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How To Ditch An Internet Date And Not Be A Jerk

Because nobody really wants to go on internet dates. Also, the unlamest way to greet people in an email.

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This guy on OkCupid and I have been messaging, and a couple of weeks ago I agreed to meet him for drinks (he was out of town at the time). We messaged occasionally in the meantime … but now I’m not really interested in meeting him anymore. We also have each other’s phone numbers. How do I cancel our plans in a nice way?

Good. This is good. Of all the people I’ve ever talked to just before they head out on the proverbial highway of an online date, not one has ever expressed more enthusiasm than that contained in that slanty-mouth emoticon. Has anyone alive ever uttered the phrase, “I have an OKC first date tonight and I’m really excited about it”? That person (and there is definitely only one) must be out there somewhere, but I’ve never met him/her. Normally, it goes like this:

“Ughghgh, I have a date tonight.”

“Is it…voluntary?”

“Yeah it’s…ah. I don’t really want to go, but.”

“Then why are you going?”

“I don’t knooooww.”

What is this?? Does everyone know that there isn’t, like, a mandated quota on ‘dates suffered per annum’? YOU know this. Canceling plans with someone you know — unless absolutely necessary — is rude. Canceling internet-arranged dates with a stranger is part of the package deal. You don’t OWE anyone there your time or attention, and vice versa. You’re right, though, that because you agreed to meet him in the past, you should tell him you’re no longer interested.

I’d send a message; you don’t want to encourage phone communication with someone you don’t intend to meet or speak to further. Give at LEAST 24 hours notice. Write something like this: “[Name], I just wanted to let you know that I have to cancel drinks on [day]. I apologize; I hope that’s not an inconvenience. It’s been nice talking to you, but I’m just not feeling chemistry. Best of luck! [Your name]” It’s short (which is crucial!), and it’s awkward, but it’s also direct and polite. You will have done all you need to do. If he responds with anything other than acceptance, well … ugh. Welcome to OKCupid. Block. It’s better for the both of you.


What is a less lame way to greet new people online? Like rather than saying "Nice to e-meet you." I write that every time, almost involuntarily really, and every single time, I cringe.

I have never understood why people feel the need to preface things they’re using email to do with the dreaded "e-." Pretty much everyone who is using email sort of knows the deal, at this point. Everyone knows you’re not REALLY meeting, at least not in the way humans have typically met in the past. Nobody reads “Nice to meet you” at the bottom of an email, leaps up from his/her desk, and runs wildly around his/her apartment, screaming, “WHERE ARE YOU?? SHOW YOURSELF!” This is a big problem on conference calls, as well. Someone says “Nice to ‘meet’ you, ha-ha,” and then everyone else chuckles too. Why?? It’s not funny! Why are we doing this to ourselves?

If the end of the Mayan calendar is the beginning of a new era of peace and harmony like I keep telling myself so I don’t get so worked up and scared I have to lie on my floor for hours, I’m hoping that this horrible little convention is one of the first things to go. Ah, not one of the first; one of the top thirty. Fifty, I don’t know. It has to stop. Do your part and start making a difference now: just take off that e-. Or write, “Nice to speak with you.” I know — you’re not really even talking! You’re writing, technically! How WILL the other person possibly understand? Take that risk. Live a little, I say.

How do I ask someone I work with in a different city if he's single on behalf of a slightly sad, single friend who lives in that same city? Is there a not-totally-creepy way of sneaking that in at the end of a work e-mail? I mean, listen, by virtue of my work, I interact with a lot of steady, employed, not-totally-ugly guys. Can't a girl do her pals a solid now and then?

How many books have we all read in which the characters possess some a handheld electronic device that they can point at other people to see detailed personal profiles (complete with relationship status) pop up on screen? That is every YA novel. Why don’t we have that yet? (Don’t try to tell me “iPhone? Facebook?” You’re exhausting.) I mean, the LEAST we could do is have ears that light up if we’re single and looking, you know? Or, sign our emails with a zero exponent after our names — the zero represents our empty, barren souls.

Anyway, lots of damning with faint praise going on around here! “Slightly sad, single” meets “employed, not-totally-ugly,” they fall into tepid, pragmatic companionship and live … ever after. Are you totally sure your friend wants your help finding her only mildly terrible dates? Humans: only match-make your single friends if they’ve explicitly asked for your help. Otherwise, it’s basically like putting some random man in a refrigerator box with a bow, placing it on your friend’s doorstep, ringing the doorbell, and running away. Weird.

So, assuming you have a willing friend, there IS a way to do this. I don’t think you should ever be trolling for relationship details from a colleague unless you two are very close and in person — there are just too many risks in bringing it up over email. What you CAN do is write him something like this: “Hey, by the way, my friend Stacey is new to [city], so if you’re ever in need of a plus-one, I’m sure she’d be happy to meet a fellow resident.” Perfect! Man, that’s good. It’s casual, it doesn’t require awkward questions on your part, it could be friendly OR romantic, and it leaves everything up to him — he can say yes and ask for her contact information, or he can say “Oh, cool, thanks,” and politely decline by way of non-inquiry. *Slides chess piece into checkmate position.*

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.

Katie Heaney is a writer and volunteer text message analyst living in Minneapolis. She thinks you should have good manners, even on the internet.

Illustration by Cara Vandermey

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