What's up with the one sentence replies? Online dating edition.
February 23, 2015 8:59 PM   Subscribe

Recently I've been trying some online dating. I notice though that not infrequently when I message a guy (or even when I respond to his messages to me!) he'll answer my question but no further - ie won't ask any questions in return. What is this? Should I even bother replying again at that point?

Usually the guy's responses are a sentence or less. So far my thoughts have been he can't be that interested if he can't come up with a question or even elaborate his answer a little. But maybe I am being too quick to judge? Do they really want to keep communicating if they ask me nothing in return? Why not just not respond in the first place?
posted by WinterSolstice to Human Relations (23 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Just my experience: don't waste your time.
posted by greta simone at 9:07 PM on February 23, 2015 [23 favorites]

I've seen this in men who aren't very good with social skills. They're not very good at conversation, or talking to women. It's like they don't get that they have to give you something to be interested in. They don't know what to say without a direct prompt. Not everyone is good in text or online.

See what they're like in person if you can get to a point where that interests you.

I think guys who aren't interested tend not to reply.
posted by stellathon at 9:08 PM on February 23, 2015 [3 favorites]

He's probably not interested. That is what that means in the context of online dating. Another theory: there are people with outstanding social skills, just not in the sphere of online/text-only interactions. If you're like me and you've been chatting with people online for half your life, it is easy to forget that some people literally have never done it before, or simply don't have the knack for text banter. He could be one of those. This advice won't help you decipher the intentions of any given individual who sends you a one-line response, but in the long term keeping it in mind might protect your opinion of humanity from the psychic hammer of online dating.
posted by lefty lucky cat at 9:42 PM on February 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

Here are 4 possibilities:

1) he's just not that into you
2) he might be into you but he's more interested in another person he's chatting with and is waiting to see how that goes while keeping you on the back burner
3) he is dumb
4) he is boring

Do you want to pursue something with any of those 4 guys?
posted by phunniemee at 9:44 PM on February 23, 2015 [34 favorites]

As more of a meta suggestion, though, if this is happing to you repeatedly, try a different approach. People tend to ask and get asked the same dull questions over and over in early dating. Personally it turns me off being on the receiving end of that. I don't want to explain what I do for fun or where I work for the umpteenth time, I want to talk to someone who entertains me.

Personally I like to sidestep that by going full anecdote. Instead of "hey, how was your day?" I'll just start telling the guy about the drunk guy on the train home who was playing the pan flute, never mind that he carries a full size pan flute with him on the train at rush hour. A fun story prompts follow ups and encourages the other person to share fun stories in return.

So if it's not this one guy, and you're often encountering these less than loquacious fellows, you should change your approach.
posted by phunniemee at 9:51 PM on February 23, 2015 [6 favorites]

If he seems worth it "on paper" in other aspects, then it can't hurt to give him a chance. Some of my best dates have been with people with whom I had the worst text/online chemistry, and vice versa. Just try not to read too much into it.
posted by un petit cadeau at 10:33 PM on February 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

I do find someone people write different than they talk. In writing, they are curt and don't express their feelings very much, whereas in person they will go on about something and flow with conversation. That being said, when you're getting to know a stranger online in written communication, it's common sense that you have to make some effort. If you're getting curt replies without any follow-up questions or even some details or a joke, then the guy is probably a dud who doesn't have much to say, or lacks basic social skills. I would try to not stick with online communication too long, but if you can't get past "hello" without getting anything to work with, then I think it's a waste of time.
posted by AppleTurnover at 11:13 PM on February 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

Go with your gut. It can be anything, ranging from "he's not that into you" or "he doesn't use text / email / in-app messaging as a chatty medium". I have had ZERO luck online dating, but I do have many male friends who are horrible at emails (a one-line response five days later) but very good at conversational back and forth. Don't forget that you can also get the insecure types who are desperate to hide their interest!

But the thing is, it's dating - you're there to make a connection. I would cut my losses if I were you.
posted by Ziggy500 at 2:55 AM on February 24, 2015

I think this just goes with the territory. Online dating is notorious for flakers and no-shows. It could be worse. I've been stood up by dates on OkCupid when I tried it years ago. At least these guys have the decency to stand you up in text.
posted by deathpanels at 3:33 AM on February 24, 2015

I don't know what site you are on, but OkCupid (and maybe others) shows an indicator of how often someone responds to messages (something like: green = often, orange = sometimes, red = selectively). So you could read the one line back as 'uninterested but I don't want to look like I never respond to people in case that puts other people off contacting me'.
posted by AnnaRat at 3:53 AM on February 24, 2015 [4 favorites]

I've noticed this too since I started online dating again. My theory is that there are many people who now only access the site through their phone, and treat the site's email feature like text message. It's annoying and possibly an indication that when the acquaintance progresses they're going to except to have those pointless text 'conversations' rather than actual conversations so I gladly move on from these people.
posted by frobozz at 4:17 AM on February 24, 2015 [4 favorites]

I wouldn't bother responding to a one line reply that doesn't further the conversation or prompt for a reply.

I've gotten this a few times (I don't send a lot of messages because I've just never had much luck initiating on ok cupid) and my gut reaction was always the guy wasn't particularly interested but was being polite. Guys don't get tons of messages like women so I think most have not had to adopt the somewhat cutthroat approach women do of generally only replying very selectively in order to make the sheer volume of spammy messages manageable.
posted by whoaali at 4:41 AM on February 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

some sites mark a person as likely or unlikely to reply based on how many messages they write back to. if you write back with one sentence it makes you look approachable "writes back all the time" versus "rarely replies"
posted by zdravo at 5:23 AM on February 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

When I did okcupid my theory was that they didn't like me. It didn't want to be rude. I got it not infrequently from guys I messaged and it never went anywhere with any of them. I wouldn't wase your time with them.
posted by SpaceWarp13 at 5:42 AM on February 24, 2015

Another perspective: I used to do this on okcupid (I'm female, though). What it meant when I did it is that the person's profile had enough in it that made me want to write back, but that I really hate the common conversation format of online dating messages and just couldn't bear to do it: "Question about thing in profile" "Answer about thing in profile, question about thing in profile" "answer about thing in profile, question about thing in profile." It always felt artificial and stagnant to me, as though people were asking questions to a stranger just for the sake of asking further questions that, if answered to satisfaction, would lead to the question of whether there should be a date, which yes, I realize is what was going on, but I hated it--why not just ask the questions on the date itself. Did a person really have to know how long I'd been kickboxing to know whether he wanted to meet me? "One year--no way, that's not enough kickboxing, next." I probably should have explained this, but that would have made me sound nuts, and sounding nuts is something I'm more comfortable with on metafilter nowadays than on okcupid years ago.

Instead of asking questions, have you considered just sending some sincere comments and a request for a date? Like "I noticed you listed x, y, and z as things you like. I like them too. I laughed at the part of your profile that said x. Would you like to meet up for a drink?" Or say a few things you liked about the profile, and then note how you are similar to what the profile says it is looking for. That is what manmillipede did*, and it was the best of all okcupid messages, and now he lives the ultimate prize of being manmillipede.

In my profile, I wrote that I was the only girl on okcupid that seemed to prefer short men to tall men, and that I prefer intense people to "laid back" people. He wrote to me that he was short and not the least bit laid back, so would I like to go for a drink sometime, and to this day, we joke that this pretty much sums him up as a person
posted by millipede at 6:37 AM on February 24, 2015 [13 favorites]

There might be two slightly different things going on, here.

When you message a guy first, and get a short answer, nthing that this is most likely "polite disinterest." (Speaking as a guy who has, erm, done this in the past.) You've stumbled on dudes who are polite/nice enough to think, "Geez, this person went to the trouble of contacting me, I shouldn't just leave 'em twisting in the wind" but who aren't interested in you for whatever reasons. If they were interested there would be more of an attempt at starting a conversation by asking you questions in return, or mentioning something in your profile, so on and so forth. (And seconding whoaali in that us guys tend to not get inundated with messages (or horrible reactions to expressions of polite disinterest), so sending a politely disinterested reply isn't much of an effort, generally.)

When you respond to a guy's message and get a short answer in return, it could be polite disinterest, or it could be that dude is just fairly clumsy at conversation in text and/or in general. I suppose you could take another look at their profile to see if you think it might possibly be worth taking another whack at the conversation, but if you would rather just figure, "Nah, this guy is a dud" and move on, I don't think anyone here could say you're doing it wrong.
posted by soundguy99 at 6:48 AM on February 24, 2015

When I (female) have done this, it's been 100% because I'm not repelled enough to be uninterested, but I'm also not interested enough to invest much effort, so I play the line out a bit and see if they save or hang themselves with it (...but I should probably avoid that if I go back to online dating in the future - I don't think anyone ever did rescue themselves from the pit of indifference).

Alternatively, I could easily imagine that some people have poor social skills, aren't really used to the norms of online dating messaging, or just disagree with that style of conversation. I'd strongly suspect that this group is smaller than the first, but you could theoretically miss a gem if you ignore it. If you want to take a chance on them, you could just ask them out directly as soon as conversation stagnates like that. The only downsides are a decent chance of rejection and wasting your time meeting someone who might not be that interested, but if you're fine with that, why not?
posted by randomnity at 9:12 AM on February 24, 2015

When I did online dating I perceived it as not interested, or lacking social skills. When a guy is interested he would ask more questions or ask to meet right away.
posted by bluehermit at 10:02 AM on February 24, 2015

So far my thoughts have been he can't be that interested if he can't come up with a question or even elaborate his answer a little.

Yes! This is correct. Hold out for a dude who is like, "Wow, a hot lady just messaged me! I want to get to know her further. Let me ask a follow up question." And keep sending out messages to the men you like. Be strong!
posted by mermily at 1:19 PM on February 24, 2015 [2 favorites]

I've just gone on a few dates with someone who asks great questions, remembers my answers, with whom I can talk and laugh with for hours and not get bored or run out of things to say . . . in person.

If we hadn't jumped straight to meeting after 2 or 3 short messages, and had started texting or something first, I would have thought he is the most boring person on the face of the planet. He's just not a texter/messager.

In general, my goal in online dating is to meet them in person as soon as possible -- that's how you know if there is anything really there.
posted by hrj at 1:24 PM on February 24, 2015

Speaking as a guy back in the world of online dating, I'll just say that I'm very chatty when given the opportunity and I ask questions back to keep the conversation going. Even my initial contact messages have a question or two to try and spark some interest. It's rare that I hear back though and I've been told to be less talkative, but it just seems to me that being short-answered is a death knell for online dating. Maybe the intent is to sound too cool for school, but I think that reads as being bored or disinterested.
posted by Servo5678 at 2:57 PM on February 24, 2015

Reading this thread is a revalation to me. I have tend to "chat" and not send long email style replies. I had no idea it was expected that one would write out long replies.

I always guessed that long replies and detailed messages would come off as too eger or trying too hard.

And then there's the fact I try to talk with someone first before asking for the date. I assume that's the prefers thing since so many joke about the "you're hot wanna fuck?" Openers.

All of this explains my frustration with online dating. I feel like I'm good at conversation, but have no idea on how to pick up on social cues in chat. And now I know there are unstated social standards for messaging. Why do they present it as a chat interface then?
posted by OwlBoy at 2:37 AM on March 7, 2015

I think ok cupid has tried to encourage chatting but in reality people aren't usually online at the same time so if you are sending one line messages back and forth, a simple conversation could drag out for weeks. Most people will rightly abandon anything that drags out slowly for weeks without meeting. I don't consider a long initial message to be too eager. If anything it shows that the guy isn't mass messaging people and has actually read my profile. If you send a thoughtful email and have a good profile, then asking someone out after the second or third message is totally fine. You want to avoid becoming penpals and building up expectations, which inevitably happens when you have a prolonged exchange.

Usually if people want to chat they exchange numbers and text. I find talking on the phone to a stranger to be super awkward, but that may be more a matter of my personal preference.
posted by whoaali at 8:46 PM on March 8, 2015

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