DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: A bit of a different question here. I (32/m/he/him/his) just started using Hinge again after a year hiatus. I’ve only had my account for 9 days as of writing this letter. In that time, I’ve garnered 16 matches averaging more than 1 every day and I have not lowered my standards. This must mean that my profile and my openers are doing something right. I did go on one date three days ago.
My question is, how does one handle a full inbox? I was attempting to engage with everyone who either matched or liked me, but it felt like I was spreading my attention too thin. I don’t expect all of them will go out with me, but I also would like to get as many opportunities to connect in person as I can. I know a lot of this is completely out of my control, but what would you do?
DEAR UNEXPECTED SUCCESS: This is what we in the advice biz call “a quality problem to have”. I imagine that has to feel pretty darn good! So let’s make sure you make the most of this opportunity and minimize any heartbreak and struggles.
The first thing I’d suggest is that you want to make sure you’re not making the same mistake that Ghosts of Matches Past from yesterday’s column is making by casting your net too widely. But 16 matches in 9 days is pretty damn respectable, and hopefully these are actually good matches.
Now, as I said to GMP: the goal of online dating is to meet someone you want to see again while wasting as little of your time as possible – both on bad dates, but also managing messages. Part of the problem with having a VERY full inbox is that it makes it difficult to give any one person or small group of people the time and attention they deserve.
This is why the first thing I would suggest is that you start by doing some inbox triage. As I said: you want to waste little time on dates you’re not actually interested in, so start by figuring out who you’re most interested in and who you’re only mildly intrigued by.
I know it’s very tempting, especially if you’ve been having a hard time meeting people, to want to let go of any possibility. But the fact of the matter is that this tends to be the results of a scarcity mindset, and you want an abundance mindset. If the ones you’re into aren’t that into you in return, then there will be others who are just as great if not more so down the line. But you don’t do yourself or your matches any good by holding onto some that you’re not that into “just in case”. After all, you don’t want someone you can slot into the role marked “girlfriend”, you want someone you’re really into and really clicking with.
This is why I suggest a “f--k yes” or “f--k no” pass; if, while looking at their profile and pics, if they’re not a “f--k yes”, then you’re better off just letting those go. That will cut down the ones you’re just not that into and free up your time and attention for the ones you are.
Next: beware becoming Pavlov’s Dog. We already have a thousand different bings, beeps and badges making demands on our time; you don’t want to leap just because you see a notification pop up. If you compulsively open the app every time it pings at you, you’re going to burn through your emotional energy really quickly and you’re going to have a harder time giving any attention to the people you’re messaging. Let things sit until you have the time to actually respond, instead of replying immediately. It may be helpful to get in the habit of replying at specific times of the day – which will also help get you out of the habit of paying attention to response time between messages. I know some folks who mostly reply when they’re in the bathroom; it’s one of the few times when they don’t have a thousand other things competing for their attention.
(Do not, whatever you do, tell your matches that you’re replying while on the toilet.)
When you do reply, I’d recommend replying to the messages in the order they came in. Unless you and one of your matches hit it off immediately, going in chronological order helps keep things relatively organized and efficient. At the very least it means that you’re not bouncing around trying to figure out who you talked to last or most recently and who you’re over-messaging or under-messaging.
The third thing is what I tell everyone: the goal of online dating apps is to get off the apps, as quickly as possible. While it’s good to keep the conversation going, you still don’t want to be trying to do all the building of rapport and flirting via text – especially when you don’t know that person or haven’t met them in the flesh. You don’t want to try to grind out the full reputation/relationship meter with them; you want to connect enough that the two of you feel comfortable meeting up for a pre-date date and vetting session. So get the conversations going and if you two are getting along well, propose a short meetup – again, no more than 20 minutes max. That seems to be the sweet spot for “easy to say yes to” and “doesn’t feel like a waste of my time if it doesn’t work”.
The fourth thing to keep in mind that you don’t want to emotionally invest in any of these matches. Not yet. I realize this is going to sound weird or possibly even a bit dehumanizing but you may want to think of your matches as chat-bots until you actually meet up in person. One of the things I see all the time are folks who get very hung up on a person they’re chatting with and then get their heart broken when it ends up not happening for some reason or another.
The hard truth about dating apps is that you’re going to face a lot more rejection than you will meeting people face to face. Because of the nature of dating apps, especially ones with swipe mechanics, you’re putting yourself out there to far more people in 20 minutes than you could over the course of an evening. Which means that you’re going to be rejected more often, simply because of scale. If you take any of it personally, you’re going to burn out like someone dropping a lit match in a box of matches. Not getting too attached to any one person on a dating app until you actually get past the first date – not the first meet up but the first date – is a matter of self-protection against unnecessary heartbreak.
The fifth and final thing: don’t overthink this. I know people tie themselves into knots about “double texting”, “reply times”, green/blue to grey ratios, etc. All of that is an attempt to apply control to the ineffable, a way to try to apply rules to emotions that love to defy rules. If you start getting focused on the minutiae – does it count as double-texting if you wait an hour in between? What about three? – then you’re going to lose sight of what you’re actually trying to do: find a connection with another person who you hopefully will like and who will hopefully like you. All that ends up happening is that you end up smothering the things that make you uniquely you and ensuring that your matches aren’t going to be as good or as solid.
As I said: you don’t want to take any of this too seriously – not the number of matches, not the number of replies, any of it – until you actually have met in person and had at least one date. If you do… well that’s how you get overwhelmed, then burnt out.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org