Ask Wendy

The Online “Hi” Drive-By: Why Do Guys Do It?

Friday, May 15, 2020
Hey Wendy,

I've read your book a few times now (it's worth referencing frequently!), done a few of your courses, and finally had the focus, energy, and intention to get online a few weeks ago.

I've had several men email me and I've also emailed a few men with about a 75% response rate. But I find that many of the emails I receive from seemingly interested men tend to leave me dead in the water. They don't ask questions, they don't move anything forward, they don't encourage a further response from me. I'm expecting that once I respond to them they'll show additional interest in continuing the conversation, or suggest a phone call, or a Zoom meet? Instead I get details about their day, their projects, or the current situation.

I'm looking for someone who has a clear interest in me, enough to want to move things forward. I don't need a pen pal. My inclination is to save my energy for those that give me clear encouragement, and not continue to write those who seem uncertain. But I also don't want to unfairly ignore those that simply don't know they need to encourage.

So my questions are: Is this just typical of men, and therefore should I write back again? Or is this perhaps more a sign of men in these uncertain times when they aren't sure how to move things forward when we can't necessarily meet right away (again, deserving more patience from me)? Or is this a sign that these men aren't particularly interested and I should move on?

I know there's certainly not a one size fits all answer here. But any suggestions based on your experience?

Andrea S.


Hey Andrea,

I salute you for dating in the era of Covid—not easy! I think medals, trophies, and tiaras should be doled out to anyone bold enough to try.

And about the subpar engagement you’re encountering, hear me when I say that it’s not you, it’s them. This is not atypical behavior. In fact, this is the current trend with most guys online today. I’m with you—it’s annoying.

The good news is that, initially, the hi-drive-by is not a sign that men aren’t interested.

I want you to pretend that men think online dating is exactly the same as meeting a person IRL. Face-to-face, you say “hi there” when you talk to a stranger. You don’t show up out of nowhere and blurt out two or three paragraphs of introduction and dialogue until you get a “hello” back from your audience.

Given this, let’s look at a scenario you could try out when you’re faced with an email exchange that leaves you wondering where to go next:

First connection: He says, “Hi there!” and little (or nothing) else.

You look at his profile, and one of three things is likely to happen next:

  • A) You read what he’s written, and yeah, you’re interested (enough).
  • B) You open his profile to find it’s blank, so you have no data to go on.
  • C) You open his profile and see a way-too-old-for-you Jonah Hill lookalike who’s super into cosplay—and that’s just not your thing.

Response A: Pull a tidbit you read from his profile and incorporate it with a question in your response.

Example: “Hi there back! I see you like cycling—me too! What’s your longest ride?”

See? Simple. You’ve wasted very little time here. Not too much effort on your part, but a ball has been successfully lobbed on over to his side of the court. What will he do with it? Doesn’t matter right now, because you’re going to forget you’ve even written—you’re already moving forward until he responds.

Response B: Tell him you need more.

Example: “Hi! Thanks for reaching out. Did you know your profile is blank? What’s the first thing you’d like me to know about you, and what would you like to know about me?”

Now, you’ve just given him a challenge. Watch what he does with that! But only watch after he’s made his move. Just like option A, forget about this exchange and keep moving forward until he replies.

Response C: Swipe left.

As you engage with guys you like, if you notice they’re not asking you questions or moving it forward, that’s when you pivot with, “Would you like to move this to Zoom or maybe a socially distanced walk?” Zoom can be the fire you light under his feet to get him to move (or flee).

The balance is tricky. It’s one of the hardest parts of dating—not getting buried under ten tons of fluff, but also not bailing before the substance shows up.

When guys are trying to connect and they’re only talking about themselves, I think a lot of them actually think that this is how to get to know somebody (And that if you have something to share, you’ll say it. Sigh.) I’m not excusing their lack of game or conversation skills here, but I do think everyone is dealing with the uncertainty of how to go about meeting someone new when you’re not supposed to meet anyone new right now differently.

I don’t expect you to follow this action plan to the letter, so don’t expect it of yourself either. When you have the energy, you can follow your own version of this. And on days when your “patience tank” is running low, you’ll be more selective, and you’ll rule out anyone who isn’t obvious with their interest. Both approaches are valid. Be gentle with yourself.

In the olden days (pre-Covid, not like horse-drawn buggies and crinoline), men had to deal with mixed messages from women about when was too soon to meet. Some women think men move too slow, while others are spooked off if guys move too fast. Now that meeting for a simple date (like a quick drink) to suss each other out is off the table, the extra layer of Zooming and Messenger meetups causes even more stress, complication, and confusion on their end. It’d probably be a good idea moving forward to be gentle with them, too.

Mad respect to all the daters out there right now, seriously. You’re putting your hearts on the line in a purely digital space with no promise of when that digital connection may become a physical one, and that takes a lot of courage, determination, and hope.

Good luck out there!


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