People disappear on online dating sites
February 15, 2010 9:03 PM   Subscribe

Online dating: Often when I've met someone on an online dating site and emailing them back and for, it's hard to switch from emails to phone calls, or phone calls to an actual date. I'd say the vast majority of women I talk to just disappear at some point during this process. If I do manage to get a phone call, they won't respond after the first phone call, even when it seems like it was a really good conversation. Is this pretty typical? I'm wondering if I should be doing anything different. It's taking like months of work to get a single date and it's very frustrating.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (38 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
How old are you? At least among the under-35 set, talking on the phone at all is not typical.

Start asking people to meet you in person for a drink or coffee. The second or third time you e-mail them.

I'd say the vast majority of women I talk to just disappear at some point during this process.

Other people are asking them on dates and you are wasting their time.

It's taking like months of work to get a single date and it's very frustrating.

You're doing it wrong.
posted by rwatson at 9:12 PM on February 15, 2010 [7 favorites]

Yep, completely typical. I think the key is to move to at least a phone conversation as quickly as possible. That way, it leads to real interaction, and thus, a real relationship. If you're not hearing from a girl after the first phone conversation, she didn't think it went well.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:12 PM on February 15, 2010

Don't spend months. If the person won't meet you within a few weeks, drop it and move on. They're not serious.

Don't ask for her phone number. Give her yours. And your real name. That's why I'm married to the guy I am, because I knew within the second email that he was unafraid to be honest and vulnerable.
posted by desjardins at 9:13 PM on February 15, 2010 [2 favorites]

> It's taking like months of work to get a single date and it's very frustrating.

You're doing it wrong.

Eh? Anonymous is getting MUCH further than I am (I sent out emails and get NO response back), so it looks to me like he's doing something right.

Point of order, OP -- are you putting the onus on her to PLACE the second call? Or are you saying you call a second time and leave a message, but they don't call back?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:14 PM on February 15, 2010

I haven't done online dating for a couple of years, and did so entirely in my early 20s, but I don't think my phone ever - ever - came into things until the first date had been pretty much entirely arranged, and even then it was offered primarily as "in case one of us is late or something." Sure, the good ones were followed up with texting, but till that... basically, it was 5-10 emails/messages, then a "hey how 'bout that new Venezuelan cafe, wanna try it?" and things could develop more 'conventionally' from there. Phone-chatting is just weird for the younger set; I'd actually be a little freaked out talking to someone I hadn't met in person on the phone, as a pre-dating thing, because there're no nonverbal cues or body language to differentiate "awkward inability to continue conversation" from "comfortable silence."

To summarize: Screw actual phone communication, establish within a short series of emails whether both of you want to actually meet up, and take it from there.

This all assumes you're relatively young; I don't know if the phone-avoidance of my generation applies to, say, the women being courted by a 40something recent divorcee.
posted by Tomorrowful at 9:19 PM on February 15, 2010

Skip phone calls entirely. I've never heard of anyone wanting a phone call before an actual date; this is probably making you seem pretty weird. Ask for an in-person date (public place, something with a built-in 'end' time) - 2-5 replies (per side) in to the emailing is a fine time to ask for a date. Waiting longer than this can make you look reclusive or passive.

As a male, my experience has been that the majority of women are much different in real life than they are in email / phone conversation. I have to assume the finder gender has this experience, too. Staying in the 'email' phase too long is a giant red flag and should be avoided if only for the sake of efficiency.

Long story short: Fake* it 'til you make it

* 'Faking' in this context means being more assertive and aggressive than you tend to be normally, it does not mean lying or evasion
posted by 0xFCAF at 9:20 PM on February 15, 2010 [3 favorites]

Let me be a little less flip and really specific about what I mean when I say you're doing it wrong. Obviously your profile is good enough that women will write back to you multiple times. So congratulations! You have crafted an attractive profile.

The bad news is that you are sabotaging your good beginning by not following what I imagine is the accepted protocol in your dating community. The good news is that this is easy to fix!
posted by rwatson at 9:26 PM on February 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

Yeah, if you exchange emails and it goes well, ask her if she'd like to meet on the second email. Unless you're dealing with *extremely* conservative people, no one's going to be offended by that. At the very worst they'll say, "let's talk a bit more first."

Remember that a first date from someone you meet online isn't even a first date- it's a "zero" date. You know nothing at all about someone until you have seen and spoken to them in person. In a "normal" dating scenario you would have met the person at least once already in real life. People will absolutely misrepresent themselves online and hey, you might not be her cup of tea either. The only way to find out is to meet in real life.
posted by drjimmy11 at 9:28 PM on February 15, 2010 [2 favorites]

As a member of the 40-something set, I can attest to the fact that guys are asking me (sometimes) if I want to talk on the phone. And, I do not. I hate talking on the phone for exactly the reasons Tomorrowful notes above: No body language cues? No thank you!

So, as others have said, exchange a few emails -- hopefully somewhat interesting and amusing emails -- and then arrange to go out for a drink. Exchange phone numbers in case something goes wrong. Be cool. See what happens.
posted by hapax_legomenon at 9:30 PM on February 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

Had anyone on dating sites insisted - or even suggested - we talk on the phone before meeting in person I would have found it incredibly awkward. I mean, what do you say:"Hello, this is so and so from the internet!"? Talking on the phone is hard even when you know the person, facial expressions and context are key in most conversations, let alone conversations with a virtual stranger. No, dude. Three or four emails, then coffee.

To be fair, I give my advice from the height of my one (1) date off of OKC, which ended with us falling in love. I might be biased, but it's a method that has, at least, been proven to work once.
posted by lydhre at 9:36 PM on February 15, 2010

Yup, I came in to say that the telephone should not enter into this at all. Phonecalls are annoying even with friends, unless you already have a very cerebral relationship and live nowhere near each other.

You exchange a couple emails/messages, maybe some IM, and then you set up a meeting.

[Under 30 here.]
posted by Netzapper at 9:39 PM on February 15, 2010

try to get them on twitter, facebook, gchat, aol, msn, whatever ASAP after the initial contact so that you can have real time interaction with them. after a week or so ask for their number. chatting online eases the transition.
posted by spacefire at 9:40 PM on February 15, 2010

Almost every single date I have been on via OKC was decided by the 3rd/4th email. We usually exchange numbers too (mostly to text if we're running late or to find each other at bar/coffee shop) but rarely talk beforehand.
posted by special-k at 9:51 PM on February 15, 2010

BTW, this is a very good rule of thumb for online dating.
posted by special-k at 9:54 PM on February 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

Tomorrowful is right- I did this for a while a bit ago (I'm a girl, was in mid-20s at the time), and the process worked something like:

1) They send an e-mail worth responding to (as a girl who wants to know that someone is reasonably intelligent and has actually read my profile and thought about whether I would be remotely interested in/appropriate for them, about 1/15 (if that) are worth responding to). Way to go with the sending e-mails worth responding to!

2) I check out their profile. Can they spell? Do they seem interesting? Do they have anything in common with me?

3) I respond if 2) goes well. We send a few e-mails back and forth, continuing to demonstrate that we are both interesting people.

4) After a few, one of us proposes coffee or _____ within the next week.

5) We agree on a time/date, and maybe shoot off an e-mail the day of that says, "Hey, my number is XXX-XXXX if something weird happens." Or not.

I don't think I ever talked to someone on the phone before I met them, and would have thought it weird if they had pressed the issue. Even AIM or something like that would have seemed odd to me- it's hard to do with someone you've never met.

Generally, if someone hasn't proposed a casual, brief, in-person meeting within a week of dailyish e-mails, you need to do so if your goal is to actually meet people. The phone is not the most logical next step for many people. And if they don't want to meet at that point, but do want to keep e-mailing, feel free to do that- but you should be e-mailing others, because they're probably either not that interested or are using the sites for reasons that don't match yours.
posted by charmedimsure at 9:56 PM on February 15, 2010 [2 favorites]

(special-k's link states the process I am familiar with much better than I did)
posted by charmedimsure at 9:57 PM on February 15, 2010

After exchanging a few (substantial!!) messages, say "Hey, I really like talking to you. Can we meet in person sometime to get to know each other better? I know this great coffee place on 4th."

As a woman on dating sites, I've had guys ask me this and I don't think it's weird. That's what the sites are for.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 10:04 PM on February 15, 2010

Also, read the OKTrends blog. It's super interesting and will show you what constitutes 'successful' profiles. Whether or not a successful profile means tons of awesome dates and/or relationship is another story, but there's probably some truth to the narrative of successful profile = more contact = more dates = more fun.
posted by barnone at 10:25 PM on February 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

Nthing what everyone has said about skipping the phone calls and just asking them out for a date/coffee/walk in the park/whatever.

That said, in my experience I've also found that people on dating sites do a lot of window shopping. On numerous occasions I've been emailing back and forth with someone for a week or two at which point I ask to meet up in person. This usually leads to a lot of waffling and then a complete shut down of communication altogether. Anecdotally I've found that many of my friends (both male and female) have had similar experiences.

So while I agree that you do need to change your approach a bit don't expect things to change drastically. You'll probably still encounter the same type of reactions once you try and meet in person.
posted by Sandor Clegane at 10:48 PM on February 15, 2010

Adding also: some people feel that it is rude and unacceptable to just stop a correspondence with someone on an online dating site with no explanation. Many other people, however, seem to feel that if you haven't actually met up with someone yet (or even if you have, but only once), that you don't need to give any more explanation that you're not interested than a lack of further response, and that people will take the hint.

Whether this is right or wrong, a *lot* of people just stop writing/calling when they get bored, with no explanation (probably- yes- more women than men, since the odds are stacked in their favor on hetero dating sites). Feel free to try one more phone call/e-mail/whatever, but then drop it if you don't get a response.

Don't take it personally- be happy they have stopped wasting your time, and move on. It seems to me that if you want to actually meet people (not everyone on dating sites does!) , it is better to get to this point sooner rather than later, to force the hands of the window-shopppers a little bit and actually ask if they would like to go on a date before you have invested weeks of mental energy on them.
posted by charmedimsure at 11:00 PM on February 15, 2010

I've communicated with women who were up for talking on the phone before meeting, some who weren't. Hard to see that it's the kiss of death if you express an interest.

In the most general sense, yeah, pursue getting together for the proverbial coffee, strolling in a park or some such after a couple rounds of e-mail.

A good number of friends and I have experienced trading a bunch of e-mail and the person disappears or there is a meeting and at least one of the people has zero interest.
posted by ambient2 at 11:10 PM on February 15, 2010

try to get them on twitter, facebook, gchat, aol, msn, whatever ASAP after the initial contact so that you can have real time interaction with them. after a week or so ask for their number. chatting online eases the transition.

Not everyone likes this approach. I (a woman) really hate chatting online with potential dates. I'd rather just actually go out so I can see someone in person. I have no context for a person's voice in text-based communication unless I've already met them. I'll do the minimum amount of emailing necessary to get face to face with someone, but nothing else before that first meeting. People are just different in text than they are in person.
posted by ocherdraco at 11:54 PM on February 15, 2010

As you can see from all of these replies: people are different. We like different ways of communicating.

Me? IM, email, text, are all fine and good, but I can't hear your voice or feel like I'm really communicating with and connecting with a person. So for me, there'd have to be several phone calls before I'd meet anyone for a date.

However, the general consensus is you are likely waiting too long to make an actual move and they're thus losing interest.

If you like phone calls, stick to phone calls, but ask about meeting in person soon after. Same with email. But don't give up hope, and remain confident.
posted by cmgonzalez at 12:05 AM on February 16, 2010

(20s here, btw)
posted by cmgonzalez at 12:10 AM on February 16, 2010

I (woman) like to chat online before the first date- mainly to see if we could have a good conversation at all, but I don't think I would answer the phone call - to intimate in this situation for me.. anyway, met my bf while chatting happily with 3 guys online, all of them interesting etc; only that my then future bf made actually a move and asked me on a date within first week of our conversation; we hit off; others eventually wanted to meet me but I wasn't for it any more:)
posted by bloodandglitter at 1:04 AM on February 16, 2010

Repeat after me Low Stakes First Dates!
posted by khedron at 1:12 AM on February 16, 2010 [7 favorites]

khedron, that is totally my dating philosophy, only clearly articulated and written up properly instead of being a number of semi-thought-out suggestions that I don't always remember at the same time. Thanks!
posted by ocherdraco at 1:23 AM on February 16, 2010

In your 2nd or 3rd email, ask her on a date.
"Hey, have you ever been to Y Cafe? I just passed it the other day and it looked cool, you wanna grab a bite tomorrow?" Or even... "Listen, I just realized I'm gonna be free tonight-- totally short notice, I know, but I'd love to meet you, so... you up for a quick coffee? Here's my number." I think you should give her your number so she can make a quick phone call and hear that you're not nuts on the phone if she wants. But only give number after concretely suggesting a date.

Ta da! If a guy didn't ask me on a real date by at least email #4 or 5, I'd assume he either has self-esteem problems that make him too nervous to ask (nervous people are not what I'm looking for) or he doesn't really like me but is too polite to stop talking (and not really liking me is a terrible quality in a potential mate). Either way, I'll lose interest. Ask her out! Ask them all out!
posted by pseudostrabismus at 1:44 AM on February 16, 2010

See when I did the online dating thing, I did a few emails, then a phone call, then a public meet up, then it went from there. I don't think that process is that hard. A lot of women do it for safety or to make sure they're not wasting time with a weirdo.
posted by stormpooper at 7:26 AM on February 16, 2010

Here are the rules I follow (from my mother and The Rules for Online Dating – don’t read them; they are for women, not you, and you will ruin our mystique): if a guy doesn’t make a definitive request to move things to in-person within a few e-mails (3 or 4), I’m over it. I don’t need a pen-pal, and I find that guys who want to write long treatises back and forth about our feelings and hopes and dreams are too insecure and too touchy-feely for me. Essentially I want him to be looking for a flesh-and-blood girlfriend, and be attracted enough by my photo that he wants to look at my boobs in person.

A definitive request means:
“Can I have your phone number?” to which I will respond with my phone number and expect a phone call, within two days or at a date and time that he specifies.
“Let’s meet up for coffee; how’s Thursday evening?” to which I will respond with “Sure!” and my phone number…[see above].

A definitive request is not:
“Gee, I’d love to get together sometime…” or “Gee I just love talking on the phone…” and you’re waiting for her to run with it and volunteer her number or ask you out. This kind of passive-aggressive stuff is annoying enough when women do it to men—it’s a HUGE turn off when men do it.

Once we’re on the phone, we need to be making real plans to meet in a physical location in real life for a specific date and time within 20 minutes or I’m ending the conversation. Again, I don’t want to chat for hours.

And then you have a date! If I’m emailing you and responding to you and you’re not giving off red flags like being a psycho or a pervert or a bigot, then I’ll meet up for coffee.

This isn't aboug playing games or playing hard to get. This is simply how I weed out guys that aren't my type. For me, online dating is a way to meet a person, a vehicle of introduction. It is NOT a way to get to know someone.

And I definitely need to hear a guy's voice on the phone. If he won't talk on the phone before meeting then I'll think he's not who he says he is, or he's married.
posted by thebazilist at 7:34 AM on February 16, 2010 [2 favorites]

34 y.old and i'm in the Skip the Phone camp. It seems unnecessary. 3-4 messages/Emails then I suggest we meet for a drink.
posted by mary8nne at 7:42 AM on February 16, 2010

Nthing the above. Phone seems weird (unless of course SHE requests it). Exchange a few emails/messages, then set up a coffee. I do offer up my IM ids with a, "Hey, if you want to rap sometime, here's where I am"; some people want to do that, some don't.

You're getting responses, so you're almost where you need to be already. Good luck!
posted by Chrysostom at 8:11 AM on February 16, 2010

It sounds like you are skipping the important step of asking a woman out on a date.
posted by yohko at 9:50 AM on February 16, 2010

I hate the phone, I hate having phone conversations. I don't like talking to people I like on the phone, much less someone I don't know, or worse, someone who might start being a phone-pest if they turn out to be wacko.

When I was online dating, the object was always to (1) swap enough email to discern that someone is interesting, and if so then (2) meet for a totally no-commitment, no-pressure, no-stakes coffee at lunchtime or after work on a weekday. If there's no real-life interest, it's a 'nice meeting you, good luck with this crazy internet dating thing!' If there's interest, the coffee 'date' can continue into a dinner, or you can make arrangements for a specific date/time/event sometime in the next several days.
posted by 2xplor at 9:51 AM on February 16, 2010

Some people like the phone and some people don't. But I think pretty much everyone will assume you aren't really interested/are afraid to meet in person if you haven't actually suggested meeting them within a week or two.

Like someone else said, I want a date not a pen pal.
posted by grapesaresour at 5:23 PM on February 16, 2010

You're not asking them out fast enough enough.
posted by Jacqueline at 10:28 PM on February 16, 2010

Also, as you think about how you contact people before you meet them, consider this thought that can't be repeated enough in threads about online dating: the first time you meet someone from an online dating site in person, it is not a date.

If you have a good time and decide to move on from coffee/drinks/whatever, it might become a date, or you might say "Hey, this was fun, do you want to go to the movies next Saturday" and that will be a date, but that first time you actually lay eyes on each other? Nope. That's just meeting.
posted by ocherdraco at 6:46 AM on February 17, 2010

"be attracted enough by my photo that he wants to look at my boobs in person"

I'm so going to modify that into an introductory email.
posted by vbfg at 8:43 AM on February 17, 2010

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