Three Questions from an Online Dating Virgin

woman looking at her ipad

Hi Evan,

I’m new to the online dating thing. So, my questions are these:

(1) You suggested a 6-month subscription to an online dating service. Clearly the odds of success are better the longer you’re out there, but is there anything statistical about that?

(2) What are your thoughts on signing up for one service versus multiple services?

And finally…

(3) Do you think paid services are “better” than free ones (i.e. you get what you pay for)?


Hey Tracy,

I generally don’t answer three questions for the price of one, but since they’re pretty straightforward and I don’t have to worry about hurting any feelings, I’d figure I’d knock ‘em all out at once.

So, since you’ve already answered your own question for #1, I’m certainly not going to refute you. And while it’s great to be able to back up my big claims with statistics, I’m just gonna go with logic on this one:

While I can’t guarantee the results of six months on, I can promise that you will ABSOLUTELY, POSITIVELY, 100% NEVER meet a person online if you quit online dating entirely. You can meet him at the grocery store or at a party, but this relies on random happenstance, which, unfortunately, doesn’t yield as many first dates as we’d like.

So, as I see it, even if your chances of meeting Mr. Right on eHarmony are 1 in 100, that’s infinitely better odds than if you’re not on eHarmony.

Detractors will talk about the effort and the frustration and the liars and the rejection — and they’d be right. All I can do is point to the alternative — no dates — as the reason why one must persevere.

Any woman who ever told me that she hated online dating felt justified by her negative experiences. So she opts to have no experiences instead. And while there’s something safe about not dating — no disappointment, heartbreak, and jackasses, to name three things — solitude doesn’t lead one to relationships.

Dating, specifically online dating, does.

So, as I’ve said a thousand times, your job is to be in it for the long haul, instead of thinking that a lone month on a dating site should magically pop out your future spouse. Quitting only guarantees fewer opportunities, and fewer opportunities means fewer chances of meeting “The One.”

Next: one online dating service vs. multiple online dating services. …I believe Shakespeare dealt with the same issue in his time. Alas, he didn’t have access to stock market metaphors, so he wouldn’t be as equipped to answer the question adeptly as I can. So dig this:

If you have a stock that’s performing really, really well, you may not see the need to buy lesser-performing stocks. But if your stock is middling along, and you don’t want to give up on it, you may choose diversify your portfolio to increase your earning potential.

Okay, so it’s a strained metaphor. But the moral of the story is that if you’re on JDate and you’re getting tons of emails, there’s no reason for you to go to Yahoo Personals. But if you’re on Match and you haven’t been introduced to one attractive person, it probably couldn’t hurt you to post yourself on Chemistry as well. Presuming you can handle the a) time and b) money of being on multiple sites, it’s not like there’s a real downside to it.

The trickiest scenario is when you have too many dates and you can’t keep track of who you met where. I’d probably recommend making the most of one website — great username, headline, photos, essays — before exploring another options. And if you’re gonna go to a second website, maybe you should make it a different kind of site. If your first choice was a big one like, maybe you go with a site for big, beautiful women, or a site for Christians, or a site for successful men

Finally, Tracy, I absolutely do believe that you get what you pay for. And if you think that the selection of men on, say, Yahoo, is disappointing, just wait until you get a load of the people who are unwilling to part with twenty bucks a month in pursuit of an everlasting love. It’s not that they’re ALL bad, no more than we can say ALL men do X or ALL women do Y. But if the barrier to entry is so low for a site, it’s often going to attract a less exclusive element.

Throw a charity function for $200/plate and you’ll get different people than if you were, say, running a free soup kitchen, wouldn’t you agree?

Good luck and Vaya con Dios.

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  1. 1

    One thing you might not realise before subscribing is how long-winded online dating can be. If you write to someone, it’ll normally be at least two weeks before you arrange a first date, and you’ll want to date someone for a few weeks before you take your profile down. Then consider that most online connections fizzle out long before anything happens, and that the first draft of your profile will rarely show you at your best, and your emails and general dating technique could always stand to be improved.

    If you are on for less then six months there’s no chance to actually become a better online dater.

  2. 2

    What are those first 3 comments to this post up there? Are they meta-articles spawned by Evan’s articles? Who’s posting them?

    Just curious.

  3. 3

    A tip for your readers if they’re doing a lot of paralell emailing/dating – a spreadsheet. That way you can keep track of what they told you and what you told them without having to read through loads of emails.

    And as for lots of different sites, maybe – but I’d be inclined to try internet dating AND charity evenings AND random parties you’re invited to AND going to swimming lessons and so on. Trying lots of different things rather than more of the same would probably have a better effect. After all, some people come across well at parties, others online, others in relaxed social situations.

    1. 3.1

      Excellent points

  4. 4

    To the new online dater –

    Please also keep in mind that women are generally swamped with responses when they first join an online dating site. Your profile is listed at the top of men’s searches, and you are likely to receive many responses. It will be a bit overwhelming, and you really shouldn’t sign up to more than one site to start with. After awhile, the number of responses you receive will probably start to slow down, and you will have perfected your initial response email and gotten a good sense of which men are serious (hint: they generally write really long responses that discuss things you wrote about in your profile) and which men are just looking for a one night relationship (they request many additonal pictures and have a really generic email that they send to all attractive women) and then you can consider signing up to another site.

    Best of luck!

  5. 5

    One thing that is harder about an online-beginning relationship and a real world-beginning relationship is that when you break up with someone you met online, you never hear about him or her again.

    If you break up with someone you met at work or through friends you might still hear about the person, since you have mutual friends, but when you end something with an online person that person disappears off the face of the Earth. You don’t have any mutual acquaintances, you don’t work together, your paths never cross. If you really can’t stand each other, it’s good to never see each other again, but if it’s a less tempestuous break up, then . . . it’s a sad thing.

    I always wonder about my ex-girlfriends. I wonder how they are doing (regardless of who broke up with whom). It saddens me to have no way of finding out about them.

  6. 6

    I don’t know why this myth persists that women get swamped with emails. It didn’t really happen to me, even though I’m only 32. Yes, I am fit and attractive though I am regrettably not amazingly hot. I posted a great, well-written profile with good, professional-quality pictures. I got probably around fifty to 100 emails across THREE sites when I first started out a year ago. They shortly petered out over just one month, until I was only getting about 5-15 per WEEK across all three sites. And this was with me logging on every day, changing pictures around regularly, and tweaking things to keep my profile high in searches. Over half the emails I got were crap, and most of the men were wildly inappropriate. I know that statistically, that was bound to happen. But it doesn’t change the fact that the men who I would have wanted to reach out to me largely ignored me. There seems to be a pervasive attitude that “Eh, she’s cute but I can do better”. Especially on Match, which is a great site but unfortunately, it seems the lion’s share of picky SOB’s reside on that site. After a very short while, I was down to getting maybe 1 or 2 emails a week on there. So since I’ve recently decided to dump my subscription and say “the Hell with online dating for now”, I decided to use the remaining time to “test” my account. I put up a poor-quality picture of some random hot chick. Same essay, same descriptors, etc. In one week, she has gotten over 180 emails, 130+ winks, 30+ favorites, and multiple “I’m interested” indications. Wow. Guys who previously passed me over (or just wrote lame “what’s up?” messages) are writing to this chick, acting like she’s the most amazing woman they’ve ever seen on a dating site. And I’m like, “really, dudes? THAT’S what it takes to get you to write to me?” And most of these guys are the homeliest mofo’s you’d ever seen! How is it that they think they can take a shot at a chick like that when I wouldn’t even go out with them?

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