Online Dating Opening Message Do’s and Don’ts

Online dating isn’t for everyone. You have to be able to handle undue criticism and random inappropriate outbursts from people you’ve never met. You must be willing to rattle off your life story and answer the same questions over and over again with a smile on your face. You should learn to spot the red flags early on, leaving those rose-coloured glasses buried at the bottom of your bag lest they all just look like regular quirks instead of signs that you should run very far, very fast. If you do dabble in dating apps, you will know firsthand how important opening messages are. So, what are online dating first message do’s and don’ts? Let’s dive into my inbox and find out.

Keyboard warriors simply aren’t limited to trolling the forums anymore – they also make an unwelcome appearance on apps like Tinder and OkCupid, and the increasingly popular Facebook singles groups. While it is true we are more technologically connected than ever, our interpersonal skills leave a lot to be desired. We have forgotten how to interact face to face: forgotten that there are real, feeling human beings behind the screens.

As someone who has been in a string of relationships since the age of 15 with barely a breath in between, this past year of singledom at 25 has been rife with life lessons, not the least of which is that it takes a special kind of effort to survive online dating with your integrity intact and your outlook untarnished. Don’t get me wrong, I am all for being all for online dating, and I have used it extensively over the years, with a few standout, positive experiences, but overall it has left a strange taste in my mouth: a tantalising combination of secondhand smoke; sweaty gym shorts; awkward hugs, and broken hearts. Tempted? Me neither.

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Shall we go for a walk listening to “La Vie en Rose”?

This is an opening message I received on Tinder recently. Not a bad one, either. It tells me a few key things. Firstly, that the sender is willing to collaborate on the date decision. Secondly, he is interested enough to suggest a physical meeting before we’ve said two words to each other, and finally that he paid enough attention to my profile to know that I speak French, or at least that I enjoy French music. Not bad at all. The thing is, as a woman on a dating site, you are bound to get more attention than you’ll know what to do with. The fact that I replied to this opener at all elevates it above most of the fodder on the barn floor – we’re talking premium hay. With countless people cluttering your inbox, you have to be discerning. You can only read “hi how r u” so many times before a marble or two tumbles out of your head and rolls under the couch for the cat to play with later.

Got a date.

Hi there Isobella, how has your weekend been, up to anything fun tonight?

The classic opener, if a little more formal than usual, with actual grammar and punctuation, to boot – but dead boring. The majority of opening messages on dating sites follow this format. I get it, it’s easy, you can spam it to all of your matches with the hope that one or two will reply, and it’s far too difficult to come up with an interesting message that actually relates to the individual on the other end, right? Wrong.

I didn’t reply for three and a half months. No date.

*a GIF of Bugs Bunny with his cartoon heart beating rapidly out of his chest*

A GIF is an interesting one, and I will admit that I have used them on occasion to open. While they are absolutely minimal effort, if well chosen, they can get the conversation started. Some people are too shy to have the first word, and a GIF can certainly be a great ice breaker! They are risky, though – if the receiver doesn’t get or like the reference, chances are it won’t stir their interest enough to reply, unless it’s a very slow day.

I didn’t reply for two and a half months. No date.

so would you rather five minutes of kissing on ur neck or five minutes on your inner thighs? 😉 😛

Overtly sexual opening messages are disturbingly common, and this one is quite tame. While it is true that a lot of people use online dating purely to “hook up”, it is not true that appropriate conduct upon first speaking to a stranger should fly out the window, never to be seen again. I don’t know if this approach has ever worked for someone, but I have my doubts.

I didn’t reply.

Panesexual Dosent bother me but I’m not a fan of cats

Atrocious spelling aside, there are some serious things wrong with this opener and others like it. The composer seems to think that this person they have never spoken to cares what they think about particular aspects of their lifestyle or personality, which they assuredly do not. While I am glad that my sexuality “doesn’t bother” them (God forbid), the cat comment is entirely unnecessary in an opening message, and is exemplary of what has been dubbed “negging”. Negging is emotional manipulation, usually consisting of a backhanded compliment or remark that is intended to undermine the receiver’s confidence and bolster their need for the sender’s approval. In this case, I imagine the sender was trying to entice a reply out of me that would defend the honour of cats. I happen to believe they need no defending.

I didn’t reply.

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At this point, you’re probably thinking I’m just being a negative Nancy and that if it doesn’t work for me I should just stop and leave the swiping for the rest of you. The truth is, you will inevitably deal with a lot of crap when you delve into the world of online dating  – but it’s not all bad. I mentioned standout positive experiences earlier on, and they make it all worth it in the end. Tune in next week for one such positive experience about my first proper date with a woman.

What are your experiences with online dating? If you have received a particularly funny or ridiculous opening message, I’d love to hear it!


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As usual, please feel free to ask me any questions in the comments or email me at contact.isobellawolfe@gmail.com

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