One of the biggest things that comes up when discussing dating with friends is how incredibly stressed out we are about the ways in which we’re engaging with people we connect with online.
This applies especially to when things are new and you’re not entirely sure if you’re on the same page or not. You know, that awful anxiety-fueled “what the fuck is actually going on here?” feeling.
What should I say to him/her? How long should I wait to reply to their last message? Is it normal to not hear from them for a few days? Do I initiate contact first after a while of no chatting? Should I be suggesting we do something? Are we being too familiar too soon? Am I coming across as too keen? Am I playing it too cool? These are the types of questions I’m sure we’ve all asked ourselves.
I’m not about to compile some kind of rule book for how we should be engaging with one another, because the reality here is that there actually aren’t any rules. However, there are a lot of ways in which people are engaging with one another online which are adding to the existing stress and paranoia that come with the territory:
We’ve all been there. You match with someone you really like the look of, you start talking and before you know it you’re engaged in non-stop conversations that take precedence over anything else going on in your life. This all before you’ve even met face to face. It’s new and exciting, something to look forward to, but are you potentially building someone up that’s better in writing than in the flesh?
It’s incredibly easy to develop high expectations for the other person in your head by talking excessively online or over WhatsApp, especially if they are portraying themselves in a certain way and if this is something that goes on for a considerable amount of time before meeting in person.
My solution to this is to meet as soon as you’re sure there’s a spark, have a face to face conversation and see where it goes. I see absolutely no point in talking to someone for weeks on end and not making a plan to see what happens in real life. The sooner you know, the better.
After going on a couple of dates with self-confessed phone phobe, as well as catching myself making numerous excuses about his lack of communication, I received a good dose of reality from a friend that a lot of us should probably get blown up and plastered on a wall (or tattooed on our foreheads): “If they’re not making an effort to message you, they’re not that interested in you.”
No matter how bad a person is at messaging, if they’re into you, they will make an effort to contact you. It’s as simple as that.
We’ve all heard of Seagull Managers, a term made famous by author Ken Blanchard and his book ‘Leadership and the One Minute Manager’. What is that, you ask? “Seagull managers fly in, make a lot of noise, dump on everyone, then fly out.”
So how is this relevant to the way people engage when dating? Well, there’s a particular breed of messenger that I’ve recently discovered who you don’t hear from for a couple of days (which is absolutely cool when things are still up in the air), but when they do message to say hello and appear to be fishing for info as to what you’re up to over the weekend, they say they “might” be free when you suggest doing something.
Might? Really? What, exactly, do you want from me?
Blood from Stones
Have you ever been stuck in a conversation loop that goes absolutely nowhere and you feel like you’re possibly trying to draw blood out of the stone that is the person you’re chatting to?
You might not be one for having the patience to deal with slow conversation, but what if the person you’re chatting to might be someone who is genuinely really bad at communicating via text? They might prefer face to face interaction, which is great, but is this something that’s going to prematurely send you in the opposite direction without giving this person a chance?
I’m probably the last person to offer solid advice regarding this because if the banter is stale and you’re boring me, I usually split. This could take up to two weeks of you talking about how badass your home entertainment system is, discussing the weather, surprising me with your multiple food intolerances and listing various neurosis, but it’ll happen eventually.
Too Much Too Soon
Are you calling your match pet names within the first 5 minutes of chatting, proposing marriage when you find out they can cook or “joking” about how excited you are to make it Facebook Official? Relax. Over-familiarity can set various warning bells off, particularly those that scream of dishonesty.
After matching with someone a few weeks ago, he messaged me almost immediately with “Hey Gorgeous”. *Eye Roll* He told me he was watching golf, and as I knew The Masters were on I showed genuine interest. He proceeded to tell me that he wished I was on the couch “cuddling” and watching with him. Ugh. *CRINGE* I naturally pushed back and told him that I needed to find out more about him before there was any talk of cuddling, and he quickly replied saying that I’d need to wait until the next day because he was going to sleep and then suddenly ninja bombed. Hhhmmm.
Me being me, I decided to go full stalk, screenshot his photos and conduct a Google Image search. Unsurprisingly I discovered that “David” was, in fact, Mexican actor and singer Diego Boneta.
Moral of the story: If they are way too familiar at first, chances are there’s something off. Always trust your gut.
“So, what is it about me that attracted you to me?”
This is literally a question I received from someone almost immediately after we matched, and the same thing happened to a friend of mine. What do people like this expect you to say? Something about their charming disposition and positive energy? We haven’t even met yet. Clearly the info I could ascertain from your bio and your looks. Duh.
Don’t ask questions like this, especially when you’ve just connected with someone. Not only is it incredibly arrogant, but it smacks of low self-esteem and the fact that the person you might end up potentially dating will have to stroke your ego 24/7.
Be chill and stop seeking affirmation from total strangers.
The WhatsApp Effect
The natural progression of chatting to someone online is to move from in-app to WhatsApp, but how soon should you do this? This totally depends on personal preference but I definitely believe that this should only happen if there’s a spark and see no point in blurring the lines with someone who is just going to be another contact on your phone.
The other danger here is that the person you’re WhatsApping is now one step closer to you and could give the impression that you’re far more accessible and open to things like unsolicited photos, voice notes, calls or even video chats. Just because you have someone on WhatsApp doesn’t give you the right to get all up in their space and continuously contact them when you haven’t really established any sort of relationship or boundaries.
Take John for example, who thought it would be okay to hound a friend of mine while he was on holiday alone and found out she was going to the same place in a few months:
13.52:“Don’t tell me where or I’ll happen to turn up 😳”
13.52: “I love this place”
13.56: “But don’t worry, I’m no stalker…”
18.48: “Remember me?”
My friend then jokingly says he has way too much time on his hands and suggests he puts his phone down and enjoys his holiday. To which he replies that he hopes she’s having fun and says goodnight with a barrage of emojis.
7.37: “Good Morning”
7.56: “Please don’t talk too much”
7.58: “I seem to have lost your attention”
7.58: “Something I said?”
My friend then replies a couple of minutes later and explains to him that while she appreciates him wanting to keep in contact and share his holiday with her, she’s finding it to be a little too much for where they are (they haven’t met yet) and says she hopes he enjoys his last week of holiday.
John then blocks my friend and a week later unblocks her to send this message:
“I’m back from Mauritius and would appreciate some constructive criticism if you don’t mind a 5-minute call sometime later today.”
My friend replied and said she was busy and made mention that she wasn’t in the same space as him. He apologised for being “a pest” and then blocked her again.
If you like someone, make an effort when you’re communicating with them to show interest in their life. Ask questions, answer questions, just give a shit in general. A good start is looking at their bio and grabbing clues as to who they are and what their interests are. Getting stuck in boring conversations that contain zero substance are a waste of time and a clear indicator that whatever it is you’re doing isn’t going to turn into anything.
Just make sure you don’t start talking to them about stuff you’ve seen on social media because they’ll immediately be able to tell that you’ve been stalking and probably know the names of their exes, entire family, pets and best friends.
Keep that shit on the DL.
This is something that actually applies all of the above points, because there’s a big chance that a shitty real-life first impression, being given the silent treatment, needing to avoid seagulls swooping in to steal your chips, becoming disinterested in someone who bores you, being too familiar, behaving like a total narcissist, becoming just another contact or not investing enough time in getting to know someone early on, will ultimately end in ghosting.
Despite the fact that I personally try very hard to stick to a no ghosting rule, it hasn’t been that easy. I’ve never ghosted someone who I was properly engaging with, but I’ve definitely ghosted matches which weren’t going anywhere or who sent me 20 messages before I had the chance to answer them.
I believe that if you’re not interested in someone to the point of wanting to go on a date with them but have been chatting to them on a regular basis, the decent thing to do is tell them that you don’t see it going anywhere. That way you’ve explained yourself and haven’t left the other person confused.
This also absolutely 100% applies to someone you’ve met in person and gone on a date with. People who ghost after engaging in real life are not nice people, so if you’ve been the unfortunate victim of this type of behaviour you’ve dodged a bullet! As hurtful as it can be, you’re better off and need to understand that it says a lot more about the other person than it does about you.
Obviously, this doesn’t apply to dates which have gone wrong or if you meet someone who shows signs of potentially being a serial killer, but then again it’s all relative. Rather be the better person and rack up some good dating karma by explaining yourself.
Putting yourself out there and blindly swiping left or right on people you really know absolutely nothing about is a gamble. If you happen to match and things go further than that, things will potentially become complicated, especially when it comes to communicating — because let’s face it, people, in general, aren’t particularly good at it.
You’re going to engage with all sorts of people because chances are the first person you find isn’t going to be the person you end up with. This kind of stuff builds character, and if you allow it, you can learn a great deal about yourself and what you want from it. You have to do and deal with what feels right and hopefully, find someone who hangs around on the same page as you.