02 September 2012

A Public Service Announcement -- Part VIII

[The Announcement continues with Part VIII below:]

8.) Mailboxes and Thanksgiving Turkeys

Of the many aspects of your run-of-the-mill dating site, messaging is one thing that always seems to get in everyone’s nerves. And while I’ve covered specific parts of the morass that is messaging other users in some of the above sections, the entire concept as a whole really needs to be articulated. Yes, I will rehash quite a few themes from several of the previous sections—but then again, there are running themes to this whole diatribe.

Let’s start with a fundamental premise: each person who joins any sort of online-dating site is doing so with the intent of meeting other people. Ostensibly, this inherently implies that the purpose of the site is to merely foster and facilitate conversation with the idea that at some point, two given users will talk to each other and meet up somewhere offline.

And as this is Western society we are talking about, some of the older traditions still carry over, such as the expectation that the man make the first move—which sounds quite strange given the push over the last 50 years by women to ensure parity between the sexes in most every facet of life.

Thus, the trend is that men tend to send the messages and women receive. In and of itself, this isn’t really a big deal. Nay, what makes it an issue is that for most men, few women actually bother to reply back. Thus, men are expected to take 100% of the risk of rejection and to literally play numbers games while women sit back and watch their profile mailboxes get stuffed like Thanksgiving turkeys (and many times within mere hours or days).

And as I’ve pointed out earlier, this in turn tends to result in men deciding to send shorter, cruder, and often unabashedly canned “form messages.” Naturally, women like to complain. Yet, it is the actions of much of the female user base that is ultimately to blame.  How and why is this, you might ask.

It’s quite simple, really. And to do this, I’ll take an average guy and present a scenario. Let’s call him Bob. Bob joins your garden-variety “general-purpose” dating site because he would like to be in a relationship with a local girl. Like many sites, it doesn’t cost him anything to join and interact with people.

Often, the scenario unfolds into something like so:

  • Bob reads the profiles of 100 different girls, sends out 100 thoughtful messages during his first month and keeps track as to what happened.
  • From those messages, only about 60 girls visited his profile.
  • Out of those 60, only about 30 sent him any sort of response.
  • Of those 30 replies, only 10 of those lasted more than a couple of replies back-and-forth
  • Out of those ten conversations, four of them said they were interested in meeting up with him offline.
  • Two of those flaked out at the last minute and were no-shows.
  • One of the girls who met up with him neither looked nor acted like she had suggested in her profile and in her messages.
  • The last girl said she wasn’t really that interested in Bob and gave him the classically half-hearted “let’s just be friends” speech. 

Yes, the numbers aren’t scientific. Instead, I’m choosing similar numbers based on experience that I’ve seen as a user and moderator to keep the maths easy. However, it does illustrate the point that I’ve been trying to make here which is that out of the 100 messages that Bob sent, only 4% of them got to the dating level. And while I do realise that few people are going to be universally-attractive to most everybody, the fact remains that men often have to send hundreds of messages and even still it’s very likely he won’t have anything to show for it.

Many guys in Bob’s position eventually figure that taking the time to read your profile and attempt to show some modicum of interest gets them absolutely nowhere. Some will simply give up on Internet dating and write off women online as being spoiled brats lacking in common courtesy. Of those that remain, many will simply look at the situation and rationally adapt—which often means such men will just cut back on the effort they put into reading profiles and sending messages. This often in turn leads to women’s complaints about: offers of sex, one-word messages, and “there aren’t any ‘nice guys’ left” as I’ve articulated earlier.

But there’s more to the story.

Some sites will offer insight as to how often a given user is responding (either free, or as a benefit of paying money to the site). For example, OkCupid uses the “stoplight system” to give other users an idea of how frequently a user responds back with: 

  • Green, meaning they reply most or all of the time
  • Yellow, meaning they reply some of the time (or that they’re somewhat selective)
  • Red, meaning that if they do reply back, it’s rare

As most guys are sending messages and not receiving a lot, one can safely assume that under this system, most men are rated as “green” while most women are rated as “yellow” or “red.”

Often, women will attempt to rationalise or justify their red-light rating on varied grounds, such as by claiming that most of the men who are sending them messages are “creepy,” “looking just for nude pics or sex,” or “are stupid.” Some inevitably think that by doing so, they drive away some of the “creepy men” floating around the site.

Unfortunately, that’s often not the case. I’ve tended to see that in many cases, the fact that the woman has the “red light” didn’t really deter some of the more lewd messages that got flagged. This in turn leads me to suggest that such a “red-light” ranking isn’t driving away the truly nasty men, but rather the polite guys who would otherwise take the time to read your profile and send you a decent message. And as I’ve mentioned, many women complain about the lack of “decent” guys who send “decent” messages. Thus, a self-fulfilling prophecy is formed and executed.

Beyond that though, what the women don’t often pick up is that many men (myself included) have also made assumptions about those with “red lights” or otherwise noted for replying very selectively. The most basic of these is that if a woman is rated as such, she’s probably either: a mean-spirited, overly-picky, and cold bitch who never replies to anybody, or someone who’s purely using the site to self-validate (i.e. give herself an ego-boost). From that, many men assume that such a woman is also selfish and probably won’t put a lot of work into any relationship that does manage to form.

Like many other guys, I subscribe to this and take it one step further: if I see a woman with a rating that suggests she’s very choosy about responding, I will hesitate to send her a message—and even if I do, I often won’t spend a lot of time on such a message.


Let me ask you this: why should I if all the evidence around me is suggesting she’ll probably just delete it without bother reading it? Why should I really exert the time and energy?

The truth is that there’s no reason. There’s no justifiable premise to justify bothering to make even such a small investment.

Yes, there are jerks and perverts on most online-dating sites. The same is true with people at the bar or on the street, or at the local church’s “singles club” meetings. It’s a fact of life. In real-life situations, I would venture you would probably signal some sort of disinterest, and probably make it clear that they should go away. Why not do the same for the e-cads if those truly are the types of guys you’re avoiding? Is it really that difficult to type up “I’m not interested. Please leave me alone.” and then click “Block” or “Report this message” at the bottom?

Again, this depends on whether or not you’re actually being honest on your profile. After all, once the guy clicks “send,” the ball is entirely in her court and he is at her mercy. Finally, it is clear that many (if not most) women have a lot of introspection to do. Will you actually take up the challenge, or will you sit back and continue to act like a spoiled princess and blame the men for making your personal online-dating experience into a ginormous pile of suck?

Think long and think hard. 

Go back to Part VII

Go to Part IX

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