Having been single for 7 years, with many short stints on a variety of sites, I'm quite the seasoned online dater.
I find the dynamics of online dating very interesting, and apparently, so do many of my older single friends, since it's often the topic of conversation.
One thing to know when you're just starting out is that it's quite common to not get a response when you email or wink at someone. You should definitely NOT take this as a rejection. It happens to the most attractive, desireable people.
Why people don't respond
When I first started online dating, I would respond to every single person who emailed or winked. It was so flattering that anyone was interested, and I always thought it was very rude to not respond at all. Here is the problem with that:
* Some people will want to continue the conversation. Even if you tell them you're not interested in dating, they will want to still be friends, and it becomes even more awkward to tell them you don't even want to be pen-pals.
* Some people will feel rejected and act rudely, even when you are trying to be nice. They'll say something like "Your loss." The worst response I ever got was from someone who told me he didn't want to date me anyway because I have a "gummy smile and a body like a boy."
* Sometimes there just isn't time. I know there are a lot of women who are much more attractive than me out there, and I'm sure they get a TON of email, especially if they're on match.com. When I first got on match, I was 43 and even said in my profile something like... "I'm not ready for dating... I'm just curious if this is a good way to meet people." It was a huge stroke to my ego to still get lots of email, but I soon was overwhelmed by trying to craft nice responses letting people know I wasn't interested.
* Some people are so clearly not a match that there isn't a need to respond. There are a percentage of people who don't read profiles and their "pickup" is some cheesy one-liner in which it's clear their sole purpose for online dating is sex. I don't bother to respond to these people. One of them even asked if my daughter was available for a threesome! (I blocked him.)
So those are some of the reasons people don't respond, but there are more:
* Some people have been online dating for months... years, even. They stay on the sites even when they are dating someone else because it's not "serious." However they aren't actively looking. These kind of people often ignore emails or winks, sometimes deleting them automatically, maybe before even looking at the profile.
* Some people are not paying members and can't respond. Many of the online dating sites encourage you to create a viewable profile for free. People do this, but then they can't respond to a profile unless they pay.
* Some people are just so used to the "culture" in which the only responses they get or give are when they are interested, they feel there's nothing wrong with a lack of response.
* Most people are uncomfortable with telling someone they aren't interested and it's easier to just say nothing.
Why you should respond
OK... So those are all reasons people DON'T respond. Here are reasons you SHOULD respond (at least to those people who took the time to read your profile), even if you're not interested:
* It's respectful.
* DON'T use the "canned" no thank you. I've heard many people say that they'd prefer to get nothing then those canned responses. Instead, craft your own "canned" nicer responses, but if possible, add something personal.. at least their name. It will give you practice assertively and kindly letting people know how you feel.
* You'll stand out as being classier than most. Many men have told me how they are so used to getting no response, and they are appreciative of getting a nice response, even if it's a 'no thank you' for dating.
* You may decide to become Facebook friends or virtual friends, especially if the biggest reason for your reluctance to date is distance.
Usually, I stay in "stealth" mode... I keep my profile hidden, so that I don't get emails from people I'm not interested in and I only email or wink at people who I'm interested in. This is fine for plentyoffish which is free.
To get a response yourself
Now if you're the one who's interested and you're trying to get a response, here are some things you can do to increase your chances:
* Read their profile! Do NOT use a canned email that you're using for everyone! Mention at least one thing in their profile that attracted you!
* Be creative, witty, funny, playful... Use your sense of humor.
* Keep it short.
* Ask a question or two, but don't ask to go out before you've even gotten an email.
* Be complimentary, but not suggestive.
* Don't just wink... Send an email.
* Make sure you have a good picture as your primary picture. (Recent, smiling, representing you at your best.)
* Double-check for stupid typos or careless mistakes.
* Do not say something like: "Please give me the courtesy of responding." (Even though you may get a bigger response rate this way, it sounds like you've got a chip on your shoulder from the lack of responses.)
And remember, never take it personally if you don't get a response back! Just move on to the next one!