No I'm not into motorcycles or coming to your hotel room when your in town for business next week.
November 23, 2010 12:49 PM   Subscribe

Online Dating Filter: I seem to be getting attention from every guy, but the ones I want, what am I doing wrong?

I'm on okcupid and I'm a straight late 20s professional female living in a large city. Lots of guys are messaging, winking, favoriting me, but I'm interested in virtually none of them. I've tried messaging maybe 5-10 guys who I was interested in and have gotten no response. What can I do to attract guys that I am actually interested in?

The guys that message me tend to fall into one the following categories: emails offering to me my sugar daddy, guys much older than me, guys who are arrogant or condescending, random messages from guys who clearly haven’t read my profile (Wut up?? LOL :)), guys who seem nice enough but have absolutely nothing in common with me, guys whose profile appeal to me, but I am in no way attracted to at all, religious guys, and of course the to be expected sexually explicit messages.

Here’s roughly what I’m looking for (and yes all these are flexible, I am open to other types of guys, but I find these to be the types of guys I am both compatible with and attracted to).

Someone 25 and 35 (although this is a little flexible).
Educated, probably with at least a college degree.
Some sort of profession or career. It doesn’t need to be high paying, but I want someone with some degree of direction and ambition in their life.
Atheist, agnostic or someone not particularly religious
Liberal or at the least socially liberal (I’m not dating someone pro life or anti gay marriage)
Wants kids someday. This day can be quite far off in the future though, that's fine. I am in absolutely no rush.
In decent shape and at least somewhat conventionally attractive. I realize this may be what is tripping me up, but my last relationship was with someone who was not physically my type who I was really trying to give a chance because “looks shouldn’t matter and fade anyway.” It always sort of bothered me and I realized how much I had been missing when I had some flings with guys I was very physically attracted to.
And of course is good person.

Some maybe relevant facts about me:

I have a job that sounds pretty good on paper, in real life it’s pretty mundane. I try to convey this in my profile by saying that despite that I’m an X, I don’t have a typical job for an X. I don’t post how much I make because I think it’s tacky. I make far less than people might think I do. I hate to get into male stereotypes involving guys not wanting to date women with more education and a higher salary than them, but I do wonder if this is a legitimate stumbling block for me. (I mention this because when I'm out at bars and guys ask me what I do, I get sort of a "oh wow hmm" awkward silence reaction from guys, oddly my male friends in the same profession get a rather more positive response...)
I’m usually described as being “cute” or “pretty.” I’m about a size 8 and I’m in decent shape, but I could definitely drop 5-10 more pounds and tone up a little. I think the photos I have posted are pretty flattering. I’m very curvy (for body type I put down “average” because curvy seems to be code for being a little overweight and large chested and I don’t think I fall into this category). I'm told I look much younger than I am, but I don't try to look young.
I've written my profile in a pretty funny, offbeat way. I get LOTS of positive comments about this and I've had a couple of friends read it and gotten very positive feedback, but I worry I should possibly tone down my personality a little in my profile?
I have a pretty weird background. I've moved around and traveled a lot.
When I message guys I usually keep it short. 3-4 sentences referencing something in their profile and maybe asking one or two questions.

At the end of the day I’m looking for a long term relationship that might lead to marriage, but I in no way want to get married and have kids right away. This isn't to say though that I'm looking for something super serious to start with, I just don't want to date someone that is not open to the possibility should the relationship go there. How do I find guys who looking for similar things who are also interested in me? Am I aiming a little too far out of my league (it’s ok, I can handle it)? What am I do wrong? I know online dating is a numbers game, but this is getting ridiculous. In the easily 6 months I’ve been doing this, I’ve received hundreds of messages, but I’ve only gone on four dates. Two were awful and two were fine, but there was no chemistry. Should I give guys I'm not particularly attracted to more of a chance? However, I worry about getting into another relationship with someone I'm not completely attracted to or leading someone on, which I think could be very hurtful.

I've looked at the Okcupid blog and it seems like I'm doing everything right, but keeping up with the emails is exhausting and I don't have much to show for it.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (45 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
...guys who seem nice enough but have absolutely nothing in common with me, guys whose profile appeal to me, but I am in no way attracted to at all...

Ninety percent of the time, these two things they mean "Anyone interested in me clearly has something wrong with him."

I'm not saying you need therapy or you have self-esteem issues or blah blah blah, but you might want to think a little harder about the guys you're looking at and the ones who are looking at you.
posted by Etrigan at 12:53 PM on November 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Only 4 dates? If online dating is a numbers game, only going on 4 dates in 6 months is pretty conservative. That's not even one date a month. Perhaps you should start setting up more dates. You seem to have a lot of reasons for writing guys off, some that sound reasonable (sexually explicit messages, can't say I'm a fan) and some that could be keeping you from meeting guys you'd really click ("nice guy, nothing in common" - well, so what? Maybe the best guy for you isn't just Male You).
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 12:53 PM on November 23, 2010 [5 favorites]

It's a numbers game. A lot of guys just shoot out random shitty messages, while the women tend to read the profiles more carefully and tailor their emails. Maybe there's something in your emails that's off, but it could just be bad timing.

Keep at it. I found my lady friend on Match, and we are like two peas in a pod.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 12:57 PM on November 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Dump your current profile, rewrite from scratch to include the content you listed in your question. cut down to no more than 4-5 paragraphs (nobody wants to read a novel).
posted by softlord at 1:02 PM on November 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

I could have written this *exact* post a few years ago. Honestly, my best advice is to give up the online dating if it's not working out for you. The pool of guys is so incredibly small compared to the total number of guys out there, and it's self selecting. And the traits that cause guys to self select into online dating may be the traits that make you feel they're not compatible. (So I completely disagree that the fact that you feel "meh" about a lot of them is likely to be a self esteem issue.) Plus, it's really hard to feel a spark from an online profile. I know there have been lots of guys in my life who have appealed to me, who I'd have utterly passed over if all I'd seen was an online dating profile of them.

Online dating is convenient, easy, doesn't require you to leave your house or be outgoing, but it's really not for everyone.
posted by Ashley801 at 1:02 PM on November 23, 2010 [13 favorites]

I'm all for completely ignoring the "wuts up?" and sexual emails. BUT you should think about going on dates with the ones you think you have nothing in common with or the ones you think you aren't attracted to. I mean, if you are completely disgusted by them thats one thing but if he just isn't your "type" try it!

Go on more dates! Open yourself up a little. Online dating is a lot like shopping at Ross/TJ Maxx. If you go in knowing EXACTLY what you want, you are never going to find it and you're just going to leave frustrated. If you go in with a basic idea of what you want you will be surprised what jumps off the racks.

I mean look for jeans, not for Express Stella Barely Bootcut Jeans in Dark Wash. Yeah, I totally just compared okcupid to Ross.
posted by magnetsphere at 1:06 PM on November 23, 2010 [28 favorites]

Are you my very good friend? It is entirely possible that this message was written by my very good friend, because her situation is essentially identical to yours. If you are not my very good friend, please know you are certainly not alone in your experience or your feelings.

I would agree with ThePinkSuperhero that maybe you are writing off potential dates with men who, for whatever reason, don't check every box of your list. It's true that sometimes people end up with someone who's like their clone, but this is far from always being the case. I think your list has become an obstacle rather than a useful screening tool. (But, yeah, the "wut up?" and sexually explicit messages are probably safe to avoid.)

Keep at it, and keep an open mind. Online dating worked for me, but only because I ignored the fact that the guy sent me an awful picture that gave me zero idea of what he looked like.
posted by redfishbluefish at 1:07 PM on November 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

I try to convey this in my profile by saying that despite that I’m an X, I don’t have a typical job for an X. I don’t post how much I make because I think it’s tacky. I make far less than people might think I do. I hate to get into male stereotypes involving guys not wanting to date women with more education and a higher salary than them, but I do wonder if this is a legitimate stumbling block for me.

This is a little unclear for me, but it honestly seems to me that you'd have more luck if you were just upfront about the work you do (what? lawyer? consultant? something like that?), because I suspect that the kind of men you genuinely want to date wouldn't be threatened by what you do or your education. So let that work for you, and use this as a way to filter out the guys who would be.

I suspect your standards actually aren't high enough, and I'd work on feeling okay with being single until someone comes along who convinces you they're worth it.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 1:08 PM on November 23, 2010 [2 favorites]

1) It's online dating. Just because someone sends you a message doesn't mean you have to respond. If clearing out your inbox is too much work, online dating probably isn't for you.

2) Four dates in six months? ThePinkSuperhero is right: you're not being very aggressive about that. Once a month, even once a week wouldn't be overkill if you're serious about this.

3) I seem to remember something on their blog--can't check it now due to damnable corporate firewall--about how women on the site tend to be pretty damn harsh about men's looks. Something amusing like rating a majority of guys as "below average." I obviously have seen neither you nor pictures of the guys who have contacted you, but it's something to keep in mind.

4) You're actually narrowing your demographics a decent amount with your criteria, I'm afraid to say. Of the 227 million people in the US over the age of 18, less than 20% have a college degree, and less than 10% have an advanced degree. True, the demographics on OKCupid to tend to skew up a little, but you're still probably eliminating half of the people on the site from the outset. Eliminating religious-types decreases your numbers even more, as most people in the US go to church or an applicable analog at least once a month. I'm not saying you need to negotiate on either of those, but you need to be realistic about the number of likely candidates you're likely to meet. If you really do care about your criteria, you may just need to be willing to wait.
posted by valkyryn at 1:09 PM on November 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

(FWIW, online dating worked for me before online dating was a "thing"--and my profile picture wasn't even of me; it was of Zorak, the cartoon mantis from Space Ghost. Nine years later I'm married to a guy willing to take a chance on something like that. YMMV, though, and the online dating scene seems to be much more of a meat market now.)
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 1:10 PM on November 23, 2010

You sound like the woman I went out on a date with a couple of weeks ago. (Maybe you are? Yikes.)

But, anyway, yes, it is a numbers game, for both sexes. If online dating is not for you, there's no shame in it. But like anything else you need to work for what you want. Be aggressive about weeding out those responses you don't care about.
posted by dfriedman at 1:12 PM on November 23, 2010

The guys that message me tend to fall into one the following categories: emails offering to me my sugar daddy, guys much older than me, guys who are arrogant or condescending, random messages from guys who clearly haven’t read my profile (Wut up?? LOL :)), guys who seem nice enough but have absolutely nothing in common with me, guys whose profile appeal to me, but I am in no way attracted to at all, religious guys, and of course the to be expected sexually explicit messages.

Yeah, welcome to online dating. This is the noise everyone gets. Nothing you can do will remove this noise from the system.

So the question is, how to boost the signal? One thing is for you to be the pursuer, not the pursued. If you are someone whose crank is only turned by a small set of guys, go looking for those guys and message them.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:14 PM on November 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

And "I've tried messaging 5-10 guys" suggests that you don't understand how this scales. You should message 100 guys and maybe you'll find 10 who are mutually interested, and maybe you'll actually go on dates with 5 and maybe you'll like 2 and maybe something will happen with 1.

I say this on the basis of friends who have met their spouses and life partners through online dating. You have to cast the net really, really wide.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:15 PM on November 23, 2010 [9 favorites]

women on the site tend to be pretty damn harsh about men's looks. Something amusing like rating a majority of guys as "below average." I obviously have seen neither you nor pictures of the guys who have contacted you, but it's something to keep in mind.

I have to be perfectly frank here ... it is quite possible for the majority of guys on a given dating website to be "below average," in terms of conventional attractiveness, when the average is of guys in that age group in general, not just of guys on the website.

That was another reason I cut out the online dating, OP. Not to say that all guys who online-date are unattractive, it's just easy to get bummed out and feel like there's nobody attractive out there, and forget there's a whole wide world out there beyond the site, with different kinds of people.
posted by Ashley801 at 1:15 PM on November 23, 2010 [2 favorites]

The guys that message me tend to fall into one the following categories: emails offering to me my sugar daddy, guys much older than me, guys who are arrogant or condescending, random messages from guys who clearly haven’t read my profile (Wut up?? LOL :)), guys who seem nice enough but have absolutely nothing in common with me, guys whose profile appeal to me, but I am in no way attracted to at all, religious guys, and of course the to be expected sexually explicit messages.

This is pretty much how it is for all women on dating sites. You should set up filters on OK Cupid for things like age so that it can help you weed them out, but do not tailor your profile toward cutting down on these responses, because it's not going to work and most of these guys don't read your profile anyway. Focus on making your profile appeal to people you are compatible with rather than trying to weed out people you are not attracted to.

I've written my profile in a pretty funny, offbeat way.

As long as you are a funny, offbeat person and your profile more or less represents what you are like then this is fine. If you are not actually that offbeat in real life, then you may want to switch to something that fits your personality better.

I've tried messaging maybe 5-10 guys who I was interested in and have gotten no response.

That's over a six month period though which is pretty low. The general way things work on dating sites is that guys tend to message first, but if you are sick of dealing with a ton of messages from people you aren't interested in you might as well step up your messaging.

In the easily 6 months I’ve been doing this, I’ve received hundreds of messages, but I’ve only gone on four dates. Two were awful and two were fine, but there was no chemistry. Should I give guys I'm not particularly attracted to more of a chance? However, I worry about getting into another relationship with someone I'm not completely attracted to or leading someone on, which I think could be very hurtful.

As long as going on potentially bad dates is not a big deal to you, there's no harm in going on dates with guys who you aren't totally 100% into online. Maybe they will look way better and/or have a way better personality in real life than they do online. Really online dating just gives you a way to find people to date in real life, so meeting up in person is the first real step in getting to know someone, rather than what you do once you have found the perfect person.
posted by burnmp3s at 1:20 PM on November 23, 2010

Couldn't agree more with what Sidhedevil said. I have my theories that it's a lot harder for women than men. And it's hard. There was a blog a while ago about a woman who went on 100+ dates in six months, I think, and still didn't find anyone. Good luck.
posted by Melismata at 1:21 PM on November 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

despite that I’m an X, I don’t have a typical job for an X. ... I make far less than people might think I do.

I'm guessing you have a law degree but you're not working as a lawyer. Or something. So say "I'm working as a _____" if you're worried about people stereotyping you because of your degree. Or don't mention work at all unless you're very passionate about it. In my online dating experience, no guy really cared what I did.
posted by desjardins at 1:22 PM on November 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Online dating is weird. My friend recently broke up with her boyfriend and decided after a few months to sign up online. She said she was having problems with it because you really don't have anything substantial to base attraction on. She found herself saying no to guys whose picture she didn't like or who wrote something weird in their profile. When you meet someone out in the world, you actually get to talk to them and see how you relate to them.

My point is, if you are having a hard time finding someone you're attracted to online and are uncomfortable going out on a bunch of dates just to see if you can make a connection, you may not want to use online dating as a way to meet guys. At the very least you need to start engaging in email conversations or putting yourself out there in some way even with guys who don't appear to be what you're looking for.
posted by Kimberly at 1:27 PM on November 23, 2010 [2 favorites]

You are me at about this time last year.

Walk away from the computer. Go find a hobby. Do more volunteering. Join a club. And let the people around you know that you are interested in pairing off. They will keep their eyes and ears open for folks that they think could be a good match for you.

Yes. I totally just suggested you open yourself up to blind dates. You can usually trust friends to mostly not set you up with total sleazebags. That's part of why they are your friends.

If you are determined to stick it out online, be honest about how you feel about cigarette smoking, religion, and work/life balance in your profile. Not so much about the baby factory. Because when guys I'm friends with hear "I want a baby someday," their brain does this translation and the sounds morph into, "PUT A BABY IN ME. NOW." And that usually freaks them out.

One of the things I found was that "flexibility" on age range was translated into "I secretly dig older dudes." I don't know why or how that translation seemed reasonable to any man, but I was constantly getting messages from the over 60 set.

Also, to repeat what others have said above. Go on more dates. MORE DATES. Lots more dates. Two a week. I'm not kidding. So he's wearing a backwards ball cap in his pictures? I don't care, go to dinner with him. Or coffee (though for FSM's sake, I hate hate hate coffee dates.) Or invite him to join you on a birdwatching trip. Or whale watching. Or whatever.
posted by bilabial at 1:29 PM on November 23, 2010 [6 favorites]

It seems you're suffering from Online Dating Burnout. You might want to give it a rest for a while, or think about these things:

*Go on more dates. In my online dating epoch, I went out with an Episcobal priest, about 8 programmers, one magazine editor, on chef, one French architect, a comedian with a face tic, and a novelist— all in one month. (Not poking at "what people do for a living," just trying to show the breadth of dates I went on.)

*Don't email back and forth forever. Just go on the damn date.

* Don't treat this as trying to find The One. Just go meet lots of new people. Some you will like, some you won't. No big deal. At least you'll have hilarious/interesting stories to tell your friends.

* Your profile is important, but don't over-think it. Over-thinking will make you look like a freak. Be cool, be relaxed, be you.

* Don't go too much into detail, because you might actually be inadvertently weeding out the ones you will like. Or are really close to what you want. (For example, a guy who is 90% of what you're looking for might see something you wrote and think, "Well, I don't bobsled professionally. I guess I'm out."
posted by functionequalsform at 1:30 PM on November 23, 2010 [10 favorites]

Don't email back and forth forever. Just go on the damn date

+1. I went on 1 or 2 first dates a week for a while, by just suggesting meeting early in the conversations (well, those who responded, I was also sending an awful lot of messages to get anywhere near this response rate). If you think they might be attractive, and they have at least something in common, whats the harm? It's very hard to judge physical chemistry by photos, and the way people present themselves online (in descriptions, etc) is often very different than in person. This can go in a good or bad direction, but the worst case is you have an uncomfortable date. Once you get to where you can just shrug that off (which did take me a little while, but I'm there now) then you can do this more easily.
posted by wildcrdj at 1:42 PM on November 23, 2010

(Disclaimer: I am a guy who has had no luck on OKCupid and has stopped using all dating sites.)

I have my theories that it's a lot harder for women than men.

I think comparing who it's harder for is like comparing apples and oranges. From everything I've heard, women have the challenge of being bombarded with messages from guys who have barely read their profiles, and men have the problem of getting one response for every 20-50 messages they send, depending on various factors. Of course, these problems are interrelated...

I can tell you as a guy that this made me pretty dejected until I decided to throw in the towel completely. I'm feeling much better about myself these days, honestly.

I will agree with a lot of what others have said: online dating is a numbers game, you should probably be going on more dates and maybe giving some guys a shot who you are ruling out, the right guys won't be afraid of your occupation, etc.

My experience from the other side of using OKCupid as a straight guy at the older end of your age group was that I ran out of women whose criteria I fit pretty quickly without getting any responses. I'm not unattractive, by many people's standards. I was more lax than you in my requirements, although, like you, I wanted some physical attraction from the pics...maybe this was foolish of me. I have no idea why so many women never responded to me, but I wasn't such a screw up that I never got responses, and in fact I got a fair number of unsolicited messages myself (not like women do, but one or two a week), which I've heard is less common for guys. So I was doing something right, just not everything. I gave up because the endless rejections and messages from women who were totally off-the-mark started getting to me. Sound familiar?

I guess what I'm saying is that I get you, and it's the same on the other side. And it seems pretty clear to me that the main barrier between finding someone on a dating site and not is being willing to put up with the constant frustration, and actually, that's probably all. I think that's the main difference between me and guys I know who have been successful, and I don't know why it would be different for women. I think it's actually pretty unlikely that there aren't any guys on dating sites you would fit with, you just have to expand your pool, and recognize that the profile is not necessarily a great representation of who is on the other side. Otherwise, I have to agree with Ashley801 in that it's a big world out there; and starting with a list of criteria and trying to fit someone into that box may just not be the right way to go about this. That's certainly what I've decided.
posted by innocuous_sockpuppet at 1:43 PM on November 23, 2010 [3 favorites]

Bear in mind that you won't be completely attracted to anyone based on an online profile. Physical attraction is not just about how someone looks, but about the way they carry themselves, the sexy sparkle in their eyes, etc. I understand 100% that a strong physical attraction is a requirement for you, though. I too tried to pretend this wasn't important and ended up marrying and then divorcing a man I didn't have any sexual desire for.

Is it possible you're restricting yourself by feeling like you should be attracted to certain types of guys? Oftentimes the guys I had the most in common with, who "ticked all the boxes", weren't attractive to me. So I suggest that you do give guys more of a chance, but not necessarily the guys who don't seem physically attractive. Instead try to be more open to guys who don't fit your other criteria. For example, what about a guy who didn't have a college degree but loved to read and discuss ideas? Or a guy who on the surface doesn't share a lot of your interests but who you end up thinking is incredibly passionate and interesting on his own terms? Sometimes the people we're most attracted to are somewhat different from us, or just not what we pictured. (Another personal example of mine -- I'm late 20s also, and I'm now in a relationship with someone I love deeply and am physically attracted to just as deeply, and he's 21. Never would I have imagined dating someone that young, and we come from very different backgrounds, but we're a great match.)
posted by spinto at 1:50 PM on November 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

The thing about online dating is that, no matter how thorough the profile, you really don't know what a person's like until you meet them. I'd recommend lowering your standards a bit for meeting people - you don't have to bother with the WUT UP SEXIE LOL guys, but consider the guys who almost seem right but don't have flattering pics or a sparkling wit or whatever. They could be brilliant in person. Once you meet someone, then you can apply your high standards.
posted by Metroid Baby at 1:52 PM on November 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Oh! And one of the best dating stories I can tell is the guy who hit on me in Publix. He had a great variety of stuff in his cart. He was well groomed. He was witty. He took me to a show at the Opera House.

He wanted me to be his beard, which I didn't find out until date #3.

You really can't tell right up front that this guy is the guy. You really do have to actually audition them. And give them a minute to reveal things about themselves that they are afraid to reveal to a total stranger.

There is a big push toward being, or seeming, average. Being well rounded. Being not dangerous. So a guy who collects Transformers, or sky dives every other weekend...he's not likely to be so up front about that in his profile. He'll probably say "I like to have a good time" without telling you that a barbeque grill in the back yard and a 6 pack of Stella with some Iron and Wine on the stereo is his idea of the best Saturday EVAR. This is the meaty stuff you get to after you've been on two or three dates and confirm that he can groom himself consistently, construct a sentence, and be a nice fellow.
posted by bilabial at 1:55 PM on November 23, 2010 [4 favorites]

I'm pretty sure my husband and I were an 80% match according to our profiles when we met online. He was also on my upper age limit (30 at the time. OMG so old! ha!) I went out with him anyway (I asked him out, actually). He was pretty much the only guy I went on a date with that didn't get scared and run away when I told him I was a chemist. We've been married 2 years, so I think it turned out well.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 2:00 PM on November 23, 2010

He wanted me to be his beard, which I didn't find out until date #3.

And because I throw around jargon without explaining myself sometimes, a kind citizen dropped me a note to ask what the heck I was talking about.

A beard is a person who makes a gay man appear straight. Usually a wife or a girlfriend.

She serves as a disguise, and in many cases straight women are beards without realizing that they are playing a role in someone else's charade. Thankfully he had the decency to tell me up front what he was hoping for.
posted by bilabial at 2:21 PM on November 23, 2010

OK, if it's really such a problem that the number of emails you're getting is exhausting, and none of the emails are from guys you're interested in, there's a clear solution.

Stop reading your emails. Period.

Then it won't matter how many emails you get.

Find those guys you're interested in. Send them messages.

You say you've sent 5-10 messages in 6 months. 5 messages is almost nothing. 10 still isn't much. You can't just send 5 messages and conclude from the lack of response that sending messages doesn't work.

If you'd feel too sorry for all those guys wasting their time, then just state all this in your profile. "Don't bother messaging me. I get too many emails on here to keep up with. If I'm interested in you, I'll message you."

Beyond that, it's unfortunate that you've posted anonymously with no way to email you, since I'd want to know more information about what it says in your profile. You say your profile is good and has a lot of personality, and you're asking us for advice, but we don't really know what it says in your profile with actually seeing what it says.

I'm a veteran of OKCupid, and I've found it to be effective (for men and women). If you want, feel free to send me the URL for your OKCupid profile and I can let you know if I notice anything that you might be able to tweak to get more attention from the right guys.
posted by John Cohen at 2:28 PM on November 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

As a personal hero of mine once said, 99% of the population is undateable. And if you think about it, that makes a lot of sense. Actually, it's generous. If merely 99% of the population was undateable, there'd be 68 million people on the planet who were perfect for you.

Welcome to the cold, harsh, lonely world, kid. Good luck to us all.

(Maybe unfocus your filters a bit.)
posted by danny the boy at 2:37 PM on November 23, 2010 [2 favorites]

Look the beauty of the big sites is also the thing that throws the women on them for a loop: number of men. What they're seeing is the ones that they're not interested in who hit on them. What they should be seeing is the advantage of the pool.

Let's take OKC. If you know what you REALLY want, you keyword search for it and go get it. I mean you go to Macy's for the selection. Do you buy your dresses from the racks at the very front of the store that they're pushing? No. You go seek out what you want. That's WHY you're there and not The Limited with their three semi-attractive dresses.

THAT is the thing you need to do here.

I had the same talk with a good friend of mine. We made out once way back in my single days. She's beautiful, really loves what she does and this should be easy for her. But like you, she was intimidated by the guys playing the numbers game by messaging every pretty girl with a pic. Then she said what she wanted to me. Someone who respected her very strong ecological views. Someone who likes dogs. Someone who was man's man.

I told her to keyword search "camping"

She found 40 guys who were possibilities. She wrote a QUICK note to about 20 of them. ("hey, just saw your profile. Really liked X. If you're into it, shoot me a note back.")

The majority DID write her back. And she went on dates with four or five. And got a good relationship with one that I think is still ongoing. (We don't talk except when I'm in NYC for business.)

The point is, you need to treat WHAT you want with specifics and then take action on it in a DIRECT way. It's the way you get a good apartment. It's how you find the job you want. It's how you deal with a crappy DirectTV contract. There's no mystical law of the universe that says it doesn't apply with love in the Online Dating world. It works here too.

I've had this conversation and the followup conversations with about a dozen women in my life. (And the followup conversation where I look at their profile and tell them that listing 22 adjectives in a row doesn't tell a guy who you are) And every single one who's taken the advice to heart has gotten out of it what they wanted. You will too. Promise.
posted by rileyray3000 at 2:38 PM on November 23, 2010 [37 favorites]

Oh, rileyray3000's advice is excellent. I wish I had written that comment.
posted by John Cohen at 2:43 PM on November 23, 2010

Go on dates with the ones whose profiles you like, but you're not sure you're attracted to or you think look a little funny, absolutely. As long as they don't look REALLY awful in the pictures, it's just impossible to tell what your reaction will be in person. Pictures are so deceptive and don't at all convey how you'll feel when you see the flesh-and-blood person -- unless you have some really strict requirements for hotness levels. If so, then that's a whole 'nother issue. Also, guys are dumb about pictures and put up terrible ones. (Or they put up overly flattering ones or ones that don't look like them at all.) So as long as there's a basic level of ok-ness, go for it.
posted by yarly at 3:13 PM on November 23, 2010

*Don't email back and forth forever. Just go on the damn date.

Yes. It's reasonable to be picky if you absolutely, totally know the guy is awful (sexually explicit messages, etc) and just not attractive to you on any level.

And go on a lot of dates (more than once a week if possible) and don't get too attached to any one person before you meet him in real life (I would suggest 2-3 emails at most).

Photos aren't super representative of real life, so don't put a lot of stock into "feeling a spark" from a photo on a website. Focus on real life for that.

You should really go on dates with the guys in the gray area, because that's where you are most likely to meet someone you like in real life. Go out with the guy who didn't finish college but seems smart. Go out with the guy who has a fuzzy picture and you can't tell if he's hot. Go out with the guy who barely wrote anything in his profile. The guy who seems perfect on paper (in his profile) probably isn't. And the guy who has flown up a bunch of red flags isn't worth pursuing. There is a ton of space between those two extremes.

And I totally agree with Rileyray3000 - being very specific about what you like (not looks, ignore that part at first) will get you far.

And don't tone yourself down, the right person will fit with you, but may not be a clone of you. He will certainly love and appreciate you for who you really are.
posted by rainydayfilms at 3:16 PM on November 23, 2010

I meant to add to my first point that it's ok to rule really bad people out, but just take a leap of faith and go on a date with anyone you find remotely interesting (basically yarly's excellent point).

The whole idea with online dating is to get an introduction to a potential person who you know is single and potentially compatible - the rest has to happen in person.
posted by rainydayfilms at 3:19 PM on November 23, 2010

I could have written this *exact* post a few years ago. Honestly, my best advice is to give up the online dating if it's not working out for you.

Agreed. Online dating isn't for everybody. Like you, I got a lot of interest from people I wouldn't consider dating (in fact, the exact opposite of what interests me) and very little from those I would.
posted by coolguymichael at 3:40 PM on November 23, 2010

I was on OKCupid for a few months a few years ago. I was too shy, even online, to really initiate anything with anybody, but I got enough responses to my profile that I didn't really feel like I needed to hunt anything down. Also, my situation was like yours in that there weren't really many people that met my specs (straight woman, 25-35, over 5'6", non-religious, outdoorsy, etc.). It seemed like the people I really e-clicked with were mostly located quite far away. I got a reasonable amount of unsolicited emails (especially when I was new), and I ended up meeting 6 people in the course of the 4 months I was active on the site - 2 of which were not worth pursuing further, one I dated for a month, one I would have pursued if we could have managed to get in touch with each other easier (I read it as her not being especially interested), and one I married a month ago.

The woman I married contacted me almost as soon as she joined the site, before answering any matching questions. We soon discovered that she was my largest "enemy" within 50 miles, but from what she'd written in her profile I couldn't determine how that could be possible. She was also 24, just under my age requirement, which was pretty firm for me. That all went away once I talked to her on the phone, more so when we met a couple weeks later.

Anyway, I was pretty picky about contacting people, partly for my own hang-ups, but tried to be open with people who contacted me and give them a decent chance to prove themselves. At worst, I'd end up having coffee with someone I didn't have a future with. OoooOOOoooh, scary!
posted by LionIndex at 3:56 PM on November 23, 2010

guys whose profile appeal to me, but I am in no way attracted to at all

-->You go out on dates with these ones anyway, just to meet people for the hell of it.

Physical attractiveness to me is a "whole package" kind of deal. A guy I dated for a few months last summer didn't have great pics in his profile. In-person he was actually pretty cute, especially when he laughed, and I really found his personality to be what sealed the deal - charming and driven. Damn those temporary work assignments, it could have been love.

-->In fact, date anyone who strikes a chord with you. I find dating incredibly entertaining in itself. I dated "the" city entomologist, a former social worker, an anesthesiologist, and a university art professor. Some of my friends regarded my love life as their weekly sitcom.

The guy I'm with now is someone I never would have thought I'd end up dating, not in a million years. He's a mat tech in the military, I've got an M. Sc. and wear suits to work -- what could we possibly have in common beyond "love of adventure"? I admit to having had a knee-jerk reaction of stereotyping his personality and discounting his intelligence. But he's cute, and though he said little in his messages or profile, he was witty and eloquent. So I gave it a shot, and had fun asking him tons of questions about his job during our first date. And in subsequent dates, I was delightfully surprised to find we do have a lot in common like obscure movies and similar youths. And he is the most mature, kind, hardworking guy I have ever dated. Absolutely a keeper, worth the price of admission.
posted by lizbunny at 3:57 PM on November 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

A) You aren't having enough fun with it. Go out with lots and lots of people. Just go out for drinks/coffee/a movie/dinner and enjoy just hanging out with someone new. So what if they aren't 'the one'? You are in your twenties and meeting more people is always better. Maybe the not-so-compatible date will take you to an art show where you meet his very compatible friend.

B) You aren't messaging enough people. Don't just message ones who are 95% what you want. Message anybody that's 60% or higher. Don't try to drag it out, either. Something like "I really love beer, too. Have you ever been to the tastings at the local brewery? I'm going to one next Friday and you should totally come with me!" Totally chill, totally fun, no pressure. You also won't have major expectations from all of the emailing. If it's bad, you won't have anything invested into him. If it's good, it will be a pleasant surprise.

C) You should set your age range a little higher and a little younger. Men who are 36 or 24 and searching for someone just like you aren't finding your profile.

D) Play the 'icebreaker' games. I've heard that they expose you to interesting people that would normally be filtered out by your picky requirements.
posted by 200burritos at 4:22 PM on November 23, 2010

I'm going to agree that your big problem here is simply that you're not sending enough messages. 5-10 is nothing. I've been hitting OKCupid quite hard over the past few months, and I've sent more messages than that in single hung-over mornings.

I think another useful idea is to change your approach. Don't restrict your messages to people you assume could be the next big love of your life - message people who express any kind of interesting personality traits or whatever in their profile, even if you don't find them immediately attractive. Message people making little jokes about things they've put. Be quick, be flippant, be fun - aim not for dates necessarily, but just for interesting conversations with strangers.

I've had three, count 'em, three dates out of OKC since I started using it in July - one of which turned into a fun and fulfilling short-term relationship. But I've had dozens of interesting, rewarding exchanges with some remarkable people. Why not just try looking for that? You may be surprised where it goes.
posted by Ted Maul at 4:24 PM on November 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

You've only emailed 5-10 guys. Find more guys whose profiles you like and write to say hi. Your intro emails are fine, but it's a numbers game, and with a small sample size like that, there's a decent chance you're getting an unrepresentatively low response rate.
posted by J. Wilson at 4:43 PM on November 23, 2010

One last thing from me that I hope helps.

1) Most people are bad writers - They were scared by some third grade grammar nazi and now think everything that gets put down literally must be perfectly written. As such, they do a fantastic job of using commas but a poor job of telling you who they are. Conversely, there are a lot of guys out there who are fantastic writers who aren't necessarily fantastic guys. They just seem a lot better than the rest because their profile compares so well to the tongue tied.

The lesson? If there's ANYTHING in a profile you find that strikes your fancy, shoot a note. See what happens. And if that's not awful, set up a time to talk on the phone. Ideally, at that point, you'll see who they are. And you might like it. But even if you don't, you'll at least have gotten more insight into them than their laboriously written essay about themselves that they saw as a third grade book report with every word they wrote.

2) Pictures - People take piss poor pics of themselves. Either because they're trying too hard or because they're afraid of candids. What you want to look for is someone who's not afraid to smile in his pics and the bare minimum for what you want physically. But be honest about that last part. Would you love a guy who's 6'2" with a superman jaw and hands like a stevadore? Sure. Most women would. But can you, and have you, really enjoyed actual dates with guys who were 5'6", a little thinning on top and one cute dimple you grew to love? My guess is you did. So don't apply storybook rules to the online process. Apply the real world ones. You'll get a lot closer to a storybook ending if you do.

3) Interests - When you DO your searching, think about the obscure things you like that no one else does. Kogi tacos. Lyle Lovett music. The Hudsucker Proxy. black licorice. Garter belts. Then keyword search for that thing. If you find someone who likes it, it doesn't mean it's an instant match, but it's someone who gets some thing about you that not a lot of people do. Which means it's worth a shot to start a conversation if nothing else.

4) Meet people. DO things with them. - At some point this needs to be more than just an academic exercise. When you've met someone and there might be something there. Even if you put the chances at 60/40 against, go meet them. And when you do, make it count: DO something with them. And make it something you WANT to do. That's right. YOU can plan a date too.

A little about me: I produce reality TV. And the one thing that I can tell you categorically from every romance reality show I've been a part of is this - you learn more from flying a kite with someone than you'll ever learn from coffee. Coffee's easy. Coffee's where our pre-programmed scripts about who we claim to be come out. But you DO something with someone, any action really, and they're in a moment WITH you. And you'll find out who they really are. It doesn't have to be romantic or super creative or even original. It just have to involve two people standing up and moving around in some way. Sure there's a chance you'll look goofy or awkward or it could all go horribly wrong. But a NO you understand is better than a YES you're always on the fence about. Because it's how you get to who you're supposed to be with.

One date I started at a sake tasting and I somehow got pulled into a soba noodle eating competition. My date didn't take it well. But her disapproval of my gastrointestinal spontaneity told me everything I needed to know about her. And when I did meet a lovely girl who got me later, was the kind of story you can tell till you're sixty.
posted by rileyray3000 at 4:45 PM on November 23, 2010 [12 favorites]

rileyray3000 gave great advice. Also, if you care about looks a lot you could use something truly awful -

You should give people more of a chance, too. I met my other half offline and I would never in a million years have messaged her based on a dating site profile! However, she's wonderful and it's all working out great.
posted by dickasso at 4:29 AM on November 24, 2010

Good advice in this thread - I'll agree that it sounds like no one you're trying to attract is searching for your profile. As a 20-something male who has an okcupid profile, I found the novelty of searching for others wore off after awhile - it's probably because I'd put actual effort into writing thoughtful, witty emails to girls who were "matches", only to get no response. It just leads to rapid burnout of the whole online dating thing.

Anyway, I'd agree with searching more and sending out more short emails. I think in the 2+ years I've been on okcupid, I've received maybe 3 or 4 messages from people out of the blue, which led to interesting conversations (but no dates). Not to be the wet blanket here, but maybe take a deep breath and re-evaluate what you're trying to do. You're trying to meet someone to have fun with, and you should have some fun in the process - don't overthink it (and bear in mind you're currently reading the thoughts of someone for whom okc has never worked).

In fact, after reading this AskMe, I'm inspired to go home and send out some fun emails to girls I "match", so please write back if it's you!

(also, what rileyray3k said)
posted by antonymous at 10:58 AM on November 24, 2010

The last time I met someone through online dating was on I replied to her profile.

She's told me since that my reply led her to suspect I was possibly a lunkhead, unemployed, and/or a loser (I didn't have a public profile at the time to lend evidence for or against these hypotheses.) And she thought I was goofy-looking in the picture I sent her (and I was, but it was still the best recent photo I had.) But she gave me a shot because I expressed familiarity with an author she mentioned in her profile, something no other respondent had done.

So we met, and she learned I wasn't unemployed and decided I wasn't a lunkhead or a loser and we bought a house together within the year, and married not long after that; our 8th anniversary is coming up.

I agree with all the suggestions above that you try meeting more guys even if they don't look like a perfect match on paper with what you have in mind. Maybe, in person, you'll find out they're funny, charming, interesting, and passionate, and that it doesn't really matter after all that you thought you had nothing in common.

Attraction is something that happens in person. How someone carries him or herself can totally trump (in either direction) how attractive that person seemed in a profile.

And dating is a realm in which the cliché of "if you want to increase your success rate, increase your failure rate" applies. Meet more guys. You'll definitely meet more guys you're not interested in. But you've got a much better shot of meeting one you are interested in.
posted by Zed at 11:25 AM on November 24, 2010

What you're asking for is not too much, but maybe you should think about how you come across in your profile. I'm kind of direct and I like to tease (in the joking way), and my profile tended to read as abrasive/harsh on the screen, even though that's not what I'm like.

Most of the messages I get are not from guys who are my "type." So I usually will reach out and write to the men I'm interested in. Sometimes I get a reply, sometimes I don't. Whatevs! But I look at it this's better if I write, because I'm doing a pre-screening kind of thing.

Hundreds of messages? Damn girl, I need to move away from the boonies haha. But just four out of hundreds is not the best ratio...just keep messaging, being upbeat, and being yourself. Keep on writing messages. Again, if you've written 5-10 messages and you've received hundreds, you need to write more. But if you get messages from men who don't fit every single category, don't automatically reject them! For example, what's really crucial for me is that they know what proper grammar/spelling and syntax are, intelligence, and humor. Physical attractiveness...they don't have to be perfect. If they're smart and funny I don't really care what they look long as they're not like a -14 or something hahaha.

Also, don't put down everything that you're looking for and everything that you're not looking for in your profile. In my experience, some of the coolest guys I've been on dates with have had less than stellar profiles, and some of the lamer ones had better, more interesting profiles. The same thing can go for pictures.

I can't stress enough, don't be married to the concept of a person before you've even met them. It's just a concept! I know this because it's what I do. I like to go on dates even if I'm not completely sure I'll be into the other person--I'm giving them a chance, but really, the more dates I go on, the more I realize what I really really want in another person, and what traits would be bonuses, more trivial traits, etc.
posted by skybluesky at 11:37 PM on November 28, 2010

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