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

Woman with a baseball bat

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,

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.

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  1. 1

    If you aren’t getting any responses at all, you might want to consider having your friends (especially male ones) read your profile. Some women have unintentionally included things in their online dating profile that will turn men off such as negativity (I don’t speak to men under 5’10), a list of too many specific requirements (especially financial ones), or having unflattering pictures. I haven’t seen your profile, so I have no idea if any of these issues apply to you, but if you are not getting any responses and are attractive enough to get hit on in person you might want to have a friend review your profile.

    Best of luck to you

  2. 2

    Man ..this is Evan’s expertise as you can see he nails it. For many years I’ve done better in person at clubs & singles events than I had online. Even going so far as to actually put IN my profile..(as a take off of what most people put)”tired of the online dating scene I’m going back to the bar where I actually meet people”…lol (and don’t care if they look like some blury pic from 4 yrs and 30 lbs ago)because I know what they look like RIGHT HERE & NOW.

    Again…every woman in a club ISN’T on some website getting tons of responses every day thank god !! I found myself saying “I’d never get near this woman if she was on an online site,yet here I am getting her number and going on a date with her within 2 days” almost impossible to do online.

    All in all it has been “evening out” though. I met a woman last night that looked better than her online photos and we had a great time.

    I do think it’s weird Sara that you do better in person than online of course the only way for us to figure it out for sure is to meet you in person and see your online profile and maybe find som incongruences. Evan will have to make a house call for that one ….LOL

  3. 3

    A couple of things stood out to me…
    I think Evan’s email was a bit too general and lacking in specifics that will help you. Having read evan’s books, my suggestions…

    — THREE MONTHS to get to ‘talk on the phone’?! You should be talking on the phone and going out for coffee after the third email. That is, one of you should ask the other out in the third email. Preferably 1 week after you started talking, but 2-3 weeks max. THREE MONTHS is just setting up both of you for a colossal waste of time when there is no chemistry in person.

    — Men really do focus on the photo. And (if they are smart) they learn to focus on the WORST photo. A couple of really good photos is plenty. If you have several, one of them may make you look bad and cause him not to respond.


  4. 4

    Posting a URL to your online dating so we can give constructive criticism sound like a fun ( for us ) exercise even though it has the potential to be scary ( for you ).

  5. 5

    It’s possible Sara has something in her profile that selects her out right off the bat from most searches. On match, when I do a search, I will only select ‘slender’ and ‘athletic’ as body types. So, if Sara has ‘average’ as her body type, she won’t even show up in my search, even though she might be totally hot in real life.

    That’s the first thing I would look at. Serious online daters don’t browse every single profile in a large city…they’ll drill down to what they’re typically attracted to, such as body type, age range, height range, race, smoking pref, and a few others.

    Also, if she wants to get some traffic, she should view a bunch of men’s profiles that she likes. This is the equivalent of a ‘wink’ without doing the wink. Savvy online daters will almost always check out your profile if you’ve checked out theirs. This is actually how I get most of my online dates, when I was doing the online dating thing.

  6. 6

    I thought Evan’s answer was great and there isn’t too much that can be added to his comments.

    My thoughts on this echo what Ben wrote about the photograph. I think men look more at the photograph than anything else. At a bar, the atmosphere is different. He may have had a few drinks, there are not too many women who look open to conversation. He may give a chance to a woman he would exclude online simply because she was warm and friendly. A nice smile in person can do wonders Evan put it well.

    Evan made some good points about the online system working better for men who are good writers. I know a man well who won’t bother with online because he’s the kind of guy that doesn’t care about rejection. His self esteem is enormously high, and he cleans up at a bar scene. Why? Because he represents the small portion of men who aren’t afraid of being rejected. He’s told me that he’ll sit with a group of friends – and he’s the only one in 5 or 6 guys who would dare to approach an attractive woman. Although he’s no better looking that the others, he gets a chance with women there because the others don’t even try. He acknowledges that maybe only 1 in 10 women will give him a number, but he doesn’t mind the rejection process. It works for him in the end. His advice to his friends is always to just approach a woman, and not let it get to you if they are uninterested. By the way, his shy friends generally end up single for years.

    Another thing is (and this in no way applies to the original poster), is that some men feel more comfortable approaching women live if they are average looking. The men assume this woman won’t reject him so quickly. Another thing my friend has noted is that at dance clubs, the very best looking women tend to have a boyfriend. This means that after trying to talk to them and getting rejected, he’ll move on to the less attractive women, in the hopes of getting a future date.

    On the other hand, a man can approach beautiful women online as it is anonymous and not face to face. This means he doesn’t need (in his mind) to take rejection really personally. Online, now that he CAN approach beautiful women, he will. He won’t bother approaching the average women online unless he gets no response for a long time.

  7. 7

    The funny thing about what Li-Ann said about her friend was. I find myself after being rejected online by the women I’m really interested in, emailing women I’m not EVEN interested in just to see if they’ll respond to me. Thus I’m actually qualifying myself to women who if they walked by me in a club I know for sure I wouldn’t even notice them.

    I also put up a recon profile of a guy who’s about an 8 or 9 in the 4 pics with all the same basics as me and a profile that says basically NOTHING, all he can do is “wink” and not reply and he gets about 70% response to his wink and 3 sentence generic say nothing profile. Why ladies ??? Because he’s CUTE !!
    Women will even email him 3 times without a response back !!
    Btw ladies…don’t ever email a man and say “You’re hot !!”…lol
    Your value will plummet …lol unless you’re “hotter” …LOL

  8. 8

    Regarding Ben’s post…..I recall Evan mentioning that meeting for a drink might be better than coffee…..always meet my dates for a drink!! I may suggest a franchise that also serves lunch or dinner. Then if we are connecting we can spend time breaking bread together.

    That said, online “dating” is like having a part-time job but the efforts can be worth their weight in gold. Embarking upon my 1st online year and have had some great dates. Nothing long term yet. Was once told a lady has to kiss a lot of toads before her prince comes along.

  9. 9

    Oy……it sounds like the Neanderthals had it better.

    True, the women didn’t shave, but you didn’t have the bar scene or the online dating thing. You just threw a stack of food on the ground and grunted.

    Women today just aren’t impressed by grunting.

    1. 9.1

      You had me at grunting and food!

  10. 10

    Sara –

    I would actually take it as a complement that you hit home runs in person, and I wouldn’t worry so much that you strike out online.

    At least that is how I would feel.

    Imagine how you’d feel if the opposite were true: You could get plenty of dates from men who read your profile online, exchanged a few emails with you, and saw a static (and often unreprestational photo of you), but could not rustle up a man in person if your life depended on it! Now that would really keep you awake at night.

    So, you’re a sexy, charming, vivacious woman in person who men cannot resist. Feel good about that. There are people in the world who have REAL problems. Like blindness, cancer, bankruptcy, poverty….you get the message.

  11. 11

    Sorry about the typos. I was in a hurry…

  12. 12


    You say that your male friend “absolutely cleans up” at the bar scene. Then you go on to say that your friend admits he only gets about 1 phone number for every 10 women he approaches.

    Let’s do the math here. He would have to approach on average 50 women in one night just to get 5 phone numbers.

    LOL. It’s extremely unlikely you’re friend “cleans up” at the bar. Unless you call getting 2 or 3 phone numbers “cleaning up.” Because there is no enough time for a man to approach 30 women in one night at a bar (and speak to them long enough to ask for a phone number), and he’d have to do that just to get 3 measly numbers.

    No offense, but either you are or friend are full of it.

  13. 13


    Did I miss something in her mail where she said something about 3 months?

    1. 13.1

      Markus, I wondered about that too. I think Ben misread her post. She said in the three months (she’d been online) she’d never even gotten to the point of a phone call (and other examples). Because of the way she worded it, he  read that as she wanted to take three months to get to the phone call..

  14. 14

    Ron: How many numbers do you get when you go to the bars? None?

    Getting 1 in 10 numbers is a poor closing rate compared to guys who are experienced with getting numbers (ie players), but it’s tons better than the chode who sits in the corner nursing a drink, or worse, the guy who stays at home.

    My guess is Li-Ann’s friend doesn’t have good training or good technique, but he does possess the one quality that blows everyone else away: guts. Plus, he doesn’t mind rejection, which means he’s internally validated and doesn’t get emotionally affected by outcomes. Again, positive qualities.

  15. 15

    Ron Feb 18th 2008 at 08:39 pm 13
    You say that your male friend absolutely cleans up at the bar scene. Then you go on to say that your friend admits he only gets about 1 phone number for every 10 women he approaches.

    I don’t think it is necessary to be pedantic about using slang phrases like “absolutely cleans up” with precision. Her point was that her average looking friend does much better with women than other average looking men because he doesn’t let an aversion to being turned down prevent him from approaching women in the first place.

    I think the term “much better” is justified as she mentioned that it can take this man’s friends months, if at all, to make a connection with a woman of their choice while this guy regularly does so. 1 is much more than zero.


  16. 16

    Aside from the less flattering aspects of human nature already described to explain Sara’s situation there is the phenomenon of technically accurate pictures and descriptions failing to covey essential, vital aspects of people.

    Some things will just not come through a picture or a block of text that shine through in person….even without alcohol or other things.

    The whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

    I agree, be happy that it all works for you in person. That is how it is supposed to be. Going out and meeting people in person is the real thing. It is having a life.

    Online dating is a poor substitute.

  17. 17
    Michael Ejercito

    Some women have unintentionally included things in their online dating profile that will turn men off such as negativity. I myself have read negativity from women’s profiles. Here are some quotes from one woman’s profile.

    “Listen up boys, I am not intrested in having a sexual enconter, activity partner (I already have a personal trainer)or a one night stand, blah blah blah. It doesn’t impress me and I don’t care that you’re a millionare or the next top Calvin klein model or the next best thing since Bill Gates!!! If you are married, go talk to your wife. Not rude just straight forward, love it or leave it! If I don’t or haven’t responded to your e-mail, it’s nothing personal…Have a beautiful day and good luck! Oh, and if drinking is one of your hobbies, be sure to pass on e-mailing me!”

    I wonder what Evan’s opinion is on this profile.

  18. 18

    Online dating is a conundrum. Evan nails a fastball right down the middle with his description of the problem (95% of the people competing for 5% of the opposite sex – plus that 5% keeps getting replenished, giving the illusion of unlimited football-loving swimsuit models).

    What you can do as a member of the other 95%? The same thing every marketer in the world does – test, test, test!

    Take a new photo. Write a new blurb and headline. Try a new “angle.” You will be surprised how you can vary your profile and still be you. As a demonstration, back when I online-dated, I initially was underwhelmed with my response – until I finally hit on the right words and pictures – and how! (It peaked with an unsolicited response from an actual former model in LA, who also happened to be smart and funny and even paid for my hotel room when we met for the first time…I am not making this up.)

    So if it’s not working, try something different – oh, and play in the “big ponds” like Match and Yahoo Personals where the sheer numbers work in your favor.

    As with everything, it’s never about “just being you,” it’s about “being the BEST you.”

  19. 19

    Ron, you seem like a nice guy, but its way too early for you to already tell me I’m full of it. That’s a pretty direct comment.

    Clean up is too strong a word, and that’s my fault for the wording. What my friend means is he actually gets a phone number, vs. going home with nothing at all. He might get just one number a night. That might mean just 3 or 4 numbers in a month of going out Friday nights. But his friends don’t get any. So he’s pretty happy with that. I’ve seen at least three of his girl friends since I’ve known him and they’ve all been beautiful girls on the 9 scale. He’s no better looking than his friends, and has an average income. However, they’re all still looking and getting frustrated and he’s pretty satisfied. So maybe it sounds like a lot of work and rejection to approach 10 to get one number, but he is not complaining. And 10 to 1 was his estimate – he doesn’t actually count and keep a list while he’s out there. So he may be off a bit. The bottom line is that he gets to date women he is interested in.

  20. 20
    Kat Wilder

    Have to run with something Michael Ejercito wrote about the posting with negativity: I don’t find much negative (OK, a little) in the posting excerpt you include here. I actually find a bit of humor, and humor is often hard to get across in such a static medium as the Internet (that’s why we often rely on emoticons when we want to make sure what we’re saying is taken with a twinkle in our eye).

    Is it better to say all the things she wants tall, dark, handsome, interesting, self-aware… etc. or lay out the few deal-breakers? and, you know, being married and boozers are real deal-breakers!

    I don’t like her “OK boys” or the “If I don’t or haven’t responded to your e-mail, it’s nothing personal” comments; they reek of a bit of an attitude.

    But many people don’t know how to write a good profile because we’re afraid of coming off egotistical or we write what we think will attract others (and not who we really are) or … and this is the worst … we don’t really know ourselves all that well. All that said, the photos are the No. 1 draw, and if you’re not posting flattering (but accurate!) pics, you are lost in the sea.

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