The #1 Way People Screw Up Online Dating


Name: Heather

Question: Moxie, one of my female friends and I have been running into something lately and have different opinions on how to handle it, so I’d love your thoughts!

We start talking to a guy online. He has enough pics up that we feel we have a good sense of what he looks like. We exchange numbers in the hopes of planning that first date. Suddenly, it’s the unexpected selfie bomb. It’s usually prefaced by a “I’m heading to the gym” or “Just another day at the office” or something otherwise just as innocuous, and includes a seemingly spur of the moment pic. And…it’s terrible. I don’t know if it’s that all of his 4-8 pics online are old or at the perfect angle or what, but this unsolicited selfie makes me not want to meet him anymore.

My friend says, you liked the online pics enough, continue the convo and set up the date. My response in the three times this has happened to me is to ghost. I think dude is trying to give me a heads up of what he ACTUALLY looks like, and I don’t think I owe him anything at this point so I’d rather ghost than show up for a date I’m not excited about.

What would you do?
Age: 34


I think the first change you need to make is to not exchange phone numbers or email addresses with guys until the day if your date. That way they can’t selfie bomb you or inundate you with text messages. Personally, I do not get why people are randomly taking pictures of themselves to show to strangers they’ve never met.  That action alone is enough to make me bail. Selfies rarely flatter anyone. Unless you’re Kim Kardashian and have a lot of practice taking selfies, you usually have to take several shots before you capture one relatively flattering image.

I’m sure the inconsistencies in the men’s looks have to do with then angle of the selfie. Some of his pics might be a couple years old, but even that isn’t long enough for any kind of huge changes to occur in a person’s looks.  Yes, a person could gain significant weight in that time frame, but that’s really the only immediately noticeable alteration that one might spot.

It’s difficult to find 4-8 flattering pictures where you  look the same. If he has multiple photos on his profile and he looks relatively similar in all of them and he’s not obstructing his face in any way, then I think the photos on his profile are probably more accurate. Additionally, then act of taking and sending a selfie implies a level of familiarity that really shouldn’t be present at this juncture. Keep that in mind, selfie stickers. Oh, and PS? I will bet money he sends those same photos to every woman he meets online and doesn’t even bother taking new ones. I was sexting with my British dude a couple weeks ago and he sent me a dick pic. I recognized it immediately as one he sent me last year and called him on it. “Can you blame me? It’s a flattering pic!” he said in his defense. I gave him a pass because it was a flattering pic.

Hiyo! #sizequeen

This quandry exemplifies why I advocate for little to no contact between setting up the first date and meeting. Inevitably something transpires that makes one or both parties reconsider. The best approach is the less is more approach: give people as little reason as possible to reject you.This means no more than 3 or 4 photos, no linking to social media profiles, no verbose about me summaries, no extraneous explanations about how you lean politically even if you’re liberal, no talk about how crazy busy your job is, no mentions of recent break-ups. Less. Not more.

People who make it a point to state that they align with certain inflammatory or provocative ideologies/lifestyles are looking for attention. We see it all the time on the ladyblogs: The writer mentions in her OkCupid profile that she’s kinky or feminist and – BANG! – she’s deluged with angry emails from whiny dudes. Well, no shit.  And don’t even get me started on the self-identifying male feminists. They include these admissions not for transparency purposes as they claim but because they want attention. Plain and simple. Avoid.

This is where Tinder and Bumble have it right. Users of these platforms tend to share too much about themselves in the hopes of being perceived as honest or real. Guess what? When it comes to dating we don’t real, we want a fantasy of sorts. At least at first. We want to believe you’re as clever and witty and successful and attractive as your profile makes you seem. Don’t burst that bubble until we’ve met a couple of times. By now, everybody should know that who someone is in their profile is probably somewhat embellished. We all do it. Christ, my profile makes me sound open and engaging and neither could be further from the truth. For the right person, I could be. But for 98% of the schmoes that message me, I’m not.

Give people just enough information to be intrigued and attracted. Leave the more personal stuff for when you meet and get to know each other. That includes a selfie.


Sometimes the love of your life is the love of your life. (R)


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25 Responses to “The #1 Way People Screw Up Online Dating”

  1. coffeestop Says:

    I had a guy ask me to send him additional photos because the profile I recently set up did not have enough. Fair enough. Then he messages me back telling me I am “good looking” men say stupid shit all the time so I just thanked him but now I am turned off because I feel like he was testing me out. I also had a guy ask me for pictures after I mentioned I was going for a pedicure, whatever. I hate taking selfies I always end up with one eye or a weird angle. I had a man get mad at me and tell me I was lying to him because I told him I rarely if ever kept pictures of myself on my phone.

    I agree with Moxie I think multiple texting and multiple picture exchanges via phone is just a way to manufacture something that is not there. Some people like to collect pictures to convince themselves they are super cool people or to collect pictures of others to convince themselves they are datable. My feeling is either you want to meet me or you don’t. There is no in between.

  2. fuzzilla Says:

    I’ve heard of guys sending unsolicited dick pics or asking women for more pics so they can use their Fatty Decoder Rings, but I’ve actually never heard of guys sending, “So this is me en route to the grocery store, Random OKCupid Woman” pics.

    I think the OP has the right idea – not jazzed about him, then don’t go. And also that she should take Moxie’s advice not to engage in pointless texting before meeting.

  3. J Says:

    If I played the game of not giving my number out before I went on a date, I would never be on a date. Unfortunately (at least for the girls I’ve dated), girls want to have an idea of what you’re about before getting to know you. It’s a security blanket in a way to them. They can weed out (at least in their minds) men who they don’t want to pursue. I’ve come to accept the fact that I’m likely not getting a date if I think I’m only going to exchange a few messages on an online site before I meet up with them. If I play the game a little though, it works out well.

    • Katie Says:

      I have to disagree with this – as a girl, I rarely if ever give out my number or text before a date, and I’ve had no problem setting them up. Mostly because I’ll have the problems like the OP and Moxie have described – guys who get too familiar and just want to text their whole lives to me before a date, guys who are awkward in real life so go with texting to avoid the in person chat, or want a texting pen pal with no inclination to set up a date.

      Honestly, I feel that the easiest way to weed out a guy who is not interested is by seeing which ones won’t set up a date with you after going back and forth a few times on these sites. And in my experiences, the guys I’ve really clicked with or gone out on multiple dates are the ones that didn’t play around with “lets text first” or “lets chat on the phone first,” it was the ones that set up a date and didn’t play games. Because frankly, if you’re not looking to meet someone, I’m not always sure what you’re doing on a dating site.

      But that’s just my two cents, I know there are girls out there with different opinions than mine :)

      • J Says:

        I agree on that. Girls will do that as well and there’s no logic to it. While I may not hit the brakes myself, I try to take things to their natural level. With my current girlfriend, it took 2 months to set up something but we emailed and texted back and forth (btw we are talking about getting married and have been together for 4 years). I certainly want to meet someone that doesn’t play games, but I’ve met too many desperadoes in the process.

      • Bill Says:

        I agree with Katie (and Moxie, and Fuzzilla, etc) here. When I was first dating, I had bad experiences giving out my number early. I’m talking about receiving “Good morning” and “Goodnight” texts, and dozens in between from women I had not even met yet. I was very turned off by the faux over-familiarity and stopped giving out my number until the day-of-the-first-date.

        Most women who asked were quite reasonable when I demurred explaining that I had bad past experiences with numerous texts from “strangers”.

        For the OP, people “reveal” themselves to you in various ways. The guys who “selfie-bomb” you are showing a penchant for over-familiarization before even meeting, which is either a ploy or a personality flaw. Either way, you are “doing it right” to recognize this as a red flag, cut your losses and moving on.

  4. BTownGirl Says:

    I think we can all agree that recycling dick pics is lazy and frankly in poor taste, am I right? You are absolutely right – the only “first try” selfie I’m sending to anyone is the one I snap to ask my friends if my outfit looks good. Come to think of it, the only time I ever send a selfie direct to A Manz is if it’s a SexyTimes picture…which, yeah, takes at least six tries haha!

    • Missy Says:

      I definitely agree that sending the same pic to the same person is kinda tacky… But if I take a good selfie I hang on to it. Sometimes the sexting is happening and I just can’t be bothered to put on lingerie and set up the lighting and all that. The trick is remembering who I’ve sent that particular pic to before!

      Of course I also keep a picture of my cat handy, for those guys who just want to text and collect pictures. “Send me a picture of your pussy,” they say. Ok, here ya go!

      I guess I can get rid of that cat pic now that follow Moxie’s advice and don’t hand out my number before the meeting is set.

      • BTownGirl Says:

        Ohmygod, please tell me you ACTUALLY send a picture of your cat hahahahaha!! Seriously, I had a request from my gentleman caller for a sexy chestral-area pic, just when I was sitting on the couch getting into House of Cards. Mind you, I just had a boob reduction/lift, so I’m in a Support Brassiere watching Netflix and I’m Extra Not Here For It. I made a massive effort to unzip my hoodie and give him an abs shot and he can damn well be happy with that ;)

        • Missy Says:

          I do actually send the cat pic.
          The response is generally very funny, especially one guy who didn’t get it. Like, zero comprehension of pussy = cat.

          I hear you on the surgery sitch! I had reconstruction last year, so I have boobs now .(well, boob-shaped flesh mounds surrounded by scars, but pretty close!).. But the first couple years of online dating I was concave, bony, and had two giant scars going straight across. Always an interesting decision when to disclose!

          Even then, I got a pretty good topless selfie to use when the moment was right. It took quite a few tries though!

          • BTownGirl Says:

            I bet you look amazing!! When I was flipping through the book in my plastic surgeon’s office, I couldn’t believe how amazing and natural the reconstructions look. Plus, you are healthy and that is wonderful :) Also, I might have to get a cat specifically to pull the same trick hahahaha!!

            • Missy Says:

              Well thank you! It is amazing what surgeons can do! Even in the 8 years between my mastectomy and my reconstruction the advances are unbelievable.
              Though when I piled on the pearls and found the right angle, my flat pic looked alright too. And honestly, tho I was really nervous about it at first, dating with scars instead of breasts was fine… Not any harder than dating already is, anyway!

              • BTownGirl Says:

                So true!! Because I’m immature, there was no way I was going to be left to my own devices in a plastic surgeon’s office and NOT pick up the implants on his desk :) Literally there’s the doctor probably trying desperately to have an adult conversation about “internal bras” and I’m holding a silicone implant going “This feels so real!” haha! I have no doubt you were just as lovely before reconstruction and I couldn’t agree more that scars aren’t such a huge deal at all – I mean, Jesus, were the dudes perfect? Of course not! I think sometimes women forget that men with their heads screwed on straight aren’t expecting Gisele to show up in their boudoirs, am I right? In any event, I’m so happy that you had a great result and keep slayin’ the fellas, girl!!

  5. D. Says:

    Is there a problem with exchanging phone numbers for the express purpose of actually setting up the date? E.g., you go back and forth once or twice on the site’s chat/email feature, one of you says “Wanna get a drink?” The other says “Sure,” and then the first one says “Cool. Shoot me your # and I’ll give you a call to nail down the details.”

    Or is the concern that, even in this situation, the one asking for the # might just end up texting incessantly or something?

    I mean, I understand why, in general, one might not want to exchange phone numbers just for chitchat/texting before actually meeting, but if the purpose of the exchange is specifically to set up a date, is that a problem too?

    • fuzzilla Says:

      **The other says “Sure,” and then the first one says “Cool. Shoot me your # and I’ll give you a call to nail down the details.”**

      I would ask/plan/set up the date through the site’s messaging feature, THEN exchange numbers (for the express purpose of logistics – texting day of if you’re late, the place you picked is unexpectedly closed, etc.).

    • Missy Says:

      I guess the only real answer to that is whether it’s working for you. I personally prefer to set up the date via the original communication platform. Then I really appreciate a message from the guy either the day before or first thing the morning of, confirming the date and offering his number in case anything comes up.
      I’ll either text to confirm or send my number back in my response.

      If a guy wanted my number so he could call me to set up a date, I would swiftly redirect. For one thing, I hate talking on the phone to people I don’t know. I’ve also never actually ended up meeting any of the guys who wanted a phone call first. For another thing, it feels… Weird. To me. Why is setting up a date on the phone easier in any way than just saying, “drinks? How bout Friday at 7? What part of town works for you?” And then naming a midrange place in that area?

      It just feels too complicated, too many steps. And I wonder, is it a test? Is it a control thing?
      But I’m a gen xer in a tech town. I think older daters tend to use the phone more? And maybe there are regional differences.

      I did have one guy get irate when I didn’t want to talk on the phone. He claimed that I must be hiding something, like maybe I’m really A MAN!!!! I was like, wow, online dating must be really hard for you. Buh-bye!

      • fuzzilla Says:

        **Why is setting up a date on the phone easier in any way than just saying, “drinks? How bout Friday at 7? What part of town works for you?” And then naming a midrange place in that area?**

        Yup, exactly.

        Also, I’m pretty sure this has already been covered on this site, but if not, since D. asked – dick pics are blocked on the most dating sites. So I assume if a guy would rather set up a date over phone/texting that he’s doing so for the express purpose of getting around such firewalls and sending me gross stuff (well, or at least that that’s a distinct possibility. If he’s a good guy who means no harm, then what difference does it make if we just use the dating site messenger to set up the date?).

        • D. Says:

          That literally never would have occurred to me. I can totally understand why you wouldn’t want to deal with that shit.

    • Katie Says:

      I agree with the above comments – it really just depends on how things have worked for you in the past and how comfortable you are with giving out your number. I never do before a date, not because I’ve gotten dick picks, but because I’ve had a few guys go “great give me your number to set something up,” and this turns into them either texting me non stop and never setting anything up, or having extra hoops to jump through (usually a phone call) before they will. And in my mind, that’s just an extra hassle. On the flip side, I’ve been able to set up lots of dates without issue on the original platform (whether it be match, okcupid or bumble) and never had problems meeting up with the guy. But I know people for whom the opposite is true.

      So there is no right answer I guess – you can text first or not text first, just whatever you are comfortable with.

    • BostonRobin Says:

      When I was online dating and it started to feel like time to set up a date, I would usually do it over the phone to avoid too much back and forth on messaging. Of course, I date women, so it’s a different milieu. No dick pics to worry about! Also, with a lot of women in my age range (40+), you get such pearl clutching about online dating. A phone call would weed out many of these. Like, I’d give my number and ask for a call and either get no response or more bland messages from the site. Or maybe she’d call from a blocked number. NOPE to both.

      Just pointing out one of the subtle differences between lesbian and hetero dating. But even if I were dating men, I’d probably do pretty much the same thing and just ignore the mad texting–I’ve had women try that too and learned to get rid of them a long time ago.

      We all need to find a strategy that works for us and that we feel comfortable with.

  6. Nia Says:

    I too am baffled as to why guys send selfies unsolicited. Maybe they genuinely think these photos are flattering? My only guess is that the thought process is that they believe women need several layers or steps of connection to feel close, and texting, emails, selfies, and phone calls are the “necessary” build up to getting what they’re looking for (whether that’s a date, or something more).
    Perhaps it could be a test/on ramp to more intimate selfies? Or a “I sent you a pic, now you send me one!” type thing?
    I’ve had it happen a few times and it’s off putting, and I’ve also found myself significantly less attracted to a guy after he sent a current selfie (usually taken from the worst angle possible, it’s like dude, come ON!).
    When guys send or ask for “pics” I find that socially tone deaf and usually move on.

  7. Jeff Smith Says:

    I have 0 selfies on my phone. I can’t say I’ve ever taken a selfie I liked.

    I find your comment about attention a bit ironic. The only reason to go on a dating site is to get attention. How you do that may or may not appeal to any given individual, but the point is to get attention. If it is the attention you wanted, then it’s working.
    It’s puzzling why so many women in the 45+ group claim to want an LTR, when in fact a dating site actually discourages an LTR – Mr. Perfect is just around the corner, but never there.

  8. Dave Says:

    I agree 100% with this article. A few years ago when I got back into online dating I used to engage in lots of conversation on the sites with women (and the phone as well) before going on dates. I got lots of numbers and very few dates. I remember at one point having the numbers of several ladies on my phone and thought I was quite the swinging bachelor. Umm, no. Turned out they were all time wasters and I never met any of them.

    Then I learned better after reading here and putting that advice into practice. I didn’t exactly get more dates – but I started getting better dates with less time and energy wasted. I don’t bother with asking someone for more pictures if their profile is lacking good ones, or if they are frowning, scowling or wearing sunglasses in every picture (still haven’t figured that one out)…I just keep moving right along.

    I also have employed THE DMN Method of logging in briefly, visiting a few profiles and then logging out. When time permits I go back and follow up if necessary, and I keep my OKC time brief and productive. And if you make a connection with someone, plan the date, meet up and save the getting to know you part for when you’re sitting down over drinks. Easy peasy.

  9. PGH Gal Says:

    Generally speaking, guys who want to swap numbers are time wasters…at least nowadays. I’ve gotten stuck with a couple of dudes who want to constantly text and have a faux relationship, but never set up a time to meet. Nope, nope, nope.

    I do have to disagree about one thing though. I currently live in a more conservative area and have added political/religious leanings to weed out the gun-toting Bible thumpers I was hearing from since moving here. Yes it weeds many guys out, but I think it’s a waste of time to meet a guy with whom I strongly disagree about every topic. Been there, done that, no bueno.

  10. Donnie K Says:

    I think the right to be leery of these guys. What I don’t understand is why these guys want to add extra steps to the whole process of setting up a date. Just like multiple phone calls and unnecessary texting, sending unsolicited photos will either turn off the woman like in this case, or create a false sense of intimacy.

    Go with your gut and bail. My experience is that people who add unnecessary steps to the process end up being time wasters.

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