by Jay Johansen | Jan 13, 2021
If a woman on a dating app sends a message to a man, she is much more likely to get a response than if a man sends a message to a woman. This study, for example, One Chart That Shows How Women Are At A Huge Advantage When It Comes To Online Dating, found that, on the average, if a man sends a message to a woman, there is a 4% chance that she will reply. But if a woman sends a message to a man, there is an 18% chance that he will reply.
It is likely that this leads to a downhill spiral for men. They discover that women don't reply to their messages very often. So in hopes of getting some response, they send messages to more women. But now all women are getting more messages, so they become more selective about which messages they reply to. That is, their response rate to men goes even lower. So the men respond by sending more messages. And the cycle continues.
You can't just say that the women are being rude. In another study (Sociologists analyzed messages sent by online daters to find which flirting techniques work the best), one woman received 1,504 messages over the course of the month-long study, or one message every 30 minutes, 24 hours a day. There was no way she was going to reply to all of them.
If you think about it for a few minutes, the disparity should not be surprising. Traditionally, men chase women, not vice versa. Men prefer to be the persuers, and women prefer to be persued. Not all, of course, but most. A man asks a woman, and then she tells him yes or no. It's rare for a woman to ask a man out on a date. Even rarer for a woman to propose marriage to a man. It happens, of course, but it's rare.
Technology multiplies human capabilities. A car lets you travel faster and farther than you could travel on foot. A calculator lets you do arithmetic faster and more accurately than you could do it in your head or on a paper. Etc. Likewise, dating apps let people meet more prospective romantic partners than they could before. In a typical village 200 years ago, a woman might find half a dozen potential romantic partners. That is, men of approximately her own age, of the same religion, social class, whatever goes into making someone a likely romantic partner in that culture. So a handful of men ask her out, she accepts one, maybe it leads to marriage. If not, there are only a few other choices. Most women would have perhaps 2 or 3 men seriously chase her. And so conversely, the average man would, over the course of his dating or courtship life, chase 2 or 3 women. One or 2 might turn him down before he found a woman who would accept him.
But with the Internet, instead of 2 or 3 or maybe 5 or 10 men chasing her, a woman now finds hundreds. Before, she might dismiss 1 or 2 men as too far below her league to be worth considering. Today she may have dozens or hundreds. Before she had the time to seriously consider every man who approached her. If there are 5 men approaching her over the course of several years, she could esaily take a few months considering each suitor. Today, with hundreds of suitors, this is simply impossible. She has to dismiss scores of men on the spur of the moment just to cut the list down to something manageable.
As a man, I struggle with the question of how much effort to put into a message to a woman. On the average, the chance that she will even reply to me is only 4%. That's not the chance that the conversation will lead to marriage, or even that it will lead to a single date. That's the chance that she will reply at all. I don't know how typical my experience is, but I've found that even if a woman replies to me, most of the time the conversation quickly peters out. One or the other of us concludes taht the other person isn't interesting enough to keep talking to and we quit the conversation.
So how much effort should I put into writing a message? If I just say something bland and common, presumably the chances that she will reply will be even lower than 4%. But I put a lot of effort into studying her profile and coming up with something truly personalized to her, relevant and smart or witty, the chance that she will reply is likely higher. But how much higher? 5%? 6%? Is it worth the effort? Which is more productive, to write one message and send the same bland, generic message to 100 women? Or to write a thoughful and cutomized message to 5 women?
© 2021 by Jay Johansen