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.

Notice: Comments that are not conducive to an interesting and thoughtful conversation may be removed at the editor’s discretion.

  1. Sarah on said:

    Dear Richmond Proper:

    My husband and I are known to be drinkers, like so many people are in this city. A couple weeks ago we attended a wedding, mostly because we love our newly-married friends but partly because of the open bar! The bride’s family are not well-to-do by any means, yet had a fully-stocked bar for the reception (it was at a restaurant). My husband ordered a drink for me, and then proceeded to go through all the small-batch bourbons like it was his own personal tasting party. When the night was up, he had ordered six of the most expensive things on the drink menu, and when I sneaked a peak at the total tab for the whole party, his was probably twenty percent. I tried to tell him I thought this was rude, but he laughed and said that it wasn’t our dime. What do you think about this?

  2. Tess Shebaylo on said:

    Hi Sarah — thanks for the question! Stay tuned and I’ll answer this soon in another installment! But for the record, if you want to know what I think about this, I think it’s rude. :)

  3. ooooo….I will share this with my friends on the forum of —gothicornot–com, they like this very much!!!!
    It is very useful, I will refer them to my friend, he recently date with a lady on gothicmingle…c0m.

  4. Nandalal Rasiah on said:


    whether or not you get a reply tends to depend on your race and the race of the receiver. The kind folks at OKcupid have the numbers:

    etiquette aside (on which I agree with you), the reality and “norm” of online dating sites is to ignore most people (mostly dark men and women) and respond to a few (factoring in the prevalence of ‘dead’ or inactive profiles which make up a large part of the sample population of profiles.)

  5. Nandalal Rasiah on said:

    of course the camera angles, camera make and lighting also play a factor:

    and to get more analytical about the race effect:

  6. Yes, I love the OKCupid blog! Always hilarious, interesting takes on their numbers. Their stats don’t apply to the public at large, since data is only taken from people on, but it’s entertaining and eye-opening nonetheless!

  7. Nandalal Rasiah on said:


    i’m not so sure about the validity of okcupid’s data being specific to that site alone. You can call it conjecture but it follows the trend of how people behave when they are not facing someone else and there are no observers.

    so, where does the etiquette begin and observing norms end?

  8. Tess Shebaylo on said:

    Empirically speaking, they can only vouch for their user base since that’s where their data comes from. It might coincide with the world at large, or it might not. I’m not the expert there.

    Often it’s the “norm” to be rude, which doesn’t make it okay. Hopefully we take the extra 30 seconds to respond to someone even if we’re not interested, because that’s how we’d like to be treated.

    Another interesting thing is that a friend told me she frequently gets messages through OKCupid that are just like “Hey gurrrrrrrrrrrl” or something. She doesn’t feel the need to respond to those, which I think is fine…they’re not actually asking her anything or making any kind of conversation. Haha.

  9. Great article! You should always be concerned when going on a date, and it dosen’t matter if you met them through an online dating service or at a bar. offers a free dating safety tool, that monitors and confirms your safe arrival home. The founder is a police officer and he offers valuable dating safety tips to follow.

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