funny as a way of getting girls tends to get translated as “act like a Jersey Shore extra” and turns women off. It’s one thing to be a little teasing in your first email, especially if you’re challenging her to, say, competitive air hockey or a Super Smash Brothers competition. It’s another entirely to “jokingly” call her a slut, insist that she make you dinner or joke about showing her your pimp-hand.
Similarly, I don’t care what she implied in her profile. I don’t care how much cleavage she showed in her photo. I don’t care if her answer to “What is the most private thing you’re willing to admit to?” is “I give mindblowing head”. Keep all sex talk out of your message4 . Your initial message to someone on a dating site is how you make your first impression and the last thing you want to is lead with your dick. You need to build to that shit, son.
Also: no rape jokes. Ever.
Your Profile Sucks
What’s the first thing you do after you get an e-mail on OKCupid from a woman? Well, if you’re like me (and I know I am) you immediately head to her profile to check her out. Then you reply, or not depending on how you feel about her profile.
So what makes you think that she’s going to be any different, Shakespeare? You got her to open your email instead of deleting it and she liked what she saw… but if your profile is weak, she’s still not going to reply.
What makes for a weak profile? Well, to start with, when have you last updated your profile? Have you been keeping it fresh, or did you set it up years ago and never touched it since? Are your pictures recent, and do they show your best self? Is your profile full of self-deprecating humor or other red flags of low self-esteem and confidence like whining about ex-girlfriends or being dateless? Complaints in general will ruin your profile – negativity is going to turn the vast majority of people off; very few relationships are built off mutual hate. Then of course, there’s this wave of horror:
If your dating profile resembles anything on this tumblr, then… no. Just… no.
How Do You Avoid This?
You need to go over your dating profile with a fine toothed comb. To start with, read over my guide to crafting your online dating profile. Again: make sure you’re using correct spelling and proper grammar; you think I’m joking, but this will make women pass you over. Then get some trusted female friends to look it over and give you their honest opinions; the things that you think are cute and funny may not be coming across the way you intended. Make sure your pictures are recent and actually look good.
Look, I understand that dating can be hard, even maddeningly frustrating. It takes time and commitment, and online dating is no different. You’re going to make mistakes. You’re going to have a lot of false starts and connections that seem to start wonderfully and then trail off for no apparent reason. You need to hang in there and work at it. The time and effort you put into sharpening up your game will pay dividends. The empty email boxes of the frustrating early days will be a thing of the past and you’ll be well on your way to having the love-life you’ve always wanted.
- Women usually have the opposite problem: a veritable tsunami of sex-seeking dudes who flood her inbox [↩]
- or Spanish, French, Finnish, Japanese, what-have-you [↩]
- If there was any concept that I wish I could make disappear from the PUA communies… well, it’d be the misogyny and tendency to view male-female relationships as defined by combative conflict. But the second concept would be negging. [↩]
- obvious exceptions can be made for Adult Friend Finder, FetLife, Grindr, etc [↩]