Why Is Online Dating So Hard?

Getting to know someone new is exciting and can be a whole lot of fun. But as soon as you call the process “dating”…well, it starts to feel like a chore, doesn’t it? The majority of daters now meet online, which means setting up a first date is no longer just a matter of exchanging numbers and wondering if you should wait one day or two to text.

Dating online is incredibly common, but it’s much harder in its own way. Here’s a quick rundown of all of the reasons you might feel like online is tough.

Why Is Online Dating So Hard?

Because so many people rely on apps to find dates, the number of people on any given site or app can be overwhelming. How do you make yourself stand out from the crowd? How do you know when to stop swiping? What if the person of your dreams is just one click away, but you’ve got screen fatigue? There are a lot of what-ifs right from the start.

Add in the fact that there are literally hundreds of dating apps, and the whole process may start to feel hopeless. That variety actually works in your favor, though: you’ll be able to talk to friends and read reviews of various apps before you select the right one. Plus, there’s nothing stopping you from trying more than one app, or taking a breather from any and all online dating if life gets too busy. It’s a lot, and dating should be fun, not a chore or a job.

There’s no way around it. Taking the time to make an online dating profile is a headache, no matter how witty you are or how great your photos look. It’s a process of sitting down, thinking about what makes you an appealing person, and how to let the rest of the world know that.

We’re raised not to brag, and it can be tough to break the habit of thinking any nice thing you say about yourself makes you look full of yourself. You’re definitely a catch, but knowing how to let people know while still seeming humble can be a tightrope walk. It can be tempting to throw up your hands and give up on the process entirely. You can comfort yourself with the knowledge that only the most clueless and arrogant folks think making an online dating profile is an easy process.

Wouldn’t it be cool if online dating only took 24 hours for success? Sadly, that’s not the case. You may have a few good (but brief) conversations on the first day you post your profile, but meeting immediately could be a red flag.

Plus, there are so many people on each dating app that the sheer stats don’t put meeting your soul mate on the first day in your favor. Plus, many people are more relaxed about online dating—or intentionally set up their notifications to take some of the anxiety away—and may not see your message immediately.

Some people wait until the evenings or weekends to check dating app messages. While it’s nerve wracking for some, it’s a lifesaver for others. Don’t be discouraged if someone doesn’t respond immediately.

Read More: How Fast Should You Answer Online Dating Messages?

Writing that first online message is arguably the hardest part of dating online. How do you manage that perfect tone between casual and sincerely interested?

Going beyond a single syllable is a great start. While it may be so tough that you’d rather sit back and wait for someone to message you, realistically you’re going to have to push yourself beyond your comfort zone, at least a little bit.

Go beyond complimenting a photo or just hitting some version of a “like” button. Message them with something specific they mention in their profile, especially if it’s something you both have in common. The silver lining? You don’t have to go beyond a sentence or two. And you shouldn’t, in fact. Writing a novel makes you look both self-absorbed and as if you’re coming on a little too strong.

Read More: Sending the Perfect First Message in Online Dating

Once someone responds, what comes next? Some online conversations fizzle—that’s fine. But eventually you’ll transition to text, and eventually you’ll want to meet in person (avoid people who seem to be looking for a perpetual pen pal). One of you will have to suggest actually going on a date, and wondering where to take someone new can be yet another layer of difficulty.

Find someplace you like, but maybe not a place you go regularly, and likely not a place you’re bound to run into your friends—that can make things awkward, no matter how cool they are. Suggesting a specific date and time can be awkward if they say no, but it opens the door for them to suggest an alternate date. If they don’t, no need to ghost them, but take it as a sign that they’re not committed to meeting you immediately.

Online dating has so many variables that it can feel like juggling, especially if you’re messaging with more than one person you seem to hit it off with. It might make you wonder if they’re talking to other people, too.

Don’t worry. They probably are, but it’s not a competition. If it’s meant to be, it will happen. The rest of their dating life is their business until you meet and both eventually decide to get serious. Commitment doesn’t exist until it’s agreed upon, and never before meeting in person. Have faith and trust in the process.

Again, online dating is hard. It’s true. But it’s also a faster, and often more efficient way to meet someone with similar interests. Take a deep breath and dive in. In all likelihood the people you will be chatting with will find it hard too, and that’s a nice ice breaker, too.

Photo of author

Author: Matt Seymour, MSF

Matthew J. Seymour is a dating industry expert with over a decade of experience coaching singles, reviewing dating apps, and analyzing trends within the industry. Matt is a published author with his most recent work “Get More Dates: How to Master Online Dating Apps” that hit shelves in 2023. With a Masters of Science in Finance (MSF) degree from the University of Florida and extensive knowledge of the innerworkings of the online dating industry, Matt frequently serves in an advisory role to some of the largest dating apps on the market. In Matt’s current role with Healthy Framework, he leads the interview team that regularly interviews key dating industry leaders, and leverages his financial knowledge and dating app experience to review and share what singles need to know to get the most out of dating online.