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Whilst I’ve been away from posting on this blog, I haven’t been away in checking the traffic to it. What I consistently find is that some of the most popular posts belong to the series I had written about online dating. Apparently, it’s such a hot topic somebody actually did research on the validity of some of my claims.  As an analytical person, I couldn’t be happier to see real data to back up my own experience.  A summary of the findings is below, but here is a link to the research for those of you interested in diving deeper into the raw numbers.

  1. More isn’t always better when it comes to the introductory email. In the study, the author correlated the time it took to write the email (and indirectly the number of characters in the emails) with the email response rate.  Not surprisingly, brevity trumps ramble: “The shortest messages get almost the best absolute response rate, and the reply rate actually goes down as messages approach extreme length.”
  2. There’s a magic number — cross it and you start to scare people off. According to the research, once you approach 360 words (or 1800 characters), the effectiveness of your email goes way down.  THREE HUNDRED AND SIXTY words??!  I don’t even read emails that long from people I know, much less a stranger!
  3. Men don’t actually read women’s opening email. Their conclusion is based on the fact that the most effective outreach from a woman to a man is 50 characters long!  Just to give an idea of how long 50 characters is, write the entire alphabet twice but stop at the letter “X” the second time. I don’t know about you, but that’s simply not long enough to convey any kind of message, really!

Personally, I find the result fascinating.  I am awaiting the next installment of their research to see what other findings are up their sleeves.

A few people have wondered what I did during the time I was off from blogging.  For one thing, I started a new job and felt I needed to concentrate on that.  Another thing was, I experimented with online dating.  Admittedly, a month’s time is too short for one to become an expert, but I thought I would share my experience nonetheless.  I am sure somebody (especially guys) out there will find this useful.  I am going to post them in a series of posts, starting with this one.

From my observation, people who participate in online dating view the experience differently than offline dating.  In offline dating, you meet somebody, you befriend them so that you can get to know them, and then you decide if there’s any chemistry for more than just friendship.  In other words, friendship plays a big role in offline dating.  I think it’s because one cannot know from meeting the person in an offline setting whether the person is interested in a relationship.  That does not seem to be the case with online dating.  I think there’s an unspoken rule that if you participate in online dating that you are there to find a life mate.  For that reason, a lot of strange behaviors come out of that assumption.

For example, I’ve received ample of emails from people who declared (after only reading my profile and seeing my photos) that I am a perfect mate for them.  REALLY NOW?  In my years of meeting people offline, nobody has ever said that to me, and these people probably got to know me better than those online folks.  Truth is, when you email somebody you’ve just “met” online with that kind of opening line, the email is most likely deleted before it even has a chance to be read in its entirety.  But I am getting ahead of myself.  I will write more about email correspondence in a later post.

What I wanted to write about in this post is expectation (and to some extent, attitude).  There’s no doubt that online and offline dating are two different beasts, but the differences lie in the vehicle and efficiencies, NOT in the methods of dating.  In other words, people should view online dating as another avenue to meet and get to know people, not as a license to change the way they would approach dating.  Let me explain.

During my month of online dating experience, I’ve met doctors, lawyers, school administrators, consultants, you name it.  These are people I probably won’t have met otherwise because of how I spend my time offline.  At work, I meet MBAs and engineers, and at industry functions, I meet people who are in the same line of work as me.  It’s true that on weekends, I may meet friends of friends who may be doctors, lawyers, bankers, etc., or I occasionally run into interesting people on my bookstore and photography outings, but those encounters are sporadic at best.  By putting myself online, however, I inserted myself into a vehicle that allows me to meet people that I won’t have met otherwise.  In other words, online dating sites directly expanded the kinds and numbers of people that I would encounter.  It is no doubt much more efficient than meeting people offline, but that’s where the differences end.

I may be the exception rather than the rule, but behaviors that would creep me out in the offline world are equally repulsive in the online world.  Similarly, behaviors that are charming and welcoming offline are equally effective online.  For example, when I meet people offline, I am much more open to getting to know them if they start with friendship.  When I meet people online, I am also much more receptive to people who want to get to know me first.  On the same note, cheesy pick-up lines that don’t work offline won’t work online either.  And just as a guy won’t ask a gal to marry him during the first meeting, a guy shouldn’t declare to a gal on the first email he sent that she’s the perfect one for him.

To summarize, online dating is no different than offline dating except for the ways to meet people.  Just as the best kinds of relationship develop out of friendship first in the offline world, its true for online as well.  Given all that, I believe the most successful uses of online dating is to find friends first, relationship second.  In other words, before you sign up for an account on an online dating site, it will serve you well to adjust your expectation from “I am going to find the man/woman of my dream” to “I am going to meet more people and develop more friendships”. [Update: per the comment below, I am updating this to read, “I am going to meet more people and develop more friendships with hopes of finding that special someone.” — I hope that clarifies things]

What do you think?  Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

Part II – Online Dating 101: Your Profile
Part III – Online Dating 101: Your Opening Email
Part IV – Online Dating 101: Your First Meeting

This post is a follow-up to my previous post about making good first impressions. I’ve been on several more dates since and have a few more things to add to my previous list. Here goes (and again, not in any particular order):

  • Don’t mention money at the first meeting, ever! I went on a date with this guy who sounded great on paper — Caring, smart, tall, etc. I was more than excited to meet him, but it quickly became apparent to me that he was very hung up on money. Of all the topics we discussed, 75% of them centered around money: How do you spend your money? How much do you want for retirement? How much is it to raise a family of four? He even went into details on the math. Luckily, I am well-versed in money management/investment, so I was able to keep up with him on the topics. BUT, I was still very turned-off, especially for the first meeting! Our conversation gave me the impression that money is the only subject that matters to him. Who would want to spend the rest of her life with somebody like that?
  • Remember, first date = good first impression. First date is about first impression. I put effort into looking nice when I meet somebody intentionally for the first time. I expect as much from the other party…not that they need to look the best, but that they put forth the effort to make a good first impression. Now imagine meeting your date for the first time, and he has body odor! I mean, if that’s supposed to be a good impression, imagine what kind of guy he is when he’s not putting in the effort at all! No thanks!
  • Don’t act like a bachelor. There are many reasons why people remain single, but the last impression you want to leave a date you’ve just met is that you like your bachelorhood. In other words, don’t talk about how you enjoy closing down the bars on the weekends, or how you like to frequent strip clubs. The first thought that crosses my mind is: If you are so content being a bachelor, why are you dating?
  • Do be yourself. I recently met this guy who was trying so hard to impress upon me that he’s just like me. I know we all like people who are similar to us, but it’s kinda creepy when a guy you barely know tries to act and think like you. Besides, that kind of behavior screams, “I have no backbone”, and that’s probably the LEAST attractive quality you can present to a date! Instead, be yourself and if you want to impress your date, be attentive and open to what she has to say. It’s perfectly fine to agree to disagree!
  • Don’t brag about how little you work. No matter how hard we try to deny it, sexism exists. Just like most men prefer more feminine partners, most women prefer manly man. Before I get any grief about my generalization, I just want to note that there are exceptions. But in general, part of what makes a man “manly” is his drive, particular in his career. It is SO NOT ATTRACTIVE to tell a date you’ve just met that you pride yourself in working as little as possible! If you really aren’t ambitious but instead prefer to be a bum, don’t mention anything at all!

Update: If you are looking for what women want in their men, check out my latest post on the subject: What Women Want.

As mentioned in my previous post, I recently decided to get back into the dating game. It’s only been two weeks, but I’ve met quite a number of people already. Alas, most of the people I’ve met so far don’t make very good first impressions. Nevermind dating, I am not even sure if I want to hang out with them as friends based on their initial behavior. But rather than criticizing, I thought it may be more constructive to write about the kinds of behavior that are complete turn-offs. Here goes (they are not in any particular order):

  1. Do not interrupt conversations needlessly. I met this guy recently who interrupted me six times in the first ten minutes of our conversation. He not only butted in when I was talking, he RAISED his voice to get his two cents in. I finally had to tell him to stop talking over me. He initially complied, but it was back to square one after that. Guess I won’t be talking to him again!
  2. Be careful of the questions you ask. Another guy I met asked me questions that were simply inappropriate for the first meeting. For example, “Were you married before?” simply wasn’t a question you ask a person you have just met, regardless of whether the meeting was platonic or romantic in nature. Stick with neutral questions such as hobbies and activities instead!
  3. Don’t carry on a soliloquy about yourself. Yes, we all like to talk about ourselves, but unless you are on a stage, the monologue is incredibly boring to your audience. This guy I met went on for what seemed like an eternity about his job, his life, his accomplishment, etc. I tuned out after a while, but he didn’t get the hint. Sigh….
  4. Don’t brag about yourself. I may not have gotten an Ivy League education, but I have plenty of friends who did. Truth is, an education does not a person make, Ivy League or not. Some women may find it sexy to date a guy who graduated from Harvard, but I find it incredibly tasteless to use that as an opening line. If you must, a better approach is to mention it with subtle undertone. Better yet, let her find out for herself!
  5. Do act like a man. I met this guy who would start out talking with normal voice but gradually fade as the conversation continued. Hello? I can’t hear you if you whisper. And why are you whispering anyway?
  6. Don’t appear cheap. One of my favorites places to eat are holes-in-the-wall with great food. And although I don’t mind at all going to a hole-in-a-wall restaurant for the first date, I want to know that the reason for the choice is NOT because my date is cheap! So how do you get your date to try your favorite hole-in-a-wall without appearing cheap? Provide her with three or four choices and let her choose. Briefly introduce her to each of the choices, and while you do that, mention that the hole-in-a-wall is one of your favorites.

Well, that’s two weeks worth of dating do’s and don’ts. I will post more as they come up! Meanwhile, feel free to add more of your own in the comment section.

Update: I have since written another post of the do’s and don’ts of making a good first impression.  You can find it here.