About the Experiment

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Why Guys Send Bad Messages, and a Key to Dating

As we wrapped up my brother Greg's Matchmaker week, one of his biggest surprises from the experiment was how many guys on OkCupid send bad/lame/boring messages.  He'd heard that guys send lame messages, but he was surprised that the majority of messages just said "hi" or "Hallo" or "how goes it" (sans question mark).  Since he puts a lot of thought and effort into the messages he sends to girls on OkCupid, he figured most guys did the same.  But that is not the case.

It was interesting for Greg, a man who uses OkCupid to meet women, to see what online dating is like from the female perspective and it gave him more empathy for women on OkCupid.  It also made him feel a bit better about messages he sends that don't get a response, because on the Matchmaker side he could see that sometimes the guy just wasn't a good match.  It wasn't that he was a bad guy or had sent a bad message, but he just wasn't a good fit.  (And sending a "Can a guy get a reply?" message, as one guy did this week, isn't going to help.)

As we talked about types of messages and getting responses, I noticed a word coming up: "human."  When a guy sent a message that showed he'd read my profile (instead of a copy & paste message) Greg felt like that guy was treating me like a human and trying to make a connection, and the guy seemed more human instead of a robot sending the same message over and over.

Greg said that when he's sent copy & paste messages it wasn't out of lack of respect, it was about self-defense.  We both can get emotionally attached to someone's online profile and when you spend a while crafting a message that doesn't get a response, it can be frustrating.  If he sends a form message, he doesn't get emotionally attached.  But then it lacks the humanity that he noticed reading impersonal messages.  It's about being vulnerable, which can be really difficult but also is important for connection.  If you haven't seen BrenĂ© Brown's TED Talk about The Power of Vulnerability, go watch it.  And then go buy one of her books.  Vulnerability is not something we particularly value in our society.  Especially as Americans, we value "strong" and "tough," and those are seen as mutually exclusive with "vulnerable."  Part of what I like about BrenĂ© Brown's work is that she shows that being vulnerable is not about being weak, it's about being real and honest (even in the title of her TED Talk: "The Power of Vulnerability").

This humanity/vulnerability issue taps into an idea I've been wanting to look at with Post-Modern Matchmaker: the goal of online dating is to create a connection, but I often find it to be frustrating, depressing, and alienating (as many others do).  So how can we make meeting people in the modern age more bearable, maybe even pleasant?

With or without an internet connection, how can we make meaningful human connections?

My solution was to add community: family and friends (and the blog).  It's definitely helped with some of the alienation, it is nice to be able to share the ups and downs and hear about other people's similar experiences.  Yet especially in the past few dates (Date #4: General Rules for a (Bad) First Date and Date #5: Smoothies, Unicorns, and Compatibility) I've been feeling the frustration again.  But the good news about the experiment is that each week we're trying new things and assessing what works and what doesn't.  Hopefully by the end of the experiment I'll have some answers, or at least more informed questions to ask!

Greg picked his 3 Matches:

  • Bachelor #9: pretty sure his profile made me say "whoa" out loud.  Tall, smart, interesting, he says he's good at bear hugs and puns (all positives in my book).  Interestingly, he's in an open relationship with a girl he met on OkC.  Normally that would be a deal breaker for me, but in the experiment I think it's an interesting aspect to throw into the mix. 
  • Bachelor #10: an Italian journalist who sent an initial message asking why I liked the movie Only Lovers Left Alive (on the profile I list is as my favorite movie of the year).  Greg sent a reply, and B#10 never replied to that message.
  • Bachelor #11: he said he's "basically happy all the time," he does standup comedy, and his profile was fun and quirky.  He sent a message asking about the experiment, Greg sent a reply and he never replied. 
Greg and I were both kind of bummed that B#10 & B#11 were unresponsive, but B#9 and Greg had sent a few messages back and forth (and his messages were articulate and thoughtful).  Getting one really promising match seemed better than three lousy matches. 

B#9 and I talked on Sunday about setting up a date.  Greg had asked in a message what B#9 would suggest for a first date, and he had said going to a pizzeria.  But in a later email to me he said he had a better idea and suggested a sunset picnic at a lake nearby.  Two thumbs way up!  

I do think it's a bit funny because in the profile I'd written in the "You Should Message Me If" Section: "You enjoy a bit of romance, whether it’s a picnic in the park or watching the sunset."  It's more sappy than I'd usually get in a profile, but Greg really wanted to emphasize the romance/vulnerability in the profile.  And I thought it that was a good way to show that romance doesn't have to be fancy or expensive.  And unless it was a complete coincidence, B#9 read my examples of romantic dates and combined them.  I appreciate a guy who listens and is open to romance, so I think it's cute. 

But I don't think that being a flake is cute.  B#9 and I haven't communicated at all since Sunday, it's now Thursday and we planned a date for Friday (tomorrow).  Greg said I should text B#9 to remind him that we didn't set a time or meeting spot.  I probably will, but feel a bit annoyed and uneasy about it.  I've been noticing how much the communication leading up to a date indicates, in good ways (Date #5: Smoothies, Unicorns, and Compatibility) and bad (Date #4: General Rules for a (Bad) First Date).  Good pre-date communication feels like a sign of respect and consideration.  And it shows that you're thinking about the other person, that you're looking forward to seeing them.  Am I also resisting the vulnerability of sending him a text, possibly not getting a reply or getting a reply that he forgot about our date?  Yeah probably... which is why I'll send that text.  

However, dudes, I'm going on the record as saying: communication is key.  More than any door-opening or drink-buying, actually making a date (including time and location) is a really important part of being a good date and having a good date!

Edit: B#9 just texted me (Thursday evening), and did apologize for the lack of contact.  So I guess the date is on!

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