Is you is or is you ain't a possiblity?
November 9, 2013 6:47 PM   Subscribe

Having read a lot of relationship/dating AskMes, I've decided rather than wait for a relationship to fall into my lap, I should try the whole online dating thing. I am finding it rather frustrating and confusing, and hope the hive mind can help me understand it a bit better. Snowflakes inside.

I'm a woman seeking women, if it matters. Well, one woman for a relationship, not at all opposed to making more friends. I have joined OkCupid as it seems to be the thing to do. I've messaged a few people, a couple have messaged me, so far nothing seems to be going anywhere more than the occasional brief message.

My specific questions:
- What is the whole etiquette (if there is one) about responding to someone's message? I've sent some and heard nothing back and am assuming this means total lack of interest. One woman I messaged promptly deleted her profile. At the time I thought it was funny. Now I am beginning to wonder. I am not going to imitate the lady with a few issues who messaged me with a really neutral "hey you seem cool wanna chat" and several days later, while I was still trying to figure out a response based on the scanty info in her profile, sent me another saying "why you don't answer? You're so mean!" At the same time, I am starting to have some sympathy for her. WTF are these people doing on the site if they can't be bothered even being polite?

- I've taken the bold step of asking one woman if she wants to get together for tea/coffee/drink sometime, after several message exchanges. No response. Did I cross some unwritten line or is this just a variation on the above scenario? (Yes, I know you are not all-seeing psychics. It's just been a long time since I've tried dating and I am seriously clueless.)

- Are there any strategies that generally seem to work since I so far don't seem to be doing terribly well? Particularly strategies for women-lovin'-women? They are increasingly reminding me of the story about the lesbian sheep (sheep always wait for someone else to make a move, so nothing winds up happening).

- My cat has recently been diagnosed with cancer with weeks to live. I am battling what is turning out to be a rather severe episode of depression which began even before that diagnosis. I am on medication, seeing a psychologist, I have learned a lot from previous bouts of depression. Should I even be worrying about dating right now or should I just pull back, focus on getting myself a bit more together and come back to it later? (You are not my mental health professional but one of the things I start to lose when depressed is my perspective. This is where y'all come in.)

Any other insights or ways of keeping perspective and/or shreds of self-esteem in the vicious world of online dating, especially queer online dating, are also welcome.
posted by Athanassiel to Human Relations (19 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
Best answer: I am a straight woman on OKCupid, so I can't help with the women-lovin'-women strategies, and it might be something in your profile -- I know people here are very good at giving advice about profiles, if you feel comfortable linking to it -- BUT if it makes you feel better at all, ALL OF THIS is totally normal OKCupid behavior and more than likely has nothing to do with you. People are flakes, people are crazy, sometimes people are crazy flakes, sometimes people are just lazy. If you hear nothing back, it does mean total lack of interest OR that person hasn't looked at her OK Cupid in months OR read your email and thought you were divine and then got trapped under her bookcase for months OR decided she can't date right now because she really wants to focus on her poetry or something.

Personally, I NEVER answer the "hey wut up" emails and you don't have to either; everyone knows those are just casting a wide net and if someone writes back and calls you mean when you ignore one, you are well shot of her because that's nutty behavior. I have also totally flaked out after several emails and never answered a request to go out for a variety of reasons: work got crazy, I got involved with someone else, I finally took a look at the answers to your questions and they had huge red flags for me, I chickened out, I realized the person in question was actually friends with my ex, I realized the person in question is actually someone I already dated, whatever. (Actually, the guy I'd already gone out with, I wrote back to and told him that, and oh did we laugh.) And people have totally TOTALLY done the same to me. I even had a dude, who lived in my town, email me back and forth like ten times and asked if we could Skype (!!) before we met in person and I never answered that because no, dude. I don't think I am a flaky person in real life, but something about the online exchange makes it SUPER EASY to reject or ignore or just forget about the person on the other end of the computer. The good (?) news is that you will sort of get used to this and it won't weigh on you that much after awhile. The other good news is that the majority of times you get to several emails exchanged, you WILL end up on a date with the person in question. They might end up being insane but still, they might not. You just have to keep plugging at it.

Finally, I'm super sorry to hear about your cat. That SUCKS. You're totally allowed to not focus on the dating thing right now if it gets way too overwhelming. I took a six month break once just because I was bored of it and it started to feel like a job. You can totally take a break to focus on yourself right now.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 7:12 PM on November 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


Best answer: I did this for a while. You kind of get into the rhythm of it eventually. There was an occasion where my profile was still active, long after I was happily off the market, and I received a message, and thought to myself, oops, I didn't realize that was still active, I should really turn it off so people don't waste their time, and I then turned it off. I would like to say I wrote the person a quick note explaining that, but I honestly don't remember... I might not have had the energy to do it. It's really a question of energy -- tactful gentle communication, in which you try to anticipate the other person's reactions, pulls something out of you.

I imagine it like there is an amount of energy one has to invest in order to keep a conversation going. If you are really excited about the other person, and they are excited about you, there will be boundless energy, the conversation will flow, a real-life meeting will happen pretty quickly. Sometimes it is less clear and so you have to push yourself a bit to keep it going, and sometimes the conversation lags or stalls, and maybe at some point it crosses a threshold for one party in which they have to fight to keep it going and it is easier to just let it flop. In such a state it's even harder to muster up the energy to make a clean end to the conversation. Thus the fade-out or non-response, tacitly standard in the online dating world, maybe not the most polite thing in the world but often easier than an explicit rejection (maybe easier for both parties) and a good survival strategy to adopt.

Success on the site I think is about managing your own levels of investment appropriately. OKCupid can be an exhausting place. Some people get a lot of messages; replying to each of them, even if to let them all down gently, will wear you out. Getting excited about people can give you a rush which can be tiring as well if it happens all the time. I had the most success when I was very picky about who I wrote to and wrote back to, trusting my gut reaction rather than trying to force things I wasn't sure about.
posted by PercussivePaul at 7:27 PM on November 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Best answer: The big thing that answers a lot of your questions is: no reply is a normal response. For attractive women especially, a polite reply to decline each person not of interest is not only hours of work (a lot of messages), but every now and then there will be some stupid asshole who takes rejection personally and sends back abuse. No-reply is simply people being efficient.

Speaking of taking it personally - don't. No-reply can mean anything from not-my-type, to "Wow - she looks fantastic. But work is crazy right now and I don't feel like interacting with people right now."
Deleting profiles happens constantly, so don't read into it. People get a date with someone else, hit it off, shut off their profile. People might misinterpret something as creepy, or see a deal-breaker in an otherwise tempting profile, and block your profile so you don't keep turning up in their search results.
People approach it all sorts of ways, use the features for all sorts of different reasons. Don't take anything personally. Even if someone messages you to tell you how ugly you are, even that is not about you. Don't take it personally.

Anecdotally, bi women I know report that it's much harder to get interest from women than men. Part of this is probably that on dating sites, men send most of the messages, and so women often get used to (a) choosing from those more than searching for people and messaging them, (b) not attaching much importance to messages they receive.

So basically, keep on looking for people that interest you, keep on messaging them, and try not to be upset or frustrated when they don't reply, or when they reply for a while then stop.

Speaking of replying for a while then stopping, again, don't take that personally - they may have a lot of dating options, and in the space of a few days email back-and-forth, already gone on a couple of dates and decided to focus on one of those. No-reply to people they haven't met is the most efficient way to proceed.

My advice is: If a few emails/replies goes by over a few days, and you're still not making plans to meet, you're unlikely to meet, even if both of you think you want to. Online dating has very little to hold people's interest - you generally either decide pretty quickly that you're interested enough to meet, and then do so, or something else (or someone else) is going to come up and the email exchange will fall out of mind. Some women think it's forward or presumptuous or creepy to suggest meeting in the first email, but leaving it past the third is (on average) probably starting to work against you.

Your self esteem is not on the line here (in online dating), it's much easier if you can learn that. People will ignore you because they're looking for what they want, just as you will ignore people because you're looking for what you want. It's not rejection, it's people trying to maximize their time and efforts. It Doesn't Mean Anything.
posted by anonymisc at 7:51 PM on November 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


One thing to note, as I am mostly straight but occasionally list myself as bi on OKCupid to see what kind of ladies are in my area and whether one of them might trigger my occasional attraction to women.

If there are pictures of you with a man in your profile, they may assume you're one of the many many many couples on the site trolling for threesomes or a third partner, I've gotten to the point that I just don't even respond in these cases because I'm tired of explaining I'm not looking for that.

If there isn't much info in your profile they may not know what to say by way of response. I usually try to look for some common interests or some indication of personality in the way a person writes, but blank profiles give me nothing to go on. Also, a lot of blank profiles (more often men than women) are just looking to get laid.

How much thought do you put into your initial message? Some people consider brief "hi how are you" type first contact messages as not being worth a response. Personally I hate small talk so if the other person doesn't initiate actual intelligent conversation within the first 3-4 messages I stop responding.

I also ignore messages that immediately want to meet, or suggest meeting after only a couple of exchanges.

Depending on my mood, I may also ignore anyone who lists "casual sex" as one of the things they're looking for.

If you want a long list of what NOT to say, change your profile to straight for a couple of weeks and watch all of the insanely creepy things guys send as their first messages. *shudder* Or skip that step and just avoid being creepy :)

Too many compliments in a message can come off as someone looking for casual sex, or may give the impression that you're superficial and focused only on their physical appearance. A compliment or two is nice "Your profile picture is amazing" then move on to actual conversation.

Please no interview style form letters. I don't mind chatting back and forth for those "so what kind of music/movies/etc do you like" conversations, but will not respond to a questionnaire.

One thing that may be worse than a blank profile is one with a long list of requirements that the other party has to meet in order to be worthy of you. Knowing your preferences is fine, but if you're looking for "a petite blonde who likes dogs, kink, dressing up, hockey" and 50 other things, not only are you being unrealistic... the reader is bored before they've gotten halfway through their list. Even on the off chance that someone exists who might meet every single item on the list, they've probably dozed off before they could figure that out.

Hmmm... I'm trying to think of other suggestions based on my own experience. The only other thing I can think of that I've run into is people accusing me of being fake because I won't meet immediately, or give out my phone number, or skype... Some people prefer to chat for a couple of weeks and get comfortable first. I always politely explain this is a personal rule (not a judgment of them) based on some pretty terrible experiences I've had, but people still take offense. Understand that internet dating can be a scary thing and some people are extremely cautious about giving out personal info or want to feel reasonably certain that meeting you won't end in one of those urban legend horror stories of murder or other crazy things.

Also, going through depression is a really great reason to take your time getting to know someone new and take things slow.
posted by myShanon at 9:53 PM on November 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Best answer: The woman who deleted her profile right after you messaged her probably didn't do that because you messaged her. It's more likely that she just wanted a break or was fed up with the site for reasons unrelated to you and it just happened to be at that time.

You shouldn't take people not responding to your messages personally at all. It happens to everyone who sends messages. I'm a straight woman so the messaging situation is different but when I've been on okc in the past I've only replied to a small fraction of the messages I received. The majority of those messages that were from decent seeming people but that I didn't respond to were from people who weren't in any kind of objective sense unattractive. They were just people that I couldn't really imagine really clicking with. For example, there's one question that asks something like "you're up against a nearly impossible challenge; how does your ideal partner react?". And the answers are "pushes you hard to succeed", "stands back but comforts you if you fail", and "reminds you to be realistic". A whole lot of people pick "pushes you hard to succeed", which is fine and not objectively a bad thing if that's what they want, but that mindset is so far from mine that odds are we'd be pretty incompatible. Whenever I look at someone's profile, the first place I look is the unacceptable answers page. So I wouldn't respond to anyone who answered that question that way unless there was something to counterbalance it, like something really funny or that I could very much relate to in their profile or message.

I don't have any insight on dating side of women messaging women, but I do think, at least on the seeking friends side of things, that there is a little bit of the waiting for the other person to do something aspect that you mentioned. I've used okc mostly to try make friends as well as for dating, and I've never received a message from a woman. I've never messaged a woman myself either, even though there have been times that I would have liked to. Part of this is because I know that most people are looking for dating or friends that can turn into dating; but even when the profiles say they're looking for friends and for "everybody", I feel much less confident than I would about messaging a guy. I don't really know why this is or if it's similar on the dating side of things, but in any case, I think it's good to keep messaging people yourself rather than just waiting for them to message you.

I'm sorry that you're going through a rough time and about your cat's diagnosis. I don't know if you should hold off on dating or not, but for me, whether I'm going through a hard time or not, I can't handle having a profile up if unless I feel fairly confident about myself and I have some emotional energy to put into it. If I don't then it's not a good experience. On the other hand, if I'm in the right frame of mind it can be fun. So I would say that if it is feeling more like an ordeal than something that's fun, then maybe you might want to wait a little bit.

Finally, one thing that helps me with confidence and with making the whole thing seem more fun is if I really like my profile. For me, this means i think it's funny (to my sense of humor) and it also is honest and has some sincerity. Your criteria may be different, but whatever they are, if you don't think your profile's great, if you think of it as ok or just as something to get the job done, then maybe rewrite it until you're really happy with it. (The best way to do this in my opinion is to just answer the questions honestly as your first draft without worrying about how anything will be perceived, and then work on editing that.)
posted by treese at 10:17 PM on November 9, 2013


Response by poster: I should have added in the original: if anyone is up for having a look at my profile, am happy to memail you the link. No obligation though. Thanks to those who have responded so far and I promise not to threadsit.
posted by Athanassiel at 10:36 PM on November 9, 2013


I'm a lady who has used online dating to meet other ladies, with mixed results. I'll be honest, OKC has a higher-than-normal number of couples looking for a threesome/women in relationships looking for something on the side/other things which are personally dealbreakers. If your area has any queer-women-centric dating sites, I'd set up a profile there too.

- What is the whole etiquette (if there is one) about responding to someone's message?

So long as they're not responding with anything actually abusive, don't take it too seriously. Some people send "Hey whats up" "Not much u?" type messages, some send essays, some send elaborate fan-fiction-esque porn scenarios, some won't respond for whatever reason (bad day/already taken/doesn't like your haircut/who knows). Experiment with a few different photos and see if any improve your response rate. There is little chance that anything you might say in a first message would make your message THE WORST THAT ANY WOMAN HAD EVER RECEIVED, especially if it's a site with male users.

- I've taken the bold step of asking one woman if she wants to get together for tea/coffee/drink sometime, after several message exchanges. No response.

No idea. Maybe she met someone else this week, maybe she's new to online dating and got cold feet, maybe she totally didn't see your message. Don't let it discourage you from asking someone else! When I was online dating, there were some women whose photos/bios just Weren't My Thing, which is nobody's fault, but I worried that politely turning them down would be more difficult than just not responding. (This is a thing I internalised from dating dudes, where polite refusal sometimes leads to YOU'RE NOT THAT HOT ANYWAY YOU UPPITY HO type nonsense.)

For some women I declined to meet up with (or wished I hadn't), really over-the-top gushing compliments and plans for our lives together with puppies/children etc were usually what freaked me out. Also, sending/requesting lingerie photos.

- Are there any strategies that generally seem to work since I so far don't seem to be doing terribly well? Particularly strategies for women-lovin'-women?

Have a friend look at your photos and pick which ones show you in the best light. Try to (subtly!) emulate the photos/bios/messages that you personally find attention-grabbing. Don't give up! It's like a job search; optimism and persistence are helpful. I find that queer-lady social networks are pretty insular, so even if you only manage to make some new friends on OKC you'll still be making inroads into a bigger network of potential relationships.

- My cat has recently been diagnosed with cancer with weeks to live. I am battling what is turning out to be a rather severe episode of depression which began even before that diagnosis. I am on medication, seeing a psychologist, I have learned a lot from previous bouts of depression. Should I even be worrying about dating right now or should I just pull back, focus on getting myself a bit more together and come back to it later?

I'm so sorry :( If dating is a pleasant distraction from your troubles, then go for it, but if it's a chore or if your run of bad luck is making you feel down, come back to it when you're ready.
posted by jaynewould at 12:21 AM on November 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Something to bear in mind is that OKCupid is WAY less popular here in Australia, than it is in the US. US respondents to this questions are almost certainly building their answers around a dating pool that is really, significantly larger.

This is not to say it can't work for you, here. Just that the strike rate will be much lower. Over here, it seems that eharmony and rsvp are much popular, from what my single friends have said. They are not seeking same, however, so your mileage may vary.
posted by smoke at 12:53 AM on November 10, 2013


One quick, late-night thought:

I always check my visitors before I check my messages.

As a rule, I don't respond to people who send me a message before they check my profile, just as I don't respond to people who don't check it all.

That doesn't mean they are awful people, but I'm positive it greatly reduces the number of time-wasters I deal with. (The good messages are never from those people. Ever.)
posted by Room 641-A at 1:08 AM on November 10, 2013


Wait, you're Australian! Pinksofa. In Sydney, at least, definitely Pinksofa (or Brenda or Lesbian Matchmaker) before OKC. Have a look on Meetup as well. I haven't tried eHarmony and I'm not an RSVP fan.
posted by jaynewould at 1:13 AM on November 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


As a rule, I don't respond to people who send me a message before they check my profile, just as I don't respond to people who don't check it all.

Is it even possible to send a message without checking a profile? I can't find how to do that. How do you do it?

I think you're just filtering out the "A-list" users, and the people who have opted to switch off visitor lists.
(If you pay OKCupid's "A-List" subscription fee, one of the extra features is that you don't appear on the visitors list unless you click a "Let them know I visited!" button. If they appear in your list but after they sent a message, that suggests they're A-list. If they don't appear at all, that suggests either they're A-list or they have their visitor list switched off.)

New piece of OKCupid advice: If you are A-List, click the "let them know I visited" button before you send your message, as apparently doing it the other way around can be misinterpreted.

posted by anonymisc at 1:23 AM on November 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


One woman I messaged promptly deleted her profile

Or she decided to block you: a pretty impolite way to say "I'm not interested"
posted by willem at 2:10 AM on November 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Best answer: Another vote for checking out Meetup groups in your area. Meetup lies at a half way point between "waiting for a relationship to fall into my lap" (ie doing nothing) and running the gamut of the full one-to-one dating experience. You can make new friends, build your confidence in talking with strangers and probably have fun; all of which might be a good strategy if you are currently feeling a bit down and fragile.

Your anecdote about the lesbian sheep may be appropriate: The straight person stereotype for online dating sites is that women complain about having to filter through a deluge of largely crappy messages from guys - and guys wonder why the deluge of quick messages they have been dashing off to all and sundry are not winning them the love of their life. In this situation the most obvious advice is to recommend men to choose targets more selectively and women to learn to filter effectively. But men are also often well advised "look for those women who message you first"; and women would often benefit from sending out more messages themselves. You don't sound particularly like you are being a wallflower - but it would probably do you no harm to become a "hunter" more often. Experienced hunters know they often come home empty handed; but they use their failures to improve their strategy - and then set out again the next day.

Finally - if you are staying with OKC then read their blog postings - especially this one about profile photos - and this one too.
posted by rongorongo at 3:14 AM on November 10, 2013


I tried OK Cupid also outside the US as a bi women looking for women and didn't find it helpful at all. I started using Gayvox recently and have found it much better. It is available in Australia too.
posted by ellieBOA at 3:35 AM on November 10, 2013


I'm a cis dude but I've used OKCupid for years, your experience sounds completely normal. Most people will not respond, disappear after a message or two, or send you their number and then never respond to that. It's not worth thinking about too hard, don't take it that seriously and realize that random internet strangers, you included, will probably flake for all kinds of reasons.

What works is sending people real messages that show you read their profile (something you have in common, ask a question so there's something to respond to). Don't get into big, online conversations - if it seems like you have things in common, say so and ask if they want to get a drink within a few messages. Repeat as many times as necessary until you have dates.

Don't take it too seriously, it's just a way to meet new people. You're not going to find your soulmate through an OKC message, and it's not 'bold' to ask someone to meet for a drink.
posted by bradbane at 9:31 AM on November 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think you're just filtering out the "A-list" users, and the people who have opted to switch off visitor lists.
(If you pay OKCupid's "A-List" subscription fee, one of the extra features is that you don't appear on the visitors list unless you click a "Let them know I visited!" button. If they appear in your list but after they sent a message, that suggests they're A-list. If they don't appear at all, that suggests either they're A-list or they have their visitor list switched off.)

New piece of OKCupid advice: If you are A-List, click the "let them know I visited" button before you send your message, as apparently doing it the other way around can be misinterpreted.


You're also filtering out non a-listers (like me!) who make the trade of browsing anonymously for an inability to see our visitors.
posted by Urtylug at 12:39 PM on November 10, 2013


anonymisc: I think you're just filtering out the "A-list" users, and the people who have opted to switch off visitor lists.

Urtylug: "You're also filtering out non a-listers (like me!) who make the trade of browsing anonymously for an inability to see our visitors."

Oh wow, I had no idea that's what was going on. Luckily I haven't needlessly sacrificed otherwise interesting message senders, but I will definitely ignore my own advice in the future.
posted by Room 641-A at 12:25 AM on November 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh wow, I had no idea that's what was going on.

Heh, I think this is a good example actually of why not to take anything personally on online dating! :)
posted by anonymisc at 1:34 AM on November 11, 2013


Response by poster: Thanks to all for your answers. I've decided to disable my profile for the moment, I can always come back to it later when I've got a bit more positive energy. And when I do, I'll have better perspective thanks to you guys!
posted by Athanassiel at 5:23 PM on November 11, 2013


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