09 September 2012

A Public Service Announcement -- Part X

[The Announcement continues below with Part X:]

10.) It’s not “Where’s the Beef?” but “Where’s the Dialogue?”

While I have touched on messaging and conversation people over the last nine parts in varying depths, two parts of this issue alone deserve their own part. So, to get to this point, let’s recap what I’ve said previously:
  • In Part I, I noted that the furtive lack of “good” messages is in part attributable to the trends in messaging. Specifically, I mentioned that along with many women showing off their boobs in their profiles, many guys have rationally decided to focus on extremely short messages, or those inquiring about sex as a result.
  • Part II brought up the point that you more than likely are receiving decent messages but the chances of you rejecting them based on arbitrary and/or unreasonable criteria (e.g. “he’s obviously not MY Prince Charming!”) is rather high.
  • Part IV asks the question of why a guy should make an effort to message you if all you ultimately give on your profile is something like “if you want to know more, ask me”
  • Part VI discusses in a little more detail the issue of sexually-laced messages in particular, and why even though guys sending it are boors, you really should reply with something, even if it’s “No thanks. I’m not interested” 
  • All of Part VIII, which expands in greater on most of the concepts illustrated previously, particularly in Parts I, II, and IV.  
Building on this framework, I am now going to shift the focus in this part towards conversation, and eventually communicating and meeting offsite. After all, this is the ostensible purpose of being on an online-dating site, and the implied raison d’être for having a profile on any of these sites. The site itself is ostensibly meant to facilitate an easy-to-use means to view and talk to a wide variety of people such that one can winnow down through conversation and find some people to meet up with, which in turn is designed such that a person can sift through those and find one compatible person to engage in a stable relationship.

It thus stands to reason that there are characteristics to communication through messaging that either confirms or refutes the basic hypothesis a guy has when he communicates with any woman via Internet dating and receives some sort of reply back: “There exists some modicum of mutual interest.”

And, like many of the other finer things in life, communication is a two-way street that necessarily requires both directions to function properly. In the context of social-media sites in general, this principle implies that both people need to be putting in effort—communication doesn’t work if one person is driving everything.

Here’s an example: the idea of asking questions about each other as a method to acquaint oneself with the other person. This I believe is quite an effective method, provided:
  • each person provided at least some variety of interests, likes/dislikes, hobbies, info on what they do (such as for work or school), and
  • Both people involved are asking each other questions
Naturally, the base premise is that the sender (let’s be frank, 95% of the time this is going to be the guy, assuming a straight relationship) asks a couple of introductory questions based on your profile. You reply, and ideally ask a couple of things for them to answer. Ideally, this is supposed to at some short-term point lead to some sort of positive conversation that you and him can engage in. This in turn is meant to branch out and lead towards communication offsite and seeing each other.

The method fails if either party involved simply only answers the questions or otherwise doesn’t give some sort of indicator that they want to either elaborate on the conversation or switch topics to something they feel might be mutually-interesting or germane to the thread. In my experience both as a user and a moderator (on one of these sites), this often tends to manifest itself when one person’s messages are routinely several times longer than the others. And usually, it’s the guy’s messages who’s longer while the woman tends to write a short blurb.

Some would argue that this indicates disinterest. In some situations, I would agree. However, people cannot read your mind, and you need to make your thoughts and feelings known. Don’t be afraid to say “Can we talk about something else, like [insert topic here]?” or “The conversation’s been good, but I don’t think we’re going to be compatible.”

Topics are another concern, and if one is to assume what topics are kosher for conversation right away, it would be wise to figure conservatively. One can use their profile to drop subtle and obvious hints about what a prospective suitor can bring up in a conversation. However, one should take caution about indicating anything regarding previous relationships, sex, and/or any activities that tend to be seen as illegal or immoral. A lot of guys tend to assume that if they see stuff related to those things (i.e. profile text saying that you’re “420 friendly” or posting risqué pictures of yourself), that itself implies to many guys that such topics are ‘fair game’ to discuss.

If one truly is an open-book and doesn’t mind discussing literally anything with anybody, then one can put the “ask me anything and I’ll answer” line on their profile. A lot of you do that, and then complain when men who send you messages inquire about intimate details. That’s not to say that the guy’s in the right for asking you about your favourite sexual position or if you’ll send nude pictures to him right away. Rather, it indicates that you’re not handling the situation in a mature manner.

Chances are you’ll get such men messaging you (if you haven’t already). If you’re not willing to discuss certain topics, then you really need to either put it in your profile, or if in the course of conversation something like that comes up, let the other person know that you’re uncomfortable talking about that subject and that when you’re ready and feel it’s appropriate, you’ll bring it up in conversation with them. In other words, you need to be assertive because the guy at the other end probably does not have the acute capability of reading your mind.

It is of course prudent to remember that things change, and as you get to know someone, you are working on building trust with them, and they with you. Thus, one can say there is a continuum of acceptability that depends on what point one is at with respect to the bond. For example, a guy asking about your breast size out of the blue in his introductory message, or shortly thereafter is quite rude. 
However, if you’ve been dating him for a bit and have went out with him several times already and haven’t previously told him, his asking you about it isn’t likely going to be a big deal. 

Both you and him have the equal and irrevocable right to end communication at any time for any reason. However, both he and you have equal and reciprocal responsibilities while that communication is taking place, namely: 
  • communicating your needs and thoughts clearly to the other person
  • not deliberately trying to engage in tactics, topics, and other means that you know (or at least have good reason to think) that will upset, harass, or intimidate the other person involved.
The basic principle I mentioned at the start of this part says that by properly communicating with other people, one should be able to find people to meet up with offline. Remember that this only works if you’re actually meeting a variety people and talking to them—and isolating yourself by limiting replies tends to defeat that principle. Clearly if your mailbox gets a lot of messages (as implied in the previous parts), the guys are making the efforts and the majority of them are probably doing it in good faith.

The question thus becomes: are you making good-faith efforts towards guys who show you respect? And that is something only you can definitively answer. 

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