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Online dating: No one is obligated to answer you, and other hard truths

This week on Love Syncs: Getting real about the challenges of online dating.


Sometimes, online dating goes awry.

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Welcome to CNET's Love Syncs, where we answer your questions about 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."

This week: The hard truths about online dating. 

Q: You said telling a woman she's pretty on a dating site is obvious and doesn't spur conversation. Do you know how many times I've asked a woman a question about something she's said in her profile, or mentioned something about me that might create a connection? Countless times. Yet I get ignored. So just stop it.


A: I love fan mail. 

Though my initial thought here was, "Well, consider me another woman who's not going to answer you," this email actually provides the opportunity to dig in to some bigger, broader truths about online dating that have to be acknowledged. Namely, that most of the time, honestly, it can be a frustrating experience that seemingly yields very little. 

You sit, you swipe, you message, you get ignored. Maybe you chat, maybe you meet in person. Maybe it goes well, maybe it doesn't. You swipe some more. 


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In my many conversations with online daters, both strangers and friends, I've never met anyone who actually enjoys the process. Scrolling through profile after profile is numbing. And what other rejection could feel more personal than one that comes after you've offered your best representation of your face and personality and been met with a resounding silence?

But here's the thing: There are points of perspective we should keep in mind, and they mostly involve having some compassion for the people who own those profiles you're trying to interact with.

One: There's no science to online dating. When you follow tips about how to improve your own profile, you're giving yourself a better chance of success -- but success isn't guaranteed. I can't recommend that you throw wormwood, unicorn tears and a goat bezoar into a caldron to find your soulmate. 

I can recommend refreshing your photos, trying out new bios and experimenting with your opening messages. If you think you're having trouble getting responses to thoughtful messages, imagine the eye-rolls and yakking sounds that some lame "hey baby" will be met with. You're one in a sea of faces. You've got to do your best to stand out. 

Two: No one is obligated to answer you. You can hate this fact if you want, but consider this: If you get a message from someone, and you look at that person's profile and decide that for whatever reason, you aren't interested, are you really going to start a conversation with that person? And do you really want to force something with someone who isn't interested?

Three: Have some compassion. In heterosexual arrangements on dating apps, women are often inundated with messages from guys who probably run the spectrum from friendly to creepy to downright terrifying. They're on the same carousel of faces you're on, likely feeling a similar frustration that for all their efforts, something just doesn't seem to be working. Because if it were, none of us would be here. If dating apps were a silver bullet, we'd all be partnered up and I'd be writing a recurring column complaining about my downstairs neighbor. (I assume CNET would let me publish this.) 

Four: Look, I'm not going to tell you that you've got no choice but to use The Apps, because that's not true. People still meet partners through friends, family and from being at the right place at the right time. You can still date old-school. But know that some people hate that too! Maybe they're too shy to approach someone in real life, or they don't want to risk getting shut down to their face. 

Hey, dating is hard. It always has been. It takes work and resilience (and hope!), and helping yourself out as best you can.

The alternative: You can just stop it. 

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