The Etiquette of Online Dating
December 2, 2014 9:59 AM   Subscribe

I probably should have done some research first but I signed up for and OkCupid and am now kind of overwhelmed with contact. (This is not a request for a profile critique!)

Is it considered poor etiquette to not respond to messages that a guy obviously put some thought into, if I am not interested in meeting him? Or should I just ignore?

Likes on okcupid - are these like winks on Surely if someone was interested they would just send a message?

Any other general tips would be good. This is way harder than I thought it would be.
posted by pintapicasso to Human Relations (25 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Is it considered poor etiquette to not respond to messages that a guy obviously put some thought into, if I am not interested in meeting him? Or should I just ignore?

It's fine. Really, it's fine. Your time is not unlimited, and you have no obligation to respond to every single message you get, just like you don't have to accept a drink from every guy who offers you one in a bar.

If the message is really great but you just don't see it working, there's no reason NOT to respond with a "hey thanks for this great message but I'm not interested" - I do this sometimes - but it's 100% ok to not respond.

Likes on okcupid - are these like winks on Surely if someone was interested they would just send a message?

Likes on OKCupid are, for me, the equivalent of saving someone for later. I'm not gonna message every person I think is cool right away, because then I'll wind up juggling 10 conversations at once. So I might go through and fave a bunch of people and then message them later on.

It's also useful because, when two people like each other, they both get a message about it. This can be the little push needed to turn a 'maybe' into a 'totally.'
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:07 AM on December 2, 2014 [7 favorites]

The common etiquette is to ignore if you're not interested (the theory being that replying to say that you're not interested only invites argument). If the guy argues anyway, that's his problem.
posted by Melismata at 10:08 AM on December 2, 2014 [3 favorites]

Also, a lesson I had to learn is that it's totally ok to take a break from OKCupid. Say you line up two dates and that's all you really want to juggle for a week or two, and you keep seeing new messages come in and it's stressing you out - totally deactivate for a little while! You can always come back. Failing to do this ALWAYS results in total burnout for me.
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:08 AM on December 2, 2014 [3 favorites]

I only reply to people I actively want to meet in person. Period.

I ignore all likes, winks, pokes, and what have you.

I'm not sure that these are The Done Thing, but they have worked for me.
posted by Sara C. at 10:10 AM on December 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

Hi, internet dating veteran here. It is ok, etiquette-wise, to ignore any messages, even long ones. It may seem impolite but the world of online dating is full of such things. It seems to be better to ignore rather than reply with a "sorry, but you're unappealing to me." A "like" is a way for a person to say "I like you; check out my profile, and if you like it, send me a line/like me back, and then we'll chat." Likes/winks are a way to cast a wide net without investing a bunch of time writing long emails that might get ignored (see: above).
My biggest piece of advice is to meet in person as soon as you can. And treat those first dates as sort of pre-dates; keep them low-pressure, just meeting for a coffee or a drink or an ice cream, or a walk around the park if you'd rather. That way you can extend the date if it's going well, or cut it short-ish if it's not. If the other person asks you for a second date and you don't want one, the standard response is something like, "I had a nice time meeting you, but I just don't feel the connection/chemistry I'm looking for." Note: you may be on the receiving end of this. That is ok, and doesn't mean you're unattractive or weird or whatever -- for all you know, the other person decided to get back together with their ex, or they decided to move to Austin, or whatever. Or, you remind them too much of their sister/ex/mom. My point: Don't take it to heart.
Good luck! It's a weird experience, but it made me really good at talking to people I don't know.
posted by chowflap at 10:11 AM on December 2, 2014 [16 favorites]

Seconding that you should free to ignore any message you like. I don't think there is any stigma.

My only general suggestion if you are new to online dating entirely is that if you are messaging back and forth with someone and you think that you could be into them, I would try to meet them in person as soon as possible for a quick coffee or something similar. This is not a date, it's a meet-up. It's just making sure you still click when you are both away from the computer screen. Then you can ask each other out for reals.
posted by AndrewInDC at 10:12 AM on December 2, 2014 [3 favorites]

Yep, totally okay to ignore people whom you're not interested in. Don't think of it as a cocktail party or a bar. You're not turning a cold shoulder to them, which would be rude. Instead, think of it as going through resumes. They're applying for the position you've advertised (significant other). An employer doesn't call every resume that comes across their desk, right? I know it sounds cold, but that's kinda what putting a profile online is like. You have to sift through the chaff to get to the grain.
posted by patheral at 10:15 AM on December 2, 2014 [3 favorites]

Hi there! I've done internet dating in the past and learned a lot about people and human behavior. There are general "etiquette" rules that are accepted within the online community. Here are some I can think of:

No need to answer all the emails you get. First, it's probably not possible. Second, it likely sends an implicit message that you "might" be interested with encouragement. Been there and ended up with "stalkers". Only answer the emails of people you are interested in.

From my experience as a female, I ignored winks. It might sound unfair, but something about them conveys a lack of confidence. Or indecision. There is a bit of a double standard here, where men seem to be more open to receiving them. I think of it as the equivalent of a woman at a bar smiling at a guy and then looking away. Since a lot of women (especially older ones) are used to men making the first move, they can be reluctant to send the first email as well. So sometimes a wink is a nudge to a guy that you're interested and wouldn't mind him sending an email. It works.

Do not follow up unanswered emails with another to verify that your first one got lost in the shuffle. It didn't- even the hottest men online get far less emails than women, so if you emailed him, he read it. If he doesn't answer he's not interested, so best to block him and move on.

I would spend as little time as possible emailing someone and try to take it offline sooner than later. Avoid sharing too much personal information and connecting too much virtually. More often than not, people who connect too quickly and too often over email build up expectations in their head, only to be let down. Use email to get acquainted and a general idea of the person, but if you don't meet in real life within a week or two, block them and move on.

The first time you meet is not a real date, it is a "meet up". So I would make it brief (an hour perhaps) and limited to coffee and/or drinks. I prefer coffee since you both won't get too uninhibited, but there's nothing wrong with a drink or two if you prefer. I would just keep it casual - if there are sparks you'll know and if not, you can escape fast.

Good luck out there and have fun with it!
posted by Tallula at 10:39 AM on December 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

Agreed there is no need to follow up with emails from folks you're not interested in. When I was doing online dating, I would sometimes reply with a "Sorry, not interested, good luck!" and sometimes not, and I think it's totally fine to do either depending on your bandwidth.

Also agreed that it's best to move things off-line as quickly as possible.

And finally, this is not an ettiquette thing, but I always recommend to women to reach out and contact guys they are interested in rather than waiting for them to come to you. I (and many of my friends) had much better luck this way, and I think it helps you feel a little more in control of the experience. Plus, because guys receive less messages overall, it helps you stand out.
posted by rainbowbrite at 10:47 AM on December 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

Many guys engage in the 'spray and pray' technique on okcupid, etc, so they don't care if you don't respond.

I would say if I guy obviously spent some time writing a message to you personally, it's worth your time to carefully consider responding to him, but you by no means are obligated to. And if you're just swamped with carefully thought out messages, then prune them on whatever arbitrary metric you like.
posted by empath at 10:49 AM on December 2, 2014

Its not uncommon to not respond to someone who sends you a message... but if someone put some thought into it, you know, it's nice to give them a response and let them know you're not interested. Not required, but it's nice.
posted by JimBJ9 at 11:11 AM on December 2, 2014

No, absolutely do not send a response saying you are not interested. That's way, way worse than not responding.
posted by empath at 11:14 AM on December 2, 2014 [6 favorites]

Nthing feel free to ignore messages. It's one the best parts of online dating. Sending a "thanks but no thanks" message could come off as a mixed signal, actually.
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:18 AM on December 2, 2014

(Not that it necessarily should, but it very easily could.)
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:19 AM on December 2, 2014

Likes on okcupid - are these like winks on Surely if someone was interested they would just send a message?

Well, no. There are different routes to "likes" on OkCupid, and they don't all involve knowing the profile name of the person being liked. (From the fact that you apparently do know who's "liked" you, I infer that you have a paid membership. I'm pretty sure most people there don't.)
posted by Shmuel510 at 12:18 PM on December 2, 2014

i have a lot of things to say about online dating but that's mostly because it turns out i'm REALLY GOOD AT IT.

if you think someone sounds cool, then message them back. if you don't think someone sounds cool, then don't. don't feel bad about it. that person is not going to swear off dating forever because you didn't respond to their 'sup girl' message, even if it's like 6 paragraphs long.

everyone does online dating a little differently, and there's no right way to do it. i'm personally pro-sending messages first because real talk: girls get swamped with messages online, dudes don't. if you want to meet up with a dude, then make that clear. don't wait for him to send you a message. YOU send a message.

likes and winks or whatever, that's fine. i think a lot of that is from mobile browsing. a lot of people are too shy to make a bold first move like sending a message (which is honestly ridiculous, ok, but some people are), but they want to open up some channel of communication. if you don't like that, then don't respond to it.

most importantly, and my biggest piece of advice: have fun. it's supposed to be fun. go out, have drinks, have dinner, do cool things in your town, hold hands, kiss on street corners, text until 2 am and you fall asleep grinning under the covers. the people i know who routinely complain about how much they "hate dating" are the people who put pressure on every date and spend lots of time overthinking it. don't do that. just go.

also, you know, public places for the first couple dates and all that. make sure someone knows where you're going to be. if you go home with someone, text their address to a friend. i used the "yo" app for this method when i went out - at 10:30 pm on date nights, i had to yo my designated check-in partners so they would know i was alive and hadn't been abducted or murdered. you do you, though.
posted by kerning at 12:28 PM on December 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

Is it considered poor etiquette to not respond to messages that a guy obviously put some thought into, if I am not interested in meeting him? Or should I just ignore?

I'm a 33-year-old man who uses OKCupid. If I send you a message and you know you're not going to be interested in meeting me, please ignore my message!

You won't be doing me any favors by using up my time having a conversation that seems like it might be going somewhere but really isn't. That is bad for everyone. It's bad for me and you because it wastes our time. And it's ultimately bad for someone else out there who you might have been interested in, but who you didn't get the time to talk to because you were too busy copying-and-pasting rejection messages to a bunch of other people.

You also won't be doing me any favors by sending a message stating that you're not interested in me. I'll just end up feeling bad for no reason. If you hadn't responded, I probably would have forgotten I had sent the message, so I wouldn't have felt bad or good about it. Allowing people to be in a neutral state is better than spreading negative feelings to masses of strangers. Even if I notice your lack of response, I can tell myself it could be because you're busy, or you met someone else. Telling me "Hey, just so you know, I don't like your profile enough to give you any other response than this!" is pointless. (Of course, I'm talking about the usual case, where someone sends you exactly one nicely written message. For instance, what I've said would not be applicable if there's one person is annoying you with multiple messages and you want to get them to stop.)

Again: please completely ignore my messages on OKCupid if you're not interested in me!

As for getting too many messages on OKCupid, try filtering by match percentage.

Any other general tips would be good. This is way harder than I thought it would be.

If you have other questions about online dating, I recommend posting some more specific questions to AskMetafilter next week.
posted by John Cohen at 1:11 PM on December 2, 2014 [5 favorites]

The consensus here to ignore messages from people you aren't interested in is 100% right on. But that doesn't mean you won't get shitty emails from dudes who think you owe them a reply. Just know that they are violating etiquette, not you.
posted by mullacc at 1:54 PM on December 2, 2014 [4 favorites]

Nthing no need to reply to a message if you aren't interested.

I also want to mention that sometimes after some duration with no reply to his message, a guy might send another message about you being rude or whatever. Don't let this behavior compel you to replying to every message! Ignore this too, and pat yourself on the back for avoiding a guy who gets aggressive when he doesn't get what he wants when he wants it.

On preview, ditto mullacc....
posted by nicodine at 1:56 PM on December 2, 2014 [4 favorites]

From the fact that you apparently do know who's "liked" you, I infer that you have a paid membership.

At some random point, OkCupid started telling me exactly who was "liking" me. No paid membership. I hadn't "liked" any of them. (I don't remember "liking" anyone, actually.) They just started showing up in my email Inbox.

Perhaps it's one of those experiments that OkCupid likes to do on their users.
posted by clawsoon at 2:57 PM on December 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

If you are getting overwhelmed by messages, try taking down all your photos. The messages will slow to a trickle or maybe a standstill. If you want to initiate a message to someone new at that point, just include a link to a flickr set of the photos you had in your profile. Or if you want to reopen the door to another mini flood of interest, put the photos back in your profile.
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 3:13 PM on December 2, 2014

If you are getting overwhelmed by messages, try taking down all your photos.

Except then the OP won't be able to see anyone else's photos.
posted by John Cohen at 3:35 PM on December 2, 2014

Also, if you remove all your photos, you'll get very few messages, which might sound like what you want — but they'll be from the most desperate men. The most desirable men have no need to message anyone who doesn't have a photo.

It isn't good enough to just reduce the number of messages you get; you want the remaining messages to be good ones. Using the match-percentage filter is likely to make that happen. It isn't perfect or precise — it'll filter out some good messages and leave some bad ones — but it's at least going in the right direction. If you change your profile to make it less desirable, you'll be going in the wrong direction — toward less desirable men.
posted by John Cohen at 3:53 PM on December 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

As someone who has semi-deliberate bad profile photos on a few dating sites, I will reiterate that no photos or photos that don't clearly depict you (a closeup of your eye, the back of your head, whatever gimmicky shit people are doing these days) result in bad messages, not no messages.
posted by Sara C. at 4:08 PM on December 2, 2014

photos that don't clearly depict you (a closeup of your eye

Also, that kind of thing is prohibited on OKCupid. Photos without you in the picture, or with just an extreme closeup of one body part like an eyeball, should get deleted.
posted by John Cohen at 4:28 PM on December 2, 2014

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