Is Online Dating Different for Men and Women?

Is Online Dating Different for Men and Women?

Do women have it a lot easier than men, and do hot people in general have it the easiest? I know what you might be thinking: yes and yes. It’s hardly the unsolved question of the century.

However, it’s always good to back up hypotheses with facts, and that’s what Jon Millward did with this experiment, posted on his eponymous blog. Millward created 10 fake OKCupid profiles with similar sounding usernames, with the same written profile, personal stats, level of education, etc. The only difference? Each account had a different photo of a man or woman of varying attractiveness.

In online dating, we have the “perception of choice”, but not actual choice itself.

What he discovered isn’t particularly revelatory, but it does echo something I’ve said here repeatedly about online dating – we have the “perception of choice”, but not actual choice itself.

“The expanded horizons offered by online dating don’t equal unrestricted access to a ready and waiting list of beautiful people. Every man and woman online still has criteria that must be met by people who want to date him or her, and every guy and girl is still in direct competition with every other person of their gender… Whereas before a man just needed to be the best looking guy at work to get a date with a colleague, now he needed to be in the top 10% of all men to get a date with one of the women in his city.”

This is the double-edged sword of online dating. You have far more access to singles than ever before. But so does everyone else. Which means that there’s also far more COMPETITION.

Especially when it comes to men trying to write to women. For all the talk about “The End of Men” and how gender roles have been obliterated and women can write to men first, blahblahblah, here’s what ACTUALLY happened after four months:

• The women as a group received over 20 times more messages than the men.

• The two most attractive women received 83% of all messages.

• The two most attractive women probably would have received several thousand more if their inboxes hadn’t have reached maximum capacity.

• It took 2 months, 13 days for the most popular woman’s inbox to fill up. At the current rate it would take the most popular man 2.3 years to fill up his.

And what do men write? Well, you’ve seen this a few times before:

“Most men compliment the attractive women a lot, they make reference to something in the woman’s profile (you would not believe how many times men mentioned the party tricks and ‘Arrow’ the cheetah from the generic profile I wrote), or they ask a general question about travel or something equally boring.”

What SHOULD he write instead? In case it’s not obvious: Demonstrate creativity, intelligence and a great sense of humour

• Be totally different to anything she may have received before
• Be obviously unique and not a cut-and-paste job
• Show that I’ve read her profile and absorbed facts about her
• Not be needy!

I have dedicated an entire volume of my bestselling audio series, Finding the One Online to how to write emails just like this.

Online dating may be a jungle, but it’s a jungle with a LOT of single people, so it’s best to learn how to master the process.

As a woman, your takeaway is that while you may get frustrated at the lack of quality responses, put yourself in a man’s shoes. He has no idea what to write in his first email to you, and he’s competing with hundreds of men for your attention. Be patient, write a better profile, and learn not to get so frustrated with men, and you can enjoy online dating a lot more.

As a man, your takeaway is that the competition is fierce, and thus far, you have not been up to it. Stop blaming Match or women or your city for your failures and learn to market yourself more effectively.

If you’ve been frustrated with your online dating experience, click here and I’ll help you change your tune.

The full study can be seen here.


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  1. 1

    Or do what I did and skip the whole mess, and find someone in the real world, doing what you love and meeting someone doing the same.  That is how it has always worked for me.   

  2. 2

    Just to add, from a female perspective one of the biggest turn-offs when receiving responses online is bad spelling, poor grammar and the use of text speech – delete, delete and delete! Evan, you also make a great point at the end “Stop blaming Match or women or your city for your failures and learn to market yourself more effectively” It’s so easy to blame others for your lack of success rather than reflect and look at the ‘common denominator’ in the situation – which is yourself – and work at improving that to get a better and different result.

    1. 2.1

      So what’s the quality of the messages you send to men? The biggest turn off for me apart from looks is women who are looking for a “hard-working” man.

    2. 2.2

      Not true, and I don’t mean this in a condescending manner. With the sheer overwhelming number of men messaging women, even if one ‘markets oneself better’ or even if one ‘finds the common denominator’ instead of ‘blaming women or Match’ as a man you still have very little chance that your message will even get read by the woman. The odds are stacked against men. But on the flip side of the coin, how are women to be sure that the ‘well marketed man whose grammar was English-perfect’is the right man? What if the man whose grammar was less than great happened to be Mr.Right and he just never got a shot simply because of the pre-conceived notion that the women who read his message denied him a chance?

      1. 2.2.1

        @DavidJ:  You state that a woman might miss out on her “right” match bc she won’t respond to a guy with poor grammaer & spelling.  Well, I’m guessing many men miss out on wonderful matches bc they won’t contact a woman who is fat and missing a tooth or two.  Fact is, all of us overlook people whose superficial traits turn us off.  This is not a “only women are shallow” issue.

    3. 2.3

      The common denominator here is that most women are man-hating feminists who behave like narcissistic entitlement princesses & reject good men all day long for no good reason. You even do it yourself in your post here, implying there is something wrong with most men. This is a huge lie & completely untrue. So stop spreading this feminist poison. No self-respecting male believes that crap anyway. Men are now ignoring this sort of stupidity & ignorance from bitchy women & treating them with the contempt that they deserve, especially in Japan.

  3. 3

    I’ve had a great experience with online dating. Most of the men I’ve gone out with are attractive, employed, intelligent and pleasant. Never met anyone who had obviously misrepresented themselves. No one tried to jump down my pants on the first date. I didn’t feel that any less than ideal behavior on any of my dates’ part was beyond what I would encounter if I was on a date with someone I knew from real life ( and I date many men from real life too). I write to many men online first to get higher quality dates. Sure, sometimes you get annoying messages, but I just laugh it off as part of the game. 

    1. 3.1

      Wow. You are So lucky! I try to screen the men I meet from online very carefully and yet my experience is nearly opposite to yours. I’ve been on about 9 dates in the last 9 months and 3 out of those had grossly misrepresented themselves. Two tried to jump me on the second date, two turned out to be felons. Of the remaining two, both were attractive and intelligent. One evidenced strange drunken angry behavior after texting for a couple of weeks (we lived far apart so couldn’t meet up often) and the other turned out to be a 50 year old living with his mom (and not in a “taking care of HER” kind of way). he was looking for a sugar momma. It’s enough to make me want to give up

  4. 4

    EMK wrote, “As a man, your takeaway is that the competition is fierce, and thus far, you have not been up to it. Stop blaming Match or women or your city for your failures and learn to market yourself more effectively.”
    So true. I also can’t stand poor spelling and grammar, canned messages, blurry and badly exposed photos, or messages that only comment on my looks. Act like you’re taking the process seriously, and make a genuine effort. You’re better off writing fewer, more carefully crafted messages, than cutting and pasting, “your hot”, to lots of women. One guy wrote to me and mentioned how much we had in common (without saying what that might be), and he hadn’t even filled out his profile! I asked him what he thought we might have in common (since there was no way to tell), and never heard back…big surprise.

  5. 5

    I am not in the top 10% of women, I am attractive but no 9 or 10. When I was on dating sites I would typically get 7-10 messages a day, when I changed something around it would jump to about 20. Out of all those messages I might respond to 5-6 a week. So guys, it really is important write an intriguing first message and don’t cut and past some message from PUA online game forums. I can’t tell you how many guys sent me the “I already married and divorced you in my mind.” message.

  6. 7

    “write a better profile”
    Ladies really take that to heart. While I did hear the advice to ‘man up and stop sucking’ please throw me a bone. If I read one more profile that is more or less ‘empty’ except for cliche and photos and an admonishment that I have to do better than, hi, hello, you’re hot or lame PUA schtick, I’m going to have to struggle mightily to not kick a puppy. Give us something to work with.
    And note how few unsolicited approaches men receive and send out a few of your own.

  7. 8

     I have had both positive and negative experiences with online dating. During my last run, I received a lot of men who just want to text or   email even though I’ll playfully   encourage them call and use the advice in the Finding the one Online program.  Sometimes they’ll ask me out through the website or through a text and when calling is brought up, they disappear. A few years back it didn’t seem to happen so often either
     Interesting thing is I don’t encounter this with men I meet in person at singles events, 90% of the time  they do  call. I chalk it up to luck and timing but I also know my profile can be improved.  It felt really frustrating so I took a break but I’m ready to go back to it and put up a professionally taken photo up as well..although I got a lot of positive feedback from the one OK Cupid survey that allows users to review photos.  The coincidence that when I decided to sign up for the photoshoot, there was a sale on 11 shots for only $11.  So I’m feeling excited to see what difference the professional ones will make.  ^_^

  8. 9

    I’ll have to agree with the first part of Frimmel’s #7, post.  If I read one more generic “my friends describe me as (pick 5 of the same 10 adjectives)” profile, I’m going to have to rip my eyes out.  If you want to attract great guys, include a few things that are unique about you in your profile for us to write to you about.  I don’t write a lot of emails, but I have a great response rate because I write to the unique things that women offer up.  I often come across certain women that I am initially attracted to, but when I read her profile I am stumped about what to say.  Should I say something like “I think it’s great that you are witty, high energy, love to travel and look as great in a pair of jeans as you do a little black dress….”  Because that is all there is to go on.  Thoughts immediately turn to ‘hopefully you are not that generic in real life’.  Moving on.  Ugh.  Someone shoot me.  I guess that’s why I don’t write that many emails.

  9. 10

    Frimmel @7
     If I read one more profile that is more or less ‘empty’ except for cliche and photos…
    Agree with you on this one. Many women feel that they can put up 3 photos and a 2 line paragraph which doesn’t give us anything to work with. I just bypass those women. They aren’t taking the process seriously. I have found that when a woman writes a decent profile and gives something to work with, she is much higher quality. Fortunately there are a decent number of them also.
    In short, I think guys have it harder in that we have to do most of the initial legwork. But that legwork can be very fruitful if you just stick to well written profiles of women that are in your league. Once I figured that out, the sex and relationship possibilities came rolling in.

  10. 11

    “Or do what I did and skip the whole mess, and find someone in the real world, doing what you love and meeting someone doing the same.  That is how it has always worked for me.  ”
    Was inundated with loads of copy and pasted messages. Asking me to check out their profile blah blah blah. And also sent messages from men who clearly had not read my profile and just looked at my pic.
    Was a learning experience one that opened my eyes. Not one I would want to repeat, real life  authentic in the moment experiences worked better for me.

  11. 12

    @ Magnolia, Rose (ahhh my favorite flowers… now we need a Lilac and I’ll be a happy camper)
    This is all good and well, but what about the fact that my bf lives 70 miles from me, in a town where I don’t know anyone. We work in completely different fields (IT and academia). We had zero mutual friends or acquaintances. We’re an amazing match, but would’ve never met “in the real world”.
    Another thing I find is that for my age group, opportunities to meet people in the real world are limited. Basically most guys I meet in the real world these days are my coworkers, which is a no-no for me. 40- and 50-somethings don’t go to bars and other social settings where younger singles meet. I’ve been to meetup groups (and know a few couples that met there), but IMO it’s not that different from online dating in that it also boils down to meeting new people online (where they all have to join the group and sign up for events first). I had a lot of guy friends “in the real world” when I was married. After my divorce, many of them asked me out. I went out with a few, and dated one for several months. None of them worked out, and after a year or so, I ran out of guy friends to date. So in summary, I’m a big advocate of online dating, at least for people my age. It’s a pain, but so is dating in general; but it does work.

  12. 13
    Karl S

    Almost all my relationships have come from meeting women online because I prefer the straight-up nature of it. You can both meet at least knowing for sure that the other person is single, looking and willing to allow for the chance to hit it off with you.

    I’ve written countless messages to countless women over the years. Generally I avoid the truly generic ones that only say “I like to have fun” and “I love a good laugh”, or “I like to stay in OR go out”. You will have a much easier time composing a message to somebody who actually mentions tastes or passions that you both share, because you can ask more nuanced questions about them using your own knowledge of those interests. However, you can also end up writing to people you have loads in common with and they still won’t be interested – maybe because they’ve just met someone, you don’t appear attractive to them in your profile pic or whatever other reason. It’s pot luck.

    One other thing I’ve also realized is that its not really worth writing to interesting people you don’t have things in common with, even if you like what they’ve written and they seem intelligent. I’d like to think there’s a chance we could *both* take an interest in each other’s passions, but if you don’t have that solid basis of shared tastes to discuss in detail, it just doesn’t go anywhere (or at least, not in my experience). I should have saved myself time and effort through being yet more discerning in who I tried to contact.

  13. 14

    I bought Evans guide “finding the one online” which gave me great new ideas to think about  I recrafted my profile from a catchy user name to a very “unique” and original profile without the list of adjectives.  I probably get a high level of contact for a 54 year old.
    On a daily basis i get tons and tons of winks and likes to my photos which baffles me because i would presume if they are interested they would write at least a one liner. Im not sure if they are expecting me to take the initiative from there ?????,  who knows… Most photos are not clear so i can’t get a great idea of who the “winkers” are anyway. 
    Messages can be “hi” or a novel which is cut and paste that has absolutely nothing to do with me. I had to laugh once before i posted the body of the profile , a guy said he liked my profile. I told him he must be psychic to intuit what I was about to write. 
    There are so many men who write to me who are  50-79 years old who are looking for a 30-45 year old , and for me it a turn off because they seem delusional. I think Id get over that is they seemed attractive LOL.
    I love getting a message that is tailored to my profile  I don’t care if its just one line, Im much more likely to respond . 
    I find the online thing very entertaining. 

  14. 15

    I’m in my 30s and I’m very social and usually love to complain about online dating.  However, the other night I went to a social event with people my age and a topic that interested me and I actually appreciated having online dating as an option.  The event was outnumbered with other women, the one man I found attractive was talking to another woman the whole night, the girl my male friend hit on told him she had a boyfriend (in a nice way), and so on.  After standing in my heels for hours and paying a ton in parking I went home without anything more than a few minute conversation with a new man.  I know it doesn’t always work that way.  But at least with online dating, every time I go on a date, it’s with someone who at least initially has some interest in me and I get to spend some quiet time getting to know them somewhere.  After going on about 5 less than stellar online dates in a row, I do tire of it. It was just a reminder that it’s nice to have one more option, outside of bars and social events especially since I have very few unattached friends left who are willing to come out with me.

  15. 16

    Dave yes I can see what you mean it’s is surface level social rubbish which feels about as exciting as reading a laundry list or to do list. Neither of those make me feel connected, engaged, tuned in or  turned on. I want to see and hear and connect to what is under that surface level meaningless social rubbish that tells me nothing about who they are.

  16. 17
    Valery North

    Just a couple of quibbles:

    every guy and girl is still in direct competition with every other person of their gender

    That’s just plain wrong.   For instance, I can’t date a smoker (it’s a physical necessity) so automatically a woman who doesn’t smoke is not competing with the smokers in terms of attracting me.   Likewise, I am not in competition with any of the men who only want smokers, and generally not in competition with the men who are smokers (since like tends to seek like in these matters).   For whatever dealbreakers there may be for each person, it reduces the field significantly of who is actually in the competition.

    I seem to recall you had a principle about “being the sort of woman that the sort of man you want to attract would be attracted to”.   That’s basically the core of my objection to the point above.   It’s worth noting that the person portrayed by the fake profile was someone I would not contact, because they sound like a pretentious stuck-up jerk who I wouldn’t want to spend any time on.

    Show that I’ve read her profile and absorbed facts about her

    That just sounds like, “make reference to something in the woman’s profile” which you’ve quoted as a boring and unoriginal approach.   It sounds as though the men referenced by Jon Millward (incidentally, it looks like it’s his personal perception of “boring”, not something tested on a range of people) were trying to do exactly that and just not quite getting it.

    It’s also worth noting that I disagreed quite a lot with the ordering of attractiveness on both the men and the women (being bisexual, I feel qualified to comment on both!) and on both, the pictures I found most attractive had been placed lower on the scale – not bottom, but 3rd and 4th.

  17. 18
    Sparkling Emerald

    Not trying to be a scold here, but I think OK Cupid SPECIFICALLY asks that you ONLY use the site if you are looking for someone and NOT to conduct research. 
    I was only on OK Cupid for 3 days.  Didn’t care much for that site.

  18. 19
    Sparkling Emerald

    I got EMK’s e-book, Finding the One Online, and I changed my profile accordingly and what a difference that made !  I am currently hiding my profiles on both sites, as my plate is full right now.  I hope eventually I can close my profile down all together, I really don’t want to be a serial dater, but until I find a relationship, don’t know what else to do.

  19. 20

    I met my last three boyfriends online. As I’ve gotten older, it has become more difficult to meet men online because I am weeded out due to being over 50 since many men my age prefer younger women. I was spending lots of money to post ads on various websites and got tired of the whole thing. I now  spend my time and energy participating in my singles group at church (the single men come up to me and tell me that I am attractive, but they don’t ask me out), as well as various meetup groups in the S.F. Bay area. I have not met anyone romantically, but I am having fun and enjoying meeting new people (both men and women) and going on different outings in and around the city. 

  20. 21

    I guess to answer the question “Is Online Dating Different Men And Women?”
    The answer after 17 yrs of online dating both as a woman and a man is.
    I still have fun doing it, there’s really no other choice at 50 yrs old. 95% of all my dates in the last 5 yrs have come from meeting women online. I love what Jenna said anytime I get annoyed at someone ignoring me, disappearing, rejecting me, or standing me up. “I just laugh it off as part of the game”, and keep playing….lol
    One thing I’ve always noticed after reading probably over a billion women’s AND men’s profiles is women (for the most part not all) put a lot more effort in their profiles than men do. They always on average put many more photo’s in. I’ve often wondered do you really need 21 pics of yourself in a profile ladies? I know most men don’t come close to this number. I think THEY think the MORE pics they put in the more likely the most attractive successful man on here will email them. Can you say “trying to hard”… after 4 or 5 pics as long as they’re congruent, we get it….you’re gorgeous, active and look like 5 different women! :-)

  21. 22

    @ JB: the problem is that half of those 21 pictures are of places she’s traveled to, or her pet, or her artwork, or show her from far away so you can’t see what she looks like or (as you’ve already noted) even whether it’s her.

  22. 23

    Joe  22 
    You are correct  Im a very visual woman and not being able to see the guy when he has pics of his car, toys, pet, sunsets makes me move to next profile  One guy who had a hobby of photography had a great clear awesome quality image of some brussel sprouts!!!!  But do you think I could see him….noooooooo…. LOL 
    I actually really like the matching algorithm on OK Cupid and being able to see how guys answer questions

  23. 24

    I followed Evan’s instructions to a T with my photos, and added an extra feature of my own. Next to each photo, I’d write 2-3 lines about where, how, etc it was taken. Something that would entertain a reader. Was a big success on OKC. Only advice of Evan’s that didn’t work for me was to take a professional portrait photo. This must be an LA thing. Guys didn’t know what to make of my portrait photo and someone called it “your yearbook picture”. The one photo that I’ve had the most luck with, was of me and my dog sitting on a couch. I’m sitting on my couch in my 15-year old sweater and a pair of sweatpants, and my sheltie lovingly stares me in the eyes. You would not believe how many comments I received on that picture. The weirdest of them came from a guy who called himself a deeply religious person, and went something like this: “I wish I were your dog in this picture, so I could lick your face”. Guys, seriously, whether you’re devout or not, you’ve got to pause and re-read what you just typed before you hit that Send button. That was very very awkward for all involved.
    As for guy pictures. An obviously photoshopped picture as your main profile photo is a no-no (yet I still went out with that guy several times). Shirtless cell-phone photo in a bathroom, I don’t know what possesses people to post those, huge turn-off. The weirdest in my experience was a picture of a guy hugging his 80-year-old mother. He probably meant to make a good impression with that photo, but all it did for me is remind me of “Throw Your Momma Off The Train”… weird, weird, weird.
    I like to see several pictures of a guy doing various things he likes or in various places that he’s visited. That tells me there are other things going on in his life besides online dating. I had several photos of myself at different places/activities for the same reason. If any guy ever thought I had too many photos, I never heard from him. I did get a decent number of emails, so I figure the quantity and quality of my photos were generally okay.

    1. 24.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      Goldie – Pro photos DO work. Just not cheesy studio shots, which is what I’m guessing you purchased. Try using a pro and going to a park.

  24. 25

    What you put in is what you get out.  I agree with the men that quality women who want to meet honorable men online will need to start by writing a fabulous profile about themselves.  Give them a peek.  Open the door and let them see how different you are from the others. 

  25. 26

    Evan – I used a guy that my coworker wanted to hire for his wedding because he really liked the guy’s portfolio, but ended up hiring someone else, because the guy was too expensive. (I had a groupon.) Didn’t go to the park though, as it was winter and pretty cold outside. Maybe if I saw a good example that worked for someone else, I’d be convinced, but I haven’t happened across one. I’ll ask my guy friends if they’ve ever seen a pro photo they liked. I still think it’s a location thing.

  26. 27

    A great photo captures real emotion of the moment.

  27. 28

    @Goldie #24 ” like to see several pictures of a guy doing various things he likes or in various places that he’s visited. That tells me there are other things going on in his life besides online dating”
    That made me laugh because the pics in my profile show that I do absolutely nothing in my life besides online dating (despite how active my profile says I am…lol) I have one pic of me in front of my computer scouring Match profiles pointing at the screen laughing, another on my iPhone using the Plenty Of Fish app in disgust, and yet another of me reading the last book I read “Love In The Time Of Algorithms”(A great book by the way!). No wonder I never meet anyone!! :-) I’m kidding of course but seriously I have no action action shots in my profile of which you speak. They’re just me, they’re clear and good. If a woman doesn’t like em too bad her loss. I believe if a woman likes my pics/profile she’ll email me back and plenty do. I actually tried last summer of taking a pic by my bike and it looked horrible… believe me it would only lower my value. I don’t think many women think like you. Women are way too superficial for that as I’ve proved with many fake profiles like the guy who did the experiment.

  28. 29
    Sparkling Emerald

    JB 30
    “Women are way too superficial for that as I’ve proved with many fake profiles like the guy who did the experiment.”
    Is this fake profiling trying to prove a point about the opposite sex a real common thing ? 
    I read about someone putting up fake profiles of beautiful women, but then made their profiles show them to be really awful people. 
    If I am recalling correctly OK Cupid specifically asks to only use the service if you sincerely are looking to date, and not to use it for research.
    I don’t think your fake profile proves much, accept to confirm your bias that women are “superficial”  You think that men are so deep in who they decide to contact ?  The Plain Jane who just got back from Peace Corp and is currently training seeing eye dogs, or the Hot Blonde with big boobs and a skimpy tell nothing profile ?  Which one gets more views ? Which one gets more e-mails ?

  29. 30

    Those photos in the link are really cute. They don’t look like they were churned out by a studio.

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