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How Many Profiles Should You Respond To?


Is it best to target just one, or send emails to tons of potential dates? Here, the pros and cons of three approaches—find out which one will work best for you.

By Julie Taylor

hen you log on, do you spend hours trying to find The One to reply to? Or do you shoot off emails to everyone and anyone who catches your eye… or perhaps take an approach somewhere in between? Let’s explore the positives and negatives of each approach, and see which will work best for you.

Approach #1: Responding to just one or two profiles
Setting your sights on just one or two profiles might not seem very practical, but it perfectly suits Robyn Brown Samra, 42, of Leonia, NJ, given her
“I barely have time to devote to corresponding with a few guys—much less to a few hundred!”
personality. “First of all, I’m really picky, so there are usually only one or two guys that even catch my interest,” she says. Plus, she’s the single mother of two teenage girls, she owns her own business, and she works approximately 60 hours per week. “That means I don’t have a lot of time,” she says. “If I was emailing ten or twenty guys, I would lose it. I barely have time to devote to corresponding with a few guys—much less to a few hundred!”

Because she has been so targeted in her approach, she has made several long-term matches over her three-year online dating career. “I have had four solid relationships, and I’m currently dating someone I met online, and it’s going great.”

Pros:
In addition to being good for people who are pressed for time or picky about their dating prospects, this approach works well for beginners who are just getting their feet wet in the online dating world, says Michael Lasky, co-author of Online Dating for Dummies. “When you start out by targeting one or two people, there is less chance you will trip up or make rookie mistakes—like mixing up who’s who among the people you emailed, which happens all the time.”

Cons:
Of course, the fewer people you contact, the greater the chance you’ll be greeted with dead air. Generally about 50 percent of people will respond to your attempt to get in touch, says Lasky. That means if you send overtures to two profiles, you can realistically expect only one response—or if you contact just one, it’s a total toss-up whether you’ll be going out or staying home on Saturday night. Plus, when you put all your eggs in one basket, there’s a psychological downside. “Placing so many expectations on one particular person writing you back can set you up for a big letdown if they don’t,” says Lasky.

How to make the most of it:
Don’t make the mistake of assuming that the person you’re contacting is destined to be the love of your life, and therefore spend hours putting your life story down in your email. When you’re picky, it can be tempting to think this prospective match is your soul mate… but you don’t know that yet. So keep the communication on the short and light side to start.

Just because you’re replying to only one or two ads doesn’t mean you can’t have a Plan B. Keep five backup profiles that you also like on your “favorites” list. If you don’t hear from your first picks after a week, contact the next couple of potential love interests on your list. They might not seem as ideal as the first two, but keep an open mind: You never really know how you two will really get along until you’re face-to-face.

Approach #2: Responding to 5-10 profiles
Kicking things up a notch and responding to 5-10 people at a time is a strategy that’s worked wonders for Elizabeth Hurchalla, 35, of Venice, CA. “Since not every guy I contacted responded to my emails, I thought it was better to send out to a few at a time to increase my odds of success,” she explains. “However, I only answered guys I was super-interested in—there was never a time when I mass-emailed tons of guys, just to see what would stick.” Hurchalla recalls getting emails like that from other men, and it was a big turn-off: “You can just tell when someone is sending out this template email, like ‘Hey, you’re hot—wanna go out sometime’; I found that to be really impersonal.” So, when she responded to a handful of guys, she always made sure her emails were personalized. “I always tried to comment on something specific about their profile or their photo. I wanted to show I was a thoughtful person.”

Pros:
This approach is ideal if you want to play the field until you find Mr. (or Mrs.) Right, says Bev Bacon, author of Meet Me… Don’t Delete Me. Internet Dating: I’ve Made All the Mistakes So You Don’t Have To. “This way, you have a few options—out of five or ten guys, at least a few will probably respond,” she explains. Another upside: a very happening romantic life! Often Hurchalla was dating a few guys at once—but she didn’t feel a bit guilty about it. “After all, I wasn’t exclusive to one guy, and I was making no secret about the fact that I was on an active search to find the right man for me,” she says.

Cons:
It’s easy to become extremely confused when you’re juggling a few people at once. “When I was online dating, I accidentally mentioned that a girl went to a different college than she did, and she dumped me for it,” admits Lasky. “She thought it was a sign that I was untruthful and an obvious player.” So know your limits. If you’re corresponding, chatting or dating
“At some point, you’ve got to step away from the buffet and just deal with what’s on your plate.”
someone and are having a hard time keeping the pertinent details straight — as in, “This one is the single mom, right?” — then you are in over your head and need to scale back.

How to make the most of it:
Keeping track of all your dates may start to feel like a part-time job, so staying organized is the secret to success, says Bacon. “Make a list of who you talk to and when,” Bacon advises. When you IM or talk to someone on the phone, jot down notes so you’ll remember the details. “That way, when a guy calls, you can ask specific questions like, ‘How’s your teaching job going?’”

Approach #3: Responding to over 20 profiles
Yes, we’ve all heard that online dating is a “numbers game,” but Jim Taylor, 56, of Norman, OK put that theory to the test. At the peak of his online dating career, he was surfing online dating sites for three to four hours a day, responding to 25-30 women at a time. “I was on a mission to meet someone, and I knew it was just a matter of time before the numbers worked for me,” he explains. Why the urgency? When his wife of 28 years died when Taylor was 49, he knew he didn’t want to be alone for the rest of his life—and he turned to online dating to help him find his soul mate. “I truly believed she was out there, and I just had to turn over enough rocks until I found her,” he says.

Pros:
The “spam” approach, as some call it, can do wonders for someone who’s recovering from a divorce, breakup, or anything that could make you wonder: Will I ever find The One? “When you send out twenty or thirty emails, you will certainly get a lot of attention, which can be a great ego boost,” says Lasky. Bacon adds that many newbie users become spammers because they’re like kids in a candy store, dazzled by the endless selection.

Cons:
“Eventually online daters who feel like kids in a candy store will eat too much candy and get sick to their stomach,” Bacon warns. “At some point, you’ve got to step away from the buffet and just deal with what’s on your plate.” Also know that the more people you contact, the more you increase your disappointment rate—and this breeds burnout. “I suffered so many disappointments,” Taylor recalls. “One woman told me she looked like Priscilla Presley, when in reality she looked more like Elvis. Some women were ten years older and forty pounds heavier than they said they were. It was emotionally exhausting.”

How to make the most of it:
If you’re going to make the spam approach work for you, you’ve got to be meticulous in your record-keeping. “One time, I was dating five guys named Mike. When one would call, I would have no idea which Mike it was!” recalls Bacon. Print out hardcopies of every email you send and receive—and keep a file (yes, a file… we’re serious about this) on each of your dates. Then give those dates a fair chance. “When people are spam-dating, they often don’t give their dates enough of a shot,” says Bacon. “It becomes like a Seinfeld episode—‘I didn’t like the way she ate her peas, so we’re through.’”


Writer Julie Taylor believes that when wearing cologne or responding to profiles, less is more.
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