How to Make the Most of Online Dating

[ Another reader wrote in anonymously to share his experiences in response to Masculinist Newsletter #50 with online dating, as well as practical suggestions for making the most of it – Ed. ]

I live in a major southeastern metropolitan area. I’m in my early forties, 5 foot 6, and about 185 pounds (stocky muscular as opposed to stocky flabby, which makes a big difference.) I’ve never been married, have no children, and have my own business and all my hair. I’m plenty good looking enough for what I want, though I likely would never be described as any sort of Chad. Over the last year I’ve extensively used online dating platforms and I’ve had a lot of success, and I’ll go into the reasons why.

First of all, online dating can be an enormous time commitment. The apps are designed that way–we’re all familiar with the attention economy. I’ve used, at different points over the last decade and with little success, match.com, okcupid, plenty of fish, and coffee meets bagel. I rarely got anywhere on these (though I know people who did, so they can work) and eventually paid little attention to them, as I was able to meet women in real life. But the pandemic changed things, so I decided to try Bumble.

Bumble is an interesting app, very different from the others. It has been extremely successful, as seen by the recent huge IPO. A man creates a profile and is given about 40 profiles a day to look at (that’s what I get on average, and it seems to be constant.) That immediately limits the time.

Bumble also places character limits on how much you can write, so you have to think carefully about what you put. Its very photo-based.

While you can swipe right (choose a profile) or swipe left (reject) nothing happens. Only if the girl also swipes right will you get a match, and the girl’s profile will become visible to you. However, you can’t contact her then either–you have to wait for her. She has 24 hours to do so.

From a man’s standpoint, there’s no point in looking closely at the profiles. You can’t contact them. So I swipe right on every single one and wait for them to write me.

I made one change to my usual profile and immediately began having lots of success on getting women to contact me. I get around 25 matches a week, of whom maybe half write me. Guess what? Those half that wrote are immediately interested in you. That saves an enormous amount of time. You can then start messaging them. I could convert 4-6 of these to first dates a week, but there’s always a time constraint and of course one or both of us may not be interested, so I average 3-5 first dates a month off Bumble. I’ve found that screening in person is more effective, so only 1-2 of these get a second date.

What was the change? I put up quality pictures. Several years ago I was traveling in Europe, and a friend of a friend of a friend introduced me to a photographer who worked at a major European theatre. I paid her $400 to take about 150 photos of me in several locations and activities around the city. I originally did this for my business website and indeed the photos are on there today, where they always get enormous compliments. I’m dressed stylishly and casually in an obviously old-world atmosphere. The photos implied I’m financially successful, but there weren’t the usual boat and sports car cliches. I only used the photos on a dating app during covid 18 months later.

My written description was a little obnoxious and made open reference to me as the prize. I’m very selective. You have to be worthy to join my club. I made fun of women who like to shop at Target. I described myself as Christian and looking for a relationship, though there were no other religious references.

So what sort of women wrote? I set my preferences at 26-55. I’m not interested in older women, as I want children, but I like to see who writes me and what they say. Almost all of the women who write are between 28-42. Most of them are cute–there are definitely overweight and unattractive women on Bumble, but I almost never see them, so I’ve managed somehow to convince the algorithm that I deserve cute women.

About half say, hey, what’s up, while the other half specifically reference something obnoxious I wrote in my profile when they write first. There’s no real difference in how I talk to these women, or if we go out, though the ones who reference the profile tend to have more personality. We’ll talk, establish points of interest in common, and it will be clear whether there is interest for a date and then I’ll ask them out after, say, 12-15 messages (which can take anywhere between 30 minutes and 3 days depending on how quickly people respond.)

As a rule, the longer you talk on an app, the less likely you are to actually meet. There are obvious exceptions to this—they live in a different town, or it takes a week to find an open evening–but talking to a girl for a month without arranging a meeting is a failure. Either you need to ask her out, or she just wants attention. You cannot decide whether a girl is what you are looking for without meeting her, so there’s no point in delaying it while you chat. You’ll learn more in an hour at a cafe than in weeks in conversation.

One thing that is not relevant on a profile is to go into detail on what you really want or what your interests are. This is a point I want to go into some detail on, specifically with reference to Christian men on dating apps.

We live in a society where, over the last decade, women in their 20s have far more dating experience than men, even in the church. So most single late 20s Christian guys don’t have much experience with women, which means they don’t know what they really want. Saying, I want to lead a serious Christian marriage is great, but you have to find the right woman to do that with–the right woman for you. And the only way to determine what sort of woman you would do well with, in terms of personality, hobbies, character, etc, is to date some women. Men need to know dating is not a romantic comedy where you meet-cute and everything automatically happens with no leadership from the man. Women are impressed by men who know how to handle a date, and the only way to do this is to go on dates and get better.

I’m obviously not suggesting promiscuity, but men should be willing to go on a date with any women who meets minimum criterion and is willing. You never know what she is actually like from a profile. A cultural Christian may be a girl who grew up in the church, grew away–as often happens these days–but is willing to go back if invited by a man she’s dating. Or a girl may be a serious Christian and not really mention it on her profile, because the profile is short and she suspects–correctly–that talking about how much she loves going to church is going to limit her options. That’s the reality even though we wish it were otherwise.

And–lets be honest–going out with someone for an hour on a Tuesday night does not mean you are planning the wedding. Go out and meet someone new! Even if there is no romantic interest you might get an invite into her social circle, which has its own value.

Shared interests are also irrelevant. My major interests are opera, French gangster films, and Myrna Loy. I never watch TV or streaming services–I haven’t had a TV in my house since 2002. I never listen to pop music, though obviously I know who Kenny Chesney is. But I know how to talk to people and make them comfortable. That is what men need to learn to be successful on dates, and it is equally helpful in all aspects of life, and even in marriage. The only time I’ve ever been on a date with a girl who even knew who Myrna Loy was, it was clear to both of us within 15 minutes that it was going nowhere. Creating a connection can be learned, and there is nothing sleazy or dishonest about it.

So what are come action points? The single most important thing you can do is get better photos. There are plenty of photographers in big cities who do dating app picture sessions for $250-$500. Check around and you’ll find them. The good ones will have online portfolios that give examples of their work. Be open about why you are getting the photos–they will likely give you some solid fashion advice as well, and you should listen to it. Good photos are the best way to move the algorithms in your favor.

Your writing should show humor and self-confidence. Appeal to a woman’s hypergamous instincts–she should wonder if you’ll write back at all. Teasing is always a plus. And women absolutely read the written parts–so take it seriously.

Many Christian men have detailed profiles describing their relationship with God, views on theology, etc. I’ve seen them. It is wonderful that these men have a considered philosophy on life. But if you are not getting results on an app, then you need to rethink what listing this in your profile does. Not rethink your philosophy on life–rethink your philosophy on meeting people. Your admiration for John Calvin or J.I. Packer, right though it may be, is clearly not the milkshake that brings all the girls to the yard. Meeting new people is the necessary first step to creating a family if you are single.

If you are on lots of apps, delete them all and stay off them for 60 days while you get the photos and profile set up. If what you’ve been doing hasn’t been working, take a break, do something completely different. Concentrate on Bumble to begin with.

And online should only ever be a sideline. Its a great way to meet some women you wouldn’t meet otherwise, but….you need to go out and meet people in person. After all, you’ll eventually meet your online matches in real life as well.

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