Does Online Dating Even Work?!

man sitting on the couch with laptop on his lap

Dear Evan,

I was curious as to what your real opinion is of online dating. I did meet my girlfriend online, but after a year of painful struggle, meaning hardly any dates despite being educated, employed, and reasonably attractive. Friends of both genders tell that their experiences have been hard in different ways. My guy friends (also educated, attractive) complain that they get no responses and female acquaintences tell me that they get so many emails, etc, that they don’t know where to start-and often do nothing. They don’t have time to “date around” several times a week.(actually neither would I). I assume that the problem exists due to security. Women, being more vulnerable than men, are more hesitant to date online, so you get a situation where there’s a lot more men than women. Aside from my own luck and the trendy radio ads and sexy commercials, it seems as if no one’s happy.


Dear Geoff,

Glad to hear you found someone special, and even happier that you spoke up. Most of the people that write about online dating write about what’s wrong with it. It makes sense. I mean, that’s what news is – emphasize the bad, misery loves company, etc. Turn on the TV and it’s not about kittens being saved from trees, but drive-by shootings. That doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of kittens saved from trees.

Go to one of those websites that reviews dating sites and you’ll see the same. Average review will be 2 out of 5 stars or something like that. Why? Because people who get married from online dating sites rarely get back online to post happy reviews on websites. They move on with their lives, while everyone else complains about the sites and the awful people on the sites.

I don’t deny ANYBODY the negative experiences that they’ve had. I just urge people to find some healthier perspective on the whole thing. A private client told me just this weekend that she’s quitting online dating after three bad dates in a row. Here is what I wrote back to her:

First of all, I’ve had EVERY bad dating experience you can possibly imagine. I’ve had women write me nasty emails, insult me over the phone, ignore my phone calls, stand me up, refuse to thank me for dinner, refuse to reciprocate in bed… Are you getting the idea? And yet I still run around as this super dating advocate, because I believe it is the best prospect to find someone special. If you choose to wait for lightning to strike until you go on another date with the “right” guy, you might be waiting a long, long time. Like, FOREVER.

Abstinence isn’t the answer. Mustering the courage to persevere in light of bad experience is.

Listen, you might think I’m nuts to keep on preaching positivity. That’s fair. All I know is that it’s freakin’ HARD to meet someone. We have our small lives: our circle of married friends, our work buddies, a few single people, and that’s it. And as you get into your mid-30’s, the bar scene is really old and set-ups have become a bit of a joke. While it’s nice to say, “I want to meet someone organically, where our eyes meet, so I can feel chemistry”, that simply doesn’t happen very often. This is why I believe in online dating. Not because it’s perfect – not by a long shot. But because it creates opportunity where previously there was none. My first love, in 2003, was a Filipino woman that worked in the pharmaceutical industry and lived in a different part of town. I NEVER would have met her in “real life”. But I did meet her on My best friend in New York is marrying a man she met on eHarmony. My sister is in love with a man she met on Nerve. My sister’s best friend is in love with a man she met on eHarmony. I have dozens of clients who are married, engaged and in love with people they met online. And these are just the people that I know well.

So let’s acknowledge the flaws of online dating: the liars, the bores, the flakes, the crazies, the morons, the perverts, the poor spellers, and so on. These people exist offline as well. They just have access to you online. So as I see it, you have two choices: quit online dating and make a supreme effort to go to as many parties, coffee shops and adult education classes as possible OR try to find a way to avoid the worst of the online daters. The third, and most popular choice, is to quit and wait for your soulmate to drop out of the sky, like “The Secret” for love. Yeah, keep praying, people.

Your best bet is to keep dusting yourself off, learning from your mistakes, and staying in the game. Sure, sometimes you’ll get burned. But sometimes, with enough perseverence (as well as luck, timing, a good profile and a positive attitude), you’ll fall in love. And if it hasn’t happened to you yet, you can say “What’s wrong with these terrible people on these awful sites?” Or you can ask, “How can I make this work for me, despite the obvious flaws?”

You know where I stand. But I’ll tell you, all it takes is one person – and you’ll be standing right with me.

Join our conversation (478 Comments).
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  1. 41

    on post #40

    I tell all single men, “Leave nothing to chance.”

  2. 42

    Dating is just plain hard work. It was the first time around and for those who havent been so lucky, even harder the second time. As an attractive, successful, divorced woman with an eight year old child, dating is alot of work. And yes, dating off of match or eHarmony is a little embarrassing when you are among your married friends who dont remember dating when a kegger wasnt involved. But if it did not work, it would not be so popular.

    I routinely take stock of what it is that I want. Is it wanting too much, are my goals too lofty? It would be easy to compromise on the important stuff just to say I am with someone. But doing so is not fair to who I am as a person. I have alot to offer the right person and I truely hope that some day in the not too distant future I do stumble upon Mr. Right. I know the only way that will happen is to put myself out there – which most likely will be through a dating website. I am certain that I will amass a tome of laughable dating stories along the way. But some day it will happen.

    As far as what is important in an on-line profile – lets be honest. You can write like Hemmingway, but if the person reading it does not find you physically attractive in the least bit, you are doomed to failure. We are all human – and yes, some people get better looking as you get to know them and some get worse, but having some place to start off with looks wise, is very important. Being afraid to post your picture means you are not comfortable with yourself. Cant find love unless you love yourself first.

    And Scott – very cute!


  3. 43

    Yes, when a woman warms up to a man, the man gets better looking….when a woman, is done with a man, when she no longer wants him, the man is unattractive/ugly…..

  4. 44

    Hunter, re:#43

    Yes I’ve found that to be true. And most often it is because the man has DONE something(s) that were unattractive/ugly.

    I will postulate that the same works for men regarding women as well.

  5. 45

    on post #44

    I am not so sure men say the same, after breaking up. I have heard men say how much they miss their former girlfriends “D”-cups……LOL!…

  6. 46


    Yeah, hunter I think you’re right again. When men breakup with a woman they were attracted to they are less likely to dispage her looks. More likely to describe her as a “crazy bitch”.

  7. 47

    I just stumbled upon this site and have been reading the very interesting posts. I am completely new here, but not new in the least to online dating. So here is my .02: Give it an honest try and be willing to put yourself at risk. You’ll find a 100 duds (relationship wise since everyone has value) both men and women, but it is that 101 that could be “the one” or just end up a darn good person to know. Stop bitching about all the negative, it is way too easy and so unproductive. Evan is right, if you don’t want to end up dying alone without sharing all the decent things in your life with someone you’ve connected to, then get up when the horse throws you, dust yourself off, and try it again (it gets easier btw).
    My preference is chat, but I am on eharm too. I’ve had 2 serious relationships come from online, one I am still in now. Without being online, I doubt we would have found each other, no, I know we wouldn’t have. My life is so hectic that I don’t always find the time for me to get out and be social, 2 jobs, blah, blah, blah…Pretty much like everyone these days who doesn’t want to hang out at a bar, or a gym, or a church social, or worse have your family try hooking you up.
    Pictures are weird, superficial, but so is the world, no getting around it, so deal with it. Just try and do the best you can. I’m not special, so I can pretty much believe if I am like this, so are most people. Someone is going to find you attractive not just by a picture but by what you have to say. Example: No, he’s not really getting my, read, read..but heck what a funny guy, oh wait, look at that smile, it’s kinda nice, and he dresses well (neat ,clean, trendy, sporty, laid back etc.), read, read..we like the same books, and I love Scrabble,…those ears are kinda cute.. getting the picture here people, not everyone is superficial, in fact MOST are not.
    Connections are based on a zillion different things; some it’s the ability to provide, hence the people who want to know what you do and what you make. It is in our genetic makeup both men and women. But it also can be just finding out about the other person, and ice breaker, and way to get talking. Personally, humor and conversation do it for me (and a good cowlick), and because I am happily dating a starving artist, I feel I can say this. Neither of us are “pretty people”, we’re not “alike” and it was our differences that we found intrigueing and gave us so much growth potential. It’s been a year of conversation ( no rush and I’m no spring chicken nor am I nervous about a faster meet up, we live 10,000 miles a part), and we’re finally going to meet face to face, no web cam, no pics, no phone, and we have high hopes. If it doesn’t work, I’ll cry for a week, get my shit together and begin to look again with not one regret, and I’ll have a good friend. AND it will be online, though I am not against finding someone in my own backyard.
    Just take it for what it is, another way to connect. It works for some, not for others but don’t go knocking it for everyone. I hope you all connect someday, I hope mine works, there are billions of people on this planet, its a damn shame there is any loneliness at all.

  8. 48

    It’s amazing how similar everyone’s experiences with online dating are (and I am at least 10-15 years younger and childless). Men who lie about their height, emotionally unavailable or unstable men, freaks with gross houses, – I encountered all that, too. It’s SO HARD not to become bitter, but that’s the only way.

  9. 49

    Why was the link I posted edited out? My post doesn’t make sense without it.

  10. 50

    JuJu forgot to tell you about the women that lie about their weight or only put up “head shots” so you can’t see they’re actually obese or that they put “average” for their weight and then you come to find out that average means 215 lbs …lol Yes,I’ve encountered all that as well as women that lie about their AGE too ! Recently I met a woman on Yahoo and actually “hit it off” Let’s see if we can make it to the 2 month mark ?? ….LOL

    1. 50.1

      Don’t ever correspond with a woman that does not have a full body shot, that is a HUGE red flag.         I put several up so that men could see my body and know I was actually the weight I said I was.

  11. 51


    For every woman who has lied about her weight, there are two guys who lied about either their height, weight, amount of hair existing on their head or level of interest in a committment (read – just looking for sex). Lets face it, honesty is not humanities strong suit.

    The good thing is, just like learning to read the want-ads for a used car, you become pretty savvy to those folks who are not all on the up and up. Too bad there is not a “lemon law” for bad dates!


  12. 52
    monica yeto

    thank you for sharing this because i totally agree to everything u said. i met my soul mate online. my bestfriend. love of my life. i cant live without him. he is my other half. i never expected it but it did happen. we found each other. i believe that we should be open minded to these things since we are in the information age. we cant deny the fact that its part our lives now. meeting someone online is not impossible. remember all love stories are unique. if become so critical about it, nothing will eve happen. i decided to take this risk, knowing that i might get hurt because we r distant (he is in the US army by the way). i have to admit it is painful but its fine. i love him and knowing that i do so much, we can never deny it no matter how much we cover our emotions…we will get hurt bec we open ourselves up. we become vulnerable. im not scared to open myself up because when u love, give or receive love…pain is part of it. the saying goes “its better to have love n lost than to never have loved at all.” its true. my love for him is stronger. learn to compromise. be considerate. more understanding. invest in that relationship. its hard work but its worth it.

  13. 53
    Karl R

    Stella (#51) said:
    For every woman who has lied about her weight, there are two guys who lied about either their height, weight, amount of hair existing on their head or level of interest in a committment”

    Stella, how do you arrive at this figure? Do you date both women and men? Since I date only women, I have no basis for comparison as to how honest or dishonest the men are.

    “Too bad there is not a ‘lemon law’ for bad dates!”

    There is. It’s called “No second date.”

  14. 54
    Mike X

    Yes, there are men who lie about stuff. A lot of them. And there are a lot of creeps out there who will copy and paste the same email to 50 women, or will write nasty first emails to women and completely turn them off. Unfortunately, that makes it that much harder for honest, normal guys to make an impression on a woman, or even get our emails to be read.

    I think Evan has touched on this many times: Because online dating allows you to be SO PICKY about every single aspect of your perfect match, people use those measures to screen out all their matches to find who they think is perfect. And of course, if you think someone is perfect, then so do 100 other people, and that perfect person just gets bombarded by email.

    I think that on these sites, there is a LOT of mail being exchanged between a FEW people. You know the Pareto principle? Where 80% of activity is from 20% of participants? I’d guess that on sites like match (which is the dating site the “beautiful people”), 90% of email exchange is between 10% of the users. These are the HOT women and HOT men who get lots and lots of emails. If you are not HOT, be prepared for a lot of disappointment.

    Notice I said email “exchange,” implying a back and forth. I know that women (hot or not) get lots of emails, but a lot of those emails are from guys they are not interested in. And average guys like me? Well, we don’t get anything.

    I’m 5’11, 170, athletic, grad school educated, with plenty of clear photos, and a profile written in the style of Evan’s first book – humorous, with plenty of information about me. I am a nonsmoker, no baggage, good salary, etc. Every email I write is customized, yet my response rate is one out of 40 if I’m lucky. I don’t only write to the hot model girls, either.

    I tell this to women not to have their pity, but just to let them know that no matter how hard they think online dating is, they should be thankful that they are not male.

  15. 55

    Ah, Karl. Not to disappoint, but I only date men. I do, however, have many guy friends who have told me of their dating woes – for every one of their stories, I seem to have at least two.

    And Mike X – everything you have said is correct about on line dating. We do set high, almost unrealistic expectations of our future “dates” making it hard to find that perfect someone. I certainly have learned that lesson – told by one of my guy friends that I followed the 6-6-6 rule, and how was I ever going to find the right guy if I measure everyone by that standard. I have since broken myself of that rule (somewhat) and have met someone that is so not my “typical” date, but who is the perfect compliment to me and I am loving it!

  16. 56

    on post #55

    I have heard women get into relationships, once they start seeing, a not so “typical” date.

  17. 57

    Mike X is correct. Most women have never been “a guy online” average looking or gorgeous to see how ridiculous it all is. Average looking women won’t respond to average looking men. Just like Evan says noone thinks THEY are average. I think more men are willing to “take what they can get” as opposed to women that are “3’s” thinking they’re gonna get that 1 guy that’s a “10”. I have been EVERYONE online including the “average” guy that I AM. It’s a fascinating study to watch what happens to different types of profiles…sometimes funny but mostly very sad. But hey ….even the “average” get lucky sometimes ….. 😉

  18. 58

    to Mike X on post #54

    Try rewriting your profile, until you get results.

    Stay away from the “beautiful people,” (they get hit on many times a day, and receive 100’s of e-mails) until, you get really good at dating.

  19. 59

    Here are two recent e-mails guys sent me on

    “want to talk” (that’s the entirety of the message)

    “Hi u doing love my name is cleveland and im 5 10 light hazel brown eyes medium build about 180 im looking for a real realationship i hope u give me a chance im a good man i dont a picture yet but i would love to send u one my number 504xxxxxxx i hope u call”

    I don’t care how elitist I’m being, I’m not responding to those messages no matter what the guy looks like, how much he earns, etc. Unfortunately, 90-95% of the e-mails I receive are like this. And here is one of the better ones I’ve received lately:

    “i see you have alot goin on i to have rocs i raise them an bull mastiffs i have had the chance to travel alot i really loved it. u r so diverse it would take me a day to relay all ur xperiances to mine but i do find u intrestin an i would love to know more about you what part of new orleans ur from what college u graduated from. whats ur favorite quick meal. what type of work u do.” At least he’s read my profile. But is it really that hard to spell out words correctly and use standard English? Am I really asking for that much?

    But I think Mike X is right about 10% of the people on Match doing 90% of the communication. Eda and I had a discussion on a different thread whereby we discussed how race is a big factor in the (low) number of hits we get. I’m 28, college-educated, moderately attractive, have an interesting profile, clear photos (head and full-body) that I tell everyone were taken in the last 10 months. I’m supposed to be at my peak of dating desireability and the garbage above is mostly what I receive. And when I initiate e-mails with guys, my response rate isn’t that great. So I think online dating is hard for everybody except for the supermodels.

  20. 60

    But isnt that what makes this whole thing amusing? Emails from the bull mastiff breeder.

    I think it is funny that all the guys on this think that the girls have the upper hand – and I would beg to guess that the girls think it is the boys that are troublesome.

    I was always amazed at how many guys emailed me pictures of their motorcycles and thought I was going to be game for a date. My profile could not be more conservative and waspy and I get Harleys – who cant spell and like to hunt.

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