The Ethics Of OkCupid Lurking

Sneak preview: There are none. Also, how to end a Facebook message thread with dignity.

If one’s significant other is out of town for a few weeks on business, and he’s working 18-hour days, what is the appropriate amount of texts he needs to send? How often do I get to not hear from him before I go, yo, wassup dude are we together or not?

First, can I answer your question, well, not answer your question, but supplement/further complicate your question, with another question? How is it that the same person you’re calling your significant other someone whom you also might consider asking “are we together or not”? Isn’t “significant other” pretty specifically reserved for use between two people who are at least PRETTY sure they’re dating each other? (It might also work, in extenuating circumstances, for food items. “This is my significant other, cheese.”)

I’m also wondering because the answer to that question kind of determines mine. If this is your boyfriend, whom you know to be your boyfriend, then you’re allowed to raise your expectations accordingly. If this is someone you’re dating, you kind of … aren’t? I mean, you ARE, but you can’t really demand they be met with the same credibility. You would kind of just have to let your doubt fester.

I think it’s reasonable to expect that if one’s serious significant other is working crazy work hours out of town, he should still manage to be able to text you at least once a day, unless he forewarns you of an inability to do so. Texting just doesn’t take that long, so don’t really try me on that, dude. However! If this is someone you’re still just “seeing,” I think you shouldn’t really expect to hear from him more than once every few days. You can always check in yourself, though! Just, you know. Sparingly.

Of course they use a ghost avatar. :( Via thedatinggurus.com

I have an OkCupid where I’m listed as “Single 30 F Straight.” Yesterday, I had a “Single 21 F Straight” visit my profile. Is she checking out the competition? She’s not even in the same area as me. Or perhaps I’m just thinking too much into this and she may have just accidentally clicked my profile. (But really, who accidentally clicks on another chick’s profile when you yourself are a chick?!)

Of ALL the many, many things that can go wrong or weird on OkCupid — of all the blatantly copy-pasted screeds that manage to be both incredibly specific and insultingly vague, the messages from guys so far outside your stated, preferred age range that they could be the father of someone in it, the way a once-promising message thread can turn sour in the time it takes to type out a bizarre, creepy emoticon, that thing where you start noticing that enough guys are posting pictures of themselves seemingly while driving that you almost have to wonder if it is YOU who are weird for thinking that’s weird, and if so, what kind of world is this anyway — this is not one you can really even afford to worry about if you want to survive on that site for more than two days from now. OkCupid demands a horribleness scale of relativity. This doesn’t even appear anywhere on it.

I mean, really, why be bothered by this? Maybe she’s trying to find the new girlfriend of a guy she went out with twice but then he ended it because he found someone else, and you looked like her. Maybe she’s questioning her sexuality but doesn’t feel comfortable listing herself as anything but straight right now. (One would think, in that case, that she’d look up queer girls, but OkCupid DOES NOT MAKE SENSE.) Maybe she wants to live in your city in a few years and wants to know if the women there seem like they’re people she could be friends with someday. Who knows! None of these things really affect you as long as she stopped by once. There are bigger (and so much worse) fish to fry.

How do you end a FB message thread, since there’s no polite way to signal you saw the last message but didn’t have any response?

I would say that, above all, you should relish this moment. There are so few things as pleasing as NOT being the last one to respond in a message thread. It’s this very small and specific coolness, like, YES, I did it, I showed self-restraint, I contributed appropriately to this conversation but have said what I needed to say and have nothing else to add, whereas the person I’m talking to kept going because he just isn’t as brilliantly succinct and laid-back as I am. Maybe he’ll leave this conversation thinking it was a fine and natural time to end our correspondence, or maybe (and, to be honest, you’ll kind of be hoping for this) he’ll wonder for a few hours if he said something wrong or strange that made you not want to respond, but he’ll feel too nervous to ask you for fear of seeming needy. Haha. Not that every conversation you have is a competition. Or is it??

The normal person’s answer is that you just end it when you’re ready and don’t worry too much about it, provided you think your conversational companion understands where you stand/what your plan is/what (if anything) needs to be done. It’s not-NOT polite to not respond, necessarily — it can just be tricky (for some people!) to know whether or not they’ve chosen an appropriate point to signal the end of the conversation through non-response. But in almost every case, this shouldn’t be over-thought. If you’re friends with this person, he or she will most likely know that you didn’t just jump ship because you’re suddenly and inexplicably enraged. The “seen” notification IS unnecessary salt in the wound of being the last person to say something, but what are we to do? (Besides … never say a word ever again?? *runs quickly backward out of the room*)

FWD: Halp! is a weekly advice column on how to behave like a person when using technology. Would you like said advice? Email your questions to Katie.

Illustration by Cara Vandermey.

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