Hope me with online dating
June 13, 2018 5:06 PM   Subscribe

After a long, long spell, I finally feel ready to start dating again. I joined a dating site a few days ago, & although I get a fair amount of views, and I message people who seem interesting, I haven’t had much luck attracting someone & very few people respond.

I also have depression & anxiety & I’m starting to feel sort of bad & hopeless about this. I’m reasonably attractive & normal (female, 51). Can someone hope me & help me keep my head on straight? Maybe I’m not ready after all since this is making me anxious.
posted by Klaxon Aoooogah to Human Relations (7 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Online dating is just hard and if any people at all are responding you're doing well. Remember that you don't know the circumstances of the people you're messaging on there. Maybe one of them is thinking they're not ready to date right now, one has met someone but isn't going to delete their profile until they've discussed exclusivity but also doesn't want to go on more dates etc, one thinks you look a lot like a relative of theirs or an ex, one is really only into dating people with a diaper fetish etc...
It's normal (even for young women) to send out messages and not receive many responses and a few days is not long at all. Keep on truckin'
posted by lifethatihavenotlivedyet at 5:24 PM on June 13, 2018 [7 favorites]

Yeah, it takes a while. It took me weeks to find anybody I wanted to meet in person and months before I started corresponding with the woman I wound up marrying. Hang in there and don't let it get you down—it's depressing for everybody until it pays off!
posted by languagehat at 6:00 PM on June 13, 2018 [11 favorites]

A few thoughts:

- A few days ago is not that much time. Really. It's just not. Think of this as a project that may take months rather than days.

- It's likely that you're looking for one person to date (probably not too many more than that), so it's ok if all the people on the website don't message you. You just need one or two. You're not trying to appeal to everyone, you're only trying to appeal to the kind of person you want to date. If you don't get a lot of responses, that means your profile is doing the job of selecting out the people you don't want. That's good.

- Anxiety around online dating is in my opinion pretty normal, but it can help if you can find ways to be lighthearted. Consider seeing this as a chance to meet interesting people and go do stuff you enjoy. Instead of being a place meet "The One", think about what kinds of experiences might be fun. Mini golf? A hike? A nice restaurant? A walk in a park to smell some flowers? Those things aren't a really big deal - just do those things with people.

- People who don't respond to your notes are not worth worrying about. There are a myriad of reasons that they might not respond almost all of which have absolutely nothing to do with you. If there is someone who IS interested, they'll respond.

You're not alone in finding online dating anxiety producing and feeling hopeless or bad about it, but feeling that way doesn't mean that there's anything wrong with you or that you're doing it wrong. It just means that online dating sucks. Keep the faith, it may take a while but it is possible to have fun dates and to meet someone lovely.
posted by mulkey at 6:53 PM on June 13, 2018 [7 favorites]

Which dating site are you using?
posted by Omnomnom at 11:33 PM on June 13, 2018

Best answer: I love this question :)

Fun fact: I wrote the forerunner of OKCupid while I was working for a website called TheSpark.com. It was called SparkMatch and is now defunct, but some of the guys I worked with went on to found OKCupid and based it (loosely) on my work. If you're at all interested in data / statistics, I'd highly recommend the book Dataclysm by my former coworker Christian Rudder. It will give you a lot of insight into how online dating sites work and how people behave on them.

Let me preface this by saying that I'm writing this from the perspective of a straight, cisgender man. You don't mention in your question whether you're looking for men, women or both. I'm reasonably confident that my insights will apply to straight cisgender women. I'm far less certain whether they'll be useful for gay, lesbian or transgender people. You also don't mention which site you're using. I'd be interested to know. Different sites attract people looking for different things, so it's important to find one that matches what you're looking for. I recommend you try several.

I'm going to assume that your goal is to meet someone in real life. That may seem obvious, but it's not. There are a huge number of people on online dating sites who just want to chat online, and have no intention of ever actually meeting the people they chat with. Also, given that you're asking the question, I'm going to assume you're rather serious about this, and are willing to put in a significant amount of effort, time and money to make it work. If not, you may not want to go to the lengths I'll be suggesting below.

To be successful at online dating, you need to understand / accept a few things:

1. First and foremost, online dating sites are about looks. You may not like this, but it's true. This DOES NOT mean that you have to be really good looking to meet someone online. But it does mean that potential matches are going to make their first and most important judgment about you based on your photos, not on anything you write in your profile. So, make sure that your photos look good and are recent. If you can afford it, I highly recommend hiring a professional photographer to take some casual shots that you can use. Also, and this is important, PUT THINGS IN YOUR PHOTOS THAT ARE EASY TO TALK ABOUT IN MESSAGES. It's hard to know what to write to people you don't know, so you need to make this as easy as possible. Have a dog? Great. Post a photo or two of you and your dog. Did you go a trip somewhere exciting? Awesome. Put up a photo of that. I guarantee that people have visited your profile and have wanted to message you, but couldn't think of what to say, so they moved on without writing to you. Fight against this by putting easy conversation starters in your photos.

2. Whether you like it or not, online dating is a numbers game. To find the right person, you will first need to interact with a lot of people who are not the right person. When I was actively online dating, I would get about one reply for every ten messages I sent out. Of those who replied, I would end up going on an actual real life date with maybe one out of ten. In other words, I would have to send about 100 messages for every date I went on. This is not as daunting as it sounds! (More on that later). The point is, if you think that you're going to send a half dozen messages and then meet someone you click with, you need to readjust your expectations. You can meet someone who is a good match online, but it will take work. And closely related to this ...

3. Online dating takes time. A few days? That's far too short a timeframe. I'd recommend you plan to do this for at least 2-3 months before you make any judgments about whether you're succeeding or not. You should absolutely not beat yourself up over the fact that you've haven't gotten many messages after a few days. Like I said above, I had to write a lot of messages for every date I went on, and I had to go on a lot of dates before I met my girlfriend, but now we are very happy together.

4. The text in your profile matters, but not as much as your pictures. As a general rule of thumb, make it 1-2 screens long. Definitely not longer. People do not want to read a novel. Keep it to the point, and like your photos, include things that are easy for people to talk about when they message you.

Now, for some specific recommendations on how you should approach things. Do I guarantee this will work? Of course not. There are no guarantees in life. But it worked for me, and I believe it will work for most people if they keep it up long enough.

1. Set aside time EVERY DAY to log into the site and send messages. First, define what you're looking for. This doesn't have to be super elaborate, just enough for you to search for potential matches. Maybe it's as simple as "male non-smokers within 10 miles of me". Or maybe there are a lot more specifics you care about.

2. Send messages to ten NEW people every day. Not existing conversations. 10 messages to new people you've never interacted with before. Keep these initial messages SHORT, like 1-3 sentences. If they're longer than a tweet, they're too long. If someone is interested in you, they will write back. If they're not, writing more is not going to help. After you message someone new, FORGET ABOUT THEM UNTIL THEY MESSAGE YOU BACK. Do not send them more messages, and do not visit their profile. It's just not worth putting in the emotional effort / investment until you know they're interested.

3. After you've sent messages to new people, reply to any new messages in existing conversations with people you're still interested in. As soon as you decide you are not interested in someone, end the conversation and move on. At this point in the process, it is absolutely not a violation of any sort of etiquette to just stop replying. When you are interested in someone, work to set up a real life date as quickly as possible. The longer you wait, the more chance the person on the other end will disappear / flake out. As other posters have said, this happens for any number of reasons which you should absolutely not blame on yourself.

4. Finally, and this is important, DON'T FIXATE ON INDIVIDUAL PEOPLE. After you've been having conversations for a week or two, you'll inevitably start talking with someone you're interested in, and you'll be tempted to stop sending messages to other people. DON'T DO IT! What will almost certainly happen is that you'll spend a while talking to this one person exclusively, things won't work out, and you'll have to start all over, filling the pipeline again. That's demoralizing, and it may lead you to quit. You haven't made any commitments at this point, and there's nothing wrong with continuing to talk to other people.

One last thing I'll mention as a former online dating insider. Claims that sites can algorithmically match you with a good romantic partner are absolute, 100% unadulterated bullshit. For better or worse, you'll need to do that work yourself :)

Your experiences and feelings are in no way atypical. I can't tell you whether you're ready for online dating. Only you can make that judgement. But what I can tell you is that the fact that you are feeling some anxiety is not, in and of itself, evidence that you are not ready. It's perfectly normal.

Good luck!
posted by tom_r at 4:53 AM on June 14, 2018 [108 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks everyone. I’m on match.com (a couple of people asked, and I’m F looking for M).
posted by Klaxon Aoooogah at 6:37 AM on June 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

I'm in your age bracket, also F looking for M, and spent about a year on OK Cupid (and Tinder a bit). It didn't work out for me (however, meeting people online the old-fashioned way, through nerdy non-dating websites, eventually came through), but I did figure out some stuff that might make your experience a little less stressful.

As a middle-aged divorced woman, I was expecting to find a pool of middle-aged divorced men: basically stable guys who were, I dunno, juggling joint custody or something and looking for a nice calm low-drama kind of relationship. In fact, the men in my age bracket who I managed to make any kind of extended contact with were disproportionately what I generalized vaguely about as "guys who live on boats". Possibly interesting and fun, but people who seemed to have made life-choices that required being permanently single. And a lot of polyamorous men -- nothing against them, but it wasn't what I was looking for and there seemed to be a surprisingly large number.

What clicked for me about that (and this may be super obvious, but I'll say it anyway) is that people who are reasonably looking for steady relationships don't spend long on dating sites -- they find someone and then they disappear. People who are fundamentally casual daters, even if they say they're looking for something long term, stick around the site forever. So the people you run into are going to be wildly disproportionately skewed toward the casual and flaky. (And no judgment on them if they're having fun, of course, it just wasn't really my thing.)

This doesn't mean it's hopeless, of course -- the less flaky people exist, they just don't last as long. But I had a lot of despairing confusion about "Why are all these men so strange -- men I know socially aren't that strange," before I figured out that the flakes are inherently going to be overrepresented, and possibly this will help you through that.
posted by LizardBreath at 8:32 AM on June 14, 2018 [15 favorites]

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