Survey Says! The Complete Online Dating Advice Guide for Men

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Alright! 2,208 people actually completed our survey last week about online dating. So, for starters this week, we’re looking at responses about online dating by people who date men. It’s a combination of helpful tips, deep experiences and some frank examples of what dudes might think about not doing. We want to help you, guys—but you have to allow us. So open your minds, and your heart will follow. Or something like that. Let us take you through it all, from profile picture, to email exchanges, to meeting and greeting. Take our hand, we’ll get there together! So here’s what our respondents had to say about dating men.

You too can avoid amateur profile mistakes like a professional.

• “Don’t use ‘lol,’ ever.”

• “I have always had a problem with emoticons. It’s a huge turn off.”

• “Write in complete sentences/fully spelled out words maybe? My standards are low.”

• “Find more interesting descriptors than ‘laid back.'”

• “Don’t use the word ‘passionate.'”

“Don’t list only physical attributes in ‘what I’m looking for.'”

• “Don’t say, ‘I am looking for a woman who…’ This isn’t a cattle auction, folks.”

• “Don’t tell me that you like Thai food and expect me to think you are fascinating. Every person on the planet likes Thai food.”

Give good profile and better email.

• “E-mail etiquette is important…. Don’t write a five page rant about The Mountain Goats. Keep it to a few breezy paragraphs. Close with a casual question that invites a response.”

• “Do not bother sending me a message that just says, “pretty.” I will not answer you.”

• “Just because asking out women is more accessible online, doesn’t mean you should treat it as if you’re unemployed and dropping off a form application at every McDonald’s and Starbucks you come across.”

Don’t present with a list of demands

• “Try to not lead with a list of what you don’t like/hate/can’t stand. Also, ugh the whole line about a girl who wears nerdy glasses but also looks great in heels/knows how to be comfy but dresses killer/read the Times in bed on Sunday morning. Ughhhhhhh where is the master profile you are all drawing these from??”

• “Whenever a guy lists a bunch of traits he wants, I assume that it’s completely worthless to reply, even if it seems like our personalities would mesh really well, because he’s close-minded to the dating experience.”

• “Don’t diss other women in your profile. It’s not attractive.”

• “If you say ‘No drama! lolz!’ in your profile, I assume you are a guy who thrives on drama.”

89.7% of respondents agree: Three emails tops, then meet. Three and meet. (We made that figure up, but it’s pretty close.)

• “The whole point of online dating is to set up IRL dates. Not to carry on long epistolary romances that inevitably end badly when you really get to know the person in the flesh.”

• “I think the most important thing to remember when online dating is that the service only facilitates a meeting—everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, must be taken from there by you and the other person. It must GROW from there. Your online dating profile cannot be the ‘foundation’ of your relationship.”

Hey! Don’t be scared! It’s not that bad out there!

• “I don’t have an online dating horror story. I actually met four nice men and fell in love with one.”

There is a consensus that good hygiene is important.

82,049 respondents would like to remind you to brush your teeth.


• “Shower.”

• “Smell good.”

• “Wear pants. Like, real people pants. No sweats.”

• “Shower and don’t dress like an idiot.”

Choosing the right picture of yourself might not mean what you think it means

• “Do use pictures of yourself shamelessly holding pets or babies or reading books. There are whole Tumblrs devoted to this.”

• “Don’t put a picture of you embracing another woman.”

• “If your photo is just a bare torso, I am not going to respond to your message. I am not looking to date a headless juicebox.”

• “Bait and switch is a terrible technique.”


Repeat that to yourself, a lot. Apparently, according to the vehemence and frequency of responses, a lot of guys are misguided about their height. Maybe measure how tall you are?

• “Everyone should be more open about what they want and who they are.”

Every single respondent agrees with this, which is well-put:

• “If there’s something that you consider off-putting about yourself, no need to harp on it. Post recent, clear photos. No need to address it in length on your profile (or even at all); it comes off as bitter and insecure…. Plenty of imperfect-looking people are in happy relationships, don’t think that you can’t/won’t be. We’re always too hard on ourselves.”

Secrecy leads to surprises, and most surprises aren’t fun.

• “Don’t you realize that when I meet you, I will see you and therefore know what you actually look like?”

• “If you have a religion and it’s really an important part of your life, let that be know before going on a date with someone who leaves religion out of their profile.”

• “I showed up to find that the guy I was meeting had a cleft palate, something which I was completely unprepared for.”

• “He had chemical burns all over his face.”

• “Braces …”

• “He had baby teeth (teeth the size of a baby).”

• “He had horribly bloodied eyeballs from having Lasik two days earlier. I could. not. look. at his face.”

Some surprises you’re not, perhaps, capable of preventing.

• “If you are in a relationship already, then yes, that is something that you should tell the person you’re meeting over the course of the first date.”

• “He didn’t tell me he had extreme Asperger’s syndrome. He walked me home, and on the way he peed in the bushes 7 times. I had to have my roommate physically escort him from my house because he followed me in and wouldn’t leave.”

“Don’t make a big deal out of paying (or not paying).

• Give or take, 70% of respondents would like a dude to offer to pay on a date.

• Give or take, 70% of respondents would like to always split the check 50/50.

• So…. do what feels right. Follow your heart. Maybe even ask your date!

• But: bring your wallet.

• “If I offer to pay and you act like that’s the worst thing you’ve ever heard of because for some reason your y chromosome means you must pay or you will dishonor your family name, it makes me want to stab you with a fork.”

• “It’s fine if you want to offer to pay, but don’t be super aggressive about it when I say no. Guess what, we’re splitting it! Fighting me or playing keep away with the bill or pretending like you don’t hear me makes you look…” real bad. ;)

“You paying for a date=you paying for a date. I will happily pay my own way. If you insist on paying for me, you are not purchasing any rights.”

Here are some tips for activities and making conversation.

• “Ask your date about question about her life, thoughts, career, interests. Then, listen to the answer. If that is too hard for you, perhaps you should not be dating a human.”

Do you.

• “I went out with a guy who (I only noticed this on the second date, it was dark in that restaurant!) had ridiculous nose hair. He also took me to a vegan restaurant on Valentine’s day for our second date, after we had an extensive conversation about how much we liked hamburgers (with beef, duh).”

But not too much you.

• “I know it’s tempting to be ‘completely honest’ about who you are but save some fun facts about you for later dates. First, second, third dates when you barely know someone are for dipping your feet into the pool. It’s great that you are comfortable with yourself or where you are in life, etc, etc, but keep the conversation light at first!”

7 respondents would like you to have conversations topics at the ready that do not include “The Wire.”

• “Girls are really, really, really sick of wasting first dates talking about The Wire and Game of Thrones.”

• “I mean really—if you like hiking, say you like hiking. If you think watching movies all Sunday afternoon is perfect, then say that. We will choose accordingly. Otherwise, the disconnect is bound to be noticed eventually.”

• “Read a really interesting article online, National Geographic or the NASA website, anything! so that you can perhaps seem more interesting than you actually are.”

• “Try turning even the most boring date into an opportunity to at least hone the craft of talking to someone you don’t like or making pleasant conversation.”

• “Also, you don’t have to have a killer job, but doesn’t hurt to have some fun hobbies (indoors and out—for example, mine are swing dancing and rock climbing) that inspire passion in you, because seeing someone glow from excitement about something that makes them tick ultimately captures my interest.”

• Ayn Rand is also off limits, according to five people.

• At least four respondents agreed: don’t bring up any stories about having… paid for relations with other human beings.

And don’t do this:

• “He was presumptuous and tried to tell me which classes were required for my major even though he isn’t in it (and, he was wrong)”

Hold your head up high, sir. Dignity!

• “Don’t apologize for being on an online dating site. This is the 21st century; people meet online, it doesn’t mean we’ve somehow failed at life. But thanks for trying to make me feel bad about myself.”

• “People who date online are not freaks. Listen, online daters come from the same population that you deal with in the flesh. It’s going to be the same quality. There will be people who are wonderful, intelligent, good-looking, and/or caring. There will also be online daters who are lousy, dumb as a rock, not so attractive, and/or mean. Don’t go in with the negative attitude of online daters are oddballs and I will never meet anyone who isn’t a weirdo. That is a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

• “Compliment a woman when you meet her. Once or twice is enough. I’ve been on dates where the guy won’t stop saying ‘wow, you’re so pretty.’ After a while it becomes rather creepy.”

• “Tip your waitress.”

• “Don’t be mean to waiters, it’s super scary! Man, this happened a few times. I feel like it’s such a basic thing! Like, even if you are a sociopath, just keep it under control in front of the waiter. Even Patrick Bateman knows not to berate a waiter.”

This is a classic, do we still have to mention it? Yes. Avoid talking about your ex.

• “…he spent the entire night railing about his ex-wife and how she was out to get him in the custody-of-the- child department, and that she coached the kid into falsely claiming sexual abuse.”

• “He talked about his (recently) ex-wife the whole time.”

• “He wouldn’t stop talking about his ex-partner, who had died.”

We know it’s hard being judged, but we’re all doing it.

• “I don’t care what car you drive or where you got your jacket or how you pulled some strings with a ‘buddy down at the City Health Department’ to get us this reservation. However, I will judge you based on your apartment’s location.”

A corollary….

• “Just because we are independent women, doesn’t mean we’re making all the decisions, we’re equals. Take charge once in a while.”

Some wise words on drinking.

• “If you limit your drinking, I’ll limit mine. If you don’t limit your drinking, I still will, but I will think you’re a drunk.”

• “It is true that alcohol makes everything easier, it is also true that too much alcohol makes everything worse.”

Really? Yes. Avoid phone-use during dates

• “I went a guy’s place that I’d been talking to for a few weeks, our first physical encounter to play video games and drink…. Halfway through our evening he gets a phone call, a few minutes in he tells me it’s long distance and do I mind if its a few minutes longer? I say sure, and go back to Mario Kart. TWENTY MINUTES LATER he’s still on the phone. I try to get his attention that this is insane, but he doesn’t budge. So I tell him I’m tired and going home, he walks me to the door, PHONE ON HIS EAR and says, ‘bye.’”

• “He answered five phone calls…”

• “We’d just sat down and he began showing pictures of his dogs on his phone. Puppy, puppy, puppy…” annnnnd then a picture that was definitely not of a puppy.

Read social cues, and accept rejection with grace.

• “He sang songs on my answering machine, either telling me how he deserved another chance….”

• “If you invite me upstairs for coffee, I’m allowed to actually request coffee.”

• “…he asked me to explain in detail why I didn’t want to go out with him again.”

• “When I ended the date after a couple of hours including dinner and the worst spoken word show I’ve ever been to, he frowned and pouted like I’d just denied him dessert.”

• “You don’t have to be in love with me after the first date, and actually I’d prefer if you weren’t.”

• “So, we go out again, we’re sitting at a bar, and about 10 minutes into the conversation, he leans in to ask earnestly ‘Where is this relationship headed?’”

• “Talking and acting as if we’re already ‘an item’ on the first date, before we really have much context for one another, is awkward.”

• “He wouldn’t stop talking about kids and then said ‘wow, it’s the first date and I can’t believe we’re already talking about kids.’”

• “After two dates, he was saying things like, ‘When you meet my mom …’”

• “He proceeded to send me a ton of texts, call at least five times, and then message me repeatedly on the Internet platform on which we met about our ‘magical connection.'”

• “After saying goodnight with a slightly awkward hug, he texted me 10 minutes later and demanded that I tell him whether or not I was actually attracted to him.”

• “I want the clueless ones to keep being clueless; it’s easier to weed them out that way.”

If this is you, keep doing what you’re doing….

• “Well, there was the guy that claimed that the Holocaust was a conspiracy.”

• “This guy who kicked me out of his house for saying Jim Morrison was cheesy.”

• “I got walked out on on a date that seemed like it was going fairly well because I said I didn’t like french fries.”

• “He said he’d had a spiritual awakening over the summer.”

The people you are on dates with know about The Game. The jig is up.

• “Quit negging. Everybody knows what pickup artists do. We are all on the Internet. There are no secrets. If you insult me, I won’t date you out of curiosity, I’ll block your disrespectful self. I’m talking about you, guy who implied that if I am a lady academic, I must be an emotionally-stunted girl-woman who desperately needs your training in the ways of modern relationships.”

• “He just kept insulting me to my face: about my job, about my politics, pretty much my whole lifestyle. “

• “He followed me out of the bar and yelled insults at me until I got into a cab to go home.”

• “Once, as a guy and I went to clink our first drink together he offered up, ‘Well, here’s to you being a dork.”

Don’t steal?

• “After he stayed over, I noticed cash missing from my wallet.”

• “A dude played guitar at me, then borrowed a book and never called or returned it.”

• “He took my ‘Mad Men’ Season 1 DVDs and never returned them.”

• “I didn’t know that there were book-stealing con artists!”

You might have noticed at some point in your travels throughout the world that women often aren’t comfortable with really inappropriate joking around, particularly when it’s not joking, also, because, who can tell, we’ve only just met?

• “Humor is wonderful, but it can also go wrong very quickly. Don’t put much effort into trying to come across as funny even if you are a great comedian. Humor is so subjective because it all depends on the other person’s mood, personality, cultural stuff, whatever.”

• “Maybe a first date (or ever, but especially a first date) is not a good time for a sorta borderline racist/sexist/homophobic joke, so if it seems like you should not say it, keep it to yourself.”

• “Yes, strange females you meet on the internet can be scary, too, but we’re risking more by meeting a strange male. Make sure to be respectful of any safety requests. So, dudes, don’t offer to pick a lady up for the first date or suggest a camping/hiking trip.”

• “He yelled at me, poked me in the chest, and then tried to kiss me in the street.”

• “DON’T KISS-AMBUSH!!! Really, don’t.”

• “A man told me that at least if I ever go missing, people will look for me because I’m white.”

• “This guy offered to make me dinner, so I went over with a bottle of wine. After dinner he went all “put the lotion on the skin” on me, and was like “will you rub this body cream all over yourself for me?”

• “The date ended when he asked if I bruised easily.”

Just don’t be rude.

• “Let’s put it this way, when he said he didn’t have many friends, I was not surprised. When we got up to leave, he said, ‘I like short, dark women. They remind me of my mother. You’re a short dark woman…’ Then he looked me up and down and said, ‘But I didn’t realize just how short you are.'”

Be enthusiastic about your pets, but not too enthusiastic maybe?

• “When the conversation turned to ‘future plans’ the guy could not tell me much beyond how many dogs he wanted to own at some future time. He wanted to own thirty dogs. He had their names and breeds picked out already. At the time he owned no dogs at all.”

• “He was a Crazy Cat Man and had an online photo album of 200+ pictures of cats from around the world (album title: ‘World of Cats’)”

• “He talked about his cats a LOT. I have a cat, I love cats, I love my cat, but this guy was SUPER INVOLVED in his cats.”

Final thoughts?

Deliver. “Last fall I think four out of four dates mentioned ‘wanting to go upstate to see the foliage’ but nobody actually wanted to take the adventure. I’m sick of giving boys credit for their great ideas for things to do, take a girl on an adventure already!”

Prepare but Don’t Worry. “I’ve been out with lots of guys, and there’s hardly a recurring explanation for why it doesn’t work out. More often than not, there’s just no chemistry. (On one of the best unsuccessful dates I’ve been on, we got three rounds of beer, had a nice conversation, split the tab, and wished each other well. I think we both thought the other was a very nice person, but there wasn’t any attraction.)”

• “Don’t give up! I’ve met some amazing people on the internet. In fact, some of the best people I’ve ever met ever. And I’ve also met some seriously lame people on the not-internet.”

Later: we’re going to get to what men think goes wrong. And then: story-time. Funny, tragic story-time.

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Photo by Ed Yourdon.