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Why Online Dating Doesn’t Work For Most Guys (And What To Do About It)

online dating not working

You probably spend countless hours every week clicking through profiles and messaging attractive women on dating sites and apps.

You get a response every now and again, but rarely from anyone you actually want to date. Even worse, you’ve been ghosted so many times your bros have started calling you Casper.

You’re totally over Tinder and whichever other dating app it was that you tried last week. Isn’t it just better to hang out in the produce aisle and ask women how to tell if a cantaloupe is ripe? At least then you’re pretty much guaranteed to get some kind of response, right?

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Don’t worry – you’re not alone in your angst. It's not uncommon to feel like dating sites don't work for men.

A full third of guys who try online dating sites and apps never go on a single date, and that’s despite spending 5.2 hours a week looking at profiles, then another 6.7 hours sending out messages. That adds up to around 12 hours a week, all in hopes of scoring a date that lasts approx. 1.8 hours.

Modern dating’s not only exhausting – It’s a part-time job!

The 3 major reasons online dating doesn't work for many guys:

    1. Men tend to outnumber women, so the odds aren't stacked in your favor.
    2. Matching algorithms aren't very effective.
    3. You're doing it wrong.

Let's take a closer look at each problem.

Problem #1: Most dating sites and apps have more men than women, which means the most attractive women get bombarded with messages. The competition’s absolutely fierce.

Problem #2: Matching algorithms don’t work because they typically rely on information that’s easily quantified online, such as behavioral traits and simple beliefs. But how do you quantify chemistry that on a dating site? You can’t – face to face interaction is the only way to see if sparks fly between the two of you. Plus, predicting compatibility in long-term relationships is almost impossible because success is in part determined by how a couple deals with life’s stresses, both big and small.

Problem #3: You’re going about it all wrong. Even the slightest misstep can destroy your chances, and you’re making a number of mistakes.

judging people

The hotter a woman is, the more messages she receives – and the pickier she has to become. She doesn’t have time to talk to everyone, so she’s forced to make split second decisions regarding who’s worthy of her time.

In fact, some studies have found the average reply rate for women is less than 20%. Which means if she has the slightest reason to eliminate you from the running, she will. That’s why you can never seem to attract the caliber of women you really want to meet.

The 4 biggest online dating mistakes men make:

Not understanding what makes an attractive online dating photo:

example of a bad online dating photo

Turning her off with a cringe-worthy username:

bad online dating username example

On Plenty Of Fish (POF), one of the most popular free dating sites, your username is all over the place – most notably in her search results and in her inbox. If it’s not attractive and enticing, you’re sunk.

Half-assing your dating profile:

bad online dating profile example

Whether she’s looking for a husband or a hookup, she wants some sort of reassurance you’re taking online dating seriously. Why would she return a message from a guy who can’t even summon the effort to answer a few basic profile questions?

Sending her a lame icebreaker:

bad online dating first message examples

Attractive women get absolutely bombarded with messages from guys just like you on dating sites and apps. If you’re sending her the same boring variation of “hi there” as all those other guys, don’t hold your breath for a response.

As Aziz Ansari noted in his book, Modern Romance, men spend way too much time focusing on the “online” part of online dating. Scrolling through profiles, doggedly churning out message after message to the attractive women they want to date.

The good news is perseverance eventually pays off. The bad news is the average guy has to send out a whopping 114 messages to be guaranteed 1 response.

So in a nutshell: You have to spend a ton of time messaging women online to even get the chance to start a message exchange that leads to meeting her offline, but you’re probably committing at least 1 of the above mentioned mistakes so your response rate sucks, requiring you to send out more messages.

why online dating doesn't work

Vicious cycle anyone?

It’s no wonder you’re stuck in a perpetual loop of frustration, tedium and loneliness.

Let’s Talk About Solutions…

Basically all a guy like you has to do is instantly grab her attention in a memorable way with both your profile and your messages, then spend the least amount of time possible convincing her to meet you in person.

Hey, we never said it was an easy solution. Being successful at online dating is the same as being successful at anything – it takes practice and effort. So much effort that a lot of men outsource their online dating.

meet women online

Think of it this way – if your car needs new brakes, you could watch a YouTube video and then do it yourself. But you’ve got a guy for that. Why get your hands dirty when it’s so much quicker and easier to bring in an expert?

Modern dating is no different. A virtual dating assistant does the hard part for you. The profile writing, the photo selection, the tedious back and forth messaging. Literally all you do is show up for the dates. So that’s solution #1: Bring in an online dating expert.

For all you DIY’ers out there who don’t mind spending that 12 hours a week on dating sites and apps, solution #2 is this: Minimize the time you spend online while maximizing the number of dates you get.

Here’s how to make that happen in 5 steps. Get ready to take some notes…

Step #1: Drop Your Line In The Right Pond

If you want to save time and frustration, focus your efforts on the sites and apps that best fit your circumstances. Here are the dating websites and apps we’ve gotten the best overall results for our clients on here at VIDA:

Site Summary “Seriousness” of Users Score (1-10):
match logo Match.com is one of the most recognizable names in online dating, and it has the huge user base to prove it. It’s a paid site, but the monthly subscription fee weeds out the fakes and flakes. Most of the women on it are serious about meeting someone, so it’s a good place to spend your time. 8
bumble dating app Similar to Tinder, Bumble is a swipe-based app. But it has one unique feature – only women can initiate contact. You’ll need strong photos to get her swiping right. The dating pool isn’t as large as what you’ll find on Tinder, but Bumble attracts high quality women who are serious about finding a relationship. 6
okcupid You’ll find a huge spectrum of women on OkCupid, from edgy “alternative” free spirits to 9-5 career-driven ambitious types. The largest percentage of users are 18-34, but women of all ages use it. A basic account is free, but upgrading to one of the premium “A-List” levels doesn’t cost much, and the additional features are well worth it in most cases. 5
coffee meets bagel For all you “quality over quantity” types, CMB is the app for you. Men get 21 potential matches a day, while women receive a curated group of 5 or so guys who have already swiped right. 5
plenty of fish Plenty Of Fish (POF), is the #1 free dating site out there, so it’s worth a shot just based on the sheer number of users. But prepare to spend extra time screening profiles – the free sites tend to attract more low quality matches than a paid site like Match.com. There’s diamonds to be found, but you’ve got to put in some work to unearth them. 3
tinder The most popular dating app in the US, Tinder is the go-to choice for the younger set. If you’re a guy under 25, you should be on it. The majority of users live in larger cities, but since it’s location based it makes sense to try it even if you live in a more remote area. 1

For more on the best dating sites and apps, according to your age, check out this article.

You may be lured by the promise of meeting ultra-compatible, like-minded people on niche dating sites like Elite Singles, Christian Mingle or Single Parent Meet.

While you may find some high-quality matches, keep in mind those sites just aren't as popular as mainstream ones, so you're sifting through a much smaller user pool. 

In other words, you may find someone incredible, but it could take a lot longer. If you do create a dating profile on a niche site, make sure you're simultaneously using a larger, more popular dating site for the best chances.

Step #2: Make Your Photos As Attractive As Possible

First impressions are everything in online dating. If you don’t put some effort into choosing your strongest online dating photos, your messages are doomed before you even hit “send”.

Attractive photos will get her swiping right, checking out your profile, and responding to your message. If you’re not the next Bradley Cooper, don’t worry. “Sexy” transcends physical looks. You just have to know how to hit her attraction triggers – and for that, you need science on your side.

Remember reading about Darwin in school? In the simplest terms possible, Darwin’s theory of evolution holds that the female of the species is biologically attracted to the male who can give her babies the best possible chance of survival.

Whether she’s a lion prowling the savannah for a mate or a blonde 20-something eyeing the dance floor for her next partner, there’s no denying biology. She wants an alpha male.

So make sure your pictures portray all your sexy, desirable alpha male traits. You’ve got the basics of life covered: a roof over your head, presentable clothes, the financial resources to travel and have a social life… you get the idea. Give her a glimpse into your life in a way that makes her eager to spend time with you.

attract women online

Depending on which site or app you’re using, you may have the opportunity to upload 20+ pictures. But just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

Stick with a range of 3 to 7 photos. It’s hard to give her a good idea of your personality in less than 3, and it’s almost impossible to look equally good in more than 7. The number of photos you use can have a huge impact on your number of matches on dating apps.

For instance, using at least 3 photos on Tinder will get you 6x more matches than just using 1. Tinder even has a built in feature called Smart Photos to help you determine which one should be your primary photo.

On online dating sites like Match.com and OkCupid, many women limit their search results to only guys with photos, and generally won’t return a message if they don’t know what you look like.

Check out our Ultimate Guide for Online Dating for tons of essential online dating photo tips, and stick to these general photo DO's and DON’Ts:


  • Use a good quality camera. It will make you look more attractive.
  • Include at least one full body photo. You want to see what she looks like from the shoulders down – she’s the same way. Using one in your photo lineup will increase your response rate.
  • Nix the posed group shots. Studies have shown they decrease your response rate.
  • Get female feedback on your photos. Your bros aren’t your dating prospects – ask women what they think instead.


  • Point your smartphone at a bathroom mirror, especially if you’re shirtless. In a Match.com survey, almost 30% of women said mirror selfies were a turn off, and 33% said they wouldn’t date a guy who posted a shirtless selfie.

example of a bad tinder photo

  • Use flash. It tacks 7 years onto your perceived age online.
  • Include overtly sexual photos, even on a more casual app like Tinder. The vast majority of women find them distasteful.
  • Post pro photos obviously taken in a studio. Pro shots can be a great idea, but if it’s obvious you hired one, she’ll think you’re trying too hard to impress her. Have the photographer meet you at a visually interesting outdoor spot instead.

Step #3: Bring Your Profile A-Game

While nailing your photos is arguably your biggest priority, if you want to reel in the highest quality women, you need a top notch profile. Different dating sites and apps have varying formats and character lengths, but there are a few Golden Rules of profile writing:

Let your inner alpha male shine through.

We talked about it in the photo section, and the same rules apply to your profile. Research has shown time and again that women are instinctively drawn to certain traits like bravery, intelligence, and a willing to take risks.

Basically if it would help you take 1st place in the “Survival of the Fittest” tournament, she’s going to think it’s hot. Make sure your profile highlights these kind of personality traits in an attractive way.

Show, don’t tell.

Reciting a laundry list of adjectives in your bio is boring, as is the case with this real person's profile:

bad match.com profile example

Boring is the kiss of death in online dating.

Instead of writing something like “I’m adventurous, loyal, funny, and love to travel” show her how you embody those things. Something like this would work great:

good match profile example

The example above draws her in and makes her want to learn more about you. Plus, it’s loaded with attraction information between the lines as well.

By telling her a story, you’ve also shown her you’re physically fit enough for water sports, brave enough to do them, and financially sound enough for Caribbean trips. That’s hot.

Don’t make it all about you.

No one wants to date a “me monster,” so don’t make your profile 100% about you. Shoot for around 70%. That leaves 30% about her, which studies have found to be the most attractive ratio for an online dating profile.

For dating sites like OkCupid and POF where the profiles are typically longer, this formula creates a winner every time:

  • Paragraph 1 – Grab her attention with a compelling story or anecdote.
  • Paragraph 2 – Tell her what you do for a living in an interesting way.
  • Paragraph 3 – Describe a few of your hobbies, interests, etc.
  • Paragraph 4 – Let her know what type of woman you’re looking for.

For everything you need to know about writing profiles for dating sites and apps, check out our Ultimate Guide To Online Dating.

Step 4: Optimize How You Appear In Her Search Results

There are a few places in your online dating profile where bending the truth will maximize your results. Quick caveat – be honest about the biggies, like whether or not you have kids, and stick to slight exaggerations only.

Remember the goal is to meet her in real life, and if what you presented online doesn’t match what’s sitting across from her at the table, your date probably won’t end on a high note.

But fudging these facts will get your profile in front of more women:

  1. Your age. When deciding on their ideal partner’s age range, women tend to think in round numbers – like 30-40. So if you’re 42, you won’t pop up in her search results. And if you send her a message, she might automatically dismiss you because in her mind you’re too old. Shave a couple years off, and boom – you’re in.
  2. Your height. On average, men add about 2” to their height, and a UK study found the taller you are, the more messages you get. Basically, if you don’t exaggerate your height a tad you’re putting yourself at a major disadvantage. Key word being – a tad. If you’re 5’7” in real life and 5’11” online, your 5’8” date is not going to be happy.
  3. Your weight. 81% of online daters lied about their weight online, just like you probably did on your driver’s license. Just keep the number firmly grounded in reality, and you should be fine.
  4. Your zip code. This one mostly applies to daters who live in larger cities with multiple zip codes, like New York City. If you’re in Brooklyn and she’s in Manhattan, she might rule you out because she thinks you’re not within dating distance. If you work in a more central area, considering using your office’s zip code. Or if you don’t mind driving a bit for dates, choose a zip code closer to the city center.

Step 5: Message More Women In Less Time

Online dating is a numbers game – remember that depressing stat about sending out 100+ messages to be completely certain you’ll get 1 back? Here’s another that’s just as bad – women only respond to about 4% of the messages they receive online.

Ya – that’s why “Hey” isn’t working out so well for you and the other 96% of guys who send boring messages like that. If you want to be in that magical 4%, you need an icebreaker that smokes the competition – and when you get one that works, you need to send it to a ton of women.

You need the magic of copy & paste.

The basic premise is simple:

Don’t spend precious time painstakingly reading through her profile and writing a custom message based on it. Instead, you can spend the same amount of time sending multiple women a message that seems like you wrote it just for her.

Here’s an example that has worked well for our clients on dating sites like Match.com:

Of course, messages are generally a lot shorter on dating apps like Tinder. Here's a short icebreaker that gets great results:

good icebreaker for dating apps

See how you could fire off those messages to any women who catches your eye? Even OkCupid’s head honcho acknowledges the copy & paste method works.

We’ve got even more examples of copy and paste messages that get responses in our Ultimate Guide To Online Dating, and we’ll even show you how to write your own.

There you have it – why online dating doesn’t work for most guys, plus 5 steps to turn your game around.

Of course, you can do it in 1 easy step by hiring a team of modern dating experts. One quick phone call, and you could be enjoying a date with your dream girl each weekend instead of spending 12 hours a week sending out message after message hoping to get a response.

The choice is yours!

About VIDA Select

VIDA Select takes all the frustration, hard work and hassle out of modern dating! From a dedicated personal matchmaker to a crew of professional writers, everything will be handled for you. Wouldn't it be nice to finally stop swiping and start dating higher quality matches so you can meet someone special? Thousands of singles have trusted VIDA Select with this incredibly important mission, and we're ready to make you our next success story. To see if you qualify, answer a few quick questions now.

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