DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I’m a 29 year old man and after a prolonged and involuntary dry spell, I committed to turning my life around and getting a girlfriend this year. As part of that quest, I’ve been getting on the big-name apps and doing everything I can to maximize the number of matches I get. I’ve tuned up my photos with those face-improvement apps, I’ve got a killer profile that people want to see… At the risk of bragging a little, getting matches hasn’t been a problem for me. I’m cleaning up. The problem is that none of those matches go anywhere. NONE of them.
I’ve been on Tinder, Hinge, OKC, you name it, and the pattern is hauntingly consistent. I get a match, send a message, we talk and then – she goes radio silent. Or just I get unmatched without a reply at all.
I swear I’m not kicking off with anything creepy or outlandish. I keep my openers friendly and casual, try to pick up something from their profile to show I’m actually paying attention, and yet, it seems like I’m getting nowhere.
What gives? Is there something I’m missing or doing wrong? Do I need to cast my net even wider? How can I break this cycle and actually start having dates?
Ghosts of Matches Past
DEAR GHOSTS OF MATCHES PAST: Without either going over your messages like I’m trying to decode captured enemy intelligence or sitting over your shoulder like an online Cyrano, it’s going to be hard to tell you if the issue is what you’re saying, GMP. But based on what’s in your letter, I suspect you’re making a very common mistake that’s killing your game.
One of the things I’ve noticed – primarily, but not exclusively, among men using dating apps – is a preoccupation on getting as many matches as possible. The thinking is that you want to get tons and tons of matches in order to increase the likelihood that you’ll turn a percentage of these into dates.
On paper, this seems like the sort of thing that makes sense. It’s the shotgun approach; throw enough lead in the air and you’ll hit something, eventually. “If I get X matches and can expect Y percentage of replies, I should be able to get Z dates.” If you’re looking at this as a purely mathematical exercise involving theoretical people, this would seem logical.
In practice, it’s a reminder of the old engineering joke of “first imagine a spherical cow” – essentially, the mistake of trying to reduce a complex subject like attraction and compatibility into something simple and easily expressed in an equation.
But also it misses the point of why most people use dating apps. The general goal of using a dating app is to meet someone you like and who likes you, while wasting as little time as possible. And wasting time includes “matches that never respond” and meeting up for dates with people who are fundamentally wrong for you. When you’re focused on getting as many matches as you can, you may get LOTS of them… but the majority of them will be low-quality matches. That is, matches with people who aren’t compatible with and who are unlikely to be interested in you.
Despite what some will tell you, quantity doesn’t have a quality all of its own. Lots of matches aren’t helpful – certainly not when they’re not the right matches. This is why one of the match-maximization tricks that folks try – swiping right on everyone – works against them both algorithmically and against their goals. You don’t want matches, you want dates. Which means you need the right matches to start with. A thousand matches isn’t a wealth of potential sex beyond dreams of avarice, it’s a serious drain on your time as you have to sort through which people are actually compatible with you, which ones you’re interested in and then you get the headache of trying to actually manage multiple conversations leading towards the likelihood of getting a date. ��(And hey, I’ll be getting into that with the next letter…)
So part of the issue you’re likely running into is that you’ve got matches, but they’re the wrong matches. Some of them looked at your photos but not your profile and then, after checking your profile, saw you weren’t their type. Some, I’m sure, could tell which filters you were using to make your pictures look good and passed because you did a lot of fine-tuning. Those likely account for the ones who just straight un-match you without saying anything.
After that, the most likely issue is that either you’re not connecting with them when you message them or else you’re taking too long to actually propose a date.
The former seems likely for a decent percentage of people going quiet. The shotgun approach means you may hit a lot of things, but you’re not necessarily hitting what you’re aiming for. So it likely doesn’t take very long before they twig to the fact that you’re not they’re type.
The latter, which is surprisingly common, likely makes up for another decently sized percentage of people going silent and unmatching. One of the common complaints of online dating are the time wasters; folks who either take too long or show little interest in actually trying to meet. Sometimes this is a case of schedules just not lining up. Other times, though, it comes from folks who are spending SO much time trying to build up chemistry or tension or even just guarantee a date (or sex, for that matter) that the other person gets bored, assumes that their match isn’t interested or ends up going out with someone else who did ask them out. They can’t go on dates with you if you don’t actually invite them on one.
(There’s also the possibility that the way you’re messaging them isn’t working or turns them off but, as I said, I can’t judge that without actually seeing your messages. So I’m giving the broad brushstrokes here.)
So your best approach here is going to be focus less on quantity and more on quality. That is: you don’t need 100 matches, you really want 5 or 6 REALLY GOOD matches. Prioritizing finding the right people is going to do better, because you’ll actually go on dates. You know – the whole reason you’re on the apps in the first place.
Start by narrowing your appeal here, and focus on making a profile that’s going to appeal to the people that you actually want to date and have a relationship with. And no, that doesn’t mean “everyone” or “is female and not dead”. Even if all you’re looking for is a hook-up or a casual relationship, you want to at the very least find folks whose company you can enjoy – even if sex or romance isn’t on the table. Being willing to be more polarizing and less broadly appealing is a good thing here; it drives off the folks who aren’t going to be into you and draws in the people who are.
Next: Don’t let those “getting to know you” chats go on for too long. Yes, it’s good to establish a baseline of chemistry and interest, even to flirt a bit… but you don’t want to try to do all the work before you even see them. If you and your match have good chemistry and mutual interest when you message back and forth, do yourself a favor: move the conversation off the apps. Ideally, move it to in person, with a pre-date date to do your social due diligence. All you really need to say is “hey, I’m really enjoying talking to you, but I find online chats kinda shallow. I’ve got a little time on Thursday between engagements; how about we meet up at $COFFEE_PLACE for a quick latte and we can both see if we click in person?”
Ideally, you’d want to meet for about 15 to 20 minutes and see how you two like each other in the flesh. In the worst case, you’re out fifteen minutes and the price of a cup of coffee. In the best case… you two get on like a house on fire and you plan your next date then and there.
So TL;DR: don’t worry about broad appeal or popularity or maximizing matches, focus on finding the RIGHT people for you. And then do your best to meet up in person, rather than letting conversations linger until someone else takes the initiative and asks your match out on the date you didn’t. That’ll go a long way towards solving your issues… and you’ll have a better time in the process.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, email@example.com