Anyone who says that online dating doesn’t suck is lying. No matter how optimistic you are, at some point, you come to realize that online dating is a pain in the ass. Sometimes your coffee gets cold. Sometimes you step in something nasty. Sometimes (or most of the time) online dating sucks.
Of course, we wade through all this suckiness for a reason. Somewhere among the catfishers, ghosters, and time wasters are the one. Maybe. If we are lucky. So we keep coming back. We keep trying because it’s worth it at the end. Sometimes.
Online Dating Sucks
These reasons aren’t listed in any particular order. You’ll also find things you can do to help at least minimize the reasons online dating sucks, if not eliminate them entirely. Online dating will never be a walk in the park, but it doesn’t have to be a trip through the sewers either.
Catfishing may just be another slightly amusing term for what can go wrong with online dating unless it’s happened to you. Being catfished causes unpleasant feelings. This will depend on the length of time you spent getting to know the “person”, your level of emotional involvement, and whether you gradually began to suspect or found out all at once.
Common feelings and reactions to finding out you’ve been catfished include:
These are all perfectly normal feelings, no matter how unpleasant they are. You will recover from them eventually, and be more cautious in the future. If you haven’t been catfished, the following statistics should convince you that it’s important for you to be careful.
How common is catfishing?
One in two people lies to some degree on their dating profile. This can be anything from adding a few inches to their height or a few years off their age to using someone else’s photos. Not surprisingly, one in two people believe they’ve seen someone lie on their online dating profile. Clearly, they are correct.
The risks are higher with free dating sites. One in ten profiles on these sites is scammers. These are people that aren’t catfishing you to have a good time. They are after your finances.
You see single on someone’s profile, you generally assume that they are single. However, half of the people on dating sites are in a committed relationship. It’s not all bad though, only 11% of online dating users are married.
It’s not just dating sites either. There are 83 million fake accounts on Facebook. You read that right. 83 million. 97% of these accounts are female, and over half of them claim to be bisexual. Next time you get a random friend request from a sexy girl, you might want to think twice before accepting.
Why Does it Happen
People catfish others for a variety of reasons. They may simply be bored and find it fun. They may have a truly malicious intent like identity theft. They may be in a relationship or married.
One of the most common reasons, however, is that they don’t think anyone will like them for who they are. For these people, the relationship is real, even if their personal details and/or photos aren’t. They are seeking an emotional connection with another person, and actually feel more themselves when pretending to be someone else.
On the other side of things, why we fall for a catfish’s lies, it’s quite simple. First, we want to believe. This person appears to be everything you are looking for, and you want to believe its true. Second, once feelings start to develop, you enter a more suggestible state, especially when you are communicating with the person. This means that you are more likely to believe what they tell you and not question it.
If you’ve ever seen the TV show Catfish and wondered how it wasn’t obvious to the person, it comes down to the old adage “love is blind”. It’s embarrassing to believe what someone tells you only to find out it’s not true, but it’s perfectly understandable.
How to Avoid Being Catfished
The first step to avoiding being catfished is realizing if something is too good to be true, it probably is. If they have a great job, a lot of money, and look like a model, they won’t be on Ok Cupid. I promise. You also need to be aware of your league.
If you are a 5 and the person talking to you is a 10, be suspicious. If you make 50,000 a year and they make 500,000 be suspicious. People generally date people near their own social value. I’m sure your personality is great and all, but don’t expect it to work miracles.
Regardless of whether the person sets off any alarm bells, at the very least conduct a reverse image search. This allows you to see if their picture pops up anywhere else, on someone else’s Facebook for example.
Conduct a background check. If you are seriously interested in the person, it’s well worth the expense to conduct a background check. Truthfinder searches social media profiles as well as criminal and property records, making it a perfect choice.
Ghosting is when someone abruptly stops contact with no explanation. Instead of breaking up with the person or saying they aren’t interested, they just disappear. How much ghosting sucks depends on how much contact you had with them.
If it’s someone you were casually exchanging messages with you may not give it much thought. When it’s someone you were really interested in, however, things are different. You may be left wondering what happened to them. If you did something wrong.
They say that breaking up is hard to do. However, when it comes to a breakup, you have some sort of feedback. An account of why it happened, even if it’s one-sided. Ghosting leaves you wondering, and it can have a serious impact on your self-confidence.
How Common is Ghosting
Ghosting is more common than most people think. A survey on the popular online dating site Plenty of Fish, 80% of daters on the site had been ghosted. Other surveys show 50% of online daters being ghosted, and around 50% of those surveyed admit to ghosting.
Why It Happens
One of the most common reasons for ghosting is the most simple. It’s so damn easy, at least for the one ghosting. Why have an awkward conversation when you can simply do nothing? Just stop responding to the other person. No tearful goodbyes. No need to explain yourself. Just forget about them and move on with your life. At most the effort it takes to ghost someone is blocking them on a few sites and your phone.
Sometimes people that ghost just can’t handle having the conversation. Other times there’s just little emotional investment on either side and it’s the least awkward for both parties. The problem with this is when someone misjudges the emotional investment of the other person. Then the one who is ghosted ends up being hurt.
Then there are the people who are just selfish and self-absorbed not to care about the effect it has on the other person. These people simply aren’t concerned about the possible damage it will do, only with the fact that it’s more convenient for them.
How to Prevent Ghosting
If it’s someone you are already seeing or talking to regularly, make plans. If there’s a set date for next Saturday, they will feel more obligated to show up or at least tell you they aren’t interested. If there’s no specific time and date to see each other, it’s easier to ghost.
On dating apps, maintain a little mystery. Don’t be too available and don’t tell them everything about you before the first date. Keep them interested.
Ask questions. It’s harder to ignore a question than a statement. Again it comes down to a sense of obligation, no matter how small.
If it’s someone that you’ve developed a connection with, get as many ways to contact them as possible. Don’t come off as creepy, but things like friending them on Facebook and having their email make it harder for them to disappear on you.
When talking through text, you miss out on lots of social cues. This makes miscommunication basically inevitable at some point. It’s also shaped by our own experiences and expectations. Depending on your outlook and personality, this can make communication even more likely.
Being misunderstood or getting upset when that isn’t what the author meant can be frustrating and embarrassing. According to Psychology Today:
Without any information other than words—typically, very few words—the meaning we make out of the cryptic electronic messages we receive is necessarily shaped by our own feelings and expectations. Consequently, what we believe is being said may have very little to do with what the author wishes to communicate.
This is essentially why miscommunication happens online. We aren’t given social cues other than words. You’ve probably heard that 90% of communication is nonverbal. Other studies have found that non-verbal communication isn’t even a factor.
What’s the truth here?
Common sense says that it’s somewhere in the middle. That non-verbal communication clearly plays a part in our real life and even phone and video conversations. However, 90%? It just doesn’t make sense. Let’s say you are smiling and your body language is open. You say “I hate you” or “I love you”. I can guarantee there will be more than a 7% difference in the other person’s reaction.
In an honest conversation, nonverbal communication is used to back up what’s being said.
This is what many people miss about the concept.
If there’s a question of meaning, these social cues make it obvious. You say something teasing in real life, your smile lets the other person know you are joking. These cues aren’t available online, and jk doesn’t convey the same impact as a genuine smile.
Avoiding Miscommunication Online
One common miscommunication mistake is simply saying too much. Some of us have a tendency to ramble, particularly when we are nervous. This never turns out well. If you want to ramble, do it with a good friend who will overlook the stupid things you say because I can guarantee there will be some.
Keep your online communication short and to the point. Don’t come off as cold or closed off, but consider how to adequately respond to a message without going overboard.
Before you send your message, read over it. What is the tone of your message? Indifferent? Warm and friendly? Hostile? Sometimes it’s easy for our day to day frustrations to come through in our messages. Sure, you don’t intend to. But that doesn’t make you look like less of an ass to your recipient.
Use emojis sparingly and simply. Unless it’s someone you know well, use emojis sparingly and keep them to the ones that are universally recognizable. They can help to clarify your meaning, but use them too often and you’ll come off as immature.
Before you hit send, always reread your message from their point of view. Can it be misread? How are they likely to interpret it?
These steps may seem like extra work, but they only take a few moments. Would you rather waste days messaging someone and then have them stop speaking to you over a miscommunication?
Lastly, always give others the benefit of the doubt. If you are offended, hurt, or angry by what is said, ask them to explain or elaborate before you send an angry message or stop messaging them.
4. Being Overwhelmed by Choice
The choice is supposed to be a good thing, but when it comes to online dating, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by choice. This can show up in one of two ways. Either you are so overwhelmed that you don’t know where to start, or you develop an addiction to online dating.
The first one is fairly self-explanatory. The second is a bit more complicated. Meeting with and flirting with people actually releases the feel-good chemicals dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine in your brain. These chemicals are extremely important. It encourages us to do things that are good for us because they feel good.
However, it is also a major player in any sort of addiction. Addictions are addictions because they feel good at the time, and much of this can be attributed to the release of these feel-good chemicals. This is a simplified version of addiction, but true nonetheless.
Online dating addiction also occurs partly from a “grass is always greener” mentality. Sure the date you had last week was great, but what if there’s someone even better out there?
Warning Signs You Are Being Overwhelmed By Choice
If you are simply feeling overwhelmed by choice, you may experience burnout. This is more common among women than men, but it happens with both sexes. You may also simply feel paralyzed and do nothing on the site because you don’t know where to begin.
If you are addicted to online dating because of the amount of choice, you’ll find yourself constantly checking your inbox. You may line up several dates each week, and never be satisfied even when things go well. If you can’t keep track of who you are supposed to see when, or are ashamed to admit how many dates you are going on to your friends, you have a problem.
If you are experiencing burnout or addicted to online dating, your first step should be to step away for a while. Then move on to how to prevent it.
Preventing Being Overwhelmed by Choice
This one is actually super simple to fix. First, change your mentality. What is your goal with online dating? If you are looking for more than a one night stand, you’ll never find it with a “something better is always out there” outlook. You shouldn’t settle for less than what you really want.
You should understand that no one is perfect. Have reasonable expectations. Appreciate what you find when it’s someone you genuinely enjoy.
The next step is to limit yourself to dating sites where choice is automatically limited. If you are looking for a free dating site, Coffee Meets Bagel does this pretty well. They will send you a few curated matches each day, and around 30 maybe matches. Still a lot, but not nearly unlimited access like other sites.
If you prefer to pay for a dating site, eHarmony gives you a very limited number of matches based on “29 dimensions of compatibility”. If Tinder is the speed dating of today, eHarmony can be compared to the way your grandparents did it, slowly and intentionally.
Both are geared more towards relationships, but eHarmony is generally seen as being only for the marriage minded. Things on Coffee Meets Bagel are much more casual.
5. Chemistry Isn’t There
We’ve all had it happen at some point. You’re talking to someone and feel very attracted to them via text. The chemistry is there online, and you can’t wait to meet in person. You may even fantasize about what you’ll do when you finally meet. The big day comes, and the fireworks you were expecting are barely even sparks.
All of the things you had in common online, your easy conversations, don’t seem to translate to real life. The date is awkward, and they aren’t the way you imagined they would be. Why does this happen? How can something that is so passionate online fall so flat in real life?
Why It Happens
One reason for this is that the person they appear to be online may be different from who they are in person. Many people find that they are more themselves online. Some people, however, may act completely different in person than they are online. They may be painfully shy in person when they were outgoing online. The sense of humor you thought they had may not translate into the quick wit you expected.
Part of whether you should give it another try if chemistry falls flat in real life, for this reason, depends on who the person really is and whether you can determine that. Someone who is socially awkward, for example, likely is the person they present online. They just need time to become comfortable with the person before they open up in real life.
Another reason is simply not having things in common. When you chat online many times a day to day matters don’t really come up. Do you enjoy the same movies? The same food? If your idea of a date is staying home with a six-pack and theirs is a fancy restaurant dinner, it can kill the spark. If you feel like you have nothing in common, the attraction isn’t likely.
Expectations can play a big part in chemistry not being there in real life as well. If you communicate a lot before you meet, your imagination is bound to fill in the gaps. When you do meet, you may find that they don’t live up to the ideal that you imagined. You may also find that you’ve talked so much beforehand that you don’t know what to say to each other when you meet.
Lastly, sometimes the physical attraction simply isn’t there. In the age of Instagram filters and selfie sticks, it’s easy to find ways to improve your physical appearance. This is assuming that it’s actually a recent picture and not one from 5 years and a few hundred pounds ago.
Even if they do look like you expected, sometimes the attraction simply isn’t there. There is no rhyme or reason, you just aren’t physically attracted to them like you thought you would be.
How to Prevent It
There’s no sure fire way to prevent it completely, but you can minimize the risk. First, try not to communicate too much before you meet in real life. This saves time, energy, and feelings if it doesn’t go well. It also helps you to not build false expectations that will lead to disappointment.
Next, don’t communicate only through text, particularly if you plan to invest some effort before you meet in person. Video chatting will give you the best idea of whether you will have chemistry in real life, and allow you to confirm what they look like. At the very least, you should have a few phone conversations.
Make your best effort to be yourself online and on your date. Don’t misrepresent who you are. Chemistry is a two-way street after all.
Give it another chance. First dates are notorious for being awkward, and that doesn’t necessarily go away because you’ve gotten to know each other online. If the date wasn’t terrible, consider giving it another chance. Particularly if you have a good connection through text.
6. Talking But Never Meeting
You meet on a dating app. Perhaps you even exchange numbers and talk on the phone. Yet, for whatever reason, you never get around to meeting in person. It may be your schedules, or you may just not have the nerve to ask them out. Eventually, you just stop talking to each other.
Why It Happens
There are legitimate reasons why someone may not want to meet right away. They may be cautious of people they meet online, or simply have a busy schedule. They may simply be shy.
There are less honorable reasons for not wanting to meet in person as well. They may be in a relationship or not look like their photos. They may simply prefer the fantasy of an online relationship to a real life one.
Things also move quickly on online dating sites. If you wait too long, the person will likely just move on to the next person that catches their eye.
How to Prevent It
Guys, the easiest way to prevent this one is to simply move off the dating site quickly. 10-15 messages are the optimum amount before you ask for a number or a date. This means 10-15 solid messages, not “hey”.
Another good rule of thumb is to never wait more than a week from the time you began talking to ask them out on a date. Any longer, and they may decide that you are n’t interested in a date with them.
7. Being Too Picky
The great thing about online dating is that its easy to filter out anyone you don’t want. However, it’s easy to take this to the extreme. You may filter out people that you would be compatible with simply by being too specific with your searches.
We should all have a healthy level of standards when it comes to relationships. It becomes a problem when your criteria are narrow that you miss out on some great people. Online dating sucks but it makes it very easy to be extremely narrow with your searches.
How Do You Know if You are too Picky?
There are some sings that you are too picky. They are:
- The things you want are completely non-negotiable
- You are extremely picky about looks or clothing
- You focus on insignificant details
- There’s something wrong with everyone you meet
- You dream of a Hollywood romance
- Your friends tell you that you’re too picky
- You never make it to the first or second date
Have you ever dismissed someone because you didn’t like their hairstyle? Do you constantly look for flaws? Focus on small details that you don’t like instead of your compatibility? Are your searches extremely specific? If these things are true for you, you are too picky. You can also take this quiz to see where you fall.
What to Do About It
The first step to avoiding being too picky is to sit down and write a list of everything you want and everything you don’t. Include looks, personality, hobbies, anything you can think of. Once that’s done, prioritize it. Figure out which things you must have or not have, and which ones are less important.
It’s helpful to use a 1-10 scale for each trait. Once you’ve done that, it should be easy to see the things that are really important to you, and the things you could live without. When your searching, stick to your deal breakers. Open yourself up to new possibilities.
A list will certainly help, but you’ll need to change the way you think about things as well. Try to focus on a person’s good qualities instead of their faults. Don’t dismiss people based on a few small flaws you don’ like.
The truth is the perfect mate doesn’t exist.
However, there are perfectly imperfect people who could be perfect for you if you are willing to accept them, imperfections and all.
8. Sending the First Message
Sending the first message on a dating site, well sucks. It can seem like the odds of you actually getting a response is slim to none and slim just left town. It’s frustrating. You do searches, you look at profiles, you send a message, and many times, you get nothing back.
Many guys just send generic messages to lots of girls at once. If you haven’t figured it out yet, I’ll tell you a secret.
Those messages get ignored.
It doesn’t matter how great your profile is, or how sexy you are.
If you send a message like “hey” or even “how are you doing”, you will probably be ignored.
Why It Happens
The fact is that girls get lots of messages. Many times they don’t even have the time or desire to read all of them. Guys essentially spam girls with messages, and they see this. They don’t want the guy who sends the same generic message to lots of girls. They want the guy who makes an effort. The guy who stands out from the crowd.
How to Write an Opening Message
There’s great advice on writing messages here. However, if you want to keep it simple, just read their profile.
Read their profile and look at their photos. Find something that you have in common, and build a message around that.
Here’s an example. Cathy writes a profile that says
I enjoy camping, long walks, late night talks, fishing, sewing, and cooking. I love most anything, but i wuold love to find someone to do these things wtih.
That last line lets you know that she wants someone to share these hobbies with, so you should craft your opening message around this.
You could say:
I noticed you love fishing. I do too. My favorite is bass fishing on the lake. It puts me at peace. What’s your favorite?
Now, this is a great opening message for a few reasons. First, it shows you took the time to read her profile and establishes a commonality. Then, you described how it makes you feel. This evokes emotion and shows you are open to talking about yourself.
Then, you asked a question. We are essentially programmed to not leave questions unanswered, so this increases your chances of getting a response. It also makes it easy to respond. She doesn’t’ need to spend lots of time figuring out what to say.
The three keys to a great opening message are:
- Mention something from her profile
- Evoke emotion or show your personality
- Ask a question
9. Keeping Track of People and Dates
Was this the girl that liked pizza or Chinese food? Was tonight’s date with Lindsey or Cathy? When you are talking to multiple people at the same time, it can be hard to keep track of the details. This can lead to some embarrassing situations, and make them feel like you aren’t listening to them.
Why It Happens
After a while, details get jumbled up in your mind. Talking to several people at once makes it nearly impossible to remember everything. If you are going on dates with multiple people, you may even forget who your date was with.
The brain can only hold so much information. At some point, things get forgotten or mixed up.
How to Keep Track of Details
If you want to impress someone, remember the details. This makes them feel heard and valued. Of course, this is difficult to do when you are talking to lots of people at once. There is a simple solution, however.
First, keep notes on the people you are talking to. You can do this on paper or use an online program like Microsoft Word. Write the names, and then add any important details that they tell you. Then you can easily refer back to it when you talk to them.
For dates, use a calendar. Be sure to write down the name of your date, and where you are taking her as well as the time. This can save you from some very embarrassing situations.
10. Signing Up and Creating a Profile
We’ve also seen those “sign up in 30 seconds” ads for dating sites. Sure, you can put in your email in 30 seconds, but it takes a lot longer to craft a profile that will get you results. Some sites and apps, like Tinder, don’t take much time. Others can be quite lengthy, however.
Making the Process Easier
If you are planning on signing up for more than one site or app, prioritize which one is the most important to you. Sign up for this one first, and spend the most time on it. If you wish, you can use the profile that you’ve written on other sites that you sign up for. You can use the same photos as well.
You should focus on quality over quantity. You will be better served with one good profile on one site than with ten sloppy ones. When it comes to your profile photos, use them to show your personality. You should have one headshot, one full body shot, and a few action shots.
If you can, its best to have your photos professionally taken. If you can’t afford to hire a photographer, they have a friend take them. Avoid selfies if at all possible.
if you are using a headline, choose one that stand’s out. This is important for messages as well as profile headlines. One of the most effective ways to do this is to write half a statement. “I was reading your profile and I noticed…” or “My favorite thing about life is…”
This type of headline work as a hook and makes them want to keep reading. Just be sure that you actually finish the statement that you started in your headline.
Online dating sucks and it can be frustrating and difficult. However, when you hit the jackpot and find what you are looking for, it is worth it. The tips mentioned above can’t make online dating painless, but they can make it easier.
It’s also important to keep a good attitude and a sense of humor. Online dating sucks you it should be taken seriously to a degree, but not too seriously. Keeping a sense of humor about yourself and the process will make things go much smoother.