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A message from a prospective mate every day may sound like a lot.But given the extremely low probability that any given message will lead to a serious relationship, it’s not.Meanwhile, online, I could decide between sites with free memberships, such as Plenty of Fish; paid sites with an older, more earnest clientele, such as e Harmony; niche sites such as and Gluten-Free Singles; and many others, all slightly differentiated by price, demographics, and objectives.I signed up for Tinder and Bumble—two apps with simple interfaces that invite users to swipe on pictures of people they find attractive—as well as Ok Cupid.On the whole, users said they liked my profile and my pictures.One man called the post “incredible,” noting that he was himself a former “serial online dater [who] really longed for this kind of vulnerability, authenticity and depth.” At the time, he was in a relationship, but he also commented, “You sound like you’re intelligent, fun and genuinely have your shit together.” Nonetheless, I hired a professional photographer and tried out different variations on my profile text.My filter settings are pretty generous—if you have a compatibility rating of higher than 70 percent, are of at least “average” attractiveness, and send more than a three-word message—“Hey” and “Yo girl” are not acceptable—your message will make it to me.(Filters are common—especially for women, who often receive a high number of lewd or casual messages from spam profiles, and generic messages from men who send the same note to a swath of profiles.) Of the 708 messages I received over the next fourteen months, 530 ended up in the filtered inbox, which left me with about one message of decent-or-above quality a day.
I didn’t just wait to be noticed: I also actively messaged others.Among my single friends, and even in the conversations I overheard between strangers in coffee shops, women using dating sites described being “overwhelmed” and “flooded” with communication.On the day I completed my profile, I received one message; four more appeared over the next two days.Even when you decide to answer, many users will not respond, having lost interest or been tempted by one of the site’s many other profiles.Some people disappear after a few exchanges—sometimes even after you’ve made plans to meet.