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online dating, texting, and rejection etiquette
April 16, 2014 8:22 PM   Subscribe

I'm an early 30s lesbian who spent most of her 20s in committed relationships. My latest and most significant ended about a year ago and I've started dipping my toe in the scary online dating waters. I'm not ready to get serious yet but since I've been in these long relationships, I've never really 'dated around' per se, except maybe in my very early 20s- although at the time I was pretty closeted and neurotic, so I hardly even count that. Anyway, I registered on OkCupid and messaged back and forth with a few people. Somewhat naively, I gave two of them my phone number to text. BAD IDEA. More inside..

I'm a texter but I'm not married to my phone. They started messaging me so often that I felt annoyed and frankly borderline stalked (to the point where I deleted my OKC profile and one noticed within 15 minutes and asked what had happened). I realized quickly that I had no interest in either of them- mostly because they came on too strong, but I could already tell it wouldn't go anywhere even if I did meet them. And for various reasons I don't even see friendships with either of them. They are both nice people, I just don't feel a connection, friendship or otherwise. And I don't feel a need to text or contact anyone, even close friends, to the extreme that they texted me. Maybe if I 'felt it' with these people I wouldn't mind.

So I started responding less and less. The first one got the hint after a day or two and finally stopped communicating with me. The other one continues to send me messages that are either petty complaints that show an alarming lack of maturity, or open ended questions like 'how are you.' Oh and stupidly I accepted her friend request on Facebook when we first started talking (it's really only been about 2 weeks) because, like I said, naive, haven't dated in a long time- since before Facebook and texting blew up, apparently!

I have literally NEVER reached out to either of these people first and I'm honestly astounded that anyone would keep trying after my lackadaisical responses- I either don't respond or will write back something short although not immediately.

Last time I tried online dating it was the total opposite. I was interested in the people I dated; they weren't interested in me. I've been blown off a lot and I KNOW it sucks, but I've never been pushy to the point that these people have and it boggles my mind.

I know I'm not handling this right but I can't help but feel like… I've never met these people. So, my questions are really:

- Do I owe them an explanation about why I don't want to talk to them?
-Is it unethical to just stop answering messages from someone you're not interested in if you've never met them? Does this change if you HAVE met them once or twice?
- Do people ACTUALLY have these weird texting relationships before a first date… is this standard now?!

I have no interest in someone I don't even know yet having 24/7 communication access. I miss the days where you chatted on AIM and just blocked the person if they got creepy.
posted by anad487 to Human Relations (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
You've gotta be direct in online dating. Tell both of them you are no longer interested. Directly.

In the future, don't give out your number until you're at "planning a date" point.

Some people do have weird texting relationships pre-first date. I'm of the mind that I don't know if I'll like someone until I meet them face-to-face, so I message back and forth through OKC - max 10 messages - until I decide if I'd like to meet them. Then I suggest a date, if one hasn't already been suggested. At that point, numbers are exchanged.

Don't overthink this! You don't need to be worried about ethical obligations pre-first-date. Promise!
posted by sevensnowflakes at 8:27 PM on April 16 [5 favorites]


I don't think you owe them an explanation. You may, however, owe them the common courtesy of letting them know, directly. Radio silence isn't very kind.

The good thing is that you can just let them know by text though, right? That's pretty low-stakes. Keep it brief and succinct. "Sorry but I'm not interested in persuing anything further with you."

Good luck!
posted by wats at 8:43 PM on April 16 [2 favorites]


Never met them in real life? You're already not really responding to their texts and they aren't getting the hint? Meh, you don't owe them anything. Block their number, block them on social media, done and done.

If you've gone on a few dates then a quick "sorry, I'm just not feeling it, best of luck to you!" message is appreciated.
posted by Diskeater at 8:51 PM on April 16 [3 favorites]


Do people ACTUALLY have these weird texting relationships before a first date… is this standard now?!

Ughhhhhh god no. I mean, clearly some do, but many don't, you just met someone incompatible. It's easy to text, it's easy to do a slow fade by text, it's no big.
posted by clavicle at 8:54 PM on April 16


It may be common, I don't know, but my policy was no texting at least until after the first date.
posted by rhizome at 8:55 PM on April 16


Alternatively you could install an app such as Burner or Hushed on your smart phone that will allow you to give out what you know, but your dating contacts don't know, to be a temporary phone number. You thereby avoid giving out your real number. I think you might also have some control over who can contact you on the number via text, voice, etc.
posted by Dansaman at 9:45 PM on April 16 [3 favorites]


I've been in this kind of situation many times.

If it's just annoyance and not harassment that you're dealing with, there probably isn't a need to block their number. You can just tell them via text, tactfully but directly, that you don't feel a connection and you would like to go your separate ways. If you're not interested in doing that for whatever reason, then you can just tell them you don't usually text that often and you would prefer to communicate through OKC and/or less frequently.

Most people will respect that if you're direct enough. And I'd say this advice is the same regardless of whether you've met them in person or not.

Another thing you can do is take a really long time to respond. If they text you at the beginning of the day, for example, wait until late in the evening to respond (giving an excuse if you want). That should eventually make it clear to them that you have better things to do than talk to them constantly.

If you're comfortable with a complete communication drop-off then you can do that, but I have a hard time doing that and I think it should be reserved for extreme situations. Either way, feel no guilt about doing any of this. Your time is valuable.
posted by cosmicbeast at 9:54 PM on April 16 [1 favorite]


Don't use online dating as a path to texting or messaging with people. Use it to find people to go on dates with, in person.

Don't let it get to the point where you're not sure if you even want to meet them. Ideally you should be making concrete plans within three or four messages on the site. I only give out my number after specific arrangements have been made to meet.

There is no way I would friend an online dating person on Facebook before meeting them. You need plausible deniability if the date doesn't go well!

Re what to do with these people now that you're stuck with them -- I would just tell them straight up. Or make up an elaborate lie. Whatever. It's not like you actually know them. Unfriend the person you unwisely friended on Facebook.
posted by Sara C. at 10:12 PM on April 16 [7 favorites]


It seems perfectly normal to me to text with someone you meet online. If I plan a date with someone for a week in the future and we trade numbers, then why wouldn't we talk via text before the date? It's weird to schedule a date and completely stop speaking until the date itself, in my opinion.

But, if you don't like these people and don't want to talk to them again and have never met them, just don't answer the texts. I really don't think "I'm not interested in you" messages are ever helpful or "nicer" than just not responding. It either starts an argument or causes hurt feelings. If they're really really persistent after you ignore them, you might have a stalker-type problem, but most people can take a hint.
posted by drjimmy11 at 10:54 PM on April 16 [5 favorites]


The thing about not responding is that lots of people aren't married to their phones but might still be happy to message with these people. It is far easier to just express disinterest than to put people through the guessing game of trying to decide if you're disinterested or busy. Disinterested does not hurt anybody less because you were passive about expressing it. This isn't the norm but it also isn't weird--everybody has their own way of communicating and it's all easier if we're forthright with each other.
posted by Sequence at 1:22 AM on April 17 [1 favorite]


No one has ever tried that with me on OKCupid. (I'm 30 and have been on OKC for quite some time, and I'm also female and mostly date other female people.) I only give out my phone number when we're making plans to meet, and I try to make plans to meet pretty quickly after exchanging messages specifically because I don't like the back-and-forth with people I haven't met.
posted by needs more cowbell at 1:45 AM on April 17 [1 favorite]


There are people who are emotionally volatile, needy, socially somewhat clueless, etc. It's not your role to provide care or support for such random people you had a brief contact with. I think it's useful to contact the persistent texter and say I do not want to have a relationship with you. Please stop contacting me. Any contact after that is stalker-y. Block the person on text and facebook.

- Do I owe them an explanation about why I don't want to talk to them? No. Casual contact on a dating site does not incur any obligation other than civility and reasonable honesty.
-Is it unethical to just stop answering messages from someone you're not interested in if you've never met them? Does this change if you HAVE met them once or twice? I think it's kinder and more effective to tell them you're not interested in pursuing a relationship, but you don't have justify this. The deeper the relationship, the more effort you put into ending it. These relationships are quite shallow.
- Do people ACTUALLY have these weird texting relationships before a first date… is this standard now?! I don't know, terrified of online dating, so I'll watch the thread.
posted by theora55 at 6:20 AM on April 17


Good rule for online dating, as already mentioned, is don't give out your number until you are ready to meet them, and don't ever friend on Facebook (& others...) until you know having that person connected to you is something you want (a friend down the road...etc). Ignoring the texts at this point, where you haven’t met, is probably ok, but being direct but nice (don't think this is going to work... chemistry doesn't seem right but thanks) is often best. After that... ignore & block away with a clean conscience. You don’t owe strangers a deep conversation about what you want or don’t want or why.
posted by shimmer at 7:10 AM on April 17


I have literally NEVER reached out to either of these people first and I'm honestly astounded that anyone would keep trying after my lackadaisical responses- I either don't respond or will write back something short although not immediately.

This is not an online dating problem as much as it is an Ask vs Guess problem. You may be astounded, but you are writing back so they have no way of knowing the contact is unwelcome. Just tell them you're not interested, wish them luck dating, and then ignore any future contact.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:18 AM on April 17 [2 favorites]


You have literally never reached out but you have also literally invited them to contact you in a variety of ways. Unfriend from facebook, ask for them to stop texting you (you can get a block from the telephone company but I understand it's not quite as easy).
posted by destructive cactus at 9:35 AM on April 17


What DarlingBri said... you're still writing back so you're not sending a clear message. Going silent with people you've never met IRL isn't rude. If you would prefer to explicitly end it, you can text "don't have enough time in my life for new people right now, but best of luck!" if you're in a big enough city that they're not going to know you're still actively looking.
posted by metasarah at 12:03 PM on April 17


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