How to send the first message on a dating app

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Following the release of Master of None’s second season, viewers took their love and adoration for the show to a place made for love and adoration: dating apps. Dev’s (Aziz Ansari) classic line “Going to Whole Foods, want me to pick you up anything?” began making the rounds on real-life dating sites. I advised any would-be daters against using the line because really, where’s the originality? As the show — and that joke — grow in popularity, your chances of standing out by using it are dropping drastically.

But while a joke — even a stolen one — is better than sliding into someone’s inbox with a vanilla “hey,” nailing that perfect opening line is… well, it’s terrifying.

Everyone has their own ideas on what works best. There are far more reasons to ignore someone you’ve matched with than there are reasons to engage. Did you change your mind? Was that swipe an accident, or a mischievous friend? Did you thumb yes while you were drunk, feeling lonely, curious, or bored? Do you really have the energy, emotionally or physically, to see this endeavor through to a first date, let alone some semblance of a relationship?

Be the one to start the conversation

If you swipe on someone, be prepared to message them first. There’s nothing more juvenile than two people waiting for the other person to respond. You’ll never know why people reject you on a dating app (unless you’re clearly being gross), but all you can do is keep trying.

Dev’s copy-paste method works, in theory, because of its “originality.” It’s different from the type of message most women are used to getting. As a serial non-responder, I can recall the number of Good Messages I’ve gotten pretty easily. One of my favorites? “I see that Pikachu on your shelf.” I’d used the selfie in question for months, and not a single person had ever pointed that out. Instantly, I’d learned that this person had actually looked at my profile and was dorky enough to correctly identify the pokémon casually sitting on my bookshelf. It demonstrates that they, too, are into this silly thing that might be a turnoff for others. It was also short and to the point.

I’m personally of the opinion that your best bet is an opening message clearly meant for the person you’re engaging with. If you want to be more than a bubble in someone’s DMs, you need to treat them like more than a face in your matches. If there’s a reason you’ve swiped on a person (besides obviously finding them attractive), start there.

But, okay. You might want to go with the canned response route. One of my favorite lines, given to me from a colleague, is just using a person’s name with an exclamation point. “Megan!” is friendly without being creepy; it’s sort of personalized, but also takes zero effort. Sam Biddle wrote a Gawker (RIP) piece on the only line you’d ever need: “There she is.” (I personally find this creepy, but maybe it’s the GIF that greets you when you open the page.) Biddle reports overall success. One friend likes to ask people what kind of bagel they would be, while another says their favorite line was asking someone what ‘90s song would define their autobiography.

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The commonality between all these lines is that they’re not pickup lines, in the traditional sense. A good opening message is genderless — friendly enough that you could text it to a friend, but not so familiar that you’re being creepy. Which leads me to my next point: don’t be disgusting.

Seriously, don’t be gross


I can’t believe I have to say this, but based on how frequently I, and friends I know, get creep messages, it’s eternal advice. Not being a creep is actually so easy when you think of the person on the other end as a living, breathing human. Does this human, with thoughts and feelings like mine, want or really need my opinion of them? Would I say this in front of my parents, or theirs?

Like obscenity, you know creep when you see it. Here’s a good example, taken from my personal archives, to the right. No one got what they wanted from that conversation.

If you want to avoid a verbal slap or a reminder of our impending mortality, keep it light. Don’t kick off the conversation with weird sexual innuendo. Let the conversation naturally make its way there if it’s going to happen. And if you’re not sure, avoid it altogether. Better safe than sorry.

These tips are tried and true practices, but hardly bulletproof. Using a cheesy joke on Tinder is not the same as a pickup in a bar because the person you’re talking to lacks crucial context clues on your tone and general body language. Once your message is out there, you can’t control how it’s received. There is no perfect pickup to attract the human of your dreams, mostly because people are not compliment repositories for you to dump clever lines into in exchange for love, devotion, or sex. Remember that above all else.

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