Ask Sarah – Responding to Men


How do you handle getting tons of messages?
How many do you respond to?
Which do you ignore?
Is it jerky to just shut down your profile without responding to the last week’s worth of messages in your inbox?

message response

Dear “Jerky,”      😉

First of all, it is a universally known fact that women receive FAR more messages on dating sites than men do.  There have been multiple studies and statistics run on this, but one that I found entertaining (a reader sent me this link several months ago, actually) was Jon Millward’s not entirely scientific, but fascinating nonetheless, 4-month study of men and women’s messaging habits/numbers using OKCupid.  You can read the entire blog post here.  But, be forewarned that, while it is an interesting read, it does have some possibly offensive language in it for my more conservative readers.

The gist was this – women (attractive AND unattractive) receive FAR more messages than men (also of varying levels of physical attractiveness).  In fact,

  • The women as a group received over 20 times more messages than the men.
  • The two most attractive women received 83% of all messages.
  • The two most attractive women probably would have received several thousand more if their inboxes hadn’t have reached maximum capacity.
  • It took 2 months, 13 days for the most popular woman’s inbox to fill up. At the current rate it would take the most popular man 2.3 years to fill up his.
Millward Study 1

Chart of messages received from Millward’s fake profiles


And in my own experience, this has born out.
I have very attractive male friends who will get a few messages trickling in each week, while I have hundreds to sift through every few days.

And, OKCupid’s official stance/stat is:  “First messages sent by guys are only half as likely to get a reply as ones sent from women.”

All of that being said, I do not think you have ANY requirement to write back to anyone you don’t want to.

I WISH there was a way to let the men of the online dating world KNOW how staggeringly different the numbers were, so that they wouldn’t get their feelings hurt when they don’t hear back from a woman… but that doesn’t mean that we owe them a one-to-one correspondence either.

Being on a dating site does not somehow obligate you to communicate with people who don’t pique your interest!
Think of it like a Craigslist ad.  You’ve posted a lovely mid-century chest of drawers…
do you HAVE to reply to every interested party?  No!
Do you HAVE to read each e-mail of interest?  No!
Will you possibly miss a great offer?  Yes.
Hey – if you want to risk not being able to sell the piece to a reasonable buyer…that’s your own gamble to take.
Same with online dating.

My personal philosoply on this is – read them all.
Only respond to the ones that merit a response… and for me, that includes men I could be interested in,
as well as men who – while I know we wouldn’t make a good match for some reason or another – made the effort to write a kind or witty or interesting message.
I feel like there should be some kind of simple reward for taking the time to be thoughtful in that way.
And an honest, nice answer from a woman is just that.

But, I don’t respond to ‘winks’ or ‘hey girl’s or ‘dang- you sexy’s  or messages full of typos… who has the time?

Still – when a guy takes the time to read my mini-novela of a profile and to write something thoughtful – I think it’s just common decency to write back.

If I’m not interested, depending on the reason, I’ll tell him.
If it’s something changeable or generally understood/expected, I’ll say so.  Examples:  not the same faith, lives too far away, is still technically married, is outside the age range I want, etc.

If I’m simply not ATTRACTED to him, I’ll send this message:

Thank you so much for the thoughtful message.  Really – it’s refreshing to find a guy who takes the time to read a woman’s profile!  Thank you for your kind words.  Unfortunately, I don’t think we’d make a good match.  But I really do wish you the best of luck on your search.”

I know I run the risk of sounding like a college rejection letter, but if the guy really did read my profile, I’d hope he got the sense that I’m a genuine person, so I really DO mean that I wish him luck.  Hey – I want everyone to find love!  (but, me first.)

I guess the best answer to all of this, though trite,
is to exercise the golden rule.
Do unto others as you’d have them do unto you.

If you wrote a thoughtful message, wouldn’t it be nice to hear back from him, even if he wasn’t interested in dating you?  Would you ALSO want it said nicely?

I’ve gotten messages back from men saying that they don’t find me attractive… and, while I appreciate the honesty (and – you know – different strokes for different folks and all that), admittedly – it stings.  So, knowing that – I try to NOT be that girl with a guy.


And as far as closing down your account – close it whenever you want.  If a guy checks his mail, he’ll see that your account has been deactivated and he’ll assume you either found someone you’re putting all your energy into, or that you’ve had a psychotic episode and the nice people watching you at the asylum, baker-acted your profile.  Either way, he’ll know it was something external – and unrelated to him.  No harm, no foul.


Coming up tomorrow…the GOOD guys… They’re out there!

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