Why Are All My IM Conversations So Mind-Numbingly Dull?

I’m not sure exactly what my question is, but here’s the situation. Whenever I get to the instant messaging portion of online dating, 90 percent of the time I find the conversation to be completely dim. This isn’t even counting the guys who’ve never heard of proper grammar and spelling. The conversation is always filled with small talk – hello, how are you, what’s up, not much, just chillin’ – and nothing beyond it. The most conversation I get is “What do you want to talk about?” which I think just seems lazy, making the other person do the work. And “Sorry I’m not talking more” rather than just talking instead of apologizing but STILL not talking. I never get to know these people and just find myself annoyed at even having to fake interest in the “conversation”. So I guess my question is: what do I do? Do I suffer through the dullness and hope for a first date that might be better? Or do I write these people off as dimbulbs and move on to someone who has a little more to say? Or am I completely in the wrong for having this problem in the first place? I’m very interested in hearing your take on this.


Yet it stands to reason that the best writers/marketers are not necessarily the best people, and moreover, that among the vast majority of people with generic profiles, there are undoubtedly many gems.

Dear Patti,

You haven’t lived until you’ve IM’d with me. I’m telling you.

I’m quick-witted and flirty. I’m bolder than I am at a bar. I write as fast as I talk. I mean, literally, you would have to be insane not to fall head-over-heels for me after about a half-hour of IMing.

But that doesn’t mean that I’m a good boyfriend for you. I could be a player. I could be a liar. I could be wantonly flirting with you to pass the time post-divorce. All you know is that I’m funny and charming and articulate, and this is what passes for chemistry in this medium.

Now are you MORE likely to have real life sparks when there are IM sparks? Yes. Absolutely. But it’s not necessarily a predictor of much more. This same concept can be extended to profiles. We tingle in awe at a really good one and roll our eyes at the generic ones. Yet it stands to reason that the best writers/marketers are not necessarily the best people, and moreover, that among the vast majority of people with generic profiles, there are undoubtedly many gems.

How do I know this? Because they’re my clients. People like you — smart, successful, articulate writers, doctors, lawyers, professors, CEOs… with generic profiles that don’t give a hint of their personalities.

My guess is that these same people have equal trouble cobbling a conversation on IM. This is not a defense of them — just an observation that if 90% of people aren’t adept at profiles and IMing, it doesn’t mean that 90% of people are dullards and dimbulbs. There’s a good number who are just not skilled at these particular tasks. It may be second nature for the Undisputed Heavyweight Champion of Online Flirting (me), but for a great guy who is more comfortable working with his hands, he’s outside his comfort zone. (By the way, I hired a guy to put together my office furniture today. We all have our weaknesses.)

It’s easy to criticize guys with no game. But if most guys don’t have it, it doesn’t mean they’re dull.

However, Patti, your ability to capture the nonsense that most people spew in these so-called “conversations” also raises my hackles. (Yes, they’re raised! Look closer!)

As a prolific online dater who could literally conduct two IM sessions simultaneously without either woman knowing I was otherwise occupied, I struggled at my attempts to turn water into wine. And if you have an infinite number of dating options, sure, you can write off all of the boring people.

I just want to point out to you something that you might not have considered as a woman; how damn difficult it is to hit on you from scratch. Doubt it? Think that guys just need to “man up”? Fine.

Next time you’re out, go to a bar, find a really cute guy that you’d love to meet and approach him.

If you’re anything like 90% of guys out there, you’ll agonize for 30 minutes about what to say, and, when you actually get there, will freeze like a deer in headlights, only to come up with something like, “Hey, what are you drinking?”

It’s easy to criticize guys with no game. But if most guys don’t have it, it doesn’t mean they’re dull.

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  1. 21
    Ronnie Ann Ryan - The Dating Coach

    Evan – you’ve done it again! I couldn’t agree wtih your comments more. As a dating coach for women over 40, I tell them so many of the same things. It is so easy to criticize and decide most men aren’t worthy. The real cahllenge is being ready, willing and able to meet them! Some people are excellent email and IMers, others give better phone, while others are best in person.

    Every communication style has its pros and cons, experts and dullards. However, if you don’t meet some of the men, you may never find the right guy for you.

    Get over the criticism and start opening your eyes to possiblities. Come up with ways to draw the guys out. Be entertaining yourself. That’s how you’ll move forward to finding the love you want and desrve!

  2. 22

    -NN-, I am like you. I find emailing to be impersonal, and IMs are my comfort level of first getting to know someone. I’ve tried dealing with people who won’t IM and it’s gotten nowhere, so I don’t bother with that anymore. I’m not gonna meet someone in person, or talk on the phone, if we can’t manage conversation over IM, not matter what Evan says. I usually like Evan’s advice but I think since he got married he’s really forgotten what it’s like to be searching for someone to spend the rest of your life with.

  3. 23

    I perfer IM. It’s a great way to determine a person’s energy level and their sense of humor, it’s easy to find out how playful they are. I find it easy to expres myself with IMs and can determine fairly quickly if there is a chance for compatibility without wasting money on useless dates.

  4. 24

    Strictly speaking for myself I have to concur with Tyler #23.
    I like to find out about a person on IM and email before I take the time and energy to leave home and find out we have zero things in common.

    I abhor dinner dates but I do enjoy museums, galleries, mini golf, etc.
    Just not a sit down and talk kind of person.   And if she is then she probably will not enjoy my company.

  5. 25

    I love this letter. It perfectly illustrates my dating experience. The flip side is, when I share what I’m thinking, it usually stuns them into silence. For example: “Wow, I’m reading about telomeres this week and I’m amazed at how the human body is a metaphor for life and illuminates other physical phenomena. There are all these different systems with competing wants, needs and even ideologies, that exist in the same larger system. Doesn’t that make you look at the solar system differently”?

    Yeah, crickets. Usual response: Um, yeah. So, you up to come over & watch a movie?”


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