August 28, 2008 11:06 PM   Subscribe

Does dating through craigslist actually work?

I hate to say it, but OKCupid has failed me, a 24 year-old SWM of Texas. I had three very brief relationships, all called off on the girl's part, one absolutely heartbreaking for me. (Match made in heaven, except, wait, I was her rebound. She's since run back to her old trashy BF.) Since the last breakup, message response rates and girl quality on OKC have tanked.

I would like to give craigslist a try, but I have a morbid fear that every single girl I see is a spambot. (Epic ad line: 'I am a TRAIT1, self-driven, TRAIT2 girl.' No joke.) Is there any way to pick out who's real and who's fake?

Girls: how many legit, non-trashy messages from a craigslist personal did you receive?
Guys: is there any hope posting on MseekingW? The most disheartening part of OKC was the knowledge that all the guys were basically e-fistfighting to get a word in edgewise to a girl. It reminds me of the Hare Krishna scene from Airplane!.

Summary question: is there a snow cone's chance in hell using craigslist as a dating service? What's the best strategy: posting to MseekingW or hoping I don't meet a spambot on WseekingM?
posted by spamguy to Human Relations (38 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
All people I know that do online dating have issues. (I know actually one _extremely_ good looking, model like girl that did online dating that I met on a party. After I knew her a little bit I understood why she had to resort to online dating.) I recommend against it:

* Your will get people with issues of whatever kind (health, psychological, sexual etc.).
* craigslist is free and you will get all the idiots
* if a girl makes a posting she will get hundreds of responses from desperate horny males.

Get out and learn how to play you game in the wild. Try, try and keep trying. Read the book "The game" if you want. Or better, try "Tony's layguide". This is how I learned my game many many years ago (and after many crash and burns), when Mystery was still posting on and I learned it well.
posted by yoyo_nyc at 11:18 PM on August 28, 2008

My friend just married a lovely man she met on Craigslist. Casual encounters, no less. So it can happen. I posted an ad for another female friend a few weeks ago. That ad got about 50 responses the first night. I looked at them all- none seemed to be spam, and only 2 were peener photos. My friend responded to only 3 guys of that 50- not because all of the other 48 were unacceptable (there were at least 15 guys in the bunch who were cute and articulate enough to merit a date), but because she was overwhelmed. It's all a matter of timing, right?

Let's say a girl posts an ad and gets 50 responses. So she responds to, say, the first 3 nice emails she reads from the onslaught of 50. The next one she opens is a pornogram, ugh. You can imagine she'd just call it a night, right, and probably not respond to any more. And then the next day, the three guys she emailed last night would have emailed her back, and she'd feel like that was enough, and go on dates with one or two of those three that week. Within a week or so, she may have decided she didn't like those three guys after all, but with the passage of time, she'll feel weird about dipping back in to last week's messages, and in fact she'll probably never go back and respond to anyone else from the original 50, even if a few of them ranked "pretty good" or better. It's kind of just luck of the draw.

So as a man, your best bet is to always respond to nice-seeming girls, hoping to have the good luck to be "pulled first" from the lottery. You can up your chances by writing a catchy, funny subject line. Online dating is a crapshoot, but then again, so is going to parties. Good luck!
posted by twistofrhyme at 11:26 PM on August 28, 2008

All people I know that do online dating have issues.

Plenty of "normal" people do online dating. And what kind of a person doesn't have issues? Nobody that I'd want to hang out with. My roommate met a guy on craigslist and dated him for a few months. That said, generally I'd advise against craigslist for dating. Still, you have nothing to lose by posting an ad. View it as a creative writing exercise. Come up with something interesting and see what you get. It's a fun game to play. I wouldn't bother replying to the W4Ms though.
posted by ludwig_van at 11:27 PM on August 28, 2008

PS, I am currently in a loving and committed relationship with a guy I met on an online dating site. In fact, this week is the 3-year anniversary of our first date. So yeah, yaaay online dating! Just remember, in real life you probably meet 100 people you don't like for every one person you do like. So a ratio of say, 20 dud dates to one awesome person is still a better ratio than real life.
posted by twistofrhyme at 11:33 PM on August 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

Yup. Just 'yup'. And yoyo_nyc's advice is profundly not useful or helpful.
posted by ten pounds of inedita at 11:50 PM on August 28, 2008

I didn't get any useful relationships out of it, but I've gotten plenty of legit responses/dates from CL. M4W, too. The key is to have a subject line that stands out. I'm fairly proud of my line, "Infomercial star seeks mate." since I had actually once been in an infomercial* once. But, I think it also depends on what city you're in. That line worked in Chicago (15 responses, with pics, within 48 hours), because it's fairly nonsensical, but tanked in LA, where people in infomercials are common and desperate for work.

Oh, and you have to post a picture. Ladies won't take a stab in dark when there are so many ads to choose from with pictures.

*I was a subscriber to the now defunct Voom HD Satellite service back in 2004. They offered 6 months of free service if you appeared for an on-camera testimonial. I'm not an actor, not even close, but I did really like the company and the product. The highlight of the affair was during makeup, when the lady asked, "So, do you do these things often?"
posted by hwyengr at 12:07 AM on August 29, 2008

Get out and learn how to play you game in the wild. Try, try and keep trying. Read the book "The game" if you want. Or better, try "Tony's layguide". This is how I learned my game many many years ago (and after many crash and burns), when Mystery was still posting on and I learned it well.

right, no creeps at all IRL.
posted by tremspeed at 12:40 AM on August 29, 2008 [5 favorites]

it has worked for me but it has also been comically frustrating.

I have used craigslist to make first contacts in new cities when I didn't know where to go yet. the vast majority of people there were no-go's, be it because they were spambots, had obvious issues or were just not right for me. remember meeting that one person you would find yourself attracted to and compatible with is just as difficult anywhere else. be somewhat honest about yourself and you'll probably have a better time. nobody is too thrilled if the person showing up is two hundred pounds heavier than the person in the picture. that actually happened to me.

so yes, there are tons of spambots. there are people acting as if they were hot shit who aren't. there are plain insane folks around. but there also are some fun and downright fantastic people to be found. they are far and in between, just like in a bar, but finding them makes it all worth it.
posted by krautland at 12:47 AM on August 29, 2008

Sure. You can get spambotted a bunch. And responding to posts by girls is useless; they get hundreds, mostly cock photos, and quickly grow discouraged. It's a bad scene on that side.

I've dated a girl from CL. She was actually incredibly attractive (and clean!) and my first reaction was "what is wrong with her?" Her line, and one I've heard before that actually makes sense, was simply that she was looking through guy postings for comic relief. Most of the others posting on CL are completely ridiculous and idiots. It's easy to stand clear of the pack.

You'll be able to figure out bots pretty quickly. I always ask for more than a sentence back and an AIM, as well as a picture. If they don't hit that criteria, I pretty much delete automatically to make it easier.

The last... 3/4 girls I've dated, I've met online. Last serious relationship was just random MySpace browsing. Fired off a single message, didn't hear from her for a few months past a couple quick messages, she started chatting on AIM with me one late night months later.

The paradigm has shifted, really. It's no longer just the fringe/strange people trying online dating. It makes a LOT of sense—it's the best way to get the first-third date same ol' out of the way and to determine, VERY quickly, if there's any potential for match, without the pressure of the in person component and the high likelihood of fail. There've been plenty who I've chatted with and just didn't go anywhere with. No big deal and not as "traumatic" as miserable first dates would've been.

You can also learn a LOT about someone by their online profile or a few minutes chatting with them. And people are suprisingly willing to open up online, too.

I prefer it, really, and I've had good success.
posted by disillusioned at 1:50 AM on August 29, 2008 [3 favorites]

I say pass on CraigsList because... well it's free and unregulated. Which means, as you say, you get lots of crap, morons, and people who don't take it seriously. I know someone who takes out weird personals on CL to get a kick out of the responses. A for-pay site weeds out all of this crap. You'll get fewer responses, but they'll be much more legit. If you have bad luck on one site, try another. One that caters to a specific region/job/hobby can get you better results.

Or try Meetup if you jsut want to meet people in real life like our parents used to.

yoyo_nyc 's advice might have been true ten or fifteen years ago, but online dating is plenty common for folks in the 21st century and is not haunted solely by weirdos and losers.

And yeah, as the others said, keep trying.
posted by Ookseer at 1:56 AM on August 29, 2008

All people I know that do online dating have issues.
posted by Jahaza at 1:59 AM on August 29, 2008 [8 favorites]

I would imagine the social scene on Craigslist varies from geographical location to location, however if you've already given up on OKCupid (how long were you a member there?) then Craigslist wont be much better. (it'll probably be worse)

The thing about Craigslist (as with pretty much any dating service) is that women get flooded with replies. As another SWM, my personal opinion is that posting ads yourself is probably a smarter thing to do then replying to womens ads. It doesnt take much to post an ad that is creative enough to stand out. Just doing that will seperate you from the majority of cliche males. (assuming you are not one :P

Whether that strategy works for you or not.. I guess depends on your creative writing skills, and the demographic in your area.
posted by jmnugent at 3:42 AM on August 29, 2008

What's nice about Craigslist is that the ads disappear after a while. So you don't get the problem of "Her profile is still active! Is she still looking? Is she seeing other people?" if you do find someone you click with. (Most people I know who met others on Match or whatever had this exact problem, whereas I didn't.) I had very good luck with just one ad on CL.
posted by chelseagirl at 4:48 AM on August 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

Ignore any dating advice from anyone who mentions 'the game', unless all you want is a zipless fuck and lonely nights wanking into an empty tub of Ben & Jerry#'s.

Gumtree is more popular over here than CL. From my understanding it's good for 'casual encounters' and casual dating (though I don't know anyone who's in a LTR through it). I used to have an OKC account and only got messaged by people who weren't for me, weirdos (one guy, thirty years my senior, who told me that he googled a turn of phrase on my profile and found my blog, no other contact prior to that) and one guy I liked chatting to online but Not Like That. Perhaps I was nervous of it because my ex used to use it to, in his phrase, 'meet needy girls' - there are probably a lot of girls avoiding it, and free dating, for that reason. (Mind you, a female friend of mine uses it a lot whereas she would never post a 'personal'.

I'm all relationshipped up with a wonderful man I met on a newspaper personals site four years ago - with us both keeping in touch online and through LJ and having relationships and house moves in-between. ONLINE DATING = HUGE SUCCESS. But I guess you have to think about who you want, and where they're likely to be looking.
posted by mippy at 5:31 AM on August 29, 2008

Craigslist is not a good place to meet women but the situation varies depending on your location. If I were you I would try putting my own posts and from there you'll have probably a better chance of meeting someone according to the woman those who respond to you. It is extremely difficult to send a message to a girl that has already posted in there as you already know that they get 50+ responses....yes there may be a chance they respond to you but you have to MAXIMIZE your time and do other things (like supplementing your online dating with going to bars and clubs).

I do know however that other markets will give you a better chance to meet someone. For example I would never put a posting on the NYC craigslist (where I live), unless I am extremely bored. However last time I went to vegas on vacation I did give it a try and got a lot of "QUALITY" responses, meaning the women were attractive and had a good personality.

I also totally disagree with yoyo's advice, Online dating is not only for loosers (we are not loosers right?) some of us actually do not have the time nor the energy to go out there every weekend or every time we have some free time. I do see online sites as another way to meet women BUT NOT THE ONLY way to do so....look for chances to meet women in the supermarket, train, street, bars and clubs...that way you have a lot of options...

Oh by the way....I am one of those guys that do explendid when I go to bars and clubs but not that good on OkCupid dont feel bad....I feel like most people on that site have some sort of mold and mostly look for people to share commonalities with rather than attraction (and before everyone on askMefi kills me this is only my humble opinion).
posted by The1andonly at 6:29 AM on August 29, 2008

I did one date on craigslist, but being a woman, I most just got cock photos. I also got emails from two people I know (one of which was dating a friend). I didn't go back to craiglist.

I see you're in Austin, I've had excellent success with the Austin Chronicle personals. I met my husband through that site.
posted by pokeedog at 6:30 AM on August 29, 2008

Read the Men seeking Women ads on craigslist. They're all terrible. Post a fake one, that is written in that style. You'll get no responses. "I'm some dude, aged X years, looking for a special lady. Tired of the games. Friends first and then who knows? I enjoy spending time with friends and family, and going to the movies."

Or they get into "I'm looking for my soulmate, someone to spend the rest of my life with, someone to get married and have children with" which is just as bad. It's boring. Every guy on there is just looking for a live woman in a compatible age range.

Don't talk about yourself so much, talk about specifically who you're looking for. Don't post a picture, they're almost always awful, and will disqualify you immediately most of the time. Be brief. Don't write one word that is filler.

Write an awesome headline. Think about it. What girl sees "Are There Any REAL Women On CraigsList? - 32" and thinks..."Wait a minute...I'm a real woman! I'm gonna email that dude and see if he wants to be friends, and possibly more!" No. That has never happened.

You goal here is to just be interesting enough to get an introduction, to get someone to actually email you. Not map out the first date. Or the next fifty years of your life.
posted by andrewzipp at 6:52 AM on August 29, 2008 [5 favorites]

Guy here. I posted to MSW a few years ago with a post being quirky to stand out. I got a few responses but one response was a counterpoint to my original and equally quirky. We ended up dating for over a year. Now we're still close friends, have serious boy/girlfriends, and chat on AIM daily. And she lurks on AskMe. Hi out there!
posted by yeti at 6:58 AM on August 29, 2008

Well just quietly, I don't really think it seems like a very sound plan A or B... But it would quite possibly make an interesting side project??
posted by mu~ha~ha~ha~har at 7:07 AM on August 29, 2008

I second the Austin Chronicle Personals. Last summer I was bored, tried it out, and found someone who was full of awesome.

Also I met someone at a party who met their girlfriend through Yelp. That seemed pretty neat.
posted by collocation at 7:07 AM on August 29, 2008

Craigslist has been worthwhile for me. Nthing the above posts, don't bother responding to women, make your own post. Do take the time to craft a clever, interesting headline and story. I find that the less seriously I take the writing process the more replies I get.

Had a great date this last weekend via CL 'men seeking women' and while it wasn't quite a love connection, it was still a great time and I'm still mining for a heart of gold on the 'List.
posted by porn in the woods at 7:11 AM on August 29, 2008

being a woman, I most just got cock photos
Have guys that do this met any women in real life?

posted by kirkaracha at 7:27 AM on August 29, 2008

FWIW, there are Internet dating sites other than OK Cupid and CL. I met my wife on (before it started to suck, from what I hear). Back when I was doing the online-dating thing, I looked at several different dating sites, and the way each one is set up tends to promote certain behaviors and outcomes, IMO. It might be worth seeing what else is out there and deciding which has the kind of dynamic you like.
posted by adamrice at 7:48 AM on August 29, 2008

Disclaimer 1: I am a gay man.
Disclaimer 2: I originally posted on the "Men Seeking Men" section, not really looking for anything long-term. (Or really anything past the day itself...)

Truth: My man and I are getting married next Sunday (Yay, California!) after 15 months together.

So what can we learn from this?

1. You might find what you are looking for, even if you aren't really looking.
2. Craigslist can work.
3. Craigslist is probably easier for gay men...much less expectation up front.
posted by Futurehouse at 8:31 AM on August 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

in my state, the local sub-site for Craigslist is 'Central Jersey.'

no one actually says 'central jersey' when describing where they live, but ALL the spam/bots/scammers do.
posted by tremspeed at 9:09 AM on August 29, 2008

I'm considerably older than you (freshly 32) but I have, ahem, used a few dating sites in the past. I can say with a reasonable amount of certainty, though this impression is purely anecdotal and I've never met anyone through Craigslist, that Craigslist is kind of bottom of the barrel for online dating in the Boston area. (I have some girlfriends that have communicated with a few guys on it.) It's just too broad. Because you're casting a net as wide as the internet, you need some filtering methods - something to increase matching efficiency. Paid services are one way to insure against things like spambots. Lengthy profile Q&A is also helpful in determining who is serious enough to complete the information and offer things about themselves that are conducive to evaulating them as dating partners. I'm a pretty big fan of eHarmony. If you're looking for a relationship and don't have the time or patience to deal with the internet at large, check them out.
posted by smallstatic at 9:31 AM on August 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

I met my fiance on OK Cupid, but that was nearly two years ago and I'm in Portland (Oregon) FWIW.

If you go the craigslist route - you may have better luck posting your own ad rather than responding to women that have posted ads. Just don;t be one of those people who reposts their ad every time it scrolls off the page. Go easy. Pot a couple times a week, and don't give up on OK Cupid.

Things to remember on Craigslist - many women are looking but not posting, and get a new gmail address specifically for craigslist. You're bound to get signed up for some spam if you answer more than a couple ads. It's a reality, but doesn't need to be bothersome.

And it can't hurt to have a reasonable female friend help you edit your ads.

Don't give up hope, but remember to continue living your life until you find the right one to share it with!
posted by terpia at 10:21 AM on August 29, 2008

I placed an ad on cl 'w seeking m' and got well over 50 responses. I couldn't come close to responding to all of them. I only ended up responding to about five of the original emails, and then only met two of those five guys. One of them I dated once and then never again. The other I dated once and then just became friends with. But through him I met my current guy, who I've been with for over three years.

Every girl won't be a spambot, but don't be surprised if you don't get any real responses to your ad. Many of the guys who responded to my ad mentioned in their email that they had tried answering other ads in the past but never gotten a response.

I recommend being very specific with your likes and dislikes and avoid vague statements like 'I like to party and have fun', and I think that including a picture of yourself (with a shirt on, please, unless you are placing the ad in 'casual encounters') will help instill the idea that you are genuine and approachable. Funny is good, self-effacing is great.

Be sure to respond to girls ads even if you've placed your own. It helps to be able to write them and refer them over to your own ad for further evaluation.

I'm sure that the people saying that cl sucks as a dating place in their city are right on the ball, but here in Austin I think it is still definitely viable.
I have friends who still use it and like it for casual dating and hook-ups. If what you are looking for now is the future Mrs. spamguy, then I second what smallstatic said about pay sites.
posted by Brody's chum at 11:19 AM on August 29, 2008

A friend of mine decided she wanted to meet lots of different people, and so posted a Craigslist ad. She ended up going on a massive amount of dates, and blogged about it: In the end, she met a guy she really liked and 10 months later they're still together, so it is possible.

But then, I met my SO of six years on, before online dating was a thing, so I definitely think it can work. Back then, it was rarer--I think the popularity of online dating with people who don't know how to write a complete sentence is to the detriment of the dating pool, and makes it more or less indistinguishable from the bar scene. But it could be the scenester in me, insisting that online dating was better "back in the day", "before it sold out", etc etc.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:41 PM on August 29, 2008

I think men actually have an easier time on CL than women. The women I’ve compared notes to get hundreds of responses, mostly badly misspelled one-liners. I’ve never gotten anywhere near that number of responses for an ad, but the (non-spam) responses I’ve gotten have all been well written.

Personally, I gave up on CL after trying it a few times last year because the responses you get are a reflection of what you write, and I never figured out how to write something that didn’t get a one dimensional response, but that’s totally my fault. E.g., this resulted in a bunch of replies from math and econ grad students, mentioning that I’m shy and bookish got about thirty responses English and History majors, and so on. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I got tired of responding to so many variations of the same email, and I’d feel really bad about it if I didn’t respond.

Being the contrarian type, I ignored all the advice about posting a picture, and usually included something along the lines of “you can send a pic, if you must, but I’m more interested in what you have to say”, which seemed to work alright.
posted by suncoursing at 1:23 PM on August 29, 2008

This Craigslist thing, I remember Nancy Grace, talking about this Craigslist thing. What is this Craigslist thing? Craigslist? Who is this Craig, and what is this Craigslist. Craigslist?

Ahh, the joy of TV. Visiting relatives, what do you do? Argue with Nancy Grace? Craigslist? What is a Craigslist?

See, I met this Woman from Craigslist; and look what happened to me. I should have learned after the AOL spouse. Damn you Craigslist! I've met nothing but internet folk which in my experience are far more balanced and intelligent than most everybody I have ever met in a bar or club. I mean at a bare minimum, they can carry on written conversations and know how to use technology. I mean; work their technology. As in work it internet Women, work it!

Post a pic? On Craigslist? Yeah, in a hat, sunglasses, and maybe with my collar turned up. Pfff. Or maybe a "hey baby, google this old 99 screenname!"
posted by buzzman at 2:40 PM on August 29, 2008

Forget about Craigslist. Read "How to Succeed with Women" by Ron Louis.
posted by neuron at 3:33 PM on August 29, 2008

Response by poster: Well, 6 hours into hitting up CL, and I got a response...from a gay guy. At least he said I was cute. 44.5 days to go!

I also took a look through by suggestion. I was horrified at how constrictive it is. These people give me 250 characters to describe every aspect of my being? I also realized how important the tests on OKCupid are to me. Without them, all these girls I'm reading about on look Exactly. The. Same. Browsing these profiles is like taking a cold shower.
posted by spamguy at 5:47 PM on August 29, 2008

I've had pretty good luck on yahoo personals; there's a cost but worth it my opinion. The quality of women I get responses from are superb.
posted by thekorruptor at 7:02 PM on August 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

Spamguy how about I've had some luck there...
posted by The1andonly at 5:26 AM on August 31, 2008 [1 favorite]

I love it when Mefites sign up on The Impersonals.

Truth in advertising: I made The Impersonals. I also delete spam profiles ruthlessly.
posted by the jam at 12:33 PM on August 31, 2008 [2 favorites]

Lady in Chicago here. Just thought I'd chime in -- way late, but with relevance: I was reading this thread on the lonely Sunday afternoon after it was posted. I'd never done the internet dating thing before and was intrigued by the descriptions of Craigslist personals experiences. So I perused the M4W site out of curiosity, mostly getting a chuckle out of the total crap that was posted there (hey, it is free after all). But then I stumbled across a totally normal-sounding ad that I probably could have written myself. And well, what, a month and some change later, CL dude and I are on cloud nine. He said I was the only real reply he'd gotten besides some porn sites and one guy.

A good friend (female) did the same thing after hearing about my experience and is in a similar boat of bliss (with a guy).
posted by penchant at 11:39 AM on October 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

Mid-twenties guy in Boston here. It worked for me! I posted one ad on a Sunday afternoon a few months I have been dating one person exclusively that I meet through that ad for about the last month or so. Everything that sondrialiac is says is more or less on base--I think it's one of the few dating venues that actually easier for guys than for woman, or at least those that can write anyway.
posted by dyslexictraveler at 3:22 PM on February 4, 2009

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