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March 6, 2012 5:18 PM   Subscribe

Please teach me the etiquette of online dating/meeting people when there are just too many choices.

Inspired by this metatalk post, I set up an OKCupid account on Sunday night. I just moved to a new city where I don't know a soul, and I figured it would be a good way to meet some new people. I explicitly stated in my profile that I'm fresh out of a divorce and not looking for a serious relationship, but that I'm also not looking for casual hookups (I know looking for friend-types on dating sites is not universally accepted, but that's not my question).

The response has been......overwhelming, to say the least. I don't know what I was expecting, but 50 emails in one night kind of blew my mind, and it's not slowing down. I really, really don't know how to handle all of this. Out of the people who contacted me, I eliminated roughly half off the bat, either because it was clear they were looking for something I wasn't, they didn't seem to have a single thing in common with me, or they were just plain creepy. Now I'm left with a pretty lengthy list of well-thought out messages from guys who seem like interesting people that I would be happy to get to know.

So now what? I've exchanged a number of messages with 2 people, and will probably be meeting them soon, which I am very happy about. I don't know what to do about all the others though. If I tried to respond to everyone (or even just the good ones), I'd be at my computer for the next 3 days. I also think it would be difficult at best to try to get to know more than a few people at one time. BUT, I don't want these guys to think I'm not interested, when the reality is they sent me great opening messages and seem like great guys.

So what's my best course of action here? Do I just hang on to the messages and maybe contact them later? Let them know that they seem great but that my dance card suddenly got more full than I anticipated? For you folks that are experienced in the online dating world, how many people do you typically talk to at once?

I feel like such an ass even asking this question, as it's not exactly the worst problem to have. But I'm really trying to be considerate and not disregard people who actually took the time to read my profile and contacted me with engaging conversation starters.

posted by tryniti to Human Relations (14 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
How many questions have you answered? It will really help your OKC matches if it's in the hundreds. As long as you've answered enough to get into meaty issues, and you're honestly marking it when other answers would not be cool with you, that seems to be the best way to weed out suitors who aren't the best matches. You can set it up so that people who are below a certain match percentage are greyed out or can't message you. Same for folks who are too far away, only looking for something casual, or whatever else your criteria are. In real life I am quite open and unlikely to eliminate someone from consideration over a single item, but doing so online is not rude and is also quite useful.

I don't think there's any expectation that you respond to every message. I'd just let the ones you don't reply to right now remain in your inbox, and see if they strike you differently in the future. I've responded to messages that were months old and folks did not seem to think that was odd. I don't do any chatting but I exchange messages with several people at a time without any issues. I wouldn't mention your dance card at all since it's hard to predict how long it will feel full to you.
posted by olecranon at 5:26 PM on March 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

i've gotten responses from women two months after i had written them and didn't think it was odd at all. in fact, it was nice to know that they had held on to that email and had taken the time to respond even if it meant that i was at the end of a long list. while i know most women on okc get bombarded with tons of mail and am willing to wait for a bit to see if they respond, i don't think anyone would really worry too much about not getting a response from you. after all, i don't expect at least half, if not more of the emails i send out to garner a response, and i think that most guys on okc probably have the same expectation. a non-response is just how you say, "no thanks".
posted by ps_im_awesome at 6:26 PM on March 6, 2012

Respond to the best ones first, but save the other emails for now. The volume of messages will decrease over time, so if you have messages from guys you would be interested to get to know but really don't have time for now, keep their messages and write to them later. Don't feel bad about it, there's no other way of doing it because you really can't spend hours of your life on the Internet.
posted by never.was.and.never.will.be. at 6:28 PM on March 6, 2012 [3 favorites]

BUT, I don't want these guys to think I'm not interested, when the reality is they sent me great opening messages and seem like great guys.

It's definitely normal for a guy to get no response or a very delayed response to an initial contact message on OKCupid or other dating sites. At any given time someone you message might be busy with life or just starting to date someone or who knows what. When I was on OKCupid I would get responses back from maybe one out of every three well thought out initial messages, and that was fine with me. If someone wasn't all that interested in replying then it was probably best that we both looked elsewhere anyway.
posted by burnmp3s at 6:34 PM on March 6, 2012

1) OKCupid has an algorithm that makes new users' profiles very visible. The shear quantity will decay over time.

2) If someone catches your eye but you feel like you're talking to too many people, just save their message. Getting back to them a month or two later and saying "hey, sorry I was busy before but I really wanted to say hi" is actually pretty flattering.

3) Don't be afraid to use super shallow criteria. No one's judging you.

4) Don't lose a minute of sleep ignoring peoples' messages even if they seem like perfectly great guys. Having messages ignored is a fact of life on dating sites and guys know that it's the cost of doing business.

5) If someone gives you attitude for not responding, that's what the "block user" button is for. Don't give them a second thought, those people are the scum of the earth.
posted by no regrets, coyote at 8:45 PM on March 6, 2012 [4 favorites]

As as guy, the majority of messages just get a silent response. I'd prefer not to get a response if there's not a realistic prospect of a date.

In practice, because the usual standard of rejection is silence, a "maybe" or "later" response will probably be interpreted as "please pursue me".

If you change your mind and want to reply three months later, it won't be held against you unless the guy is a creep anyway. A reasonable guy will understand that it can take a while.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 10:16 PM on March 6, 2012

I agree with the other men here. Save the messages from potentially nice people who you don't have time for now. Reasonable men won't be writing you again.

But, I have to say, as a guy on various dating websites this is totally depressing. The sheer amount of ego-crushing non-responsiveness makes me take long breaks from the sites despite my wishing to meet people.
posted by bswinburn at 11:11 PM on March 6, 2012

I agree with bswinburn that it's depressing. But I think for a newbie to online dating, it's best to stick with the standard behaviour.

Also, the rmless2 protocol from this Metachat comment is pretty helpful if you're not sure how things should go. (Though personally I settled on roughly three emails each before the date and skipped the phonecall, because I'm not great on the phone.)
posted by TheophileEscargot at 11:33 PM on March 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

In addition to saving messages, other features may get the a good result: use Favorites or a Contact List to remember the people you can't get back to right now, but would want to in the future. Having people in your Favorites should also affect the site's algorithm of who is interesting to you.
posted by whatzit at 3:27 AM on March 7, 2012

Agreed with many of the previous posters - answer lots of questions, and be honest about how important the answers are to you or if they are mandatory. That will increase the accuracy of your match percentages and make it easier to sort people out - also, then you can look at their 'unacceptable' answers and see if there are any dealbreakers for you.

Then, yeah, use whatever criteria you want. I often sort people based on how close they live to me, since I don't have a car and it's a pain to get across the city. Do their interests make it seem like they'd introduce you to new things? Would they be interested in going somewhere or to something you wanted to go to anyway?
posted by thelastpolarbear at 4:24 AM on March 7, 2012

God, I wish I knew what you were doing. In a whole year I haven't even gotten half your total messages.

But no, it's normal to go a few days between messages. Not only is it normal, in this case you really don't have a choice.
posted by dekathelon at 5:37 AM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Thanks the the responses so far. This:

But, I have to say, as a guy on various dating websites this is totally depressing. The sheer amount of ego-crushing non-responsiveness makes me take long breaks from the sites despite my wishing to meet people.

is exactly what I want to avoid. I know if I was reaching out to people that I really thought I had something in common with and heard crickets, it would be a bummer. But it sounds like the best thing is to hang on to the good messages and maybe respond later?

dekathelon - if I had a trick I would share. I really, really wasn't expecting this kind of response at all. I have one picture up, fairly ok narrative sections, and have answered about 150 questions. I'm thinking aliens must have abducted all the single women in Pittsburgh and I'm the only one left.
posted by tryniti at 6:03 AM on March 7, 2012

I did this a bit differently (I'm a woman). I responded to every message of someone I was even 50% interested in and met most of my criteria, even if my message was kind of brief - great openers didn't always lead to great rest-of-the-thing. I tried to answer/expected an answer within a couple of days; after a week I am neither inclined to nor expecting a response. I generally ignored the OkCupid percentages other than to possibly rule someone out that I'm meh on, because the percentages didn't translate well in real life (in my experience). I usually messaged with a few guys at once (say, five), but probably just two of those made it to a first date/meet and then usually one stood out for a second.

You can hang on to some messages for later, but I wouldn't tell anybody you were overwhelmed with messages and just couldn't get to them. They don't really need or want to know that they're further down in the pack or that you're just getting bombarded with offers.
posted by sm1tten at 8:16 AM on March 7, 2012

Speaking as a guy who has done online dating for a while. . .

I think it's better to file the messages that are intriguing and respond to them later if your first options don't go anywhere. I'd rather not get a message that says "Hey, you seem fun, but you're number #18 on my list right now." I'd also rather not start a message exchange with someone just to have them fall off the face of the earth in the middle of our conversation, which I think is often what happens when someone replies to tons of people and then settles on one or two. I wouldn't mind though if someone didn't respond for a while and then later sent me a first reply - I'd understand that meant they were probably dating other people in the meantime, but that's pretty much true for everyone on these sites.

Personally, though, this is why I don't message "new" profiles - there's a pretty good chance that the new person is getting overwhelmed with messages. I get much better responses from people who have been active for a while.

Also. . .welcome to Pittsburgh.
posted by sherlockt at 1:21 PM on March 8, 2012

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