My online dating research

I’d read data that said 50% of men listed on dating sites never get one contact from women.

Yet my experience is that men rarely respond to my being the one who makes the initial contact, or for the few who do, it’s nearly all “thanks but no thanks.”

So I decided to set up an experiment. Granted, it’s not very scientific, as I only posted one profile and set of pictures. Had I been more scientific, I would have posted various ones to see if it was my looks or writing that was alluring or repelling.

For the last 3 months, I’ve regularly emailed men I thought had some chance of being a match. The results are dismal.

I emailed 100 men, all within a 50-mile radius. I met their age, height, education and body-shape criteria.

Out of the 100 men, 47 looked at my profile, sometimes more than once.

Ten sent a “Thanks, but I’ve just started seeing someone and want to see if it works out” email. Has this become the new standard message for “We’re not a match”?

One struck up an email and phone conversation and we met for a drink. We were not a match.

So what’s up with this data? If men rarely receive contact from a women, why would 53% of them not even look at my profile? Were they already seeing someone but haven’t hidden or removed their profile? Too busy to even look at what someone sent them?

Ten percent had the decency to acknowledge my overture. I believe if someone has taken the time to reach out, I owe them at least a response. Obviously, that’s not a common feeling.

People ask me if I’ve been successful with online dating. I always say it depends on your definition of “success.” In this example, I had a 99% failure rate — 100% if you count the guy I met that wasn’t a match. Is that success? In the past, I’ve met nearly all my guys through dating sites. Some have become beaus. Most were one-meeting only encounters. Is that success?

My feeling is I would have gone out with many fewer men if I depended on the “natural” way of meeting in a class, at a coffee shop, or through friends. These methods have resulted in nearly no dates. So online dating has allowed me to meet many more men, with some working out at least for a while.

So what’s a woman to do who wants to be proactive rather than wait for a man who interests her to make contact? I will still email interesting men, just not as diligently now knowing the odds. It is frustrating to realize that men still like to initiate, yet my experience reflects that with nearly all of my beaus being the first contacters.

Gals, what’s your experience with being the initiator online? Did you have good luck with that? Men, how do you feel about women who contact you? Are you flattered or is it a turn off?

I’ve just learned that Adventures in Delicious Dating After 40 is one of the few blogs read by bestselling author Gina Barreca. She lists in her recent article, “Everybody Blogs.”

If you want more info on what to expect from online dating, get your copy of Winning at the Online Dating Game: Stack the Deck in Your Favor.


19 responses to “My online dating research”

  1. Maggie Avatar

    I haven’t tried online dating but I did join a local dinner club and asked 3 different men out over 4 separate dinners for coffee and all 3 said yes. This was a year ago and I have recently moved in with one of the fellows, so things are going well!

    Have you ever tried this way of meeting men?


  2. Carla Avatar

    Early in my online dating I tried initiating contact with men but I had little success so now I don’t. Early on however, I had more contacts than I could hope to handle but now I get little contact. I think its my age and that most men want younger women.

  3. Karen Avatar

    I haven’t online dated for a couple of years. But back when I did, I felt I had pretty decent luck initiating contact with guys online. I’d say I got responses back about 20% of the time when I initiated things by sending a “wink” or an email.

    The 2 guys I met online that I ended up dating for 4-12 months were in fact men where I made the first contact. I contacted them because of something quirky in their list of interests, music they liked that was unusual, stuff like that–not because I thought from their profiles that they were super handsome millionaires, or exactly perfect for me–I don’t think you can about that until you meet them. On the other hand, men who only post pics of themselves in huge dark glasses—forget it. I like to see their faces and eyes. I also didn’t come on too strong when I contacted them, I just sent something light and funny, related to the odd book or music that we both liked, and then sometimes we could email back and forth about that for a while.

    But lots of other men that I contacted first came up with ridic excuses: you live too far away for me to bother with (a few miles!?), I can’t send a picture because I’m a well known professional (!? … oh, he’s married!), I’m leaving the country for the next entire year (!?). I didn’t take it personally–lots of men online aren’t really available–it’s just their fantasy outlet.

    On the other hand, every guy who has contacted me first online has been a major loser: in prison, unemployed high school dropout, toooo smoooth ladykiller, mentally ill and unable to work, totally uneducated (can’t spell or use proper grammar), or just too awkward socially (middle aged and never been married, but desperate).

    I think in my area of the country at least, the guys who spend a lot of time online looking for women (who are likely to make the first contact) are actually relationship dysfuntional. The normal men, on the other hand, are somewhat embarrassed, maybe put up their picture/profile because their kids or friends suggested it, but they don’t spend a lot of time searching online because they have other things to do with their time. These are the guys I tried to find when I was making the first move.

  4. Wayne Avatar

    Phew, there’s me thinking is was me that was rubbish at online dating!Women should totally contact men! I don’t think all men think they need to be the initiator. It’s 2010, what happened to women are equal to men?

    But my stats aren’t much different from yours though, I have sent about 20 messages, 10 were deleted before they were even read!! 7 were read and ignored and the remaining 3 got me a profile visit!

    I on the other hand, have received 4 messages from women who I haven’t messaged, which I liked. None of them sparked my intrest but I replied to them all (trying to keep my online dating karma up)!

    Maybe I come from the same area as Karen and fit in the “relationship dysfuntional” category 🙂

    So stick with it, a real man won’t mind if you intiate contact, honest!

  5. Mark Avatar

    Hmmm. I can’t say my success rate online has been very high either if I look at attempts vs. relationships achieved. One woman I dated for six months and we had a nice time. Another woman I dated for one month until she dumped me for a warlock (true story!). I enjoyed her company, but even before the warlock appeared on the scene I knew that one wasn’t going anywhere.

    That’s about it. I probably contacted at least 100 women. I have no idea how many replies I got back. I did manage quite a few coffee meets, but only two of those (mentioned above) went anywhere.

    I don’t understand why men didn’t email you back, DG. I always did when I got a message from a woman. My guess is many of the accounts you contacted were active but no longer monitored by the person who made the account. The ones who kept accounts up and said they were in a new relationship may have meant just that — no idea. I think you should look at those as “not interested” and take it they were trying to be nice about it.

  6. Julie Avatar

    I didn’t have good luck at all with being the initiator. I long ago concluded that they will find me. They just did not respond, or if they did they weren’t motivated to pursue – thats the reason for my conclusion. For the mid-lifer’s ,I think the men online in general are relationship dysfunctional. Non dysfunctional’s are there but it’s a needle in the haystack. Mid life ladies have to make sure they show some sex appeal in thier pics! Mid life online dating can be tuff stuff.

  7. Mark Avatar

    I will say that as a guy I can tell you my experience is I seldom got contacted by women. I suspect it’s like that for a lot of men. That, in turn, makes it more likely that a man might start a relationship with a woman and never bother to take down a profile or change the status unless the woman bugs him about it. After all, most of us men think, women seldom contact us anyway.

    Just a theory.

  8. Anna Avatar

    While I was online dating, I never initiated contact. I do believe that for all we women have gained with equality, its a primal instinct that men like to be the one to make the first move. Obviously there are exceptions which I am pleased about but I decided that contacting men might be a turn off and also because I strongly feel that if a man does not have the confidence, nor the interest to contact me, then its a bad sign from the beginning. Some things should be left in the old-fashioned realm I believe. Please don’t think I myself am old-fashioned, in fact I am quite the feminist but I am also realistic to know that male and female mating rituals are just that, primal most likely with men having the genetics to be the hunters!

  9. Catherine Avatar

    I usually wait for guys to initiate with me. I’ve seen some of the same results you have. So I just wait. It’s probably also cause I’m sort of a lazy online dater 🙂

  10. Julie Avatar

    I agree with everything Anna said. That’s why I didn’t get online and pursue. It just doesnt seem to work in most cases. I know it does work sometimes, so basically it’s confusing isnt it. But since I know men like to be the hunters as a general rule, there ya go.

  11. Mark Avatar

    I agree that men are more comfortable pursuing, but I never felt a woman initiating contact took that away from me. She was showing interest but I always knew that was all it was — interest. It was still up to me to pitch my woo, so to speak — if that was what I was interested in doing.

  12. Lisa Avatar

    Online dating at age 41, post-divorce, went better for me after I had an inner perspective shift — I went from feeling angst about potential contacts and what they could potentially mean in my future, to simply looking at them as the opportunity to meet interesting new men and to have fun. Not messy, promiscuous fun… but yes FUN and enjoyment getting to meet new people. I was still selective in who I wanted to meet, but just lighter and happier in my whole attitude and approach. At that point, I switched from 3 months of waiting for men to approach me online (all that did were not the kind of man I was looking to date, even casually) to contacting online men I found intriguing. I was attracted to men on line who presented themselves as thriving in a balanced manner — professionally, emotinally, family-wise, spiritually, physically. Men whose profiles spoke that they were happy, healthy, had passion and hope in their lives, and were looking for a thriving happy woman which whom tp share experiences. I re-vamped my profile — put on some professionally-taken head shots that were me at my best, put on some photos of me happy and doing things I love, etc., and ensured that my written profile authentically represented that I am a happy balanced woman looking for those attributes in a man). Over 3 months, I contacted online about 40 men who had something in their profile and in their eyes (via the photos they chose to show) that truly attracted or inspired me. I was relaxed, enjoyed the contacts, and did not attach too much expectation on the contacts — though I at all times stuck with my selectivity criteria. When I got sick of thinking of it, I would take a break for a week or two. Of those 40, about 20 never responded. 10 responded with a dismissal of various reasons (dating, not interested, etc.). Of the remaining 10, we began message correspondence, and I was able to ascertain over days or weeks of communicating that 7 of them were not a suitable match. Of the remaining 3, I continued message correspondence, then phone contacts for at least a month before I met them for a meal in a public place. 1 of those was a very special man, and he had actually been in the very first set of online matches the service sent to me 6 months earlier. We have been together as an exclusive couple for 14 months now, starting 4 months after the first face-to-face date. It takes time and a willingness to not take it all so personally… and not take it all so seriously. Stick to your selectivity desires… AND relax and have fun… enjoy getting to know people for that joy without putting so much expectation on the outcome for the future.

  13. kyla Avatar

    through my experience using dating services online, I have been forward to men who then, if interested, have responded positively. I actually hit on my boyfriend (who I met online) before he had the chance to hit on me. He said he found my confidence very attractive.

  14. Julie Christensen, Author Avatar

    In my experience, the majority of online men had wild age ranges. For instance, a 40 year old man would say he was interested in women ages 18-40. I couldn’t understand how a man who was willing to date an 18-year old could also want to date someone like me? I have very little in common with 18-year olds (I think I’m vastly more interesting and less self-consumed…:)…) so my take was that the men pretended to want to date women their own age, but actually didn’t, and THAT was why they never responded to my emails.

  15. Kimberly Avatar

    I am not the kind of person to sit on my hands and wait for something to happen. I have to initiate contact. I am just that way. I must admit that I haven’t heard back from the majority of people that I contacted, but then again, I didn’t answer all of those who contacted me, so I am not sure it gender related.
    Great blog by the way. I found you via the post on Relationshiptalk, and am glad I did.

  16. Yvette Francino Avatar

    My experience is different. I ONLY do the pursuing. I usually keep my profile hidden so that I can’t get email from someone that’s not a good match. Then I seek out the people and only contact those that I think will be a good match and send them my wittiest email. I tell them why I think we’d be a good match and add some creative humor and playfulness if I can (since that’s one of the things I look for in a man…)

    I don’t know what my return email rate is, but it’s pretty high. I know there are a lot of people who have been on the dating sites for a long time and just stay on there even when they’re not actively looking. Many sites tell you the last time they logged in. If they haven’t logged in in awhile, chances are good that they’re just ignoring their email.

    I definitely recommend being the pursuer if you find someone who looks like a good match. The key is to not take it personally if they don’t respond. It’s quite the norm and most likely means it’s just not good timing for them.

  17. Walker Avatar

    I’m back on line again and this time I’ve decided to sit back a little and wait to be pursued, and w/in this first 24 hours have gotten 2 emails and 2 winks. Normally I will initiate contact with varying success,usually low numbers. And, as you experienced I find that men rarely take the time to say a simple no thank you.
    I met a man 16 months ago, who I winked at when he was brand new, he got emails/winks from over 2o other women-or so he said. We had a nice run, but ultimately he’s not the right one for me.

  18. Lisa Avatar

    I have seen the same dismal results. But I have a new theory: the men who don’t respond aren’t actually members of the dating site. All of us can post profiles at no charge — it’s at the point of emailing that you have to pony up. On one dating site, I have my profile up, but I’m not ready to pay, so when guys email me I can only sit by and feel rude.

    These sites do not reveal their actual paid membership numbers. I’d like to see that as a ratio of profiles online. I bet it’s 50% — which accounts for all but 3% of your nonrespondents!

  19. Wayne Avatar

    Ran the same experiment on POF:
    72 Messages sent
    25 Profile visits
    10 People haven’t logged in yet to receive the message
    1 Response “Thanks, but no thanks”

    Not just a gender thing me thinks!