You’re being too picky.
Those are words that well-meaning friends have said to one another for thousands of years. And for thousands of years it was often reasonable advice. But today, with availability of online dating, it’s quite possible that you’re not being picky enough.
I’m prompted to write this because of a video I saw by a woman named Amy Webb. Amy used data to improve her online dating life and she’s now written a book called Data, A Love Story: How I Gamed Online Dating to Meet My Match that walks people through her journey dating online.
After one too many bad dates, Amy created a (rather complex!) system to rank the men she was communicating with. She then used this system to determine who she would date or even who was long-term material. Here’s the video of her discussing this:
My Experience Dating Online
In many ways, Amy’s experience reminds me of my own, although her analysis and where she addressed issues differed from mine (if you’ve not already downloaded it, in my free ebook I talk about how my first 6+ months of dating online were miserable, but later it became fun and exciting).
That said, my struggles varied quite a bit from Amy’s and I think this is possibly a good representation of the different struggles men and women go through. Where I did most of my analysis was around getting a response to my first emails. Don’t get me wrong: I made plenty of mistakes in other areas but for me as a guy, addressing how often I got responses was the biggest area I watched and improved over time.
Regardless of our individual areas of struggle, I do agree with Amy that we need to be pickier. Too many of us start dating and feel like we need to accept the first person that accepts us. One area I may differ from Amy (I’ve not read her book so I’m not sure) is that I’m a fan of dating a lot of people while becoming pickier. My take would be this: be open to who you meet, picky on who you then date/pursue.
This is because my experience showed me that and the more I dated online, the more requirements I discovered I had around the woman I wanted to find. I would argue this is where “bad dates” are actually a good thing – they help you realize you care a lot more about the qualities someone has than you might initially think! And on the other side, there were women I met who I assume I’d have nothing in common with who showed me that “different from me” wasn’t necessarily bad.
So while being selective is something that needs to happen, I’m big on giving people a chance while learning more about yourself in the process. But I’d see that as an opinion, not a rule.
Where Have We Come From?
So why does it sound so odd for someone to say “be pickier”? Why was the traditional advice of “You’re being too picky” good advice at one time, but bad advice now? I believe it has to do with where we’ve come from and how the old-style of dating worked and how we viewed things:
- The old-style of dating was random. It would involve things like hoping you might have an interesting conversation with someone while you were at the grocery store. Or going to a bar frequently hoping to connect with someone. Or even switching the church you attend with the hopes the new church would provide new dating opportunities.
- Given the above, being overly-specific in qualities we were looking for wasn’t an option. If you have no idea where your next date is going to come from, being picky could mean you’d be giving up having any relationship at all.
- This led to a culture of settling. If you are going on one date every six months, eventually some qualities you dislike seem to be acceptable no matter how much you dislike them. “Good enough” starts to look pretty good when there aren’t many options out there.
- On top of all that, dating a lot of different people was often seen as odd. This isn’t universally true, but I’ve run into plenty of people who thought the fact that I was going on two dates a week was very questionable (and who weren’t afraid to tell me so!)
All of these things added up and led us to have a mentality of “hope you get lucky in who you meet and then don’t let an opportunity pass you by”. The truth is, the people around you mean well when they say you’re too picky. People will suggest you are too picky because their experience suggests that’s exactly what you are being. In the older style of data, giving the advice to be less picky made sense because often you couldn’t be picky.
Online Dating Has Changed Things
To me, online dating has changed everything about our approach. Once you find a successful approach to online dating, no longer do you wonder where your next date will come from. And hopefully this leads to a people that are less willing to settle. After all, why settle when you have several more first dates scheduled?
In my opinion, it is unfortunate that many people continue to treat online dating like the backup option or the worst-case-scenario option. In reality, it provides far more ability to measure and be intentional about what you are looking for (as Amy proved).
But things are improving in our cultural view of online dating: in the years I’ve been running this site, I’ve seen a big shift towards acceptance online dating. Even comparing where we are today to five years ago feels like a dramatic shift to me.
And this brings us to my final thought: being picky depends in part on the number of opportunities you are seeing. Online dating is a medium that can provide the kind of opportunities you need to have before you can be picky. It takes some work and there can be a learning curve, but it can be an amazing tool to find someone with the qualities you actually like, as opposed to simply finding someone so you can “not being alone”.