Ask Richmond Proper: On polite rejection in the online dating scene

I’m doing the online dating thing, and I need to know what to do when someone who you have no interest in messages you. Which is more rude: not responding or responding and saying “uh…nope”?

A darling reader asks,

Dear Richmond Proper:

So, I’m doing the online dating thing, and I need to know what to do when someone who you have absolutely no interest in messages you. Can you just not respond at all?  Which is more rude: not responding or responding and saying “uh…nope”?  I don’t want to waste my time or theirs by responding to someone I have no intention of ever meeting. Do I just ignore? Make polite conversation? I have no idea, but I don’t want to be mean. But I also really value my time and have no interest talking to someone I’m just no that into! Help!

You did sign up for this service, so you should expect messages from both interesting and uninteresting candidates. Either way, you should always respond immediately. “Respond when someone contacts you, even when you aren’t interested,” writes Peggy Post. “Just a quick message expressing thanks and a courteous regret will do.” There is absolutely no reason for somebody to be offended by a polite reply. The whole point of dating sites is to find somebody you could spend your life with, which implies that you’re going to have to weed through people you obviously can’t spend your life with.

It might feel rude to brush a guy off with a quick message, but it’s much ruder to not say anything: not only have you rejected him by not acknowledging his message, but you’ve also kept him waiting. If you already know there’s not a chance, just say so. That’s part of the beauty of internet dating: these are complete strangers, so you don’t have any kind of a pre-existing friendship to worry about. Always be courteous, but don’t over-think it. Things can be a little less touchy-feely and a little more logical and businesslike. As Judith Martin puts it, “If there is any advantage to cyberspace society, it is that he doesn’t really know anything about you — not even whether you are really the lady in the picture you sent — and can comfort himself with the notion that there are a lot of frauds and nuts out there.”

Speaking of logical, most sites have ways to tighten up the criteria for potential mates who can contact you. Take a look on your site and see what your settings are.  f you’re getting a large amount of mail from candidates who don’t match very well with you, you might need to revisit those settings as well as any questions you answered on the site.

Admittedly, my knowledge of the technical specifics of online dating are minimal. I’d be interested to see if any of our other readers have experiences or advice to offer in this arena.

Have an etiquette question and need some advice?  Email

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Tess Shebaylo

Tess Shebaylo is a freelance writer, crafter, history geek, and compulsive organizer. She works at Tumblr and lives in Church Hill with her daughter, Morella.

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