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Swiping right is easy—and you’re probably doing a lot of it.
Men really aren’t all that discriminating when it comes to selecting a match on Tinder, according to a recent study from the Queen Mary University of London, Sapienza University of Rome, and the Royal Ottawa Health Care Group. Men are certainly less strategic and selective than women, anyway.
But sending that first message? That’s when guys aren’t so quick to fire. That same study found 21% of women sent the first message, while only 7% of men did so.
We’ll give you the benefit of the doubt—it can be tricky to figure out exactly what to say to her to sweep her off her feet and not give her the creeps. We asked the experts, and while there’s no exact formula for that perfect first text, there are some rules to keep in mind:
Many online dating apps use a double opt-in model, which means that both parties must swipe right in order to match. So while you definitely want to come across as charming and charismatic in your first few messages with her, you don’t need to overdo it—she already swiped right, so you’ve got a head start. In other words, it’s totally okay to shoot her a short, simple message like “Hi,” or “What’s up,” says psychologist Michele Barton, Ph.D. In fact, with “hook-up” apps like Tinder and Hinge, it’s actually better to err on the side of short, according to Barton, who says a “big, prepared statement” might seem too intentional and make you look insecure.
Keep in mind that this depends on the dating app you’re using. For dating services that focus more on finding a long-term relationships, like eHarmony or Match, simply saying “Hi” won’t cut it. “Simply saying ‘hi’ or ‘hello’ in your message will give you an 85 percent chance of not receiving a reply,” says eHarmony Chief of Advice Jeannie Assimos. “Introduce yourself and, at the least, ask the person how they’re doing.”
This might seem counterintuitive, but commenting on her appearance in the first few messages is actually not sexy.
“This might seem harmless and flattering, but a lot of women are turned off by messages about their appearance,” Assimos says. Swiping right already implies you think she’s hot. Telling her two messages into a conversation that you think so is coming on way too strong. This initial stage should be about getting to know her.
Her appearance might be off limits, but her profile—even if it’s just a handful of words—is not. Pick out a common interest or something that piques your curiosity and ask her about it. Pay attention to details. Asking about (and not simply mentioning) something from her profile is key, Barton says, because you’re trying to get to know her—not sound like you already know her.
Pro tip: Keep your questions genuinely inquisitive, not confrontational, especially if she lists interests that are considered traditionally masculine (e.g. sports or video games). Don’t ever start a question with “It’s rare to find a girl who likes sports…” or “You must not be like other girls…” because she’ll (probably correctly) assume that you’re about to mansplain her own hobbies to her.
Sarcasm and self-deprecating humor might be your forte, but these things don’t translate well to text. Similarly, anything that sounds judgmental—even if it’s meant as a joke—won’t be taken well.
“It’s hard to read feelings and tone in text even with people you already know,” Barton explains. “And things like emojis don’t change this as much as some like to believe.” So keep your acerbic wit and complex philosophical ideas to yourself—until you meet her in real life.
She didn’t respond to your perfectly crafted first message—now what? Try her again.
Generally speaking, gorgeous ladies on dating apps get tons of messages, so she honestly might have missed your first attempt. “You have nothing to lose—maybe the first time you tried she had 15 new messages, but the second time you’re the only one,” Barton says. “But if there’s no response after the second attempt, move on.” (And please—don’t think you’ll “show her” by sending a litany of messages about how she missed out on your sexy self, because she will take screenshots and post them on Reddit.)
Test your newfound knowledge on mainstays like Tinder, or try any of these top fitness dating apps. Good luck out there.