I received three related questions recently from JDate users, so I figured if these three people had them, then the response could help countless others as well:
“I have been on JDate a little more than a month. I have gotten a few emails when the man asks me for my phone number right away. I feel more comfortable emailing first. I received my first chat last night, and he sounded very nice. My computer froze so he emailed me with his number and told me to call. I’m not so sure I’m ready to talk on the phone yet!! What do you think is the general rule?”
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“So I have a question for you about some of the guys who are contacting me online. I get it; guys want to get to the date as quickly as possible. But I get a lot of guys who just ask me out in that first email, without much other chatting. I need a little interaction beforehand, be it on the phone or email, to assure me that we’ve got some kind of basic rapport. Is there some way I can encourage these guys to chat a little beforehand? I’ve tried asking them to call me (under the guise of setting up the date) or emailing them back with questions… but they just disappear.”
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“Just curious… in email correspondence back and forth, at what point is it appropriate to ask for a number? When is it an appropriate time to call her?”
I want to thank these users for asking a question that so many people have about online dating: How Quickly Do You Move from Behind the Screen to Being Seen? More specifically, what is the course of action from moving online to offline—email, phone, or something else?
The general progression of online dating is this:
- Email someone of interest (or receive an email)
- Send a couple notes back and forth
- Talk on the phone*
- Meet for a date
* I don’t actually recommend talking on the phone before a first online date, unless that is the only way you’ll feel comfortable with meeting someone in person. Someone might be great on the phone and a dud in person, or a bore on the phone and fabulous in person. The point is that you never know whether you’ll have chemistry until you actually meet, and no number of emails or calls will change that. It’s also very easy to judge someone based on his or her voice or lack of phone skills (a dying art, sadly!). It’s much better to find out how this person behaves in real life. I do, however, recommend exchanging numbers a day or two before the date because you’ll want to be able to contact each other if some unforeseen circumstance comes up, or even if you’re just running late.
Now that we’ve gotten the phone business out of the way, let’s address what happens when someone either asks for your number or gives you his or her number and requests that you call. You have two choices in this case:
- Simply suggest meeting if you want to get to know this person better.
- Say that you prefer to email a few times back and forth before meeting/talking.
Remember that this is a much better “problem” than what usually happens—the “e-lationship.” By trying to maintain an email exchange for too long (more than about three emails back and forth), the person at the other end may think you’re looking for a pen pal or simply not that interested, so he or she may just give up. I’d use your discretion—based on his or her profile, pictures, and that first email—to decide whether to go on the date. Also, remember that a first “date” is only going to be coffee or a drink, so there’s no need to have a marathon meeting.
The last thing I ask the first user to consider is whether you’re simply not ready to talk on the phone yet because you don’t know this specific person well enough or because you’re not ready to date… two very different things. Take the time to reflect on this, because—phone call or not, more emails or fewer—the goal of online dating is to meet in person, no matter the process of getting there.