OKCupid and the paradox of choice.
I apologize in advance for the long question, but I want to be as clear as possible about what exactly my problem is ... and isn't.
Background/context: I’m a 30-year-old straight man in NYC. I moved here at the beginning of the year and had only lived in much smaller cities before. I had a breakup around the time I moved here, and have been single since then.
I’ve used dating sites for years and have generally been very happy with the results. I've been in fulfilling relationships with wonderful women I never would have met if not for OKCupid and other dating sites. (These days I mostly use OKCupid and HowAboutWe.)
Yet I’ve been surprised at how hard I’m finding dating in this city.
When I started dating in this city, I expected the main difficulty to be that although there are (fortunately for me) a huge number of awesome single women, they also (unfortunately for me) have a huge number of awesome single men/women to choose from. Which is true, of course. But that isn't what's bothering me.
I’ve gone on 16 dates this year. And I could have easily been even more proactive in asking women out. I’ve been happy with the response rate to my messages.
In other words, I have no problem getting dates in the first place.
I also enjoy going on these dates and I think they tend to put me in the best light. I’m good at following the “be yourself” advice. Although I’m generally introverted and shy, I do very well as long as I can have an excuse to have a personal, one-on-one conversation with someone over drinks. I’m exactly the kind of person online dating is great for.
So, what is my problem?
The problem (and yes, I know it’s “a good problem to have”)
is: I have so many options I have a hard time dealing with them.
There are two main situations where this comes up: (a)
deciding who to make an initial online contact with, and (b)
deciding whether to follow-up after a first date.
I often find myself hesitating to contact anyone
on OKCupid (or HowAboutWe) because there are always so, so many women on these sites I’m potentially interested in. But this problem is relatively easy to solve. If I want to force myself to message someone new on any given day, I can do it.
(b) What I'm struggling with the most is the situation after a first date
. If I feel like the date was just "fine," I'm going to feel apathetic, not motivated to act. And so, the most common result has been that neither of us contacts each other.
I made a list of all 16 first dates I’ve been on this year, and these are the numbers:
1 of the first dates led to us seeing each other fairly regularly for a couple weeks. She seemed interested in getting serious, but I gradually realized we were incompatible in several ways, so I broke things off.
After 4 of the first dates, I was definitely interested in her and asked her out on a second (or third) date, but she didn't respond. (I’m not distraught about this; rejections go with the territory in dating.)
After 11 of the first dates, neither of us contacted the other.
Among those 11, I see two main subcategories. With a few of these women, I saw some kind of deal-breaker and firmly decided we weren't compatible.
Now we're (finally!) getting to the crux of the problem: with most of those 11 women, there were no major red flags. If she had followed up with me, I would have been reasonably happy to go on another date and see if things go somewhere. We had stuff in common and seemed to enjoy each others’ company. I found her reasonably attractive. I didn’t follow up because I just ... didn’t
On one hand, I feel bad about this. Didn't I miss some perfectly good opportunities?
I feel bad about this? Or am I just being reasonably selective because I'm fortunate enough to have a lot of options?
I’ve read other AskMe threads about choosing whether to go on a second date (previously
), so I know that some people are of a school of thought that says as long as the first date isn’t horrible, go for the second date. But I’ve never followed this. If I go away thinking, “Well, that was fine, not much better or worse than the average date I’ve gone on,” then I’m probably not going to feel motivated to try for a second or third date. I’ll think to myself: Why should I spend my time trying to nudge ourselves into relationship-ville if she doesn’t especially stand out to me?
I do think if I had gone for the second date with everyone who didn’t have a deal-breaker, I would have ended up going on more second dates. But my goal isn’t to maximize the number of second (or third or fourth) dates I go on. These early dates are fun nights out, but my goal is a serious relationship.
But I worry I may be shooting myself in the foot. Is 16 fruitless dates such a large number that I need to readjust my approach?
Or could it be that this is all fine
, that I should wait till I feel more of a spark, and that I should keep going on plenty of first dates but being selective about who to follow up with?
Look, if I thought things would keep going like this for, say, another year, and then I’d meet my next long-term girlfriend, I’d be happy to stick to this.
However, if I thought things would keep going like this for another ten
years, I would be unhappy and would try to make some kind of change.
Again, I know I have a very fortunate “problem.” Most single men would love to be able to say their biggest complaint about dating is having too many options and finding it too easy! However, I’m still concerned that the abundance of options for someone using online dating in a huge city has made me overly apathetic.
So, I’d be interested in advice from anyone, especially if you’ve been in a similar situation before.
(One request: please don’t turn this thread to turn into a referendum on whether online dating is a good idea. There have already been a thousand Metafilter discussions about that. The premise of this thread is that I am using online dating as my dating method. I’ve seen the results I’ve gotten in the past from online vs. IRL. Online allows me to go on as many dates as I want, and I’ve been in full-fledged relationships that resulted from online dating. In contrast, before I started using online dating, I spent a good 5 years with no dating life to speak of. So to those who would tell me to just stop trying and wait for things to happen by magic, I have to say: thanks, but no thanks.)