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You see a co-worker on Tinder or another dating app. What should you do?

Welcome to CNET's online dating column, where we answer your questions about online dating. Today: Seeing co-workers on the apps and the gender dynamics of who messages first.

Angela Lang/CNET

Hello! Welcome to CNET's online dating column where we answer your questions on avoiding the pitfalls of online dating. I'm Erin Carson, staff reporter, resident young-enough-person, refrigerdating correspondent, curator of odd stuff on the internet, most likely to leave you on "read."

Today, we tackle questions about women messaging guys first (saucy!) and what to do when you see someone from work on the apps. 

Read: Best dating sites of 2019  

You bring the lightly salted plantain chips and I'll bring the answers. 

Q: As a woman, I've never felt there was a problem initiating contact with guys on dating apps, but a friend who's a guy says women shouldn't initiate contact because then guys aren't the pursuers. I've had zero luck lately initiating with guys, so maybe my friend is right?

— H.

A: Friends. They're the best! But also, sometimes wrong!

Look, I'm not going to tell you there aren't guys out there who believe Men Should Always Pursue Women. At one point in history there would have been some fine bison pelts involved in that action, no doubt. And certainly, there are pockets of culture that hold more traditional views on gender roles within relationships. 


Click for more Love Syncs. 

So, yes, that opinion exists. 

However, if you don't subscribe to that worldview, you don't need to worry about the dudes who do.

What's true for dating, regardless of how you meet, is that you're probably looking for someone who mostly sees the world the way you do, and that includes their stance on gender roles. If you don't want to wait for some guy to cross the gymnasium floor and ask you to dance, you probably don't want a guy who can't deal with that scenario playing out the other way.

That's fine. Let him offer his bison pelts to someone who wants them. 

You could try a platform like Bumble, where the women are the ones who message guys first. So if a guy is going to get his feathers ruffled about a woman having the audacity to message him, dudebro is in the wrong place. 

But here's the thing -- your average dating app is set up so anyone can make a move (pre or post match, depending). We basically know that upon download. Consider this: There's an element built into the concept of dating apps that's about agency. It's about deciding that you want to try to meet someone and you literally taking it into your own hands to do so.

It's 2019. Granted, not everyone seems to have gotten that iCal notification, but it means if you're comfortable initiating contact with guys, that's all that matters. 

That said, I don't know what approach you're taking when reaching out so I can't advise you there. If you're asking for their blood type or sending a skull emoji without any context … don't do that. Broadly, I'd suggest asking them about something specific on their profile as a way of starting a conversation. Also, keep in mind that everyone goes through dry spells where it feels like nothing works and no one is out there. It's a drag. It's also not a permanent state. 

Keep chattin' up the guys. Cross that dance floor as much as you want. 

Q: What do I do if I see a co-worker on a dating app?

You're sitting on your couch, half paying attention to Fight Club playing on cable for the 4 zillionth time, swiping through today's offering of would-be love interests, when a familiar face pops up. 

It's Stu, the guy from accounting who fails to make eye contact in the break room. 

SO AWKWARD, right?

Actually, it doesn't have to be. This might be one of a very small cluster of situations where the best course of action to take is to just. Do. Nothing. 

That's right, you have permission to not turn this into a thing. 

In the world of online dating, where apps often use proximity to show you profiles (local singles IN YOUR AREA!), you're bound to run into people you know. It will make you feel weird and probably a little self-conscious to think you've got some unearned window into someone's private life … and to think they might be on the other side of that window looking back. 

While it might feel like you need to say something or make a joke or acknowledge that you're both here, it's unnecessary and accomplishes nothing. Keep swiping. If your desire to make contact is to mitigate your own discomfort at being seen… A) That's your deal, not theirs B) You're going to make it worse.

Let me tack something else on to this: I know you looked at their profile. It's too tempting and you totally snooped on what they're looking for and what they have to say about themselves, and now you know their hobbies include cooking and quoting liberally from The Office. 

Whatever you find on there, keep it to yourself. In truth, you don't know what they've told other people at work, what info is known and what's not, and you probably wouldn't like it if they went around describing your profile. 

In short: Just leave Stu alone, man. 

This is an advice column focusing on online dating. If you've got a question about finding love via app, send it to for consideration. 

Originally published July 12, 5 a.m. PT.