Someone told me recently that online dating was like a video game, so I gave this idea some thought. It certainly puts a negative spin on things. While I don’t necessarily agree that online dating is like a video game to the majority of people (some people, sure), I do agree that what should be used as simply a tool for meeting people often turns into an ego boost (or hit) for those who perhaps value themselves based on how others see them. Going into dating apps with a low self-esteem will only amplify it.
Where I can often help my clients most is as a coach, guiding people through the base practices of online dating. The last thing I want is for people to stop using dating apps as a valuable tool, but I do want to instill in my clients the best behavior possible. For example, I have a few “rules” that I encourage my clients to follow:
- No ghosting. Ever. If someone asks you out again after a first date, you must reply in an honest and tactful manner that you don’t see a connection. I’ve even written texts for clients that I give them to copy and paste when this happens. “Thanks so much for a nice time! Unfortunately, I just didn’t feel the connection I was looking for, but I wish you nothing but the best.” Also, if you’re on the dating app and you decide that someone’s not for you after a long conversation, rather than just not replying anymore, I suggest saying something to the effect of “I’ve decided we may not be a match after all. Best of luck.”
- No texting before the first date. Often, things go awry over text — someone says something taken the wrong way, the urgency to get the date on the calendar is lost, someone texts too much, etc. I want people to get out there in person sooner rather than later, so I preach efficiency on the dating apps since you don’t know if there is chemistry until you meet.
- No assumptions. Everyone seems to think they can draw conclusions about someone they have never met before based on one characteristic or attribute. “He’s never been married, so he’s afraid of commitment.” “She’s widowed, so she’ll always compare me to her late spouse.” “He doesn’t have a degree, so he’ll never keep up with my conversations.” These are simply not true. Sure, they might be, but you don’t know until you find out for yourself. Remember that everyone has a story.
For some clients, I will actually look at their phones with them and go through each conversation in the various dating apps. They have to say “yes” or “no” to the potential of going out with each person. If yes, we move the conversation forward to a date. If no, we end the conversation. That minimizes the hoarding of matches, which many people do … and which “gamifies” things. The goal is not to get the most matches; it’s to go on dates!
I also work with people on not generalizing everyone online. I hear all the time, “Tinder has no good guys.” Or “None of the women on OKCupid interest me.” When it comes down to it, people are diverse, and you have to look at each one individually. No singular person defines a dating app, just as you don’t. A client of mine just re-joined Bumble recently after a breakup, and I asked how it’s going. The response was, “Same old crap.” Not the attitude I advise. Often, that’s just used as an excuse to quit and say, “Well, I tried.”
When I think about it, I’m trying to teach people to be human again in a world of technology, flakes and options.
Erika Ettin is the founder of A Little Nudge, where she helps others navigate the often intimidating world of online dating.