The best way to get around this issue is to have an extremely well written profile that does the following:
- At the TOP of the profile, clearly indicate that you ONLY reply if interested, due not to your jerky personality but your high-volume inbox.
- At the BOTTOM of the profile, clearly indicate WHAT you would like in an introductory message – you'd like them to give you specific information that shows that they read your whole ad.
- For the MIDDLE of the profile, try to put forth the best possible you, in an UNREPENTANT fashion, that hopefully helps filter out at least some of the "one way good matches".
Then, you have a clear sequence of "good etiquette" actions based on what comes into your inbox:
- Offensive/insulting/otherwise terrible messages – IGNORE.
- Messages from interesting guys you want to know more about – WRITE.
- Messages from anyone who doesn't follow rule #2 – IGNORE.
- Messages from really nice "not a match" guys who followed the rules but deserve a break – Follow your heart.
I tend to advise people to only reply to those they'd actually be willing to have a terrible first date with solely based on the initial email interaction. Still, the kind of person who asks a question like this usually has some pretty strong feelings about what it's like to "put yourself out there and hear nothing back", and I think the world would be a better place if everyone knew how to write a good rejection letter, and those who received them knew how best to react upon receiving one.
Still, as others have mentioned, responding to anyone you don't want to go out with has the potential to open a Pandora's Box of bad experiences. Wish it weren't so, but online dating is unlicensed and unregulated, much like offline dating – there are no guarantees that your prospects will have the same experience, background, and general etiquette as you these days. Which, again, is why it's nice to state your defaults in your profile.