Netiquette – A Guide to Online Behavior

You have crafted the perfect profile and are now set to partake of the digital meat market. But making first contact online is a bit different than approaching an attractive guy out in the real world. What is the best way to cruise online and what can you expect from others?

First Contact
As you click your way past profiles of possible suitors, at some point someone will strike your fancy. Don’t just look at the pictures, also take a look at the text and all the standard information the profile gives to make sure you do indeed seem to be a match. Now there are two ways to proceed: you can actively pursue someone by sending him a message or just leave some bait to see if he will bite.

‘Passive’ cruising is an option on sites that allow you to leave tracks when you visit a profile. You can simply leave guys a little image that indicates that you think they are cool, hot or otherwise interesting. When your target sees who has visited his profile, he will see the compliment you left him. It might come across as a bit wimpy and half-hearted as you didn’t send him a message straight away, but occasionally it pays off if the interest is mutual. The other guy can make contact by sending you a message or leave you a similar track, basically inviting you to write to him. This decreases the chances of getting rejected. If you want to skip this optional foreplay, just send him a message to show that you dig him, kicking off a conversation that will hopefully lead to something more.

You should have something interesting to say in that first message. As you will soon enough see when you receive one, a message that just says ‘hi’ can be irritating. It comes across as lazy and shows a lack of creativity. Scan the profile and find something specific to comment on or to ask a question about. This requires a minimum of effort on the part of the object of your affection, since he has already been handed a subject. Hopefully he will respond with a question, keeping the conversation going.

Note that the content of your first message should not be more rude or overtly sexual than the general tone of the profile you are responding to, as this might scare off the more gentle and less slutty souls. If his answers are short and polite but not helping the conversation along, he is probably not really interested and you should stop wasting your time.

Rejection
Everybody from hot to hideous will get his fair share or rejection when they go online. Most of these online rejections will be infuriatingly off-hand and based solely on pictures and virtual first impressions. Some people like their opposite, others their mirror image. Sometimes people match both ways, but often they don’t.

You can be rejected in different ways. The ideal would be a personalized, polite “thank you, but we don’t match” response. However, these don’t get sent often because of a variety of reasons: laziness, disinterest, fear of confrontation or just because some people may find it hard to formulate a polite rejection. You will often not get a response from the person you contacted or you might get sent a standard “no thanks” message, provided by the site. If someone does send a personal, but negative reply, it is not an invitation to a discussion or a good occasion for an angry rant. Move on. At best, you can send them a friendly message, thanking them for their reply and keep in mind to contact them again at some point in the future. Sometimes it’s just timing that makes you miss a connection. If after a period of no contact a second attempt also proves fruitless, leave well enough alone, and avoid entering the Stalker Zone.

“I prefer getting no response to getting a rejection. No answer at all is less polite, but it’s also less confrontational. By the time a rejection arrives, I sometimes already forgot I sent a message to begin with, so it hurts my ego unnecessarily. When I reject someone myself, I always try to be as polite as possible, with something along the lines of: “Not a match, but it’s because of me, not because of you.” Even when it’s really because of him.”
– Levi

If you are doing the rejecting, then be friendly, even if someone obviously did not read your profile and should have known he was never a match to begin with. If you do not have the time or energy for personal responses to all your fans, then you will have to decide between ignoring people or brushing them off with the standard message provided by the site. Opinions are divided on which of these is the least unpleasant. Some find the automatic rejection messages more polite, as you are at least giving some sort of response, while others find them unpleasantly half-assed, because they are a very definite but very impersonal ‘no’. Ultimately, you will have to accept the fact that you will be making some people unhappy no matter what option you choose.

Hooked
Okay, so you finally received a promising response from a guy you like. You should still keep your expectations nice and low, especially until your first face-to-face meeting. Just because someone you like wrote back to you, do not assume you will shortly be shagging, getting married or even meeting up for coffee. You might, but time, distance and lack of genuine interest can conspire to postpone meetings indefinitely, despite a good start. And offline chemistry is always hard to predict, even with hot pictures and a list of matching interests.

As online contacts can be flighty, gently start testing the waters for a ‘real’ meeting fairly soon, if the other party does not bring it up first. You can do this directly, as in, “Want to go to a movie with me?” or indirectly with, “I like going to movies, but I don’t like going alone.” Someone might genuinely be too busy to meet in the short term, but if he never comes up with his own suggestions, he may lack enthusiasm and just be stringing you along.

Considering that the WorldWide Web is just that, the guy you’ve caught could be in a different country. If that’s the case it’s understandable that it could take a while for you to meet up. In the meantime, don’t get swept away by romantic notions; don’t make promises you won’t be able to keep, and don’t put him on a pedestal. The higher your expectations, the bigger the disappointment if the first meeting doesn’t meet them or if you never actually end up meeting. Until you have spent at least a weekend in the physical presence of your big virtual love, keep your cool.

As for online flirting, some people have a hard time communicating without the aid of body language and may send confusing messages. Don’t leap to conclusions if you’re not sure what someone means or if they seem to be saying something inappropriate. Politely ask them to explain what they mean or get them on the phone, as they may be more comfortable talking than typing. Inversely, someone not hindered by shyness when he is online (because there is a safe buffer between you and him) can clam up when you first talk over the phone or face to face. Even though the ice seemed to be broken in writing, you will have to break it again verbally. In the end, the offline chemistry will be more important than the online click; you won’t be spending the rest of your lives separated by two monitors.

Right here, right now
If you’re horny and in the mood for a Mr. Right Now, don’t spoil a potentially romantic contact by suddenly sending him lewd messages. A chatroom can help you find someone to meet up with NOW, and this person is not likely to have marriage in mind. Most rejection in chatrooms will come in the form of silence, since there are no ‘standard’ rejection messages, and there are all sorts of exciting profiles to be clicked on, resulting in very short attention spans. Conversations are likely to be fragmented and a bit aimless, if not aimed directly between your legs.

Even in the case of short-term fun, you may want to move your catch onto a program like Yahoo Messenger, Windows Live Messenger, WhatsApp or Skype after the initial contact through a profile or chatroom. This makes it easier to do more substantial planning. You´ll generally have to be able to show a picture of yourself before taking this step as your partner may not want to make the effort otherwise. Turning on a microphone or cam for a moment will give you a chance to see if your new friend is really as attractive as his pictures made him out to be. Getting a phone-number before one of you heads over is also not a bad idea, as this decreases the likelihood of falling victim to a ‘faker’: being stood up or sent to a non-existent address. Of course, this does entail giving your number to someone you barely know and who may abuse it, but phone number recognition works in your favor and a number can be changed in the worst case scenario. However, if you let him come straight to your house, he will also have your address. In general it’s best to meet at a café close to your or his place. Should he turn out to be a bit odd, he at least won´t know exactly where you live.

“People are less inhibited online, but also more complacent and lazy. It’s easier to chat up an interesting guy you don’t know yet, because shyness is less of an issue. But it’s also easier to ignore people or unintentionally rub them the wrong way. It’s harder to have a ‘normal’ conversations. They tend to lack a clear ending and just fizzle out. Often, men are too scared to leave their keyboard behind and meet in the real world. That can be frustrating.”
– Michael

Handling the Truth
Just because you have been completely honest in filling out your profile — let’s just assume for a moment that you have — don’t assume the same of others. There are many reasons for people to lie online: insecurities, boredom and wanting to appear more attractive. When sex dates are involved, some guys figure that a ‘flattering’ profile will get you hooked, and by the time you meet, you will hopefully be too horny to care that they are twenty years older or ten pounds heavier than on their profile, and you’ll sleep with them anyway. Basically it comes down to this sad fact: a lot of men will say pretty much anything to get laid. This is especially true in chatrooms; never trust a man who is typing while aroused.

If you cruise for sex with someone you have only just met online, you will have to accept that you may end up being disappointed. But as long as you keep yourself out of dangerous situations — like unsafe sex or solo with a psycho — a bad or aborted date may bruise your ego but won’t kill you.

There is more at stake if you are looking for a relationship. Therefore, while chatting, begin verifying things in your mind and keep an eye out for inconsistencies. But don’t make it into an interrogation, and keep in mind that this flirting thing is supposed to be fun. Try to have a chat with someone on webcam before meeting up, or have a phone call. Does he appear mentally stable in conversation? Even after all that, someone can still come across differently when you finally meet him in real life. People often have an online persona that doesn’t match the offline counterpart.

If discretion isn’t a major issue and you have friends on the same site as your date, ask them if they have ever heard anything good or bad about him. It is a small digital world after all. However, consider the source of any information you get this way; gossip often does not equal truth.

One extra warning for those who live in a country where ‘homosexual acts’ are still illegal: authorities may try to entrap guys looking for man-on-man sex online by pretending to be a hot guy, so be extra careful and keep your bullshit detector running at the highest setting.

“I am fairly shy and have trouble just stepping up to someone in a bar or out on the street, especially if it’s an attractive guy. I don’t really like chatting or profiles, but the internet is a good place to break the ice. Once I feel a bit more secure, I try to meet up for real as soon as possible.”
– Robert

Social networks
It can be tempting to use virtual meeting places like Facebook, Snapchat or even Twitter as a cruising area, even though they aren’t actually dating sites. But don’t forget that, for a lot of people, these networks are a way to stay in touch with friends, colleagues and casual acquaintances. Romantic or sexual advances from someone who happened to come across a profile may not be welcome. If the friends-list of someone you actually know contains a guy you’d desperately like to liberate from his clothes, be extra careful and respectful in your approach. Ask your shared acquaintance if your target is likely to be interested. If so, ask him or her to introduce you, or think of a good opening line for your Romeo that isn’t too obviously trying to get him into bed or to the altar. His profile will hopefully give you a topic to work with. If the receiver’s response is non-committal or if he does not respond at all, back off straight away. If he shows interest, you can consider the virtual ice to be broken and invite him to do something fun together.

Dutch version here. Final edit: 22-09-2018