It’s safe to say there isn’t a whole lot of etiquette in online dating, but we do expect people to behave online as they would in real life. The reason they don’t is because online dating is essentially a numbers game, and we tend to be talking to several people at the same time.
Online dating is not the same as email. When we send an email to someone, we expect a reply. This doesn’t happen when you interact with someone on a dating site. Of course, it’s hard not to take rejection personally, but you have to develop a thick skin – you almost have to throw etiquette out of the window.
It’s easier to keep people hanging on online,and many people are guilty of what’s called 'breadcrumbing' – where they keep you hanging on because they like the attention.
Even once you match with someone online and start chatting, you can’t expect too much. We’re often talking to so many people that the other person simply becomes a photo on our screen which allows us to say things online that we’d never say in real life.
It’s also easier to keep people hanging on online and many people are guilty of what’s called breadcrumbing – where they keep you hanging on because they like the attention. They’re not interested in dating you, they just want to keep you interested, then as soon as you get close to arranging a date, they disappear.
It can even happen when you’ve been on a few dates – rather than being honest, some people just start ignoring your messages. Of course it’s hard to back out of a second or third date and many of us don’t want to have these conversations. If people have low confidence, an honest rebuttal may not be the best option. I once had someone message me to say I wasn’t their cup of tea, which was quite a brutal message to receive.
So is there anything we can do? From the start I would advise only messaging people you’re genuinely interested in. Those on paid sites tend to take their searches more seriously, whereas on many free dating apps like Tinder, people are more likely to match with people they may not be totally serious about. But we should really only be matching with people we actually want to talk to – for me I find about 1 in every 10 men I match with on these kinds of sites will actually start a conversation.
Similarly, if you don’t want to meet up again, just make up an excuse. It can be easiest to simply say you’ve just started seeing someone – after all most people are talking to a few matches at the same time and it’s much nicer to hear it’s not your fault.
Of course you may still appear as active on the site, but at the end of the day being polite, replying and making the other person feel good about themselves is what we could call best practice. It is tough, but we are dealing with people’s feelings.