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August 26, 2007 6:54 AM   Subscribe

Meeting and making friends from online dating sites?

So, I have a profile on one of those free online dating sites. I don't invest much in it, but once in a while I will get messages from people. So far nothing has panned out past an awkward date or two, which is fine, really. But occasionally I get a message from someone who seems interesting and who I'd potentially like to be friends with -- though I can already tell they're not someone I'd like to date or be in a relationship with. I'd like to pursue the friend thing with some of these people (I live in a major sprawly metropolitan area where it's often difficult to make and maintain friendships), but I'm concerned about the possibility of leading them on, or other awkwardness. My pre-emptive guilt about this often prevents me from replying at all, which I recognize as silly. So I guess my question is: Is there an acceptable, accepted way of making platonic friends from dating sites? If so, when and how do I make my intentions clear? Before we even meet? After the first date? I don't want anyone to get the wrong idea.

(Oh, and if it matters, I'm a guy, I'm straight, the messages are from women.)
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (14 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
Some people are "looking for the one" and won't want to spend their energies otherwise. Others would be open to a friendship. Just be up front that you are looking for friends, and then there's no leading on. I would do it before meeting. Put it in your profile. "I'm looking to make new friends, but I'm open for more in the future." You'll surely exchange emails or chat before you meet, and you can clarify at that time: "Your profile looks interesting, and you seem like a nice person who I could get along with. I'm hoping we can do some things as friends and see how it goes."

If you do cultivate a friendship, and your feelings change later, you can address that at the time.
posted by The Deej at 7:17 AM on August 26, 2007


I don't think it makes sense to address this in your profile. As I understand it, you only have this issue with some people who email you. So you'll have to address it in your correspondence.

The most tactful way to do it would be to include a standard paragraph in your first message. The earlier you mention it, the less awkward it'll be.

So just say something like this:

"I should probably mention that I'm on this site looking for just friends, nothing more. Just thought I'd put that out there, to make sure we're not wasting each other's time."

The Deej's advice doesn't really work. "See how it goes" and "open for more in the future" are code words for not really looking for something platonic. You're talking about people who you already know you would not want things to be more than platonic with. So don't use phrases like "see how it goes" if you want to avoid sending mixed messages.
posted by jejune at 7:41 AM on August 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


(On the off-chance you're talking about OkCupid, I've found it to be a far better place to meet friends than to find dates anyway. Their matching algorithm doesn't know shit about romance, but it's pretty reliable for turning up people with similar tastes, hobbies and politics.

When last I was active on the site — which was, okay, two years ago — most of the people I met there had the same take on it. There seemed to be a lot of recent college graduates using it to find a new, post-college social circle, for instance. So my limited anecdotal experience says "go for it." For all you know, they've got the same thing as you do in mind.)
posted by nebulawindphone at 7:51 AM on August 26, 2007


I think you should let them know there's no possibility of a romantic relationship as soon as you're sure of that. That may be before you meet, after the first date, etc.

I think jejune has misunderstood - I don't think you're on that site JUST to make friends - if the right woman comes along, you'd want to date her romantically. When you know that the woman emailing you is definitely not Ms. Right, you tell her that you don't think you're romantically compatible, but you'd like to be friends, and how about going to lunch/coffee/something else that doesn't scream "date"?

Don't say you need to make friends in the area because of suburban sprawl or whatever - this sounds desperate. Make sure you actually want to be friends with her, because you have XYZ in common. If she accepts your friendship, make her status clear later (after a few friendly get-togethers/phone calls) by casually mentioning other people you're dating. If she gets huffy and jealous, she's got the wrong idea.
posted by desjardins at 7:54 AM on August 26, 2007


I think jejune has misunderstood - I don't think you're on that site JUST to make friends - if the right woman comes along, you'd want to date her romantically.

No, I understood this. That's why I said, "I don't think it makes sense to address this in your profile. As I understand it, you only have this issue with some people who email you."

My advice is based on this remark from the OP: "But occasionally I get a message from someone who seems interesting and who I'd potentially like to be friends with -- though I can already tell they're not someone I'd like to date or be in a relationship with." In other words, there are some situations where he already knows, from the first message he'd be sending someone, that he has no interest in anything romantic with that person. He should say so in his first message. That's all I was saying.

If she accepts your friendship, make her status clear later (after a few friendly get-togethers/phone calls) by casually mentioning other people you're dating.

No, that's (1) unnecessarily tacky, and (2) not really as clear as it needs to be, since it could be interpreted as meaning not "I'm only interested in you as a friend," but rather "I want you to know I'm dating other people too." Also, why plan to wait for several get-togethers to "make her status clear"?
posted by jejune at 8:07 AM on August 26, 2007


I have been using online dating for some time now. Here are my experiences:

* write a good and clear profile

* avoid standard descriptions about yourself or what you are looking for

* don't project your romantic desires onto the other person without getting to know them first

* avoid becoming a projection panel yourself by saying 'the right thing' just to make yourself interesting

* first over friendship over love or sex

* don't go into a communication overdrive just because you are interested - romance burns out quickly when expectations are too high

* if your are NOT interested reply quickly and honest - but without malice

* ask real questions and ask SMART question about things in the other persons profile you don't understand or dislike

* make honest compliments

* if you figure out mutual interests exchange some thoughts about that and see if the other person really has these interests on the same level / deepth

* try to have a telefon conversation before meeting, if you can't have a good talk on the phone you are likely not to get on in person

* have some picture ready that show not only your best side, but also your 'ugly' side - that helps the other person to see the real you

* if you want to built only a friendship, then meet the other person to do stuff stuff only friends would do



I made some good female friends from dating sites. Usually I met them in arty places (because I love art) and avoid too romantic or intimate situations. I never 'dress up' to make an impression nor do I talk about relationships on the first dates (to not even hint at a chance of hooking up).
posted by homodigitalis at 8:13 AM on August 26, 2007 [5 favorites]


My personal advice (even though I'm terrible at these things) is to put that your looking for female friends and more. That way, when you get someone's email, you could say "Hey, you seem like you would be a cool friend, let's do [friend stuff]."

You wouldn't have to mention the friend part in your profile blurb, if you didn't want to. The sites I've looked at have a spot to select what kinds of relationships you open to and from which gender. So that should be as easy as adding 'friends' to the female category.
posted by philomathoholic at 11:09 AM on August 26, 2007


The only advice in homodigitalis's long response that even tries to answer the question is: "do stuff only friends would do." But I don't think that makes any sense. "Friend stuff" automatically becomes "date stuff" if it's done between people who have a potential romantic interest in each other (or believe they do). Just tell her the truth directly; then whatever you do will be "friend stuff."
posted by jejune at 3:28 PM on August 26, 2007


the thing is, a dating site is for dating. when you say you want to be friends, you are saying, "I DO NOT FIND YOU ATTRACTIVE" to someone who obviously did find you attractive, or they wouldn't have contacted you.,

Try it if you want, but I see it ending in hurt feelings most to all of the time.
posted by drjimmy11 at 6:09 PM on August 26, 2007


"Is there an acceptable, accepted way of making platonic friends from dating sites? If so, when and how do I make my intentions clear?"

Ideally, you should be able to simply tell someone that you're not interested in a romantic involvement but that you'd love to be friends, and that would be that. However, drjimmy11's response:

"Try it if you want, but I see it ending in hurt feelings most to all of the time"

...indicated to me that it isn't quite so simple.

Speaking for myself, I don't have any expectations that everyone who who finds me interesting as a possible friend would also be romantically interested in me. Sexual/romantic interest involves certain things that are independent of personality. I think I have a lot to offer and that my intelligence and charm will make me sexually attractive to many women. But not all women—I certainly don't think that anybody that does think I'm intelligent and charming should necessarily then want to sleep with me. Of course not.

So I simply am not at all offended or hurt if someone wants to be friends but not date. I sometimes feel exactly the same way about someone I've met via online dating or wherever. And I'd very much appreciate a response like I suggest above because that way I may not get a new romantic partner, but I do get a new friend. Which is cool.

Will everyone else be like me? Of course not. Most people, I suppose, will be more insecure. Men, especially, can be weird about this stuff and be resentful of anything that seems like a rejection. But I don't know how you avoid that. Their inability to deal with any sort of rejection is their problem, not yours. What you can do, though, is be pleasant, generous, and honest. That won't guarantee a good reaction, you'll still get bad reactions, but it will be the right thing to do and you'll create opportunities to make friends with people that you find interesting and happen to be pretty self-confident, to boot.

I think it's best that you don't go into why you aren't romantically interested. People will want to know, of course. I, myself, often wish I knew why when a woman says she's not interested. The problem, though, is that there's little good that will come from actually listing your reasons. The best you could do if you did would be to be sure to say that your reasons have to do with your own preferences and they are not any sort of judgment about the other person. But most people will still feel judged on those criteria, whatever they are, and it may bother them quite a bit.

For example, I'm short and bald. Either of those can be a big deal to a lot of women. I'm about 90% okay with either of those being negatively important to them, even though I can't do anything about either one. The 10% that it bothers me, though, reminds me that many, many men may be very resentful about things like that being a problem for a woman. It doesn't seem fair. It seems shallow. Indeed, when a man posted to AskMe a question saying how his overweight partner's weight was a problem, he was pretty excorciated for it. We have a tendency to unrealistically expect people to not be "shallow" in this way and only judge people sexually/romantically on their character and personality. Which, of course, is totally unrealistic and, at the same time, we talk about all sorts of physical attractiveness stuff all the time without condemning it. Can a person help it if they have a nice smile? Pretty eyes? A nice butt?

Anyway, the point is that there's all sorts of things—some obvious and physical, others intangible and hard to articulate—that go into deciding whether we're sexually/romantically attracted to someone or not. And it can be hard for people to understand how their characteristics are attractive from a friendship point of view but not from a sexual/romantic point of view...even though they, themselves, make the same sorts of judgments every day. So any attempt to explain this to someone is likely to fail. I just don't think you should try to explain it at all, even when someone asks.

If you do say, as I advise, "Hi, you seem like a really interesting person that I'd like to know better, but I'm not interested in a romantic relationship. If you feel the same way, would you like to be friends?", and they respond with a query of "what's wrong with me?", I think you should refuse (politely, non-confrontationaly) to answer. In fact, I think their asking should be a warning sign that maybe you shouldn't even try to be friends at all.

Some people will respond that they're cool with it, but really they're romantically interested. I'm a bit ambivalent about this. On the one hand, I think you should probably cancel the budding friendship as soon as you discover that they are actually romantically interested. On the other hand, with some people this might not actually be a problem (some rare-ish people can have an unreciprocated romantic interest in someone without it being a problem in their friendship) and/or you might find over time that you really are interested in them romantically. So, I'm not sure. I think in that situation you should play it by ear. If it seems like it will be a problem in your friendship, you should end the friendship.

Some people will counsel you to avoid any difficulties altogether and just restrict yourself to meeting people that you're romantically interested in. That's very pragmatic. But, personally, I think it's always a good thing to make friends with new people that you find particularly interesting. Your life's the richer for it. You shouldn't pass on these opportunities. The occasional dificulties that arise from it are just the price you pay for it. That's sort of how life works. You can hide and avoid all interactions with people and never get hurt or face unpleasantness, but you'll miss out on all the good stuff, too. It's the same with these potential friendships. Some of them may be problematic, a few may end in a bad argument because of hurt feelings or unrealized expectations. So it goes. But you may find the best friend you'll ever have, or even, unexpectedly, the romantic partner you've been looking for that you just didn't recognize for awhile.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 6:08 AM on August 27, 2007 [1 favorite]


But occasionally I get a message from someone who seems interesting and who I'd potentially like to be friends with -- though I can already tell they're not someone I'd like to date or be in a relationship with. I'd like to pursue the friend thing with some of these people (I live in a major sprawly metropolitan area where it's often difficult to make and maintain friendships), but I'm concerned about the possibility of leading them on, or other awkwardness.

Given your goals here - meeting friends as well as lover(s) - why don't you simply stop making this judgment right off the bat and exchange a few messages, maybe have a first date? No rational person would accuse you of "leading them on" by having one date. You may discover that your initial judgment is flawed and some of those people might be interesting to go out with romantically and you may discover some you don't even want to be friends with.

If I contacted someone and they right off the bat told me they wouldn't be interested in me romantically but maybe we could be friends then I, quite frankly, would think they weren't the kind of person I'd want to have as a friend. After all, what could they have learned about me in that eyeblink to let them make such a precise conclusion? They've either decided I'm not pretty enough or have come to such a snap judgment that they're not the kind of person I'd hang out with.

The confluence of your concerns about leading someone on by continuing past exchanging emails and your ability to rule someone out so quickly but still find them interesting as a friend really makes me question your romantic decision making process. I think the best thing you could do is stop closing doors so quickly.
posted by phearlez at 10:03 AM on August 27, 2007


"I think the best thing you could do is stop closing doors so quickly."

I think this is a completely unfair and absurdly unrealistic objection. Are you only friends with people for whom physical appearance does not matter in sexual attraction? Who are these people? Do you have friends?

I have lots of friends that I never once considered as romantic partners. For example, because those friends are male and I'm straight. I didn't need time to discover that I liked them as friends but not lovers, I was pretty sure about the lover thing as soon as I knew their gender. (BTW, I have had gay sex a few times and it didn't do that much for me, so I'm not making judgments about things I've never tried.)

There's all sorts of characteristics that someone might be perfectly fine with in a friend, but not a lover, and which they could ascertain immediately. For example, that they are married.

Or, possibly, that they are too short, too tall, too skinny, too fat, too bald, too bug-eyed, too broke, too unemployed, live too far away, are too old, are too young, or, basically, that they aren't sexually attractive. Maybe you think it's shallow and unacceptable if someone doesn't want to date you because they don't think you're attractive enough.

But if someone doesn't want to date me because they don't think I'm attractive enough to them, well, I don't think that's shallow and I'm not offended. Because I don't pretend that almost every damn person in this world doesn't find some physical characteristics attractive and others unattractive. I've never known anyone that has never made a judgment about someone's attractiveness based solely upon their appearance. Is this true about you? I doubt it.

There's some x number of people that I'd be interested in dating. There's a much greater number of people I'd be interested in being friends with. In some cases, I can tell that right off the bat. In this way, I'm like 99% of the rest of the population.

In telling people right away that he or she is not romantically interested, but friendly interested, anonymous is doing the right thing, doubly. He/she is being honest about something that the other person would very much like to know. Better sooner than later. And he/she is offering friendship, which is also a good thing.

People are far, far pickier in their romantic relationships than they are with their friends. For good reason.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 11:38 AM on August 27, 2007


Hopefully you have read my missive in context, rather than glomming onto one line and taking it overly personally, as Bligh seems to have done. Perhaps it's my fault for failing to express myself clearly, so I'll try to be more clear.

There's nothing wrong with feeling someone is a friend prospect but not a romantic one, nor is there anything wrong with being attracted to some people and not others, even for the most capricious of reasons. When I see you state concerns about leading someone on when you haven't even answered a single email from them and stating that you have decided right away that they're not dating material but you might like to be friends, it leads me to think you're investing way too much importance in this process way too soon.

Online dating is just an alternate way of the initial meet people do over drinks at happy hour. You suss each other out a little, rule out some folks who are obviously incompatible based on gross indicators, then decide to do some more direct investigation. It's perfectly fair and appropriate to spend some time with someone at that point even if you're not sure you'd want to date them. I'd also contend you're more likely to show success this way than telling them right off the bat they're just not dating material.

Look at the risk-reward comparison. If you politely reject their romantic overture right away you may turn them off you completely (which I think is more likely) or they think that's okay and agree to interact with you some more. This way requires less of a time commitment but I contend you have a lower chance of success in making a new friend this way.

If you instead just continue normally despite your initial judgment, you get to gather more intel and give them the opportunity to figure out the same thing for themselves, a far less jarring experience than "No thanks on the smooches, but maybe we could hang out?" There's also always the chance that your initial judgment was incorrect and they turn out to be date material after all. You also have a better chance of meeting -more- people when you go out for your cup of coffee, or drink, or whatever. Possibly best of all, it's practice, and reinforces the reality of finding a partner, which is that it's a numbers game.

I think your best chance at success is to behave naturally and not express your "no way" sentiments till you've met up and spent some time with them.
posted by phearlez at 12:45 PM on August 27, 2007


one way to approach this is to meet people under the auspice of 'just seeing if you get on'. Ie it isnt a date. Meet for lunch. the further away you can get it from the date scenario the better.

Women like this approach as it means you're not just trying to get them into bed and everyone has options. You're kind of jumping the gun as they may not want to date you anyway.

there's nothing wrong with having passing chats with people.

passing chat
extended chat
meet for lunch/coffee

if u dont want to lead ppl astray then you have to avoid them getting emotionally attracted to slices of you thru chat. That means meeting them fairly quickly.

Here's something to try. Ppl say you shouldnt put negative stuff in profiles but if you can sound confident it becomes integrity as desperate ppl wont obviously reduce their chances. Getting the wording right is paramount.

something alone the lines of you never meet for a date, as two people meeting to see if they like each other dont need the overhead of expections.

something like that. im better at ideas than words.
posted by browolf at 5:23 AM on October 27, 2007


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