What To Say In An Opening Text, Because You're Better Than "Hey"

Real life dating practices just don't quite translate to online dating. At a party, in person, eye contact, body language, tone of voice and facial expressions can make "Hey" a showstopping opener. Same with "How are you?" Online, when your inbox is a sea of one word greetings, simple is not better. But what should you say in an opening message?

Men, (who I suspect don't get as many of these obnoxious openers) are fairly defensive about this, judging by their reactions to the salty exchanges on Tinder I share to social media. Feeling the burden of the first outreach, they're scared to say something wrong, they tell me. They're also not sure what to say, they may be a bit nervous, and sending a note altogether is taxing on its own. So they play it safe.

But let's face it: safe on the internet just means forgettable. And frankly, if you've been online dating long enough, it gets really, really irritating.

Here's something I recently posted (a Coffee Meets Bagel conversation) and two comments I got on the exchange—one from a guy friend, one from a girl friend. Admittedly, I was sassy, and I'm OK with this. Guys, however, were upset at my rudeness.

Two of the comments this received:

Michael: "I say/hear the same thing at work everyday. Doesn't make it any less polite."

Kate: "...It's lazy, and putting the burden of conversation on the receiver instead of the person that actually "wants" to talk. I have an entire inbox of "how was your day" "hi" "how was your weekend". Like pages of messages. It's lazy, annoying, and just not worth a positive response if any at all. THAT'S why she responded like that."

Regardless of gender, and however you feel about online dating etiquette, you have to admit: boring questions are, at best, boring, and at worst, infuriating to some of the people receiving them. You can do better than pissing people off!

Still at a loss for alternatives? Here are a few things you can try instead of "Hey"—and the proof is in the screen shots.

1. Be Outlandish

Now, this is not free reign to be offensive (ie. racist, sexist, scarily personal, etc.). But sometimes being bizarre for fun can help you stand out in a crowd, and you'll get points if you make them laugh.

Spoiler alert: I saw this "moment" on Tinder, cracked up, and messaged the guy right away. We went on a date.

2. Call Out A Shared Interest

This is just another excellent reason to read the person's profile! Showing off shared knowledge of something the person mentioned is a great way in: we all love talking about the stuff we like doing, watching, listening to, etc. It can also set the stage for a much higher quality first date. (Think: you both catch the latest Linklater film vs. get a drink).

Here are a few examples of guys proving they recognized my Jack Handey quote on Tinder:

I went on several dates with the guy above and still talk to him. I just blew your mind, didn't I Nancy Jo Sales?

And here's me successfully leveraging Flight of the Conchords lyric recognition:

Both of these conversations were SO much more fun that reciting weekend plans to each other.

3. Feign Interest In Something OTHER Than A Date

Ask what accommodations they'd recommend in Machu Pichu (because everyone on Tinder has been, duh), or how much their rib tattoo hurt. Or you can pretend to want to date their dog, which works like a charm for me.

It's also a cute way to establish a rapport and keep the conversation going. I got this sexy snapshot days later.

4. Do A "Blurt" Share

As a last resort, share a (non offensive) joke or something stupid you saw on the internet. "Why is this so funny to me right now" with say, this image, would totally get an answer from me. And if the person doesn't get it and says "WTF" you can always apologize and use flattery: "Sorry, I wanted to talk to you because you were so cute and I didn't know what to say. I'm *insert name*."

Would you answer that? I'm fairly hardened at online dating stuff and I totally would.

Now onto things NOT to do, with examples from my personal screenshot library.

1. Do Not Call Someone You Don't Know "Cutie, Sexy, Beautiful," Etc.

I personally find it overly familiar and a tad condescending, and I'm sure I'm not the only one.

2. Do Not Say "To Hell With it, I'll Just Ask For Sex."

Or do. I mean I don't care what you do, but don't expect much.

Same goes for conducting lazy conversation then trying to segue into sex talk. You have to earn that, friend.

3. No Dirty Riddles Or Jokes


4. Don't Keep Hammering Away At A Dead Lead


5. Do Not Lead With Ethnicity

True story: I have a friend who still answers phone calls from me with "Sup, you white?" because she knew I got those kinds of greetings on dating apps All. The. Time.

Without even saying "Hello" first.

It's starting to piss me off.

I think, at the end of the day, The Golden Rule holds as true for new Tinder interactions as it does for all your exchanges: Text unto others as you would like to be texted yourself.

As a wise person once said, "an inbox full of crap is an empty inbox." Don't be the person that fills another person's inbox with crap.

And for God's sake say something other than "hey."

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Images: Pexels/Author's own