Internet Dating is Not Like Ordering a Pizza

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And so it was that, some four months into singledom, I gathered the courage to join OkCupid and head to a wine bar with Pete, a musician-turned-accountant whom I chose for his spectacularly anodyne profile. Yes, online dating can be deeply demoralizing, a parade of indignities that throws into relief not just our self-absorption and banality, but our nihilism too. And above all the ghosting. But I would think that anyone who finds herself confronted by such baffling cowardice must suffer from them.

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And I should acknowledge, too, that I have also behaved badly at times, failing to write someone back once real life takes hold or sending squirmy messages in lieu of a clean break. How narrow was my own existence, I thought then, and how it continued to narrow by the day. Take, for instance, Date No. James was a boat builder, blonde and slight. We drank the espresso martinis he had ordered and argued about welfare; we talked of fathers. Later we decamped to his apartment, a flimsy, spartan place that nevertheless held the most exquisite furniture, tables he had inlaid with ash and birch and varnished till they gleamed.

The heat failed in the middle of the night, and we clung to each other for warmth as his dog, Bruce, a German Shepherd, curled and recurled at our feet. I have spent a summer dog-sitting in Los Angeles and flown to Jamaica for a third date; licked cocaine off car keys and undressed at midnight in a Barcelona square.

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I have learned about spearfishing and Oceanic art, about life in the merchant marines and urbanism in late antiquity. I have learned how to sext, how to plant tomatoes, how to drink mate, beat box, and navigate the bars of Bushwick.

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I could introduce you to men who believe in God and men who live in their cars; men who have slept with their sisters and others who have followed the Dead. And I could tell you so many stories, stories of poverty and privilege, of divorce and infidelity, of fatherhood, forgiveness and the foolhardiness of studying philosophy when you are the great-great-nephew of the great Ludwig Wittgenstein. And as for those ghosters, they have their purpose too. At best, "hey" is uninteresting; at worst, it's rage-inducing.

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In sum, "hey" is the worst thing since stepping on a wet spot on your kitchen floor while wearing socks. Don't do it. Don't Do. There's no science here, folks.


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But the opposite of a soul-suckingly generic greeting is actually taking the time to look at a person's profile. Try asking them a question about something they've mentioned. Do they like to cook? Ask them what they'd make based on what's in their kitchen right now. Into live music? Ask what bands are on their bucket list. Big Westworld fan? Ask them what the hell happened last season because I have no damn clue and would love to know. Maybe not that last one, but you get the idea.

You're just trying to break the ice and veer into a more natural chat about whatever is actually interesting to you both. The first contact is a small hurdle to clear to get you toward either figuring out if the other person has the personality of a wet mop or maybe you'd like to meet up in person.


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Granted, you can scour the internet for cheeky opening questions like whether pineapple belongs on pizza it does and I will fight you or send along a GIF of a waving panda. Yes, you can do that. It might work. I would argue, though, that's a bit of an assembly line approach to trying to start a conversation. Keep in mind that when it comes to online dating, it's easy to feel like you're on some kind of nightmarish, overcrowded merry-go-round. Just think— wouldn't it be nice to get a message from someone who seemed like they were specifically interested in you?

This is a recurring advice column focusing on online dating. If you've got a question about finding love via app, send it to erin. Be respectful, keep it civil and stay on topic. We delete comments that violate our policy , which we encourage you to read. Discussion threads can be closed at any time at our discretion. Don't show this again. Here are the photos you should use on your online dating profile For our inaugural CNET online dating advice column, we explore just how the hell you're supposed to strike up a conversation with a complete stranger on Tinder.

Erin Carson. Love could be a swipe away. Or not. Q: What are the best types of profile pictures?

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In the bathroom, flexing hard, about to take a selfie. Put your phone down. You're better than a bathroom selfie. And never forget: Car selfies are trash.

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