Once they've responded, what next?
July 5, 2012 11:16 PM   Subscribe

On dating sites/OKCupid: Once I get past the initial introductions, where do I go in the conversation? Alternately, could it be something in my profile that encourages people to not respond past the initial reaction?

My profile, for reference/questioning purposes.

I've been following the other questions on here related to profiles, photos, and messages; so I know to make what I say on my profile more descriptive of what I'm like and to make messages personalized (rather than scattershot). I also know not to get too bogged down in initial responses/response rates. So, here's where I'm at:

1 out of 3 messages get an initial response, but half of those end after I get a response and reply myself. I keep each message pretty short (a few sentences), and specific to things they've noted on their profile as common interests. I also try to make sure to have something in each message to keep the conversation going. (I'd post an example but for privacy concerns)

In theory my goal is some sort of meeting in person, or at least live conversation of some sort. (No success on this front either, yet)

Are there specific things I can make sure to do/to avoid in order to get a cold message to turn into a more organic/flowing conversation? Alternately, are there things which I can improve in my profile which are currently keeping me down? Or could it be that I'm looking at this all wrong by thinking 'conversation' when I should be thinking 'ask them out quickly' or something like that?

I'm currently in the Portland area for an internship, but the same sort of thing happened when I was in Eugene (where I'll be returning in the Fall).
posted by CrystalDave to Human Relations (20 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Not that many people on OKC seem to be into back and forth email chat, so I would move pretty swiftly towards making a plan to meet.

Your main photo looks sort of sneery, which would definitely have put me off. Also many many words about stuff in your profile, including going into way too much detail at times. Streamline it a bit and maybe lighten up some?

Best of luck to you.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:36 PM on July 5, 2012 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Super quick first impression from someone way out of your target range (I'm 31) - several things in your profile make it seem like you just want to talk, and right up there in the first paragraph is how much you love debating - as a woman that has always been sort of a red flag to me, even though I did debate in high school, and love talking about stuff too. Are you sure you aren't coming across as wanting to "debate" in your messages, or spending too much time talking about stuff that isn't really related to whether you and your correspondent should date? If you do want to meet IRL, make that much clearer.

You are very young though, so probably talking with women who haven't been dating that long and are more shy or (rightly) cautious than the 28-38 age range. Remember it's largely a numbers game too, don't be discouraged.

Oh and I agree that your first (and third even more so) pictures aren't the best you could do. I'd just delete that third one right now!
posted by crabintheocean at 3:49 AM on July 6, 2012

Everyone is different. I think your profile is boring, but I'm just one person. I used to only respond to people that showed a sense of humor in their profile and/or messages.
posted by KogeLiz at 4:03 AM on July 6, 2012

I actually like what you've written about, you sound interesting to talk to, but man, your photos put me off. Not your face, the expression you've chosen to show. It looks like you're looking down your nose at the viewer, or self impressed, or condescending or... Something. Note; this is not a comment on your attractiveness, just your expression. A shot of you smiling would literally change everything and make it look like someone I'd want to have a conversation with, but the photos you've currently got would kind of make me wonder if you're going to cut me down mid sentence. It undermines everything you've written. Smiley shot please, I think you'll have a lot more luck that way.
posted by Jubey at 4:08 AM on July 6, 2012 [3 favorites]

Get a better photo, where you are smiling or at least look more relaxed.
posted by Melsky at 4:15 AM on July 6, 2012

Yes, honestly, you look and sound tense. Maybe they are responding initially to be polite and see what develops, but you stay tense in your writing style in the follow-up email, so they drop away? Also, do you jump to immediately asking or giving phone number? That's a turn-off to me, it reads as too eager, a little desperate.
posted by thinkpiece at 4:35 AM on July 6, 2012

Send us an example of an email thread you've sent: that is critical data for any sort of analysis.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 4:58 AM on July 6, 2012 [2 favorites]

Definitely add a few smiling shots. You know the old song, "when you're smiling, the whole world smiles with you".
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:04 AM on July 6, 2012

My OK Cupid approach is this:

Find profile of person I would go out with.

Within said profile, find some quirky/funny/interesting detail. Craft a brief introductory message that refers to said detail. Ideally, you want to ask them a question about this. Conversely, your profile will probably get more attention, and you will probably get more useful replies to your messages, if you deliberately seed your profile with interesting stuff for people to ask you about.

A positive response arrives! Huzzah!

Your goal at this point is to get things off OKC and in person as quickly as possible. You can exchange a few more flirty messages if you really want to, but at this point, everything you do on the site should be in pursuit of an exit strategy.

Schedule a casual date focused on meeting and seeing if you're attracted to the person. Keep it light. If you meet the person and don't really hit it off, it's perfectly fine to end things there.

Keep in mind, too, that people are exchanging a flurry of messages with a lot of potential partners. I've exchanged messages with probably 4 or 5 times the number of people I've actually met in person.
posted by Sara C. at 6:43 AM on July 6, 2012

Yes, new photos. I will go further than others, though. Your photos look like they are all self-portraits. Instead, you want at least three photos taken in different locations (preferably outside), showing yourself in a series of interesting and fun activities. Try to look directly into the camera and smile or laugh while the photo is taken. Find a friend who is also online dating; maybe you can go kayaking together with a waterproof camera and get silly with poses. Be in the photos the kind of guy that you want to be in your profile.

Conversation is going to be stilted at the beginning with practically anyone, but try to find something in their profile that sounds truly interesting to you, and ask questions about it. Make it sound like you are interested. Do some online research if you need to know how to ask the right questions. But don't take it too seriously if conversation falls off.

Ask to meet in real life after you have received 2-4 responses from the person you're emailing, no fewer. Be aware that it's likely to have a terrible conversation in real life when you've been emailing back and forth merrily, and it's also likely to have a great conversation in real life with someone who you weren't sure was your type online. So send emails to as many girls as you can, and don't take it personally if you don't get responses or things don't work out.

And try to get out and do some fun things in the real world, outside of dates and outside of your regular comfort zone. If you're meeting new people in real life, you'll be regularly exercising your ability to start conversations, and you will have less anxiety and nervousness online and on dates.
posted by aabbbiee at 6:58 AM on July 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

OP: I just sent you a message about this.
posted by John Cohen at 7:47 AM on July 6, 2012

Yes, the expression in your pictures is really off-putting. You don't have to smile in every picture, especially if you're involved in an activity, but that sneer/looking-down-on-you-common-folk look isn't doing you any favours. People are going to make inferences about your personality from that expression, whether they're accurate or not.

Go for either a smile or a natural, relaxed look - recruit friend(s) to snap a couple pictures if you have to. Ask for their opinions on the pictures, even - even better if they're female friends.
posted by randomnity at 8:27 AM on July 6, 2012

Agree with Sara C - the second round should be "hey wanna meet for coffee?" There's an easily-reached limit on the utility of back-and-forth messages, and you want to get past that as soon as possible.
posted by restless_nomad at 9:18 AM on July 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Definitely get rid of the 3rd picture, it makes you look way worse than you actually look. The last picture also barely shows your face, it serves on purpose on a dating site. And yes, smile in a picture or two so you look friendly, and find a picture or two where you're doing something other than taking pictures of yourself.

Make a joke or say something silly in your profile. When I read your profile, between the debate thing, the public speaking minor, and the description about why you like each movie, I thought "man, this guy would talk my ear off about crap that I did not even say I was interested in."

A little self deprecating humor is good. Instead of saying "I enjoy writing romance fiction, primarily collaboratively. I can't say if it's any good or not, but it's fun to write" say something like "I like to think it's good, but who knows, maybe you'll mock me for being cheesy if I ever let you read any of it" It doesn't have to be this specific sentence, or it doesn't have to be about your writing, but something that hints at playful interaction with your potential future date is good. Mention what you want in a girl. Reading your profile, I can see that you like a lot of serious stuff and you are smart and like to code and learn things. That's great. Now mention how a girl can potentially fit into your life. You like to cook? Great, say that a dinner you cooked with a girl + a bottle of wine sounds like a great Friday night to you. You like music? Awesome, say that you are always interested in finding new music and going to shows.

Show your playful side. Sound more excited about the things your like in your profile. The #1 thing girls say they want is a guy who makes them laugh. So make sure you don't sound too serious in your messages that you write. And don't get discouraged, the reply rate on dating sites is pretty low, and even after that most conversations just don't go past 2-3 exchanges, that's just how it works.
posted by never.was.and.never.will.be. at 9:37 AM on July 6, 2012

Best answer: A few things. Your profile makes me think "this guy wants to talk," which for me, is a different kind of impression than "this guy wants to listen to me." Conversation is a two way street, and as a former debater, I know that debate is 90% listening and 10% talking (as one coach put it). But either you have drifted away from the importance of listening, or you are assuming that your reader/potential romantic interest knows that you mean "and listening" everywhere you put talking.

Self summary
7 years doing competitive public speaking/debate with a focus on value debate, so I love deep discussion, but never taken too far for people involved, of course

minor in public speaking.
if you want to know more about that you should ask me personally.

really good at
public speaking

people notice
The way I speak

In your six things section
friends to talk with

your message me
You're interested, curious, or otherwise want to talk. And if you want to do something, whether it's exploring some new restaurant, food cart, bar, or something more interesting; I'd love to hear from you. (And yes, this does mean conversation for conversation's sake.)

If this is an impression you feel represents you well, then that is awesome. However, in all your writing about talking, you don't list topics that particularly interest you for discussion. Despite all the other information in your profile (and there is lots of other information!), I get the impression that you might be a bit of a windbag. Or that you are so used to talking that it's what you do.

Your profile is very dense. Which is good, there is a lot there. But it could use some editing for clarity, smoothness and brevity. It all felt like a first draft to me. As a former debater, this would be distracting.
Pasta and bread are my favorite foods to make from scratch. Even though my raviolis always come out a little lumpy, they're the first to disappear at a potluck. I love being in the outdoors, and fishing from my kayak is relaxing (be careful with mentioning that you don't get to do something often enough. People who aren't brave enough to make time for their passions while complaining about not having time are kind of annoying, especially when they are attempting to get me to be another activity in their life. I don't want to be or feel like the reason you aren't out on the river.) In high school and early college I was on the debate team, and I still love discussing current events and hearing what my friends and relatives think of....topics.... The video game I play the most is _____ because it gives me something to talk about with some people and I can share an activity with friends who live in __place far away___. If you play _RPG_ I'd like to pick your brain about _strategy_, but if that's not your hobby I'm looking forward to finding out what is. to the original paragraph in that section.

As for getting from the online conversation to the in person meeting, it has to be suggested, and sooner is better than later. Not in the second message, but usually somewhere around second or third. Be specific, not "how do you feel about meeting up sometime?" But "There's this thing coming up on Thursday at xxPM, and I am hoping you'll join me for it, does that sound like fun to you?" Definitely, in your case, suggest an activity. A meetup group outing for bird watching or kayaking or an outdoor festival that you can stroll through. NO COFFEE. You have made it clear that you are a champion talker and that can be very intimidating for people who do not study the fine art of oratory. For lots of people, going to an interview date with a debater is like going to, well, an interview. Bonus points if it's an activity that she has mentioned she likes in her profile. Saaaaayyy, her favorite artist's work is being shown in a retrospective at the big museum in town? Offer to score tickets! She will have something to say about the art.

Some things to watch out for. I see that you don't want kids. Way to go for putting that out there honestly, but if you're contacting women who want kids or want kids someday, they will either expect a short term relationship, or feel like they can change your mind, or be not paying attention to that part of your profile (because they think you've vetted them for compatibility) and then be pissed when they realize you don't want kids. So. No messages to ladies who want babies. Also, wanting friends and long term dating may or may not work out well for you. You risk opening yourself up to the "friend zone" right away, and making it harder for the women to know if you're settling for a friendship but secretly hoping they'll change their minds and become your girlfriend.

On preview, I agree with everyone who says better pictures (activity, lighting, facial expression, having fun, not thoughtful), add some humor/peppiness.
posted by bilabial at 10:11 AM on July 6, 2012 [2 favorites]

One issue is that your profile suggests that you may not be serious about dating -- that you're a little too interested in just striking up a conversation. Based on your post here, I suspect that your messages also give off that vibe, although it would really help if you could be more specific about your email conversations. So basically, I think you're coming off as an online dating tease.

A lot of people feel that the point of online dating is to find someone worth meeting and meet up with them. There's a quickly reached limit on what you can figure out about someone via a lot of messaging. If you're not one of those people and you're avoiding getting to the point of asking them out (I vote for the second or possibly third email, and no later), they could easily decide that you're only interested in chatting and are just wasting their time, or that you're moving too slowly and they don't want to sit around waiting and waste their time.

That said, there are a couple other factors are likely in play from time to time. First, sometimes I message someone or respond to a message, and then I give her a closer look and realize I don't really want to go on a date with her. This is bound to happen. Second, I just met someone and want to see where that is going, and I'm too excited about her to get excited about a first date with anyone else right now -- but this just happened and I haven't taken down my profile yet. So even if I've exchanged an email or two with someone else, I wouldn't know how to respond at this point and I'm just flaking on responding.

I also think it's worth noting that your profile is a bit boring and overly intellectual. I don't know how big of a factor this is, because I tend to think that if someone writes back, they are ok with your message and your profile and at least a little interested. But I do think it might be playing into this vibe that you're more interested in "conversation for conversation's sake" than going on actual dates -- and if the girl you're corresponding with is, why should she waste your time on you?
posted by J. Wilson at 10:15 AM on July 6, 2012

You do use quite a bit of "I" in your profile, which is normal, as it is, well, about you. But I would make sure that once the messaging starts, you change it to "you", making sure you are focusing on the potential partner.

Keep the second picture. It's adorable!
posted by Vaike at 10:17 AM on July 6, 2012

Best answer: ok, so this is basically something that happens to everyone, so the first advice is "don't sweat it. just keep going. people have varied reactions to okc encounters, and if what seems natural to you doesn't work with them consider yourself well warned that it wouldn't work well anyway. If you're the kind of person who wants to share a few messages for a bit before asking someone out, and they're the kind of person who just wants to be asked out, then just don't worry about it and move on.

with that said, here are some things to consider:

1. Some people don't check okc very often, and even if they do, don't act immediately. I've had people respond enthusiastically after not saying anything for 4 days or even a week plus. This is just how some people are. My advice is not to wait around and start talking to other people. If they respond and you're still interested, then great.

2. Always end your messages with a question. Sometimes when someone sends off a quick reply that doesn't really give them much to engage with or continue the discussion, it'll seem like a polite reply with nothing else going on. Yes, this is true even on a dating site. so ask a decent question.

3. Without seeing your messages I can't say what they're like, but when you're bringing up an interest they mention in their profile, try to engage them in some way. Don't just say "I see you like shoes! Do you know any good stores in the area?" because that makes it sound like you're asking for advice. Instead, ask her about herself, what inspires her about a thing, or what it is that makes her laugh, or something else that shows you're interested in learning more about her rather than just more about her interests.

4. Speaking of laughing, it's always good to try to be funny. Don't go overboard or try too hard, but if you have something funny to say about a topic and you're holding back for any reason, don't.

5. Some people get creeped out by someone responding too quickly. You have two choices on this one: Either wait a day or two to respond, or ignore it and wait until you find someone who likes prompt replies. Unless of course you don't tend to respond right away, in which case don't worry about it. I've found that nobody really has a problem with someone who takes a day or two to write back, so waiting is generally a safe bet. Basically, with the iphone/android app it becomes incredibly easy to respond to an okc message the same you would a text, with the same frequency. but a lot of people don't have or aren't aware of that app and it's entirely possible they see a quick response and think that you spend a lot of time on there and that may make you seem desperate. It's not fair, but I'm just telling you how it sometimes is. Message accordingly, if you care to. If you don't, then don't worry about it. There are plenty of people who aren't that concerned about it, too, and they may be a better fit for you. Again, if you don't respond that quickly, then ignore this point.

6. some people on okc get dozens of messages a day. no shit. you may have gotten lost in the shuffle. better luck next time, holmes.

good luck. not getting response is just part of internet dating. just keep messaging people and don't wait around for someone to respond before initiating with someone else. Always be respectful and personal obviously, and don't you dare just spam a bunch of women, but while you're waiting, it's a good idea to keep browsing and see if anyone else sparks something in your brain.
posted by shmegegge at 11:09 AM on July 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

Photos: I agree with others that the second is the cutest, and that you should get a friend (preferably one with a nice camera) to take some additional shots of you. Outside is good, so is you in front of someplace interesting / doing a fun activity (not reading or programming, though those can be fun ;) ).

Text: I disagree with some of the others. Your profile is a little long, but definitely not in crazy-monologue range by a good margin. I also think your wide-ranging interests and sensitivity come across, which is nice. You seem sincere and thoughtful, and a bit geeky (all pluses in my book).

Emails: your basic approach seems reasonable. Show your curiosity and ask questions. Show that you're genuinely interested in the things they mentioned on their profile. It sounds like you're already doing this, so keep it up.

Quantity: Ay, here's the rub. You don't mention how many emails you're sending out each week. I've done online dating in NYC and SF, both probably larger pools than Portland/Eugene, so I don't know if you'll "run out" of prospects, but I would aim to send 3 emails a day for a week or two at a time. That way, you're activity level goes up, and (I hypothesize) OKC will bump you higher in other people's searches. Also, that way, you don't get too hung up on any one person just based on their profile. Until you meet in person, online dating is really a numbers game.
posted by pompelmo at 1:12 PM on July 6, 2012

If someone has responded to your first email, I don't think it's serious defects in your profile that are holding you back from a second message. I would suggest asking women out for coffee or another activity sooner rather than later - it's really hard to judge chemistry via messages and when I was on OkCupid, I tired of the endless email exchanges really quickly. When choosing an activity to suggest, feel free to get creative, but choose something:
a) public
b) easy to get to on public transit
so that women won't have to worry about bringing these factors up - you want them to feel safe and like they won't be in any danger with you. It's fine if she offers an email or phone number, but don't ask (although you can offer yours). Basically - try to avoid skeeving her out, because I got a lot of overly pushy guys. I was not willing to meet anyone I got a sketchy feeling about, perhaps unfairly excluding some guys. But it helps to show you're looking out for her safely and have knowledge that meeting up with random dudes does put her in a vulnerable situation.
posted by rainbowbrite at 4:04 PM on July 6, 2012

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