In Online Dating, Who Should Make the First Move?

November 6, 2012

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Today’s guest blog comes from eHarmony Labs researcher Emily Maywood – who explores the issue of communication in online dating.

onlinedatingwhomakesthefirstmove In Online Dating, Who Should Make the First Move?I learned a new word yesterday: Mamihlapinatapai. Despite its length (and looking a little like gibberish) it is actually described as “the most succinct word” because it defines a feeling that is so familiar, almost everyone can relate to it – “a look shared by two people, each wishing that the other will offer something that they both desire but are unwilling to suggest or offer themselves.”

After thinking about this behavior, I began to wonder if something similar occurred when online dating. Are there instances in which both people in a match are waiting for the other to communicate?

At first I thought this could be because according to traditional heterosexual gender roles, men should approach women. Many of my female friends refuse to initiate contact with men online, because as they see it, “the men should want to contact them and pursue them.”

However, with online dating comes anonymity, and with anonymity might come confidence to be open and reach out. Perhaps men view this as a means to closing the gap between these “offline” dating expectations when the conversation is starting online.

Another theory could be that because we have time to respond to communication with thoughtful messages, the standards are now much higher, causing anxiety for the initiator. One study illustrated how the first communication can impact the way a person perceives your character (Rosen et al. 2008). It was found that the amount of emotionality and self-disclosure in an email affected a person’s perception of a potential partner. An email with strong emotional words (i.e. wonderful, excited) led to more positive impressions than an email with fewer strong emotional words (i.e. fine, good).

So in these situations, is it gender role beliefs (or the lack of them) that inhibit people from initiating contact, or could it be the pressure of sending a good message, or is it something else? Maybe it’s time to look at online dating as a means to be yourself and not shy away from going for what you really want!

When online dating, do you usually wait for the other person to contact you? Ladies, do you feel men should reach out to you? Let’s get the conversation started!

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