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03 June 2009

Online dating communication style beanplating Ask MeCha! I've started using OKCupid which has been fun so far but I have a few questions.[More:]

If I like a woman's profile, I usually send an initial message that is a couple of sentences relating to something in her profile. I must do okay at this part and on my profile because most people write back, which I understand is not usually the case for guys.

It's after that point that things fall apart. Usually I'll write back a bit more next time, and if things go well we'll start writing short paragraphs. It's seemed like this has been going well multiple times in the past, but actually it's worked exactly once--where I asked someone out to coffee on the 11th message. The rest of the time, things have fizzled out at some point. I almost always reply to messages so it's usually the girl who doesn't write back. On the one hand I really like the woman I met this way (and we have a second date coming up), so I wonder if this might have been a good filter or a way of connecting with someone who is compatible. On the other hand I wonder if I should change things to be able to connect with other gals better.

I've met one other girl. On message 6 she hinted at us meeting up and I took her up on it. I have a forthcoming coffee date with another one who in her profile said she wasn't much into long e-mail conversations and preferred to meet people early, and she hinted at meeting in her very first reply, which I took her up on.

I'm starting to wonder if maybe more girls wouldn't prefer me to ask for a drink/coffee a bit earlier, and these two women are just the tip of the iceberg because they were forward enough to drop a hint.

Even after I asked the first gal mentioned above to coffee, while she has had great enthusiasm for meeting (and again a subsequent meeting), she has shown very little interest in continuing to write long messages like we did before. Which is really fine with me, but maybe she was just gritting her teeth before wondering why I wouldn't just ask her out already.

Obviously there's a happy medium in-between long romance-killing pen-pal exchanges and asking for a drink in the first message. But how do I figure out where it is?

Here's another case: a girl recently rated me 4 or 5 stars, and the system tells you when you mutually rate high. So I wrote her, but all I've gotten back since are a series of short statements with no questions. If I met a person who conversed like this in real life, I would probably figure they didn't want to talk to me anymore. What's strange is that it was preceded by this high rating. If this were in real life, it would feel as if a woman had stared at me from across the bar and then when I went up to talk to her she had nothing to say. Should I keep trying to draw her out? Just talk about myself instead like she is? Ask her out? Give up--she's uninterested or uninteresting?

Other things about my communication style: maybe I write back too quickly? Usually I try to write back within a day or so, and often on the same day. A female friend suggested writing each person no more than once a day. But whenever I've tried slowing things down like that, they've never written back again after that. Maybe they saw I was online writing to someone else and not them and got pissed off. So I abandoned that system.

Thoughts? (Two disclaimers: First, I am not nearly this long-winded in these e-mails, I promise. Finally, I know I am overthinking this. Please join me.)
Six to eleven messages before meeting = entirely too many.

By all means, don't jump the gun in the first e-mail and declare "I want to see you. Tonight. For coffee. And then, after that, I wanna get freaky witchoo."

But you really are dragging out those conversations for too long. I think most people who do the online dating thing strongly prefer a low-key, in-person meeting pretty early on, just to see if the chemistry might be there.

Maybe set a limit of four e-mails or so before meeting someone? It seems more efficient, at least.
posted by jason's_planet 03 June | 23:55
Just for the avoidance of doubt, when I say six messages, I mean I send three and she sends three.
posted by punch 04 June | 00:02
Yeah, 2 back and forths of email, then a phonecall and date is how my online dating rules generally go.
I don't want to email with you forever and get semi-attached only to find out you have bad breath and drool food out of one side of your mouth and then have to start all over with someone new and be disappointed that I invested so much in you.

Here's how I think the protocol usually goes:

punch: something about your profile, something about me, question about you?

woman: hi, yes, your profile too, something more about me, question?

punch: something funny, something about a mutual interest

woman: responds to thing about interest

punch: asks for face to face date pertaining to that interest, giving a choice of 2 or 3 days that work.

woman: agrees to date and sets final date

You can also cut straight to the chase on your second email to her. If she responded to your first, she's interested.

Also, the girl who wrote you back short answers with no questions- could be that she's just not that good that the formula above. If she really weren't interested, I doubt she'd be writing back at all. I think you should ask her out and see how it goes in person instead of writing her off.

Remember that some people present themselves poorly online but turn out great in person, some vice versa. But you'll always learn more about someone in person and about your connection with them, so get to the dating already!

Tangent: I think online dating has been a real boon to shy people, but at some point you have to turn your online romance into a real world one, and there seems to be just as much hesitation and fear involved in that sometimes as with just asking someone out IRL. Online dating is a tool to let you meet new people, not a tool to build your relationship or let you "really know someone."
posted by rmless2 04 June | 00:10
Yeah, 3 and 3, then phone, then intro date. You seem to have everything else together.

My biggest peeve with online dating sites is the truly horrid quality of so many of the pictures that people post of themselves. So often when I hear someone complaining about not getting responses, the first thing I ask to see is the picture they posted. Either they aren't smiling or they used some cheap webcam or the lighting is bad, and quite often, all of the above.

Hopefully, though, I am out of that stage for awhile, a very long while.
posted by Ardiril 04 June | 05:38
honestly, I skimmed your novel.

I met my husband online. It went like this:
Him: I saw your profile and see you like [hobby]. I am a [profession] and I like to do [other hobby] in my spare time. Please take a look at my profile and tell me what you think.
Me: [I don't really remember, something like "you seem interesting, I've always wanted to try [hobby]"]
Him: Here's my phone number [xxx-xxx-xxxx], I'll be on the road tomorrow from [time] to [time], I'd love to speak to you then. Signed, [real name]

I called him and after 2 weeks of phone calls, we met, the rest is history. I felt safe because he had given me his real name (which I verified) and his phone # without asking for mine. I had TONS of guys emailing me (not to sound arrogant; this is the case for most females online) and I like that he cut to the chase so I didn't feel obligated to answer his every email. I got a much better sense of him on the phone (he's smart but is a horrid speller). If I'd never called him, I know he would not have bugged me again.

Now I have to go to work, but I hope that helps.
posted by desjardins 04 June | 08:04
The economics of online dating seem to indicate that the supply and demand equation, among straight people, favor the women. I do not have much experience, but from what I have heard, you need to look at it like looking for a job, and not take anything personally. Just put a lot of feelers out there and hope for some, um, responses.
posted by danf 04 June | 08:43
You're doing the right thing by sending messages that reference their profile. I was on okcupid for a long time and most people don't even give any indication they've READ your profile. Very generic "hey, I like your profile. want to chat sometime?" stuff, where you know they just typed it once and pasted it into twenty separate emails.

But yeah, eleven back and forths before meeting is a lot. My boyfriend and I had more, but that's what happens when you get two socially awkward geeks together. (and I dropped hints! He asked if it was worth seeing the new kevin smith movie, and I said "I haven't seen it yet, but I want to. I don't have anyone to go with, though." that, my friends, is a capital H Hint. Which he missed. )
posted by kellydamnit 04 June | 09:32
Now, if you want to date within web communities like Mecha, I have made plenty of stupid mistakes to share.
posted by Ardiril 04 June | 09:47
Lesson #1: Preview all your comments to ensure that you are not about to post a comment whose juxtaposition could be misinterpreted.
posted by Ardiril 04 June | 10:12
I don't online date, but a friend of mine does - on okcupid and some other sites. He generally sends one message of introduction, then the whole thing moves to ichat/gchat/AIM. It might be a generational thing but the first date generally follows pretty closely. He's gone on quite a few first dates, fewer second dates, and is exclusively dating a girl right now.

Even after I asked the first gal mentioned above to coffee, while she has had great enthusiasm for meeting (and again a subsequent meeting), she has shown very little interest in continuing to write long messages like we did before.

In general, women aren't on OKCupid to find a pen pal. They're interested in meeting people face to face.
posted by muddgirl 04 June | 10:32
Yup, when I was going through the process, 2 or 3 emails, then a phone call, at the end of which a meeting is planned or at least discussed. This really separates the looky-loos from the serious daters, I found.

There was one exception. I'd just broken up with a woman after dating her a month or so--no big drama, I just wasn't that into her, as the saying goes. I jumped back into the fray, and pretty quickly connected with a woman who sounded really great. We emailed and IMed a bit, and things were really clicking. It was really kind of amazing--we'd been at the same concert only a month before, it turned out, liked the same foods, had a lot in common. It was like she knew me.

I pushed for a phone number, but she kept putting me off. After 2 weeks or so, I was getting kind of impatient, and I guess she sensed that. The next email I got from her explained that, yeah, she did know me; she was, as you might have guessed by now, the woman I'd gone out with the month before, who had taken out an entirely new dating profile, email address, and chat ID so she could stalk me.

I know how it can feel forward and pushy and rushed to start asking for a face-to-face or a phone call after just a few contacts, but, really, I think that's the way things work. You're not online dating--you're finding a date online.
posted by mrmoonpie 04 June | 10:58
Totally agreeing that you should move more quickly. Messsage 3:

"So it sounds like we really have a lot in common - I've enjoyed writing to you. What do you say we talk on the phone this weekend and get to know each other a little better? MY phone # is 555-XXXX and I'll be free in the early evening, say between 5 and 7. Does that work for you?"

A woman who does like you and is serious about being on the site to date will think this is appropriate. Most will want to talk to you on the phone before meeting anyway. I personally hate talking on the phone, but in this situation it's the ideal middle point between random emails and meeting a stranger in person. It helps gel the mental image of the person and gives you a chance to speak naturally and off-the-cuff, meaning she can get a sense what you're like when you don't have hours to compose a carefully crafted response. It's authentic.

Don't waste your time, either. Too often a long, flirty, romantic exchange seems really promising, and you waste a couple weeks getting all wound up about how great this person is going to be, only when you finally do the Big Meeting you find there's really no chemistry and it was all a literary illusion. Nobody wants to waste their time that way, and women who have done it a couple times generally adopt the "phone-early" strategy.

If someone doesn't want to phone or meet soon after you both think you're hitting it off - assume they're married or otherwise not serious about this online dating thing.
posted by Miko 04 June | 11:16
*cues pina colada song for mrmoonpie*
posted by dhartung 04 June | 12:48
As someone who's been on okc for a couple of years, here are some thoughts:

3 emails each before suggesting a meeting is near the max before setting up/suggesting a meeting. Beyond that, you've just made yourself a penpal. If she doesn't suggest a meeting by the 3rd exchange, you should. If she's not too excited about meeting then you're better off knowing sooner than later.

rmless2 protocol seems spot on.

About the rating, don't read too much into it. Some people just sit and rate others just for the heck of it. It's quite likely that this woman just sat through quickmatch one boring evening and just rated a bunch of people. That fact that she didn't respond simply means that she never ever planned on following through. I just ignore the someone just rated you, someone just saved you type emails. If someone does like you, they can always hit the message button and actually *gasp* write to you.

I, and other I know who date online, never really chat on the phone before meeting (see the note about penpals). Rather, I wait till we've actually decided to meet, set a location, and then I'll send an email like here's my #, in case you need to reach me.
posted by special-k 04 June | 12:50
I am so glad I've never really dated. It all seems so very confusing. /not helpful
However, I have to admit the "rmless2 protocol" made me giggle.
posted by deborah 04 June | 14:01
I hope my protocol becomes famous and everyone starts using it!
posted by rmless2 04 June | 14:27
Since I'm probably going to go this route some point soon, I will be the first to formally adopt the rmless2 protocol®.
posted by dhartung 04 June | 14:57
@rmless2: If I had time for online dating, I'd totally use your protocol! But does it work for women meeting men (or even other women?).
posted by TrishaLynn 04 June | 16:14
I asked the non-talkative woman if she wanted to have a drink. And she didn't write back... for five days. Then she said yes!
posted by punch 07 June | 13:23
All You Need Is Awesome! || Do you have a similar job to your parent(s)?