I’m back! Thanks for all the kind words and good thoughts while I’ve been away. The support has meant a great deal to me as I grieve my father’s passing.
Online dating is a real opportunity to be “introduced” to a wide range of people you wouldn’t otherwise meet. One of the most common complaints I hear about online dating, though, is how much time it requires. Readers describe getting caught up swiping on Tinder, only to suddenly realize two hours have gone by. Women on Match can easily spend hours each day looking at profiles, responding to messages, and trying to figure out who to meet for a first date. It’s overwhelming, and it can easily result in a lot of wasted time with little to show for it.
But there’s an even bigger waste of time that women don’t always consider – the time wasted on a bunch of mediocre dates! Last week I caught up with Julia, a coaching client. She recently completed a three-month membership on Match. Like many people, she found that being on the site took up way too much of her time. She actually felt relieved when her three months were up.
After complaining about the online process, Julia told me about the dates she met through Match. In twelve weeks, she went on eleven first dates. She described all of these dates to great comedic effect. Every single one was a bizarre dud.
There was the guy who wanted to do karaoke, then refused to relinquish the mike to someone else. There was the guy who entered the restaurant, met Julia’s eyes, then stood plastered to the spot like a zombie until she got up from the table and walked across to greet him.
One guy walked up to her and said “You’re not my type.” Shortest date ever. Another complained non-stop about his failures, finally saying at the end of the date, “My friends say I should just keep my mouth shut when I’m on a date.” Others were boring, arrogant or rude.
I asked Julia whether any of these men was physically attractive and she said “Not really, no.” Baffled, I wondered why on earth she’d gone on any of these dates. She said she wanted to give guys a chance if they reached out to her. She thought it would say something bad about her if she kept turning guys down.
I think the opposite is true. Aggressive filtering is a necessity with online dating. Because the risk of wasting time and getting frustrated is so high, the only strategy that makes sense is one that quickly discards all the dead wood so that only high potential guys remain. Even in a worst-case scenario where there are no good prospects, you’re still better off than if you went on dates with guys you’re not interested in getting to know.
Here are the real costs you incur when you go on dates with men you’re not excited about:
- It’s tiring. You schlep all over town when you could be relaxing after a day of hard work.
- It costs money. Even if your date picks up the tab, you spend money on clothing, grooming, and transportation.
- It’s awkward. You go on one date and have no interest in another. Now you have to reject someone face to face.
- It’s time consuming arranging dates and logistics.
- It’s discouraging. Going on lots of meh dates makes women feel like there’s no one good out there.
- It’s crowding out the genuinely good prospects.
There are two kinds of strategic filters you should be using in online dating.
Filter #1: Attractiveness
1. It’s OK to be superficial – at first.
People are often quick to judge online dating as superficial because of the profile pics. The swiping apps in particular seem to generate some resentment. Actually, swiping right on a pic is no different than seeing a cute guy across the room at a party. Why is it wrong to prefer to date people you find physically attractive? If you don’t set that standard, you’ll waste a lot of time of men who don’t really interest you.
2. Online dating is about quick judgments.
It’s true that online dating is very focused on looks. Julia worried that if she used that criterion she might miss the Seth Meyers in the bunch – the hilarious but not-gorgeous guy who’s a total catch. But online dating is a short timeline. It’s not designed to get to know someone over time and let attraction build slowly. That’s much more likely to happen at work or in a group activity or social circle.
3. Context is king.
The best strategy is to filter hard for men you find physically attractive, while paying close attention to what his pics say about him. Watch carefully for signs of douchebaggery, like shirtless pics, bathroom mirror selfies and group shots of dudes holding red Solo cups.
Keep in mind that men are wise to what women like – Julia learned on one of her deadly first dates that the guy who called himself “Big Dog Lover” actually had no interest in dogs. He’d borrowed a friend’s dog for a photo op.
4. Other features are part of attractiveness as well.
Filter assortatively for people based on:
- Career and prospects
- Shared values, e.g. religion, politics, etc.
Filter for the traits that are most important to you.
Filter #2: Intentions and Effort
1. Reward thoughtful and well-written profiles.
Dating based on good looks alone is setting the bar very low. Focus on profiles that truly capture your interest – do you want to know more about this man? Go for Wow!
2. Peruse profiles carefully for information about interests, personality and character.
Then consider whether this person makes the first cut for Compatibility. If a guy is super hot but lives 100 miles away, why bother? If he hikes every single weekend and you have vertigo, take a pass. It’s OK to filter people based on race, religion or any other personal preference in dating.
3. Don’t respond to Whassup messages, or any other quick line that the guy probably sent out en masse.
“You have a nice smile” is just plain lazy. And ditch anyone who sends a message with even a whiff of sexual suggestion.
4. Try to get a sense of what the person is looking for.
If they checked “friends” or “casual” they’re not seeking a long-term relationship, even if they checked the LTR box too. Stick to the guys who make it clear they’re available for a relationship with the right person. On the other hand, run from any guy who is trying to make you the mother of his children before you’ve even met.
5. Set the bar high: Strong mutual interest and curiosity.
Remember, the delete button is your friend. Write back only to people who have clearly taken the time to read your profile and craft a message indicating genuine interest.
Insist on quality written exchanges before meeting for a first date. That’s the only way to judge whether there is strong interest and curiosity on your part as well as his.
Online dating is the place where being super picky makes the most sense. If a profile doesn’t really grab your attention, don’t waste your time. And by the way, all the standards you hold others to apply to you as well. Online dating works best, i.e. most efficiently, when everyone filters aggressively.