Emma Watson identifies as a feminist, and that’s ok.

I start from a starting point of being critical of the feminist label.

I’ve written before about how I don’t identify as a feminist (amongst other things).

I don’t buy the argument that ‘feminism is simply a set of political beliefs that encompass advocating equality between the sexes’. If it were, whether one identifies as a feminist or not, wouldn’t be controversial, as it was when Meryl Streep said that she doesn’t identify as a feminist.

I would say that any argument that dismisses the personal identity aspect of the feminist label (like this Jezebel argument does) , is a No True Scotsman fallacy. 

In my experience of online dating, in particular on OKCupid (which tends to have a more political and pro-kink ambience than Tinder) it’s common to see the label feminist used, or even specific mentions that ‘I only want to date feminists’.

In one of my OKCupid profiles, I mentioned that I think there’s a cult-like pressure to conform – to adopt the feminist label. I think that attitude is reflected in the Jezebel article I mentioned.

What I’m critical of here, is the pressure to adopt the label and associated political beliefs at the expense of critical political reasoning.

So that’s my starting point – I’m critical of pressure to adopt the feminist label.

With that starting point, let’s take a step back and look at someone who arguably is the world’s most famous contemporary feminist – Emma Watson.

emmawatson

Emma Watson has been an outspoken proponent of feminism, notably being the UN Women Goodwill ambassador and creating a feminist book club.

Emma Watson is in a position of influence. If her statements identifying as a feminist, as well as her actions, inspire or enable women around the world to be more empowered then that’s a good thing. Emma Watson has the position of a role model – in this case encouraging women to be empowered women, which I can only see as a good thing.

I see this as the same kind of goodness as if Emma Watson spent her efforts advocating healthy eating (like Michelle Obama has done) or encouraging people to get in to tech.

If then, it’s ok for Emma Watson to identify as a feminist – I don’t think it’s any different for a woman on OKCupid. A woman on OKCupid identifying as a feminist may either empower other women reading her profile, or influence men reading her profile to respect empowered women.

I’m still critical of dogmatic feminist attitudes, but sending loud feminist social signals, in itself, I don’t think is a bad thing.

Sending costly signals.

http://joss7.deviantart.com/art/Virtual-Rose-170342184

In my last post I outlined why in online dating, a guy might send generic easy-to-write messages to scope out a girl’s interest before investing more effort in the conversation.

The problem with these messages is that the message is likely to get lost in the noise of all the other low cost messages.

The opposite approach is the utilise the sending of costly signals. 

Paul Oyer outlines this dynamic in his book Everything I ever needed to know about economics, I learned from online dating.(My review here).

Costly signals allow a potential match to differentiate themselves from the rest of the competition.

Costly signals can be used in other matching markets. An example Oyer uses, is Google who recieves more than two million job applications a year needs some way to filter through the candidates to decide who to begin interviewing. Google is obviously a desirable place to work, and the cost for a college graduate, regardless of their technical skill level, to send Google their CV is minimal. One way Google could filter applications, is to require applicants attach a $10 application fee. For the lower skilled applicants this would make applying for the job too costly, while for candidates who stand a reasonable chance of being employed, the potential benefits of working for Google make the fee worthwhile. Paying the $10 fee effectively signals ‘My cost-benefit analysis determines that I’m of sufficient skill level that I have a reasonable chance of you employing me’.

A different costly signal Google could require would be completing a challenging coding exercise.

The idea of a $10 application fee leaves a bad taste in our mouth, and there are all sorts of reasons that Google might choose not to use this method of filtering (A coding exercise probably being a lot more effective), but this example gives a good starting point for thinking about costly signals.

Oyer mentions an experiment done in South Korea, where participants took part online dating market and were randomly assigned between two and eight virtual roses, which they could elect to attach to messages to show special interest. The study found that the virtual roses had little effect in eliciting responses from the most attractive in the dating pool, but were much more likely to elicit if sent to those in the mid-range of attractiveness.

Tinder has recently added a such a costly signal function. Users are a single ‘super like’ each day . The super like always shows a notification to receiver and gives them an option to then like back.

This completely changes the game for Tinder. For attractive girls on Tinder, it’s common that every right swipe they make will result in a match. Because super likes are so limited they are likely to be a much rarer form of validation. Tinder’s research shows that people are three times more likely to respond to the a super like. While users are allotted only one super like per day, they have the option of paying for additional super like. This is clever monetisation by Tinder – it’s not intrusive as well as providing a service that has real value.

Paul Oyer suggest another form of costly signalling – attaching donations to charity to messages. A user could send a message and also have the option of making a donation to charity when he sends the message. When the recipient receives this message they fact of their donation is highlighted. What this shows is that the guy is so willing to talk to the person that they’re willing to spend money to get their attention. I think this would be very effective on a dating site like OkCupid, which in my impression has a high percentage of left leaning politically engaged women, who are likely to appreciate the idea of giving to charity.

I personally would use such a service, and I’d be willing to pay a 10% fee to the dating site for the service. I’d be willing to pay up to $5 a message. I donate to charity anyway, and so any amount that I’m paying via a dating service serves as a double use of money, I’m buying both the feeling of goodwill for donating to charity, as well as buying a (hopefully) effective costly signal.

Low-cost strategies

Source: http://winningattinder.tumblr.com/
Source: http://winningattinder.tumblr.com/

A common complaint women have in online dating, is that men send them messages that ‘aren’t trying’. Messages like ‘Hey, how are you?’ or ‘DTF [down to fuck]?’.

Sending these kinds of messages are what I call a low-cost strategy.

On the flip side – it can be frustrating (and time consuming) for a guy to craft out a personalised first message that addresses the girl’s profile, only to receive no response. Remember there are potentially dozens of girls in the dating pool that he might consider dating matches, and he doesn’t necessarily have the time or the inclination to craft out messages to each one individually. From his point of view, it makes sense for him to prioritise putting effort into messages where there’s some level of reciprocal interest.

A low-cost strategy is sending a first message requires little effort, time, or emotional investment, and waiting to see if it gets a response. A more sophisticated low-cost strategy is to create a template message that one simply copy and pastes to every person they’re interested in talking to. For example off the top of my head a message like ‘Hey! You look really interesting and fun to talk to! How are you finding the online dating game?’ This message could be tweaked and tailored as the guy works out what works and what doesn’t.

What’s advantageous about this strategy from a guy’s perspective is the initial low cost of initiating contact and starting a conversation. If the girl replies the message then it’s an indication that she’s read his profile and she has some level of reciprocal interest, making it worthwhile for the guy to now put investment into the conversation.

The content of the first low-cost message also serves a self selection filter for the kind of person you’re wanting to talk to. Email scammers use this strategy – email scams are intentionally written in broken English and in a way that’s fairly obvious it’s a scam. This serves to filter out the people who are too smart to fall for the scam. The scammer doesn’t want to waste their time corresponding with people who will eventually work out it’s a scam and not follow through. So instead the write the email in a way such that only people who are stupid enough to fall for the scam, reply to the email in the first place.

This is essentially what ‘DTF’ messagers are doing.  They’re not assuming that every person they’re messaging is there for immediate casual sex, they’re filtering for the people who are going to respond to such a lazy message. There are more sophisticated versions of the ‘DTF’ message. For example a friend received this message:

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Which in my opinion is a bit more clever (with the exception of the unfortunate choice of abbreviation). If a girl responds to this message then he knows how to proceed. (My friend didn’t continue this conversation).

In my opinion ‘How are you’ and ‘What are you up to tonight?’ messages are actually pretty reasonable, and it’s a shame that they’re considered unattractive.

These messages can be interpreted as an invitation to start chatting. Presumably if you’re both online at the same time you’re bored or you have some free time, in which case why not engage in some banter? I also think that ‘What are you up to tonight’ or ‘What have you been doing today’ is a good conversation starter. If the person is an interesting and active person, they’ll have a good story to tell. ‘I’ve been surfing’, ‘I went for a run and then had coffee with my friends’, ‘I’ve been doing some writing’. This gives a good and attractive snapshot of the kind of person they are.

I suspect that the reason a ‘What are you up to tonight’ message doesn’t stand out from all the other ‘What are you up to tonight’ messages. That’s where pursuing a copy-paste strategy might be more effective.

Wrapping it up

If you’re at a point with online dating where you’re frustrated then you might be taking it too seriously. My intention for this post is not to suggest that sending copy-paste messages is absolutely the best the strategy (though it might be worth experimenting with, why not?). It does shed some light on why men may act the way they do on online dating.

Personally I find myself swinging between high-cost and low-cost strategies. Sometimes I’m in the mood and send a personalised paragraph or a clever joke, and other times I’m bored but impatient and send a message like ‘How do we start a conversation?’.

Amusing anecdote

While I was writing this I decided copy paste a message to a few girls on OkCupid. However, I was switching between doing that, and editing this, and I accidentally copy pasted a line from here instead.

What I was meant to send: “Hey, so I’m interested to hear about your experience on online dating, are you wiling to to talk to me about it?”

What I sent: “From a guy’s perspective, sending these kinds of messages are what I call a low-cost strategy.”

Book Review: Everything I ever needed to know about economics, I learned from online dating.

Everything I ever needed to know about economics, I learned from online dating. Paul Oyer. Havard Business Review Press 2014.

I was told about this book when I posted this question on an economics forum. The city library didn’t have it stocked, so I filled in a request form and two weeks later they emailed me saying that they now had it.

The book is as good as its clever pop title suggests it might be.

It’s a light, easy and entertaining read. Paul Oyer takes a shameless economic approach to discussing the dynamics of online dating. While on one hand he uses economics and game theory to explain why people act a certain way in online dating, at the same time he uses the dynamics of online dating that we might be familiar with, to outline economic concepts. The reader thus becomes more informed about the dynamics of online dating and dating in general, as well as economics in general.

The book is fairly short, I read it in a week reading about an hour a day. You could finish it in a weekend no worries if you had the time.

I won’t summarise all of the points Oyer makes, the book is short and easy enough to read yourself. However, I’ll share a couple of thoughts I had in reading it.

The basic premise Oyer makes from chapter one is that people are always looking for their highest value possible mate, even if they’ve successfully romantically matched someone. Someone settles, and discontinues their search for a higher value mate, when they evaluate that the cost of continuing search exceeds to possible additional value they’ll find. Oyer likens this search to the search between employers seeking employees, where either party might settle for a matching that isn’t their perfect job or perfect employee, because it’s too costly to continue searching. He then outlines various techniques used to assist in the search.

One interesting point Oyer made, was that for some people, their cost of search is negative – that is they’re actually getting a benefit out of searching for their perfect mate – they’re having fun, going out to dinner etc. This explains why some people don’t settle, even if they’re attracting plenty of good mates – they’re having too much fun dating to discontinue their search for the perfect mate. This resonates with my experience. In the past I’ve been happily single or dating casually and meeting people, but not willing to settle into a more serious relationship. Recently though, the appeal of meeting new people seems less attractive than the appeal of talking to someone regularly. Oyer doesn’t explicitly mention what causes one’s cost of search to increase, but I’d suggest that it’s matter of the novelty of dating wearing off, one’s values changing with maturity, and one’s biological clock ticking.

I started reading the book about two weeks after I deleted my Tinder profile, having gotten frustrated with it, and one chapter poignantly explained why my experience might have changed. Oyer gives the example of a book club. A single man seeking romance might realise that a book club has a high proportion of women, and so joining the book club would be an effective use of time for meeting a potential mate. However, as more men make this realisation and join the club, the proportion of men increase, and our initial man might consider that the book club is no longer the most effective use of his time. At the same time, the women in the book club while maybe enjoying the company of the additional man at the start, may become disillusioned with the new men joining for the intent of romance, and leave.

What this highlights is that online dating pools, like Tinder aren’t static, and can’t be modelled statically (ie. You can’t formulate a set of strategies for approaching dating in a certain pool, because by the time you have, the rules have changed). Where two years ago when I first joined it may have been a lot more novel, you might find that some people have found their match on the app and dropped out, and others are less enamoured with the concept, and others are more jaded. The idea of dynamically evolving dating pools was a new one for me, and is helpful in understanding why one’s experience with dating may change over time.

Overall, it should be clear that I think this is an excellent book, and is well worth purchasing to add to your bookshelf. It’s a very easy read and makes for some great discussion points, even if you disagree with what might be considered an unromantic approach to thinking about dating.

The book sets a good standard for discussing dating and relationships I hope that more books continue in this vein.

What do you do when someone doesn’t reply to your messages?

Hello! This post is a little long. Read the more concise and practical version here. 

If you want advice on how to get over someone – read this post. 

 

Note: While this post pertains to dating advice and dynamics, it’s also entirely relevant for general social pursuits – eg. Expressing interest in a platonic friendship of someone you admire, or forming a business/professional relationship. In fact it’s these kinds of relationships that I’m more interested in, but discussions of romantic pursuits is a relatable and common starting point.

Teeneger-quotes-I-do-this-really-cute-thing-where-I-read-your-message-then-forget-to-reply.-The-Simpsons

Recently I saw this image posted on my Facebook and it got me thinking about my own experiences with not receiving replies to text or Facebook messages.

I’ve found a common dynamic when it comes to dating and friendship is I’ll invite a friend or a romantic interest to spend some time together, and I’ll either get no response from them at all, or I’ll get a some kind of ‘I can’t this week, but maybe next week?’ or ‘I have to look at my schedule’.

While these two responses are distinctly different, what they have in common is that being on the receiving end it can be unclear what the response means, especially if you’ve talked before and the engagement has been cordial.

In this post, while I use online dating as an initial vehicle for discussing the dynamics of no-reply and I’m-busy responses. The more important dynamic I’m really interested in, is these responses from people who you know a bit better.

It’s important to acknowledge here that it’s possible that when someone hasn’t replied they may be perfectly interested in whatever relationship it is you’re seeking, but have forgotten/got busy/are feeling depressed. I know personally I tend to stop replying to messages when I get depressed, and it’s not because I don’t like the person who’s messaging me. Equally possible though, is that they haven’t replied because they’re simply not interested.

Why even talk about this? 

It might be tempting to suggest that these kinds of social dynamics simply don’t merit this much thought – an emotionally healthy person will simply forget about it till the next time they consider messaging a person. An alternative phrasing is to suggest that these kinds of dynamics apply to people who ‘playing games’ and that socially mature people communicate honestly and in an upfront manner. I think both of these arguments are dismissive and don’t appreciate the complexity of human social interaction. A quick google of terms like ‘sometimes I forget to reply’, ‘when they don’t text back’ reveal plenty of results and memes about the subject, which suggests that it’s a wide spread experience, and is thus worth theorising about.

No reply as a not interested.

In online dating, not replying to a first message is the accepted standard that says ‘not interested’.  This isn’t bleak reflection of the state today’s social dynamics, it’s just how it works. It might not be a satisfying conclusion to the person being rejected, but the alternative that the rejecter faces is facing abuse for their rejection, or a person otherwise persisting in the face of explicit rejection. Tinder provides a good mechanism for this kind of rejection – by unmatching the person it both sends a clear signal that you’re interested, as well as not allowing them to send another message protecting you from any abuse.

If we can accept that a no-reply in this context is socially acceptable, and not rude, then we can extend it to include real life dating and social interaction as well. For example, that cute girl you met at a party, who you got the number of, may have decided that she’s no longer interested, and simply not reply.

This ‘silence means rejection’ can further extend itself into rejection of established relationships – notably in the practise of ‘ghosting’ whereby one breaks up with someone by simple blocking them on social media and never talking to them. A technique for ending or toning down friendships is the ‘slow fade’ where one consciously stops initiating conversation, or replying to messages and the relationship naturally winds down.

While I think ghosting might be warranted in some circumstances (eg. the person is the person is a stalker, or following a big fight in which you break up), I’m generally of the opinion that this isn’t a progressive social technique. In my opinion it’s more indicative of social immaturity, and a desire to ‘win the break up’.

I’m busy as a not interested.

In a similar vein, ‘I’m busy’ type responses can be used as a less confrontational alternative to saying ‘I’m not interested’. One could be honest and say ‘I’m not attracted/interested in you’, but that can be quite an awkward conversation, and lead to further awkward interactions in the future. Instead, one uses ‘Sorry, I’m busy that night’ and hope that they get the hint, and the lack of explicit rejection allows the parties to continue interacting in a platonically friendly way.

This is more appropriate where you know the person in real life. For example a mutual friend or a colleague asking you to coffee or a drink after work. In online dating it’s not necessary to give a ‘I’m busy’ – because not replying can suffice.

How to respond to receiving one of these responses?

For the person who’s message isn’t being replied to, it can be difficult to decide how to proceed.

By the nature of a no-reply it can be hard to tell whether:

  • As suggested in the meme, the person has simply forgotten or has got busy.
  • The message didn’t catch their attention enough for them to be excited enough to reply.
  • They receiver actively considered the message, and consciously decided not the reply.

One of the key points to acknowledge here, is that when someone doesn’t reply to a message, it can be either consciously (they see the message and thing ‘No I’m not going to reply’), or unconsciously (they see the message, but don’t get around to replying to it and eventually forget, or they remember later but it feels to awkward to reply then).

Add into the mix an optimism bias, which is seems likely that men have in regards to their attractive appeal, and you can have a situation where the person whose reply has gone unanswered will interpret it as a ‘they’ve forgotten’ rather than as a ‘they’re not interested in me’.

Similarly, receiving an ‘I’m busy’ reply can be ambiguous. It hard to tell whether:

  • They’re genuinely busy.
  • They’re not interested, and are letting you down softly.

However, with I’m busy messages it can be a bit easier to indicate levels of interest. If the person saying they’re busy is interested in meeting for the date, then they can suggest an alternative date. This removes the onus on the person asking, from having to ask, and expose themselves to rejection again.

This creates quite a clear communication protocol:

The person asking for a date: If you ask for a date, (or have a date cancelled), do not ask again, it’s up to them to suggest an alternative.

The person being asked for a date: If you’re unable to to make it on that day, or you have the date arranged by have to cancel – then if you’re interested in dating that person it’s up to you to immediately suggest an alternative date. If the other party is following this model, they won’t ask again.

So ideally if everyone was following this model, then it would work quite well. The problem is, not everyone may be aware of etiquette to suggest the alternative, and instead for example be too shy to suggest the date alternative themselves, or be assuming that the other will continue to initiate requests.

However, the problem with this robust protocol, is it doesn’t account for asymmetry in social value or importance.

For example, say for the purposes of general interest or career improvement you want to catch up for coffee with a famous politician. You can send them a nice email explaining who you are, and why you want to meet them. They may be genuinely interested in meeting you, but unable to meet you at time of the year. It wouldn’t be reasonable to suggest it’s then up to politician to make the next move to arrange the appointment – it would be up to you to persist and ask again in three months or so.

A simple counter point here is to suggest that if the politician is genuinely interested, they should tell the person ‘Sorry, I’m too busy at the moment, can you try again in a couple of months?’.

Asymmetry of engagement

When I meet a girl who I’m interested in, I’m usually pretty excited about them and think about them a lot, and have to distract myself to avoid texting them too much.

However, it’s not necessarily true that she will have a reciprocal level of engagement toward me.

We could put one’s levels of engagement on a scale like this:

In love Thinking about future together, what your kids will look like.
Excited Looking forward to seeing the person again.
Pleasant Enjoying the person’s company, but don’t miss their company when they’re not here.
Neutral Either you remember the person but didn’t find them particularly interesting, or you don’t remember the person.
Adverse You remember the person, but consciously dislike them. You found them offensive.

Now of course this scale is very naive and can’t reflect the multidimensional nature of our emotions, but it’s a good starting point.

If someone is at the top two tiers of engagement, then they aren’t going to have any trouble messaging the person they’re interested in, because they’re already thinking of them. However, if they’re at a lower tier, they the thought might not occur to them.

It’s tempting to argue that any successful romantic pair occurs when both parties are excited about each other. But this excludes the possibility that a romance can occur when one party isn’t on the other’s radar, but increases their level of engagement through persistence. For example, sending a second opening message on online dating, or continuing talking to someone when you see them in mutual social circles.

In online dating, the initial message may very well have been not a particularly interesting one – perhaps the sender was in an uncreative mood at the time, or perhaps they misjudged things. In this circumstance, sending a second message to pique their interest may be a good idea.

Unfortunately on traditional online dating sites like OkCupid, the reciever can see the previous attempt, and that possibly will reflect badly on the sender. A good feature OkCupid could implement is a ‘delete previous message’ option, though this could be subject to abuse. On Tinder you can unmatch the person, and hope to match again for a clean slate.

Sending a second message

One suggestion is that if one has initiated a request for a date, and for whatever reason it hasn’t panned out (plans got changed, or they didn’t reply), then to simply move on and accept that the relationship isn’t going to happen.

I think this is a naïve strategy that throws the baby out too quickly. It discounts the potential value of initiating a conversation that piques their interest, or discounts that someone might simply have forgotten to reply.

I have a good example to demonstrate this. My older sister met her husband on online dating. They had exchange some messages, but for whatever reason a date didn’t pan out. A few months later, he messaged her again, mentioning that they’d talked before, and this time a date did happen, and less than a year later they were married and pregnant.

The husband-to-be in this scenario could have held the thought that ‘I’ve already tried here, it didn’t happen, therefore I shouldn’t try again’. But as you can see in this example, his sending of a second message did work out for both parties.  Edit: my sister clarified that it was her that reinitialised contact by sending him a ‘smile’. He then messaged her again and told her that they’d talked before.

As part of my research for this post I googled ‘persistent male dating strategy’ and found some interesting results.

This Hooking Up Smart article framed and addressed the issue of general persistence well, the question asking:

> I hear so much about how women love to be pursued, but it seems the line between pursuit and stalking, and confidence and desperation, is very thin, with said line moving depending on the girl’s preferences.

As well as saying ‘It’s not one size fits all’, one of the cautionary answers given was:

>No woman wants to feel stalked by a desperate male.

This answer strikes at why this subject is worth thinking about. If this dynamic didn’t exist then one could just continue sending messages, and it wouldn’t really be a problem. Because not many men want women to feel uncomfortable around then, seconding that message requires more consideration.  The article deals with persistence in a broader scope and is well worth a read, but let’s dial it back to just addressing second messages or date requests in face of either not receiving a reply, or getting a ‘I’m busy’ with no alternative suggested.

Let’s ask and answer why shouldn’t you send a second message?

  • It’ll make them feel uncomfortable/be unpleasant for them.
  • It’ll be counterproductive to your success – second a second message may make you look desperate, and thus less attractive.
  • It’ll be unpleasant for you, if you face a second rejection.

When it’s framed like this the answer to whether you should send a second message in online dating question is pretty simple. There isn’t much harm in sending a second message. Someone isn’t going to be instantly creeped out if you send a second message, and so long as you’re pretty accepting that you might not get a reply, then there’s not much harm to yourself either.

For people you might have already talked to or just met, the answer is similarly casual – a second message isn’t going to do much harm, so long as it’s friendly and relaxed. A no-reply to the second message does more firmly indicate a conscious decision not to reply.

Conclusions

Unfortunately, the conclusions I have on this dynamic aren’t especially… conclusive. There’s no hard and fast rule I can suggest. Instead I would suggest that your response depends on how well you know the person.

If it’s someone you don’t know well, then as I’ve suggested, sending a second message isn’t unwarranted, but at the same time because you don’t know each other that well, I’d suggest taking a low cost approach to the second message (ie. Not getting to emotionally invested, don’t put a lot of consideration into the second message, and crafting a message such that you’re perfectly prepared to get no response).

For someone you know a bit better you can consider if perhaps they’re depressed, (‘Hey how are things going?’), or reevaluate the nature of your friendship according their response. Generally I would suggest that the longer/better you know someone, the more leeway you can give them before giving up completely.

On the other side of things – if you ever find yourself in a situation where you’ve forgotten to reply to someone’s message and you’re still interested in them – acknowledge it – ‘Hey sorry I didn’t reply to this earlier, how are you?’.

If you’re too busy to make a date but are still interested, then be the one to suggest the alternative.That’s a very proactive way to maintain and generate a friendship.

Online dating as a pick-me-up.

Online dating, and in particular Tinder, has been subject to criticism recently for enabling their users to become non-commital and flakey when it comes to relationships. The argument is that popular dating apps like Tinder allow people to see of their dating options, and never commit to a relationship because the ease of casual sex or new dating options is right there on your phone. The term ‘dating apocalypse’ has been coined – popularised by this Vanity Fair article. In my opinion the article is pretty awful. It reads more like a bad fiction story, and I question the veracity of it. Even if the people in this story are real, I don’t think they’re representative of Tinder’s overall userbase.

But the argument does have merit.

If we take Paul Oyer’s (author of Everything I needed to know about economics, I learned from online dating.) premise – that everybody is seeking the highest value possible mate (however ‘high value’ is defined – and is perhaps subject to person’s own values), even if successful in romance, they will continue searching for higher value mates, so long as their cost of search doesn’t prevent them. Because online dating makes cost of search much lower, (people don’t need to spend an entire Friday night out at party or social group in order to meet potential mates), people will be less inclined to settle with their current romantic match, for fear of missing out on a higher value match that’s just around the corner – if they have the security of knowing that they can easily find an equal value match with a couple more swipes and few interesting text messages.

I deleted my Tinder account about three weeks ago. I found I wasn’t enjoying it anymore – I wasn’t getting as many matches as I used to, conversations were stilted, I’d arrange dates that would flake out, etc. So I deleted my Tinder and decide to focus on meeting people the IRL way – through social groups, parties, etc.

Two weeks later, I was feel lonely. While joining social groups and generally putting yourself out there is an effective way to meet people, there are two difficulties with turning it into romance.

Firstly, there’s a lack of social signal about their availability (whereas someone’s mere presence on a dating site indicates that they’re single and interested in dating). This can lead to an awkward conversation.

Secondly, there’s a lack of continual contact with the person. For example if you meet someone at a social group that meets once a week, unless you get their phone number or Facebook straight away,  you only have the opportunity to talk to them in the time that you’re together at time each week. Whereas with online dating, you can maintain a prolonged conversation throughout the day and the week. This means that establishing a connection with someone you’ve met in real life, can take a lot longer than one where you’re able to talk online.

I ended up getting quite depressed, and on the weekend reinstalled Tinder, and signed up to OkCupid. I started chatting to some girls, and you know what? It was fun! I enjoyed myself, and I felt good.

This has led to a rethinking of my online dating philosophy. Online dating should be treated as a flakey and non-committal dating experience. This isn’t to say that it doesn’t have value.

Instead of being seen as a primary and serious way to meet a romantic partner, it should be seen as fun and non-committal ‘pick-me-up’. That is, continue building your social networks in real life, as these tend to be a bit more reliable than online dating relationships. Use online dating for a fun pick-me-up during the day, or as an activity as you’re unwinding at the end of the day.

Of course – online dating matches can turn into a real date, and then a real relationship, and there’s no reason not to pursue this option. But your general expectations for going into online dating shouldn’t be ‘I’m here to find a mate’, it should be ‘I’m here to have non-serious fun, by chatting to people I find interesting or attractive’. Anything that goes beyond that, is a bonus.

Now this might sound a bit cynical, dishonest or unethical. If I’m treating online dating in this non-serious manner, then it could be considered dishonest to the people I’m chatting to if they’re taking a serious approach. Three points to counter this – firstly, not being serious about online dating doesn’t mean you need to act like a jerk. Secondly, I can be fairly upfront about what my intentions are. This is quite a good piece of writing, and I’d be happy to share it, to at least gauge reactions. Thirdly, people don’t have an obligation to act in a way that other people want them to. This ‘don’t be serious’ approach is fairly self-contained, and there’s no explicit agreement that you both have the same intentions when chatting. People need to take their own responsibility for recognising that others may have different values or intentions in their social interaction, and that doesn’t mean you’re both not compatible for a fun chat.

A critique of ‘Five infuriating first texts’.

My sister shared this article on Facebook feed.

The article summarises five annoying messages to get while dating. It doesn’t say so, but a lot of this seems to be related to online dating.
They are:

  • ‘Hey’ messages.
  • Flaking/Logistical planning.
  • Endless back and forth.
  • Bad grammar/spelling.
  • Are we hanging out or going on a date?

It wound me a up a little, so here’s my reply.

Firstly, while it doesn’t explicitly say so, the article seems to fall into the ‘guy messages first’ narrative.

Both the examples given are where the guy is messaging the girl:

Ansari was not impressed: “I’ve spent hours talking with women and seeing the kind of ‘first texts’ they get from guys,” he writes, “and trust me, it’s infuriating. These were intelligent, attractive, amazing women and they all deserved better.”

For an example of how to avoid hang-out vs. date ambiguity, Ansari writes about a woman who met a guy at a loud party: “After I left he texted me, ‘Hi [name redacted], this is [first name, last name], we’re going on a date.’ His confidence, straightforwardness and refreshingly gentlemanly approach (vs. skirting around ‘let’s hang out some time’) made for an incredible first impression and had a lasting effect.”

Ansari actually does explicitly reinforce the ‘guys make the first move narrative later on”

“The lack of clarity over whether the meet-up is even an actual date frustrates both sexes to no end,” Ansari writes, “but since it’s usually the guys initiating, this is a clear area where men can step it up.”

Point by point:

1. ‘Hey’ texts. 

You know what else is annoying? Crafting out a clever message only for it to be ignored anyway.

Hey texts serve a decent purpose, it’s a ping to see how interested they are in talking to you. Is it really so hard to say ‘Hello’ back?

Or are you waiting for a sonet before you’ll even consider talking to this person?

Now, I’m not suggesting that ‘Hey’ texting everyone in your online dating pool is a good strategy, but it’s certainly not the mark of an uncreative, uncaring person like the article suggests.

Also – if you are are receiving hey texts, perhaps it suggests that there isn’t much on your profile to go by.

Also – it looks like they’re counting ‘How are you today?’ and ‘What are you doing today’ messages as hey texts. These kinds of messages are indicative of someone who is genuinely interested in you! They’re an opening to all sorts of conversations!

For example:

“Hey, what are you up today?”

“Oh not much, I went out mountain biking last night, and I’m sore all over!”

“Ow, haha! That’s cool that you mountain bike, that sounds fun! What are you plans instead?”

Here, we learn a fair bit about the other person, we learn that they mountain bike (apparently pretty hard), and what they like to do in their chill/recovery time. This is all about learning who the person is.

2. The secretary problem. 

I agree that this can be problem.

Reality is, that sometimes we are pretty busy and it is a matter of sorting the logistics out. I get the feeling that for some people, this kind of conversation feels too transactional, and not an organic, romantic experience, and so they want to avoid it.

The solution is straight communication, make a date and commit to it.

The problem is, especially with online dating, is that someone might be juggling three other potential dates, one that they prefer over you. So they don’t want to commit to a particular in case the preferred one wants to have a date then.
I’m a little suprised that flaking out wasn’t explictly mentioned, but I guess they were trying to keep the subject about text messages.

3. Endless back and forth. 

This simply isn’t a problem for me. I’ll exchange some messages and banter until I’m both satisfied that

a) I’m interested in the person enough to want to meet them.

b) They’re comfortable meeting me.

And then it’s matter of asking if they want to meet up.

If they’re evasive about it, I’ll quickly get bored, and quit. Simple. Well, at least that’s the ideal. 🙂

4. Bad grammar/spelling. 

Can’t fault this one. Spelling and grammar is a key social indicator . It reflects their education and it’s quite reasonable to be turned off by someone with bad spelling/grammar.

5. Are we hanging out or going on a date? 

I don’t even get this one, but perhaps that’s a reflection of my general approach to dating, which is encompasses a plausible deniability philosophy.

That is; if I say ‘Hey let’s go have a drink’, I’m not saying ‘Hey, let’s measure up each other for romantic suitability and the prospect of entering into a financial partnership and raising kids together’, or alternative variety. Instead, I’m suggesting that we quite simply hang out, and have a good time, whether that’s talking about our day, playing board games, or talking about our deepest desires and fears.

I think making a distinction between a ‘date’ and a ‘not date’ adds all sorts of expectations. “Is he going to kiss me at the end of the date? Is that what’s expecting? After all, he did say this was a date”.

Similarly on the other hand, if you make it clear that “This is not a date”, then that precludes any kissing or leading on to romance. (Now – this strict ruling out of possibilities might be useful for other situations, for example where you’re wanting to be friends for different reasons, or reconciling after a break up to be friends).

Really – if you’re meeting up for a drink, yes of course the prospect of romance is on the cards, but that’s not the explicit intention. You don’t know each other well enough yet!

It’s hopefully enjoying some good quality social time with a fellow human being. And perhaps there’ll be some romance, but let’s not embarrass ourselves or make anyone feel uncomfortable by bringing that up, in case it doesn’t work out.

Now ok, on this point you could argue that actually explicitly saying ‘I’m interested in you romantically/sexually’ if sexually attractive, certainly some people would find that. Other people would feel uncomfortable at that. So I’m not saying don’t explicitly mention the d word. I’m saying that it’s perfectly reasonable to go about dating without using it, and we’re intelligent adults who can read between the lines.