As an avid dater, online and off, and as someone who used to work for Dating Coach Evan Marc Katz, helping clients write their profiles, I saw many common online dating mistakes. A lot of people clearly didn't know what to write in an online dating message. Mainly, online daters didn’t market themselves in the best possible way, which made it challenging for others to initiate contact with them. For instance, the more specifics you have in your profile, the more your future partner can ask you about.
A study by the University of Iowa has similar advice. In an IowaNow article, Andy High, corresponding author of the study and assistant professor in the university’s Department of Communication Studies, said, “You want to balance all that is wonderful about yourself with some things that aren’t negative, but more humble or realistic about yourself. It’s important to put your best foot forward, but maybe not in your best pair of shoes."
By now, I think we’ve all tried online dating at some point or know people who have. According to this New York Times article from February, 2015, one in 10 Americans is signed up for a dating site, the most ever.
After I worked for Evan, daters began asking me questions beyond the profile-writing stage, like message etiquette, how fast they’re supposed to write someone back, and what they’re supposed to say. Here’s some of those online what-the-heck-do-I-write-in-a message dating dilemmas I hear about and a few key reminders.
1. Show, Don’t Tell (To Help Those Who Message You).
Anyone can say they dance or read, but what kind of dancing and what kind of books? Here’s an example straight from a guy's OkCupid profile: “I recently finished Augusten Burroughs’ Sellevision and just cracked open Freedom by Jonathan Franzen. I also have a backlog of Atlantics to get through, but I might not win that literary battle.” See? This guy gives us a lot to respond to, and prompts a discussion of books, authors, and reading without him even realizing it.
2. Write In Complete Sentences.
We’ve probably all “met” the online dater who messages us novellas (or maybe we used to be that person). But save all those words for your actual date. Time and time again, friends of mine feel crushed when they build a strong rapport with someone in writing, yet when they meet, there’s no love connection. All you need to say in writing is a couple specific things about their profile, respond to things they message you (assuming they’ve written to you), and ask a few questions (see #3). I like to end with the questions, as I feel it entices them to write back about those first. Also, remember that this person is a stranger and you're trying to make a good impression, so save the incomplete sentences and purposeful (or not) typos for when you're dating.
3. When Writing Someone Back, Ask Questions.
Great, you wrote someone back! But if you didn’t ask the guy or girl a question (even if they didn’t ask you one), you need to go back and ask one (or a few)! Anything. If you want a response, you need to give them something to respond to. Pick a few intriguing things that they said in their profile and go from there. For instance, I just looked at another random guy’s OkCupid profile. He said he’s “trying to learn how to cook, one over jalapeno’ed omelette at a time.” Okay, this one’s pretty easy. What else is he cooking? Another guy said, “I work in graphic design and teach kids on weekends.” Hopefully, this is another no-brainer and you can ask more about these topics, too. Also, even if you’re dating on Tinder and the person's profile is blank, you can still find something to ask! Just use the little information you do have, mutual Facebook friends or the person's location, and ask away.
4. You Don't Have To Play "The Waiting Game."
Sure, some people still do it, wait a few days before messaging an online person back. Usually, though, they can see when you last logged in, so what does waiting really prove (aside from showing that you're busy and writing to other people)? I know that sometimes we log in just for a moment and don't have time to write back immediately. However, you don't want to lose momentum (yours or theirs) if you wait too many days to write back.
5. Message In The Daylight Hours.
If you're looking for a relationship, don’t message someone new (or even browse profiles) late at night. I’m a night person, also, believe me — but I learned my lesson about being a night-person-who’s-online-dating, so message in the day or early evening if you're looking for more than a booty call. Trust me, you’ll see how people's messages and responses change.
6. Don't Be Scared To Message First.
Think you're scared to message a guy? Guys are, too. Recently, I helped a guy friend set up his online dating profile and when he started to get matches, I learned he didn't write to any of them (until I stepped in). He didn't know what to write. I suggested the same things to him that I did above, and now he has three coffee dates planned.
Though it may take practice, online dating — and messaging potential dates — gets easier the more you do it. There is the perfect online dating site out there for everyone, so there's no excuse not to try it and become a pro at it.
Images: Mattias Frenne/Flickr (1); Giphy (2-6)