8 Things to Know about Online Dating

Online dating is appealing to students and working people with limited free time.

In a society that values constant rushing, it’s hard to feel like you have enough time and energy to put toward the daunting task of finding a mate. And, even if you do have the time, where do you go to meet like-minded people that are within your age range? To me, online dating seemed like the resolution to both those problems.

I began toying around with the free dating website, OKCupid, when I was in college. I hadn’t had any luck meeting anyone around campus, and trawling the bars for potential partners didn’t sound appealing. This way, I thought, I could click right to the people that I had things in common with, and I could do it on my own time.

However, online dating can be just as discouraging as more organic dating. It can be just as draining to your time and energy. Through the years, I have gone back and forth with using the site and deactivating my profile. On the whole, I haven’t had much luck with it in the sense that I haven’t had any lasting or meaningful relationships because of the experience. Well, there’s one, but we originally met each other years ago at school, so I don’t really count that as a point for OKCupid.

Nonetheless, I feel as if my half decade or so of using OKCupid has given me the experience to present eight important things to know about online dating.

1. Pick your username wisely, because people will comment on it a whole lot.

Other than the standard warning of don’t put too much identifying information on your profile, don’t give out your number too freely, and don’t meet anyone in a secluded area, the first thing to remember is to choose your username carefully. Because a lot of people won’t even bother to read your profile, they’ll try and start a conversation with your username, and it’s best to not give them a lot to go on if they’re going to be that lazy in trying to win your attention.

For instance, my username involves my fondness for toast. I thought it was the perfect username, because it’s silly and pointless and not particularly sexy or raunchy. Instead, it turned out to be a poor choice. It was eye catching and prompted all sorts of stupid messages including, “What do you like on your toast?” and “What kind of toast do you like?” Suitors would also exclaim, “I like toast, too!” as if we were meant to be together because of a mutual fondness for breakfast foods. My favorite, however, is when the person says coyly, “Come over, and I’ll make you some toast.” First of all, I know what you’re getting at. Second of all, I have access to a toaster. I’ll make my own toast, and I won’t even have to leave my apartment.

Online daters might be more open to settling down.

The director of the Center for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience at the University of Chicago, John Cacioppo, says that dating sites may “attract people who are serious about getting married.”

2. A lot of people who message you won’t even take a glance at your profile.

This is particularly frustrating if you’re like me and have spent a decent amount of effort working on your profile in the hopes that it represents your interests, goals, and desires as fully as possible. When a person messages me and asks me questions that have the answers right there in my profile, it’s annoying. It says to me that this person just saw my profile picture and thought I was cute; they didn’t read my profile and get a glimpse of my personality or anything like that. They didn’t take the time to try and learn a little bit about me before starting a conversation.

Don’t spend a lot of time on these people. Or do, I’m not a cop. But remember, you joined a dating site, because meeting compatible people out and about is either too time consuming or too daunting. If this other person isn’t willing to spend the five minutes it takes to read your profile, he or she is not going to hold up his or her end of the getting-to-know-you process.

The jury is out on whether or not online dating is more satisfying or successful than traditional dating.

While many studies indicate that online dating has potential to match people up with compatible partners, social psychologist Eli Finkel of Northwestern University says it’s “premature to conclude that online dating is better than offline dating.”

3. And if people do read your profile, they’ll all latch onto the same small detail.

This isn’t necessarily an avoidable problem, but responding to the same question over and over can be discouraging and tiring to the point where it’s tempting to abandon the whole enterprise altogether. I’ve had this experience with two different interests that I had listed in my BestFuckSite profile: Dr. Who and video games.

It just happens that people who viewed my profile also seemed to be interested in those things, so I can’t fault them for starting a conversation with one of those topics. However, I did find that, while I enjoyed Dr. Who and video games, I wasn’t nearly as passionate about them as other people. So, in an attempt to encourage discussions involving different topics, I just deleted the mention of both topics from my profile.

While you can’t be expected to be super passionate about everything that you have listed in your profile (I mean, who wants to spend several conversations on the delicious qualities of tacos?), make sure that you are interested enough in the topics to have several conversations about them. And if you find that you’re growing tired of people messaging you about your love of, say, Breaking Bad, don’t be afraid to quietly remove it from your profile for a while.

4. People will be lazy when it comes to starting a conversation.

Let me just throw this out there: you are not required or obligated to reply to anyone. This includes people who send you a lazy message that just says “hey” or “how’s it going?” If they are not going to put forth the effort to begin an interesting conversation with you, you do not have to feel like you must shoulder the entire responsibility of building a rapport.

And, as it’s annoying to receive an inbox full of one word messages, don’t think it’s okay to do the same. In fact, you are not as likely to get a response from the person you are messaging if you try to get the ball rolling in such a banal way. According to a post on OK Trends entitled “Exactly What To Say In A First Message,” senders who don’t go for the boring greeting of “hey” or “hi” enjoy a 27% reply rate. Also, it’s important to refrain from being lazy by resorting to netspeak as well. The same post mentions that using informal abbreviations like “u” or “ur” are big no-nos. When you send a message, make a good first impression and take the time to actually create a unique and personalized message that shows you are genuinely interested in getting to know the other person.

5. People will think it’s appropriate to ask you to meet them for coffee before even starting a conversation.

I cannot emphasize just how inappropriate of a request this is. With the exception of Tinder, which has a different connotation, it is not okay to ask someone to meet up for coffee, dinner, drinks, sex, or whatever else on a dating site before at least having a short conversation.

Regardless of gender, it’s not particularly safe to meet up with people from the internet, especially if you know nothing about them. Even if the person making this request does it in innocence, it’s a red flag. It suggests that this person either does not know or care about appropriate social behaviors or etiquette. This action can also mean that the person is wanting to move forward too fast. Be wary when dealing with these people and do not make the same faux pas yourself.

6. Beware anyone who bad mouths his or her interactions with past romantic interests.

As the saying goes, if you have to tell people you’re a nice guy, you’re probably not a nice guy. You also do not look like a nice guy if you express anger or resentment toward people you’ve had romantic inclinations toward, both online and offline. Also, do not make any generalizations about the gender you are interested in. Don’t say, “Men are all the same,” or “Why do women have to be so shallow?” That very much suggests a petty and immature mentality toward dating and implies that you have quite a bit of baggage from previous relationships, an idea that may not be appealing to people checking out your profile.

Consequently, be wary of people who appear hateful in their profile or their messages. This behavior suggests a tendency to blame the other person for all romantic squabbles as well as a desire to air one’s dirty laundry on social media sites for everyone to see. Save yourself the drama and spend your time pursuing a companion who is more low key.

Take the time to figure out the other person’s boundaries before asking to meet up.

While meeting the person offline is an exciting step, it can also be daunting. Establish what makes you comfortable or uncomfortable prior to meeting.

7. People will blame you for not responding to them. You are not obligated to talk to anyone.

I cannot emphasize this point enough. Whether the person messaging you is antagonizing you or is just not someone you are interested in, you do not have to speak to him or her. What’s more, you don’t owe anybody an explanation. If you decided that you don’t want to pursue a romantic relationship with him or her, you don’t have to tell that person. You can just stop responding. Sure, if you feel compelled to tell the other person how you feel, you certainly can, in the interest of honestly. However, you do not have to do so.

You also do not owe anyone a date. Even if the person is so very nice and complimentary and tells you how much they deserve the chance, you do not have to do anything with that person. Don’t place yourself in a position where you’re going to be uncomfortable just to save face. And if you try and let the person down gently and he or she demands some sort of explanation, you do not have to give them one. You’re both on a dating site. If either of you doesn’t feel compelled to pursue the relationship farther, that’s it. The end. And it’s okay to break it off with someone if you’re just not feeling it.

As much as you love cats, perhaps don’t express it as passionately as this woman in this musical version of a mock eHarmony video.

8. The block button is your friend.

Just like you don’t owe anyone a conversation, explanation, or date, you also should not feel bad about cutting off contact with him or her altogether if it comes to that. Some people use the block button more liberally than others. I use it quite a bit. Even if someone messages me multiple times in a non-antagonistic way when I’m just not interested, I block him or her. No hard feelings. I just don’t want to have to keep receiving messages from this person.

I also, of course, indiscriminately block the creeps that message me with requests for sexual favors or what have you. I encourage you to do the same. As tempting as it may be to tear these people a new one, simply don’t engage them and don’t encourage them to keep messaging you in order to respond to your criticism. This is especially the case when people are persistent in their creepiness. One guy continued to make new profiles every time I blocked him. He did this about four or five times. Each time he messaged me, I’d swiftly report him and block him without comment.

Always remember that your safety and comfort is much more important than trying to spare someone’s feelings, pride, or dignity.