How to send and respond to a good message on a dating app

I tend to forget that for many people, the basics of online dating are anything but basic. If you were an early adopter and advocate of online dating like me,  you’re probably pretty well versed on the do’s and don’t of online dating. But many people you meet on dating sites, just aren’t based on my experiences. There’s nothing wrong with being bad at the basics, it’s still a fairly new way to date. Many people in my peer group, many people who are older, and even folks who are younger (though that number will continue to decline year after year) just aren’t good at it. At least, not yet they aren’t.

Being good at sending messages on dating apps is analogous to being good at conversations in person. Some people are naturally good at it, while others need a little help. If you feel like you need a little help, don’t be discouraged, that’s why I’m here. I wasn’t a natural at sending opening messages on dating apps either, but lucky for you, my constant trials and errors have made me pretty good at sending messages on dating apps and responding to them. Which is why we’re here today.

It’s a simple skill, so you might think it’s not all that important to have, but I can promise that you NEED to get half-way decent at sending messages if you want to be successful when you’re dating online…unless you’re so ridiculously good-looking that the universe just throws dates at you. So let’s talk about how to send a good message on dating apps.

Your wit and skill with wordplay may vary, but there are some things everyone can do when they send a first message that will make it, at minimum, a “good” message:

  • Introduce yourself. Hi, my name is {Your Name} is short, sweet, and simple, and if nothing else, tactful.
  • Reference something from their profile. If they mention something on their profile, you should bring it up in your message. If they have a blank profile, try to gather information about them from their pictures worth mentioning, and mention it. Pictures where they’re visiting some place, ask about that, picture with a pet, ask about that pet, etc.
  • Give them a conversation opener. You know what’s a great way to kill a conversation? Starting a conversation that can end in one word. One of the reasons that “hey, how was your weekend” is a sub par message is because you can answer by saying “good” and be done with it. If you want responses, ask questions, or start conversations, that require responses in a complete sentence. “Hey” wont start a conversation, but “Hey, I noticed this thing on your profile. What’s the deal with that” is a much better message (though obviously you’d be more specific).

Besides that, there isn’t much more you can or should do, but a lot of things you shouldn’t do. Send substantive messages, but makes sure they’re not overlong. 200 characters or less is a good first message length. One thing a lot of people do is over-qualifying why they’re messaging. “I’m messaging you because I think we’re a good fit” is an okay if not stellar thing to say, but adding more reasoning than that is usually going to put people off. Let your matches decide for themselves if you’re a good fit, don’t tell them in essay form. Avoid physical compliments, especially compliments for the sake of compliments. And above all else, don’t use negativity in your messages. Dating bums everyone out, and even the best of us have felt like it’s a waste a time, or that we’re a little embarrassed to be using online dating, so spare the people you message those insights.

Two extremely important things about messaging:

The content of your messages is important, but it isn’t the deciding factor when it comes to getting a response. If someone is attracted to you, a mediocre message might get a response. If someone isn’t attracted to you, you could write the best message of all time and not get a response. Message content is 10%, their attraction to you is 90% of the reason someone responds to you. That 10% might be the deciding factor, but it isn’t the biggest factor.

A successful message isn’t one that elicits a response, it’s one that gets you on a date. There’s a whole subset of social media content that is all about sending wacky messages as social experiments, and kudos to the people who do it, the world needs clowns. But, don’t think that the whole “This guy sent 100 women the opening lines to Int’l Player’s Anthem and it was SUPER SUCCESSFUL” means that you need to turn into the online dating Carrot Top to be successful. Save the gimmicks. Going viral is cool, going on dates is better.

With that out-of-the-way, here’s how to respond to a message:

  • Respond to their conversation opener
  • Give them a new conversation opener OR continue to the conversation thread
  • Repeat until desired results

That’s pretty much it. The content of your messages will vary, but if you’re giving people things to talk about, and responding to what someone says to you, and doing so in a way that begs a response, you’ve got the basics down. I promise you, it really is that simple.  Just keep in mind, your good message will fall on deaf ears if they’re just not into you. Writing a good message never, ever, guarantees a response.

Before I close, some final things to remember about messaging, and online dating in general:

  • You don’t have to respond to every message you get
  • If someone is harassing you, report them, and then block them
  • Don’t message people you have no interest in meeting
  • Avoid specifics and NEVER give out detailed personal information about yourself over messages
  • Finally, for the love of god, do not provide anyone with your financial information. I thought this never needed to be said, but every week there is a new story about someone sending someone else their banking information over dating apps and getting scammed. Don’t do this.

Finally, remember to have fun. Dating and relationships are hard work, but there should be some joy in there. If online dating is overwhelmingly a negative experience for you, it might not be for you, or maybe it isn’t for you RIGHT NOW. Don’t be afraid to occasionally take a break or two. Sending messages and responding to messages shouldn’t feel like a chore.

Good Luck Out There.

Demetrius Figueroa

Demetrius is a sex, dating, and relationship writer based in Brooklyn.

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