Why isn't online dating working for me?
April 9, 2012 10:14 PM   Subscribe

Online dating never seems to progress past the smalltalk stage. What am I doing wrong? Most men who message me never ask me out. I've sometimes done the asking, but nothing has come of it. I've had to repel a lot of unsavory advances, but other than that, I get no offers. And lately, nobody has messaged me at all.

I'm female, 25, finished school but I don't have a job yet, and very very very shy. I live in a suburb of Toronto that's just far enough away to make going to events in the city a hassle.

I don't know many people here and the best way I could think of to meet guys was online dating. But, most of the messages I get are smalltalk one-liners. I don't really know how to progress that into a real conversation. I try asking these guys about themselves, but the conversations just never seem to pick up momentum.

None of these guys who message me asks to meet in person. I've asked one who seemed interested, and he responded positively, but then never actually called me. Most of the guys who do contact me come off as pretty seedy... not trying to sound overly picky, but (for example), I recently had someone ask me for full body pics. I had another significantly older male who was looking for a female submissive to join his polyamorous BDSM relationship. I ain't judging, but my profile made it pretty clear what I'm looking for, and that's definitely not it.

When I initiate contact with guys, they're not interested. And lately I haven't been recieving any messages at all, not even the small-talk one-liners. I really don't know what to do! Am I doing something wrong? I haven't been asked on a date since I broke up with my ex around New Years. Any advice or tips would be greatly appreciated.
posted by windykites to Human Relations (22 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
I have given a lot of people advice on their dating profiles. If you are interested, memail me and I will take a look at yours to see if that's part of the problem.

The internet is low risk/high turnover so you'll definitely get weird/shitty messages because there's no downside to the guy sending those. It's just the price of admission.

It can just take time. I've gone months w/o dating and then times where a different awesome seeming person is asking me out every day of the week. One trick to get people seeing your profile on OkCupid is to change a small thing or answer a question every few days so you pop up on the front screen.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 10:20 PM on April 9, 2012 [5 favorites]

Online dating is a great way to meet people, but you have to sift through a whole lot of crap before you find someone worth meeting. Not sure why you aren't able to progress past one-liners, but maybe you should try a different online dating site. It could be the people on the current site you are using are looking for something very different (i.e. a booty call/quick hook up situation) & when you don't bite, they just move onto someone else who does. It is kinda hard to say without more specifics. Also, since January isn't that long of a dry spell, so don't worry too much. Someone will come along eventually, online or off.
posted by katemcd at 10:21 PM on April 9, 2012

Your experience sounds very typical of online dating. There are all sorts of characters out there, and it really depends on what site you use. I like OKCupid because you can answer tons of questions and really get a good idea of their personal beliefs outside of what they write in the profile.

My rules: write back 2 emails max and then somebody brings up meeting in person. Always phrase this as a meeting. This could be one drink, a coffee, ice cream, etc. , but let it be short so if the meeting turns out to just be a meeting, you can leave with confidence. Think of the first "date" as a precursor to the real thing. You just want to see if this person is worth spending a real date with.

Don't get too serious and when you start analyzing their behavior, STOP. You can't - there are all sorts out there and just go with the gut with this one. I did this for years and finally, one year ago met the most awesome guy from OKCupid. Never thought it would happen, but it did.
posted by Sal and Richard at 10:25 PM on April 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

Honestly, not having full-body pics in your profile would be a red flag to me.

As far as moving it on to a real-life meeting, you can always do something like "I'm not very good at this online thing, would you like to meet up for a drink tomorrow or Wednesday?"

Also, I like howaboutwe's approach to getting people to actually go on dates, but I haven't used it myself.
posted by trevyn at 10:36 PM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

You kind of need to share your profile to get solid feedback. And more info about your conversations.

Why aren't you messaging guys you're interested in?
posted by J. Wilson at 10:38 PM on April 9, 2012

What you put in your profile matters a lot. I found I had the most success when I littered my profile with things I like to do; not even exciting things, just simple things like bike rides and playing scrabble. When those were in my profile I'd start getting lots of messages like "let's go for a bike ride" and "let's play scrabble sometime". You want to try to make it really easy for people to ask you out.
posted by no regrets, coyote at 10:50 PM on April 9, 2012 [11 favorites]

There are people on dating sites who take the shotgun approach - write lots of low effort messages to people and see if any reply.

Your profile is getting these people (who I suspect nearly every woman hears from) but you are not yet getting more meaningful inquiries from non-spammers.

Could be your profile needs work, or you're on a site that doesn't make it easy for people to find you.

The most profitable avenues are to have a friend look at your profile and give constructive feedback, and to go search for the people you like and get them interested.
posted by zippy at 11:51 PM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Do you have pictures of yourself? You should have a full body and a face picture, at least. That is what men look at first.

I'm on a social networking site, and right now I have a nonsense picture as my avatar. But when I had a picture of my face, I got a message every few days about possibly dating. And this was on a social networking site, not a dating site.
posted by Monday at 1:12 AM on April 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

Get better pictures. One of them needs to be a close-up face pic, one of them needs to be a full-body pic. No cleavage or bikini pics necessary (and would probably be detrimental) but something that shows you looking nice.

In my experience, guys who use one-liners are not really interested. They're spamming to see who bites. I would not even count a one-liner as an actual message. Guys who are interested will write substantial messages, at least three sentences or more, and will ask a question, compliment you, make a joke, or in general sound upbeat, interested, and like they're really trying to put some effort in to impress you.

I think your problem is at the level of your profile.
posted by quincunx at 3:14 AM on April 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

Are you on a free site, such as Plenty of Fish or OK Cupid?
If so, I would recommend perhaps moving over to a paid site, such as Match.com.
This might help lower the signal to noise ratio.
posted by THAT William Mize at 3:59 AM on April 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

Meetings will come-- whether on a free site or on a paid site. Trust me, I know. I had an OKCupid profile for2 years. I had some interesting meetings within those 2 years until I met the person I'm engaged to now while he was working at a gas station-- he struck up a conversation with me because he recognized me from my OKCupid profile.

Just be patient!
posted by camylanded at 4:29 AM on April 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yep, a lot of those one-liner messages are just noise. If it's generic or asks for pics or implies that the guy might not have read your profie, chuck 'em. Some people are just bored, or only want to chat online for whatever reason. (And some of them are legitimately looking but just don't know how to send a compelling message or follow through, and writing their own AskMes about why online dating doesn't work.) Judging by their opening messages, they're not terribly good communicators anyway, so it makes sense that they wouldn't get around to asking you out.

"Full body pics please" often means "I want to make sure your body's within my standards of attractiveness," not "I want to see you naked." Even if you're self-conscious about your figure, I suggest just go ahead and put up a snapshot that's not just a close-up of your face. (I was quite heavy when I was dating online, and it would have saved me a lot of misery if I'd just put up a picture showing my weight instead of having only face shots and getting guys saying "I thought you'd be thinner.")

Spend a reasonable amount of time composing your profile - if the style and length of your profile are like your question, you have nothing to worry about - and make sure it has enough interesting things to use as a jumping off point. Go easy on the self-deprecation; it can feel natural if you're feeling shy and awkward, as a way to manage guys' expectations, but too much of it and you'll just come off as not liking yourself. Only pay attention to the men who put a similar amount of time in their profile and messages.

The standard is that someone should propose a physical meetup by message three. If he sends three messages without inviting you somewhere, invite him. If he responds back with anything but a definite yes, move on.
posted by Metroid Baby at 4:57 AM on April 10, 2012 [3 favorites]

I'm happy to take a look at your profile, as well.

I was on OKC for five years on and off until I met my current boyfriend. This is the third relationship that I've had come out of it, so it definitely takes some time, energy, and patience. I think you've gotten some great recommendations here on what the issue could be. I think Metroid Baby's point about self-deprecation, etc. is a good one. I've seen so many profiles that are so negative - I don't want this, I don't want that, if you like this kind of music don't message me, I'm a nerd who likes XYZ. Don't do that. It's unfair to you and it makes it really tough to strike up a conversation.

Are you messaging guys that you're interested in? I had fair luck with that, and it made me feel better about the whole online dating thing because I had some control in who I talked to. Of course, you won't hear back from a lot of folks, but it's helps you build up a thick skin.
posted by anotheraccount at 5:30 AM on April 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm a bit shy also, making dating and basic conversations trying at times. My quiet nature has hurt me in past dating relationships because those men were used to women who were aggressive and loud. They thought that I wasn't interested.
I am currently in a relationship with a man who prefers quiet women. Things are going well. It is exciting. After nearly 5 years of on-line dating, I found someone who is okay with me being me.
Before him, I worked really hard on my shyness and now have it nearly beaten. I became really good at exuding confidence and making all sorts of charming small talk. Dates like this exhausted me. I'm so happy to not have to do it anymore, but it did give me skills that I truly needed in life.
My advice is to work on your shyness. Do one thing every day that you wouldn't normally do. Take yourself out of your comfort zone as often as possible. Never say no to an invitation unless it is legally or morally questionable.
As far as dating goes- ask questions. At the end of the night, if you are thinking about all the dumb things you said or did, then you are dating wrong. You should be hearing his voice in your head, sorting through his stories. Men like to talk about themselves, you just have to draw it out of them sometimes. It is good to be picky. Finding the right pair of shoes takes time and you only put those on your feet.
posted by myselfasme at 6:02 AM on April 10, 2012 [4 favorites]

How true are you representing yourself online? When I was dating online, I would read profiles of women and get an idea about them, but even just getting one message from them made me realize that their profiles were exaggerated and full of crap--even to the point where I could tell their friends helped them write their profiles for them.

And, yes, full-body pics (clothed) are necessary. I am not a shallow person, but I am extremely visual, and full-body photos were extremely important to me.
posted by TinWhistle at 6:44 AM on April 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

Others have said what I was going to, but I also recommend tailoring your profile every month or so. It will kick it up the "recently updated" list and temporarily make you more visible to guys-seeking-women who have just logged in.
posted by smirkette at 7:00 AM on April 10, 2012

Maybe online dating just doesn't work for you. There could be a million factors and you could go insane figuring out how to make your online profile the best. Maybe you need a different selection of pictures, maybe you should remove every "but" from your profile, maybe this maybe that.

Well, maybe what you need to do is work on your offline profile. Go to the gym, work on your hobby, maybe you should try a general meetup site to find groups of people to do interesting stuff with. So, instead of using the internet to find someone first to do something with, use the internet to find something to do first that you find fun and you might find someone there. I would reckon that the chances are about the same, but you will have more fun if you put doing something fun first on your priority list rather than meeting any particular stranger.
posted by fuq at 7:05 AM on April 10, 2012

lately, nobody has messaged me at all

You can message men first too. It's the 21st century and many men dig initiative in a partner.

I live in a suburb of Toronto that's just far enough away to make going to events in the city a hassle

I'd move into the city if there's any possibility, even if into a shared space or tiny hovel. Being alone in suburbia is a unique form of torture, and won't do much to overcome the shyness. Also makes the requisite "let's have a coffee and see if you're crazy" step during initial dating contact relatively easy to integrate into whatever else you have going on in life. You just step outside.

he responded positively, but then never actually called me

In my experience, nobody calls anyone until after they've met. There's nothing more to talk about on the phone than there is on a dating site, it's just artificial intimacy with a stranger. After a couple interesting messages someone needs to suggest an in-person meeting for coffee to see if there's any chemistry or interest.

Most of the guys who do contact me come off as pretty seedy

For every hit there are dozens of misses. Answer more questions, filter harder, and be proactive: pick the ones that look interesting to you.
posted by ead at 7:41 AM on April 10, 2012 [3 favorites]

There's a lot of variation about what works/doesn't work in online dating (for example, I didn't do some of the things suggested above, and I was pretty successful at online dating) but I think that one thing that is helpful is to adjust your thinking about online dating. It may be helpful to have people tell you to change certain things about your profile to make it more inviting or to say certain things in your messages to encourage conversation, meeting up, but you have to take that, too, with a grain of salt -- you'd not necessarily be appealing to the guys you want, so much as to the person who gave you the advice -- although there are certainly some general things that could probably be helpful for you to think about.

But, frankly, there's no magic formula of action a + response b = success. I think people get frustarted with online dating not working for them because they expect it to be easier and they feel like they've done something wrong if they aren't getting responses. Neither of those are necessarily true.

Couple other general things:

- different sites cater to different demographics; for example, some sites trended heavily towards people much older than me, others towards people who were in my educational/career bracket, etc

- different geographic areas yield different amounts of responses; my friend living in western New York tended to get mesages from Canadian women because in his area not many women his age were using online dating
posted by sm1tten at 7:45 AM on April 10, 2012

What site are you using?

Toronto still runs pretty heavy to Lavalife, just because of all the advertising they've done here. (They started here.)
posted by jacquilynne at 10:01 AM on April 10, 2012

Be very careful, online dating is not very safe. Make sure you always get the person's phone number (landline/work if possible). Meet him only in public places. For the seedy guys, just filter them and delete.

You might come off as boring and maybe too submissive with nothing to say based on your very very shy line. Online dating is not magic, it will not turn a shy person into a social butterfly. You might want to figure out what your interest are and then join a group to socialize with. Practice your skills there. Like someone said, you have figure your stuff out first, before looking for that special someone. Maybe you give out some vibes where you come across as unavailable or distant with nothing to say. That would be enough to put off most quality men.
posted by pakora1 at 2:48 PM on April 10, 2012

re How to Write Profiles, in case anyone wanders in here:

The OP's profile here was actually pretty strong. It was clear to me what the most important areas in her life were (i.e. family, religion, quiet activities, exciting things, etc.) I recommend letting a series of more specific examples paint a picture of what kind of person you are. Rather than saying "I'm a quiet, laid back person." You talk about books you've enjoyed reading, a fun scrabble party or enjoying potlucks with friends. These are all quiet, laid back activities without falling into vague mumbling. "I love my family." says almost nothing of value, instead a bit about who and why you love them, e.g. spending time playing peek-a-boo with your niece.

Other than that, stay upbeat. There's a wide difference between the three poles of being arrogant, entirely self-deprecating/negative in your self-speak and working on being a (mostly) sane (mostly) upbeat person. You want to go for option 3 (partially because it makes life more awesome, I swear), not options 1 or 2.

MOST NITPICKY TIP: if you don't have anything to say in the message me if, do not write "If you feel like it...?" or some variation. Just leave it blank.

Such is my opinion. Hope that helps, dudes and dude-ettes.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 3:38 PM on April 10, 2012

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