Why Do I Hit Home Runs in Person Yet Strike Out Online?

I’m 32, recently single and am looking forward to being back in the dating scene. I’ve tried the major online dating site in the past using a three month subscription. Anyway I noticed that online, I got few responses from men. And I don’t mean few responses from guys who match what I’m after. Just few responses in general. (Yes, my profile was visible and showed up in searches) I had my best recent clear headshot, plus a few good photos and a recent full body shot. I have what I thought was a genuine profile that highlights the things that make me stand out and I believed my words came across as witty, smart, and sincere. Not the usual “I like to go shopping, go to the gym, and hanging with friends”, yada yada yada.

Now while I was doing the online thing….I also went out to singles events after work. The strange thing is I easily met men and was asked out regularly when I went to singles events. But online it was dismal. I emailed dozens of guys with brief messages where I tried to be witty and show I read their profile in detail (like you advise!) and little resulted. I emailed younger guys, older guys, guys far away, guys nearby, skinny guys, heavier guys, etc….and never even got far enough in email exchange to get to the “talk on the phone” stage in three months. I even switched my photos periodically.

Obviously I’m sticking with the singles events because my results are much better. But I can’t help but wonder….how can I hit home runs in person yet strike out online? You’d think it happens the other way around. I also live in the NYC area, and I’ve seen many female profiles where they are “model” looking women with pictures flaunting their “assets”. Short of me putting on a sexy black dress and heels for my body shot, I’m perplexed about why this is happening. I’ve apparently got good looks and charm in person, but apparently not online. What gives?


Dear Sara,

Ready for Lasting Love?
Ready for Lasting Love?

The good things about singles events: alcohol, hanging out with friends, dressing up, excitement, music, live conversation, the possibility of “chemistry”.

The good things about online dating: inexpensive, any time of day, no need to go out, ability to market yourself and screen anonymously, ability to search, filter, and get to know people before the date, unprecedented access to members of the opposite sex all over the world.

Online dating creates far more access to singles with far more competition. Real life provides far less access to singles with far less competition.

But, as far as I’m concerned, the main difference between “real life” and online dating is this: Online dating creates far more access to singles with far more competition. Real life provides far less access to singles with far less competition.

Look around, you’ll see.

Go to a bar and there may be three cute guys in the entire place. Go online and you’ll probably find dozens within twenty miles of your home. And for the same cost as a night out on the town, on Match.com you can conceivably talk to ALL of these guys to see who is the right fit. Is it any surprise that people choose to take the online route?

But the better way for you to see the difference between online dating and offline dating is through the eyes of a man. For the sake of this exercise, let’s call this man “Evan”….

Now, Evan is a decent guy — not a Casanova, but not a complete dork either. He is confident in his conversational abilities and relatively comfortable with his looks, but has never felt too comfortable approaching total strangers. Each time he goes out with his buddies, he blows $50 and, half the time, he doesn’t even have the courage to talk to the most attractive women. Then he discovers online dating.

Because he’s verbal, he finds this medium particularly suited to him. The same women he couldn’t approach at the bar write back to him online. Eventually, he wonders why he would ever go to a bar again. And, although he’s loathe to admit it, online dating has turned him into something he never thought he’d be — a serial dater. It’s so easy to get a phone number, a date, a one-night stand — that it’s hard to get off the conveyor belt of options. After all, there’s always someone cuter, someone younger, someone smarter, someone newer.


Now if an average dude like Evan feels that he has the power to land the cream of the crop online, why would he ever write to anyone else? That’s right. He wouldn’t.

Now if an average dude like Evan feels that he has the power to land the cream of the crop online, why would he ever write to anyone else? That’s right. He wouldn’t. But that’s just one guy’s story. Here’s a far more common one that will really bring the point home:

Paul is 41 and wants to be married and have a family. So first of all, Paul is going to write to women between the ages of 25-35. It’s not that he has anything against 36-year-old women, but why should he have to feel rushed into having kids? Oh, yeah, Paul’s also looking for someone whom he could see himself sleeping with for the rest of his life. So he’s gonna start at the top, writing to models completely out of his league, one after the other… You know why? Because HE CAN. Because they’re THERE. Because even though he hasn’t heard back from a single one of them, why would he possibly write to someone who is slightly above average? After all, he can still entertain the illusion that he can get someone out of his league.

Put Paul in a bar and, like Evan, he’s going to feel lucky to talk to ANYBODY who smiles at him. And, much to his surprise, Paul may find himself enjoying the company of the woman standing next to him at the bar. She may not have been the hottest woman in the place, but she was open to meeting him, she had the best smile, and the quickest sense of humor. You can be sure Paul is getting her number at the end of the night. Yet he never would have asked her out online. Too much competition, too many options.

And lest the point be lost in all this talk about selective men, this phenomenon is even MORE pronounced with women. Think about it this way, guys. At a bar, when you have a great conversation with a woman, you can probably get a phone number. She may get hit on a few more times that night, but you just have to be the top candidate among four or five guys. That same woman online may have HUNDREDS of suitors approaching her each day. You haven’t seen competition until you’ve peeked into the online account of an attractive 25-35 year old woman.

Therefore, Sara, your diagnosis is right on. Certain people will acquit themselves better in person because they get marginalized by the very nature of online dating. Overweight women, short men, older people are among those who have it the roughest. In real life, their charms outweigh their shortcomings. Yet online, they’re easily overlooked because everyone has the PERCEPTION of choice, and goddamnit, they’re going to exercise it.