Let’s engage in a little fantasy here.
(Not that kind of fantasy. Seriously.)
(No, not the kind of fantasy with elves and dragons either.)
Let’s imagine what online dating would be like if writing a “Thanks, but no thanks” email were a requirement, rather than an option.
But first, let’s examine the current system and why it can really suck.
Reality: No Thanks is Optional, Ignoring Frequent
On the majority of online dating websites, you owe a person absolutely nothing if they send you an email. You don’t have to write back. (It’s nice to write back, but not required.) You can totally ignore them, hit the delete key, and be on with your life.
With some paid dating services that allow non-subscribers to post profiles, the person won’t even know that you received the email. (That is, unless they pay the extra few dollars a month to get the Email Read feature.)
Reality: Some Sites Are Nudging Members To Do The Right Thing
Here’s where I give props to OkCupid. Yeah, I’ve had issues with them in the past, but after talking to their co-founder and watching how their site has grown and evolved, I’m changing my tune about this quasi-free site.
OkCupid publicizes whether or not you reply to first contact emails. Right under your profile on the search results page there is a line that tells everyone how polite you are:
Green: replies often
Orange: replies selectively
Red: replies very selectively
Now, before emailing someone, you can pretty much know what your chances are of getting a reply. Perhaps it’s not wise to waste lots of time writing red people?
Reality: Matchmaking Type Sites Require Closing Matches
On some of the matchmaking style sites, you have to “close” matches that you aren’t interested in. Usually when closing, you need to select a reason. Whether that reason is BS or not depends on you.
Fantasy: What If You HAD To Reply?
We’re adults here, but let’s be honest, a lot of people act like children online. But let’s just entertain for a moment that all online dating sites required you to reply to every email.
You could select from stock responses or craft your own, but there wouldn’t be an “Other” or similar cop-out answer. If you got to 5 emails with no replies, your account would be frozen and your profile hidden until you took care of your inbox properly.
How might this change the face of online dating as we know it?
- Fewer people would sign up “just for fun” (or at least, their profiles wouldn’t last very long).
- Everyone would get closure for every email they send.
- The 2:00 a.m. fit of desperation in which you send the same cut-n-paste email to everything with your preferred genitalia in the tri-state region just in hopes of getting one reply would be a thing of the past.
- You could wait to hear back from one set of emails before mailing out the next, removing the anxiety about having too many potential dates (seriously, it happens!).
- There could be an option to forward the email to customer service rather than replying if the email was spam and/or pornographic in nature, thus speeding up the process of getting the bad guys removed.
- As a dater, you would have constant feedback about your profile and pictures. You can learn a lot from rejection and change your profile, pictures, or email style to achieve better results.
- Fewer people would sign up for online dating, citing fear of having to reject other people. (Even though the current system of never knowing can be pretty cruel.)
- You would have to take the time to reply to everyone. (But seriously, if it’s as easy as pulling down a drop-down menu and selecting a canned response?)
- As a dater, you would have constant feedback. Some people can’t take constant feedback. Some people would rather hear nothing than be told “I’m sorry, you’re too young/fat/Republican/edumacated/blond/geeky for me.“
What do you think?
Is the online dating system okay as-is or would you like to see more sites requiring responses to emails or publicizing response rates on profiles?
Update: Check out this response by Moxie, another dating blogger.