Texting Rules, Responding To Messages, Arranging Dates, Asking For Phone Numbers, Dating Multiple People, When To Meet, Manners, First Dates, Not Interested, Online Dating Red Flags
When it comes to online dating, the waters have been muddied by indecisiveness, access to devices that allow for instantaneous communication, access to unlimited profiles at ones’ fingertips, anonymity behind profiles and selective piece feeding information about ones’ intent, history, appearance, age, job status, height, weight and more.
What I am going to discuss below is more of an honest, idealistic approach to dating with an intent of building relationships and less so for casual hookups. With that said, some people will disagree with what I have to say because years of rejection, depression, anxiety, dishonesty, catfishing have left many jaded and unable to remain optimistic and give the next match a clean slate.
Unfortunately not everyone carries these same sets of values on honesty when dating but my hope here is to improve dating etiquette for the masses by offering transparent advice on a subject than is flooded with conflicting advice, articles written for clickbait and articles biased by genders, roles or audiences.
(for additional FAQ’s about online dating apps, profiles, photos, bio, read this guide I put together: https://eddie-hernandez.com/online-dating-frequently-asked-questions/)
Bio and Profile Honesty: Height, Job Status, Location,
I wish this information did not have to be inserted into this post under etiquette but it needs to be said – stop lying on your profile. Adding a few inches, lying about your location is a no-no.
Some people think adding a few inches is harmless but as petty or insignificant you might think height is, have some respect for the people you meet and their wishes. If you have to lie about your height chances are you a bit insecure or rather your little lie is a sign of more deceit to come – either way it’s not a good look. The same can be said about those that lie about their age.
When it comes to location, some people think it’s ok to put an alternate location whether it’s a location closer to or in a city (more people, more options) or completely lie about their location altogether (true for people in town). It’s one thing to put down a location that is geo-located and you have no control over and you are looking for something casual but if your intention is to deceive someone, don’t be that person.
Job titles and descriptions are a point of contention among online daters. Listing something vague like entrepreneur can be taken as unemployed. One should balance privacy when on dating apps but being totally vague or not listing an industry and function will lead to fewer quality dates. This is not a matter of being shallow but rather understanding one’s lifestyle (how many hours at work can be expected, does the person work a 9-5, etc.).
If something on your profile is outdated, update it. It takes less than 30 seconds to do so. Assume that people will think the worst of you (unemployed, looking for something casual, spammer, bot) if your profile is incomplete or too vague.
For tips on how to write a dating profile, read this guide: https://eddie-hernandez.com/how-to-write-an-online-dating-profile/
Kids and Marital Status
If you have kids, you should be upfront and honest about having them. Listing how many and how old they are is suffice, no photos needed. Omitting this info on a profile will just result in people ghosting you after one date as they see it as a sign of deception and insecurity. More on kids on dating profiles here on this post.
If you are divorced or separated, be truthful about that as well. Most people do not mind about dating divorcees, widows or people that are separated but if you lie about the status or lie about your ultimate intent in filing for divorce, you cannot be trusted. People will assume you are out for deception or something casual.
Similarly, do not date people who display too many red flags i.e. out of town, no social media, burner photos, has a tan line on the wedding ring, takes all calls privately, only wants to hang out in dark places, hotel rooms etc. Chances are the person is married.
Photo Accuracy On Dating Profiles
One of the biggest complaints of dating apps are misleading photos. Whether the photos show the person with more hair, thinner build, different hairstyle etc. it’s something that is a pet peeve among those on dating apps.
As a rule of thumb, all photos on a dating profile should be taken within the last 2-3 years and/or reflect how you appear in person today. That means no photoshopping, no skin softening, no photos take years ago, no photos from weird angles taken purposely to make you appear thinner.
People are aware of these tricks – they will double check Facebook and LinkedIn profiles, they will assume heavily edited or staged photos are the best case scenario and assume your worst photo is closer to your actual appearance.
Similarly, using sunglasses to cover your face is an obvious sign you are not comfortable or confident in your looks. Using one sunglasses photo at the beach or sunny place is one thing but littering them on your profile will cause people to left swipe on you.
If you don’t reflect yourself in an honest and accurate manner in your photos, don’t be surprised if someone gets up and walks away from you on a date within the first 5 minutes after being deceived. If you lie or are insecure about your looks, what else can be expected?
(What kind of photos you should use on your profile: https://eddie-hernandez.com/online-dating-profile-photos-intro/)
Swiping, Liking, Messaging & Matching Etiquette On Dating Apps
Dating apps have come along way and have shifted from careful searches and messages to volume based profile glances and swipes. With that, people are quicker to make decisions and quicker to make mistakes. I advise clients to only swipe on folks they are genuinely interested in or at the very least curious about and want to learn more about said person.
When it comes to the classic question should I like or should I message the person, always message the person. Likes mean nothing on dating apps. They are lazy and effortless. If you are interested in someone, put some thought and effort into a message. Show that you have read their profile and not just liked/commented on the first photo at the top of the page/deck of photos.
Just because someone has common interests and matches with you doesn’t mean you are guaranteed a date or that they like you. This is a dating app – you have not met, you don’t know each other you don’t owe each other anything. Dating apps are merely introduction apps. Don’t read into messages or things in common especially when you have yet to meet in person.
Opinion piece about super likes and super swipes.
Asking For Phone Numbers, Texting Rules
Dating app behavior and etiquette can vary significantly between genders and ages. Males tend to be on apps more often than women and can often grow impatient when exchanging messages and coordinating dates. As such, many guys will tend to want to move off dating app messaging platforms and move to WhatsApp, text messages or for younger folks, Snapchat.
I advise clients to avoid moving off the dating platforms as far as messages are concerned for a few reasons. First off, it’s a pain to add new contacts to phones especially for people you may not even date let alone meet in person (a large portion of matches never meet in person and it is not uncommon for dates to get canceled and never get rescheduled).
Secondly, it’s harder to report unwanted behavior via 3rd party messaging platforms and even harder to report profiles to the corresponding dating apps. Having a paper trail is key in case things go sour.
Numbers should be given if you prefer not to use the app because you are not on it often enough. Conversely, be careful as some scammers prefer to leave dating apps to reduce chances of being reported – use good judgment (read more about scams, blackmail and other dangers of online dating here: https://eddie-hernandez.com/online-dating-safety-tips/). Another reason to remain on the app is for privacy reasons. In the event things don’t go well with someone, it’s easier to unmatch, block and cut off communications if you don’t exchange contact information.
If you need to request someone’s number, it should be done after the first date and it is obvious a 2nd date will be secured.
Initiating Conversations, Replying To Messages
Whether initiating a message right off the bat or messaging after a match is established via mutual liking, there are some important things to keep in mind when considering what to write and when to hit send.
Initiating a message immediately after matching could suggest overeagerness. Sending a message Friday nigh or Saturday night can suggest you have no plans or social life (assuming you work a M-F, 9-5). Taking too long to message could mean you are not that interested (doing so increases the chances your match will match with others and get asked out by others). You are not operating in a silo, there are other external factors at play when it comes to communicating with people on dating apps.
I advise clients not to log on more than 2-3 times a week, 20-30 minutes a day when using dating apps. Given this approach, that doesn’t leave much time for messaging so don’t freak out if a match doesn’t reply right away. People should make time for their friends, family, travels and work. If you reply often while at work it can suggest you don’t take your job too seriously. It’s not uncommon to respond back to a message sent between Friday night – Saturday night on a Sunday night.
When To Meet, First Dates, Canceling + Rescheduling Dates
Years ago, first dates were more creative, unique and thoughtful online and offline. Nowadays, it’s fairly common (and unfortunate) that many first dates are 30 minute coffee dates. While I understand that people are busy and have limited time, I would expect people to put more thought not only into planning dates but also accepting them.
One of the biggest reasons why people prefer such dates is to quickly review people rather than waste 2 hours on a dinner date or similar time-consuming date. Similarly, coffee dates can be sterile environments for dates and difficult for people to show their true colors. Even coffee dates can be extended, adjusted for increase chances for spontaneity.
I typically advise clients to go on fewer dates and focus on folks who give you their time, energy, effort rather than go on as many dates as possible. Dates are expensive and people are working longer days, commuting further than ever before. This comes at the expense of time for dating.
People rarely want to give up precious time with family, friends, travel and chores to go on a questionable date. Make the most out of your dates. Similarly, make sure you prioritize things in your life appropriately. If you are struggling with dating it could be your job is negatively affecting you. (read my post about dating in San Francisco for some insightful ways life in the United States, technology and apps are impacting people’s health).
Once you plan a date it is your responsibility to show up as planned and notify the other person with as much time if you decide to cancel – don’t wait until the day of. If there is a strong chance you are too busy, sick or uncertain you want to go on a date with a person, don’t waste time. Show some consideration for your fellow daters – finding a sitter for your child is costly, rearranging commuting plans is burdensome, leaving work early is a novelty for many.
The person canceling the date is responsible for rescheduling the date if he/she wishes to continue to get to know each other. Also, don’t make excuses for people. If someone wants to see you they will make it happen.
When messaging via a dating app, it’s not uncommon for messages to be delayed or people to be busy to respond asap. It is with this in mind that you give others time to respond and send simple, succinct messages to confirm dates and details. This is particularly true for dates set out more than several days out.
No one wants to receive long-winded messages or voicemails. Make sure your communication is efficient, thoughtful, sweet and exhaustive. No one wants to get piece-fed messages when coordinating dates. Provide specific options vs asking open-ended questions. Conversely, if options don’t work for you, provide some alternatives.
The more back and forth over details exchanged the more likely conversations will fizzle out. Save communications for in person dates for the most part but realize asking for a date with next to no communication is never a good idea. Balance is key.
Read more about first date planning, expectations and best practices here: https://eddie-hernandez.com/online-dating-first-dates/
Do Guys Pay For A First Date?
Usually this is the case but not always. As a woman you should feel free to pay your half, get separate bills, pick a date spot that is not super expensive or pay for everything yourself. If you want to see a guy again and you think he wants to see you too, you can offer to pay for the next date, round of drinks. Never go on a date that you can’t pay for yourself or at least haven’t discussed ahead of time.
First Date Questions? Things To Ask On A First Date
Good first dates should be relaxed and fun. They should be about getting to know someone (their laughs, smiles, manners, behaviors, how they treat wait staff, style of speech, appearance, fashion sense, vocal intonations, body odor, storytelling ability, confidence etc.) These first impressions and more superficial indicators are what you should pay attention to.
Beyond that, sharing information about your lifestyle, routine, habits, religion, travel, work, school, priorities, hobbies, interests and guilty pleasures are what you should stick on first dates. Great first date questions should balance randomness, quirkiness, dorkiness, intelligence, passion, empathy, curiosity, desire, character and more. Bad first date questions are abrutpt, uncomfortable, too personal or suggest distrust.
Expectations for Second Dates
One of the biggest frustrations I hear from folks is expectations of second dates. Unless a second dates is requested and firmly scheduled, don’t expect anything. Some people have a hard time being upfront with their emotions or wish to avoid confrontation when ending a date.
Just because you had a good time and have things in common doesn’t mean a second date will occur. Be hopeful, be honest, be realistic. If someone wants to see you again, they will make it happen, they will prioritize you. Similarly, if you think the date is going well, ask the girl out mid-date.
Tossing out hyptothetical questions can help gauge interest i.e. ‘We should totally go out to XYZ’ but that should only be to get a read on someone. Have specific plans for a second date (at least the location or date – ideally both – but mention you will research some things get back asap).
Some first dates can end up with an intimate makeout session or sex but that doesn’t mean anything. Don’t read into past actions and behavior. Some people are looking for a distraction. Others will take what they can get. Others can change their mind based on mood, other dates or other things happening in their lives.
People generally suck at communication offline and online channels make it even more challenging. If you are looking for a relationship don’t expect a hookup can turn into that. Similarly don’t assume a hookup means someone likes you or wants to see you again.
Online dating requires patience, good people reading skills, thick-skin, self-awareness and honesty to yield the best chances for success.
Dating Multiple People, Defining The Relationship (DTR), Exclusivity
When it comes to dating, people can often times infer more about what is happening or at least understood. Dating is a courting process in which parties are learning about each other. Unless specifically discussed, assume the person you are dating is still on the dating app, is on other dating apps or is dating other people.
This is especially true when sex is involved and no other details about exclusivity is involved. It’s weird I know but some people are more comfortable having sex than discussing their feelings. Being vulnerable and brutally is difficult for many people.
If you are not good at communicating or having difficult conversations, online dating can be extremely brutal. DTR (defining the relationship) is the social reference in which people dating discuss their intent with the other person (or people depending on the arrangement). Just because someone deletes the app doesn’t mean you are exclusive (they can just be hiding it from you or can be on other apps).
Similarly, requesting exclusively after 1 date can seem rather soon. Dating takes time to get to know one another. Going on several dates and of varying kinds (not just drink dates, nor late night PDA sessions) will help expose you to other sides of an individual. Observing events, attending restaurants with service staff, asking questions are just one of many ways to learn about your date.
If you want things to progress, delete the dating app, delete you account, tell the person you did these things and talk about being exclusive. Muddying the waters by having an active account can place a lot of anxiety in the person and less likely to make a move towards progressing the relationship and being exclusive. Take the lead!
Multiple Dating Profiles
As I referenced above, it’s not uncommon for your date to be seeing others particularly before you have had the talk and decided to become exclusive. What isn’t so obvious is that some people can have multiple profiles across various apps signaling different things. Rare but it is not unheard of for someone to have a relationship focused profile on Hinge, CMB or Bumble and a hookup profile on Tinder (all the more reason to communicate with your dates before having sexual relationships).
Some people will take what they can get and it can be unsettling if someone is taking things slow with you given they are hooking up and having sex with others on the side. Being attractive, having a successful career and displaying a fun, interesting side of you is not an exhaustive template for dating success.
Many folks fail at the soft skills needed for successful dating (communication, emotional IQ, mental stability and honesty about knowing what they want).
Letting People Down, Not Interested And Unmatching
One of the most awkward, uncomfortable parts of online dating is letting the other person know you don’t want to see them. Ideally one does this in person at the end of the date but there are a few good reasons not to especially if you are a woman and don’t feel safe. Simply unmatching after a date is poor behavior unless it is obvious no 2nd date is established or if you feel mislead, lied to or feel unsafe.
Unless you have been dating for a while, it is not necessary to give details for your decision. Simply stating you are not interested or want to focus on other people is suffice. Providing too much information without being asked can be awkward. However, if someone asks for reasons/feedback do so with caution. Some people will use these arguments and attempt to counter them.
Unfortunately some people don’t take things well and so before you get to know someone, it might be safe to stay on the app to document all communication in one place whether to report to authorities or to the app. One shouldn’t date because they are lonely, looking for pen-pals or need validation – there are other platforms for that (Meetup, chat rooms, forums, Instagram).
If you don’t see a future or at the very least are not enthusiastic and interested about the date, don’t lead people on.
Love Bombing And Leading People On
(This is more of a safety alert but still is an etiquette briefing nonetheless. A common theme I keep reverting to is reading too much into dates, people with an investment of time, prioritization, affection, treatment and communication. This next item is something many people are falling for now more than ever given increasing loneliness in a technological centric world).
For folks on dating apps that are recently single, have insecurities, possess a low emotional IQ, have a tough time reading people, are lonely or even depressed, you may be at a high risk for a manipulation tactic called ‘love-bombing.’
It essentially occurs when a person bombards you with compliments, attention, flirtation etc. in order to let down your guard to take advantage of you emotionally, financially, physically or psychologically. Even your average Joe or Jane can be victims. People scour photos, past history, social media, etc. to find vulnerable target. Profiles that feature excessive selfies can be seen as a sign of weakness.
Remember, online dating is a misnomer – dating apps are merely introduction apps. You can’t develop a meaningful relationship so quickly and distant without some time, patience, in-person communication, physical affection etc.
Don’t hand out personal financial accounts and records to strangers, don’t trust anyone too quickly especially without meeting in person first, date locally, have dates meet your friends, family and colleagues and trust your gut. If something is too good to be true it probably is.
What Are You Looking For?
Inevitably you will get asked this by a few people (mostly by women but men too). It’s a rather loaded, abrupt and intrusive question to ask up front on a first date or early messages. Asking this seems like an interview question of where do you see yourself in 5 years?
There are plenty of indirect, related questions that are more subtle and insightful and less obtrusive. It also suggests distrust, insecurity or inability to screen people based on prior experiences. Look for clues in their photos, bio, passions, priorities, texts, etc.
The first few dates and messages are for learning about others, seeing if you are attracted to that person, discovering if there is chemistry etc. If you need qualifiers, work on your people reading skills i.e. analyze photo, photo captions, app choice, messaging, prompts/answers, lifestyle, work status etc. There are plenty of ways to learn about where someone is in their life with whipping out this dreaded phrase.
Deleting Dating Apps: Holding Hands, Saying I Love You, Meeting Friends, Co-Workers & Family
In this day in age, people are having more difficulty expressing feelings, emotions, vulnerability desires etc. at the expense of getting rejected, seeming too unreasonable, not wanting to alter the status quo or shyness. Unfortunately this set of behavior can lead to a lot of ambiguity.
Just because someone holds your hand, says I love you, has met your friends, has deleted the dating app you two met on or planned a vacation with you doesn’t mean you are exclusive or both of you see things the same way. As easy as it is to meet someone online via dating apps, it’s easy to meet more people.
Unless you have serious discussions about your status, future and what you each desire don’t read into actions or assume things are going the way you like. Some people use ambiguity as a cop-out to excuse themselves to remove blame when seeing others or not establishing a relationship.
These assumptions are particularly true if you don’t see each other often, live in different cities, only see each other on weekends, business trips or last minute travels. There needs to be a balance of give and take – don’t give too much of yourself to someone who does not reciprocate time, effort, energy, enthusiasm and prioritization.
Photos, Privacy, Blackmail
The last thing I want to cover here when it comes to etiquette is digital footprints and safety – videos, chats, photos and blackmail. People often are too eager to trust folks they meet especially only after a few messages and perhaps a few dates. The thing is you never really know someone until you invest time and experiences together and over that time you can slowly build trust.
Unfortunately mobile phones has made it easier to send communication and bombard people with attention. That pressure has led to an increase of exchanges in sexting (chats sexual in nature), provocative photos, nude photos and video chats. Once your image, likeness and movements are captured in digital form you should know that it is easy to share, copy this information with your family, friends, exes, colleagues, church and community.
Predators exist online and offline but increasingly there have been cases of revenge porn, recording video sex acts, nude photos and more through digital means. Limiting copies of (or refraining from creating) such private items is one thing you can do to reduce exposure from embarrassment and blackmail.
Don’t let anyone pressure you to take, send, capture nude photos or videos. There is no need to have digital items of yourself at all for any reason. Even something as subtle as the not so private images and videos on your dating profile should be reviewed.
If you are concerned your boss, family or church might see your profile, chances are you should think twice about what you post online even if you think it’s only for specific eyes only. Many cases of this nature don’t occur from a hacking but rather breakups gone bad.
Online Dating Red Flags & Safety Tips
Online dating requires thick skin, patience, ability to read people and red flags in profiles, photos, prompts, messages, date ideas etc. I generally recommend clients focus on people who match their energy, enthusiasm, effort, promptness in replies, values and intention.
Not all of this can be identified online or immediate after meeting in person but luckily there are a few tips to help alert you for possible individuals. https://eddie-hernandez.com/online-dating-red-flags/
Read more about online dating safety here: https://eddie-hernandez.com/online-dating-safety-tips/
For information on studies, stats, surveys about the dating industry: https://eddie-hernandez.com/online-dating-resource-guide/
About Eddie Hernandez
Eddie Hernandez is a professional photographer specializing in natural, candid online dating photos. Featured in the SFGate, ABC7News, East Bay Express, Salon; contributor to Good Men Project, Plenty Of Fish and Meddle. In addition to photos, he provides guidance around app choice, bio optimization, messaging techniques, wardrobe advice and date ideas. https://eddie-hernandez.com/contact/
Dating Profile Critique
For those of you who are remote or virtual dating help and are looking for an online dating profile critique you can read more about my services here.
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