I recently joined a dating website, and my best friend and others assure me the best approach is never to make the first move. Not even a wink. What are your thoughts about a woman making the first move in an online dating environment?
ANNE M. responds:
Wow, New to the Game, that’s strange advice. I’d be curious as to where this sage wisdom is coming from. The happily married? Someone who’s never online dated? Let’s set aside traditional patriarchal gender roles for a moment (I’m no big fan of them anyway). If this sit-back-and-wait approach had any value, how would gay men and lesbians ever meet each other on dating sites? As my very smart (and happily married) friend Elisa says, “You want something? You go get it. Online dating is passive and remote enough without imposing arbitrary rules of engagement.”
I couldn’t agree more. When you do so, you risk never hearing from the type of people you really want to meet. If just staring at a particularly appealing profile yielded results, no one would need my services. People who are serious about meeting someone take action. I know it’s hard. Society doesn’t encourage women to be romantically assertive. Regardless, for the sake of potentially emboldening shy types everywhere – regardless of gender or sexual orientation – I will share the following observations:
1. Simply knowing that someone finds you attractive makes them more attractive to you. Maybe not in the same way – at least not at first – but it does tend to at least pique one’s curiosity about a person to find out that they’re into you. Because even if you thought they were a total social write-off before you had that information, you now know one rock-solid truth about them: they have excellent taste in you. (For those of you who love studies as much as I do, there is research to back up my assertion.)
Online dating is passive and remote enough without imposing arbitrary rules of engagement.
I remember once getting a rose in high school, through some student-council sponsored exchange that delivered stems to lucky recipients in their home rooms on Valentine’s Day. The guy who’d sent mine was someone I knew by name only – he was a little older and we shared a class because I was fast-tracking to graduate early. He was smart, presentable, friendly and well-spoken, but had previously made no impression on me. Yet that day in class, I couldn’t help but notice all sorts of things I’d never seen before. Like his really nice arms, and really blue eyes… and although it didn’t turn into a great romance, I did go out with him a few times. That never would have happened had he not been confident enough to express his interest.
2. Men are surprised, but not unpleasantly surprised, when a woman makes the first move. If you visit any of the numerous forums in which men discuss their online dating woes (and believe me, they are agonizing about this stuff just as much as you are) you will find that most of them report very few females initiating contact. But almost all of the men weighing in on the topic suggest that they’d love it if that happened more frequently. Nearly universally they express that unless there’s something really wrong with the sender’s profile, they would respond to the message at the very least. When I used to work for a high-end matchmaking agency, male clients were always thrilled if I told them that the woman I’d matched them with wished to call first (rather than the other way around).
It might also be a useful empathy-building exercise to try messaging someone who hasn’t sent one to you first. Because isn’t that the huge (and potentially humiliating) risk a man takes every time he initiates contact with you? The absolute cornucopia of information that is oktrends has even mined okCupid user data to identify some of the most effective things to write in a first message, if you’re stumped.
3. Online dating is supposed to be fun. Why not try something different? You’re able to make moves on the Internet that would be difficult to pull off in a face-to-face or even telephone conversation. There’s room to breathe, think about things before you write them – particularly if you’re not instant messaging. Embrace the experience. Make the most of it. You’re online because you want to date. Flirt, smile, wink, message. Put yourself out there. Otherwise, you and that great guy whose friends also gave him this nugget of wisdom will keep circling, but never meet.