A Misanthrope’s Rules for Online Dating

Or “Y’all Need Help”

Okay, so I’ve been doing this online dating thing for way too fucking long. Like, seven years too fucking long. And god I’m loving writing the word “fuck” in a serif font- I don’t think I do that nearly enough. I’ll try not to so much in this article but fuck I’m not sure I can help it.

Anyway, online dating. I’ve met two boyfriends off of it and gone on countless dates, countless hookups, and countless “I don’t know what this is supposed to be but damn I don’t like it”s off of it. I’ve tried a bunch of different ones and each one has a particular flavor, a particular etiquette and sense that should be obeyed. These etiquettes change over time and space: OKCupid now is not the same OKCupid of my yesteryears and Tinder of rural upstate New York is not Tinder of midtown Manhattan. That being said, there are a few baseline rules — unspoken, easily argued with rules — that I feel need to be laid down. Because fuck, y’all need some manners.

  • No one owes you shit. Even if you match with them. Even if you exchange a few cardboard-feeling pleasantries. We are used to in the real world capturing our audience, our conversation partners, and then having to mutually decide when it ends. That’s just not so in cyberspace. People can stop talking to you, block you, whatever. That’s because you are not in a relationship. You’re in a supermarket.
  • Don’t be boring. My number one reason for not responding after we’ve started talking (aside from I grew tired and deleted the app outright) is that the so-called person on the other end of the line was boring as shit. A “hey” to see if they’ll respond is fine, but after that motherfucker you better engage with me. Don’t say your day was “good” and leave it at that- tell me something you did, a thought you had. Seek out commonalities between us. If I bring up a specific thing I’m doing don’t “lol” at me and then expect me to throw in the next bit of text. My silence means I have no reason to continue this conversation. Probably because it’s not a conversation at all.
  • You get to message someone two times without a response. No more. Maybe they forgot to get back to you the first time, but after the second they’re either not interested or too much of a flake to deal with anyway.
  • Don’t ever play the pity card. How is this even a thing that happens? “Oh guess you’re not interested” isn’t interesting, sexy, or fun. If someone rejects you OH FUCKING WELL. It’s online dating! Do you see how many profiles there are around you? Did you actually know this person? Or hang your expectations on three lines of text and the best pictures this person could pull from their Facebook asshole? “No one ever responds to me.” Maybe there’s a reason? And maybe that reason’s you?
  • Dick pics. Just don’t do it. If you want a hookup great but unsolicited penis pictures are pretty much sexual assault.
  • Have something to talk about. Put it in your profile, your pictures, your first message, whatever. Don’t think that an online algorithm saying you should meet is really enough to spark a connection. Dating apps get their money from your false hopes- if people could meet their soul mates as easy as these companies want you to believe, you wouldn’t be spending so much time on them and generating all that precious ad revenue. Work a little. It goes a long way.
  • As a corollary: don’t be afraid of what you think are “flaws.” Are you an introvert? Great! So are most people on dating apps- that’s why they’re on dating apps. Do you like manga, horse racing, cuticle care, or tree climbing? Amazing! If you say so, maybe you’ll find someone else who does, too! Don’t be scared. They’ll find out eventually. And maybe someone with your weird passion who wouldn’t message you otherwise suddenly would. Open up.

Overall, the golden rule of online dating is simple: think about the person you’re messaging. Think about how you come across. Are you opening up conversation, talking about what you wanna talk about, presenting yourself as a real live dateable person? If not, don’t be surprised when a real live dateable person doesn’t actually want a date.