What Flirting Looked Like In 2016

by Laken Howard

It's been a decidedly un-chill year, but that doesn't mean that life didn't go on while bad stuff went down. There were major setbacks politically, terrible beauty trends, questionable fashion choices, and tons of heartbreaking celebrity deaths. But there was one unexpected aspect of our lives where we were culturally evolving during 2016: our flirting methods. Most people might not think of flirting as something that can have trends, but with all the online dating innovations being made daily, it makes sense that we'd also change how we flirt. So what did flirting look like this year?

Dating platform OkCupid analyzed users' messages from January-November to figure out what members were talking about all year. They sorted out the meh messages from 'good' ones — aka those that included at least four messages and a contact exchange — then looked at how the good messages compared to last year's. Folks online were chatting and flirting about everything from "Pokemon Go" to Westworld, and going on plenty of IRL dates in between. Especially if you're new to online dating, it can be nerve-wracking trying to strike up a conversation with a total stranger (who also happens to be cute). But it doesn't have to be a big deal to break the ice — there are easy tricks to start talking to someone on a dating app.

"Our data shows that 84 percent of first messages that just say "hey" get ignored."

"Great conversations usually begin with a shared interest, so if they mention an activity, movie, or hobby in their profile that you also like — or one that you're curious about — that's a good place to start," Jane Reynolds, Senior Editor at OkCupid, tells Bustle. "When in doubt, go with something short and sincere — but not too short: our data shows that 84 percent of first messages that just say "hey" get ignored. It's important to take the time to find out what's important to them when you reach out to someone — and share what's important to you, too."

So what were 2016's flirting trends? Here are seven of the most popular convo topics amongst OkCupid users this year.


Emojis Are Still Popular

"A really fun stat to look at is which emojis gained popularity from year to year," Reynolds says. "For example, despite the fact that many people seemed to detest 2016, the smiley-face emoji was used almost 2000 percent more often this year than last."

Other popular picks? The eyeroll, nerd, hug, and upside-down smiley emojis. No word yet on which sexting emoji were most popular this year, but I'm happy to offer some suggestions.


Trump Was (Predictably) A Hot Topic

Compared to 2015, Trump was mentioned six times more often in 'good' messages this year, though not necessarily in a positive way, of course. And because life imitates art (or some other cliche), Trump's name also beat out Clinton and Sanders for most number of mentions by OkCupid users. Ouch.


People Talked More About Pokemon Than Brexit

Although politics in general were a hot topic in 2016, there was one trend too huge to forfeit the top spot: "Pokemon Go". Perhaps we all simply needed a lighthearted #TBT to our childhoods to brighten up an otherwise dark year, but it makes sense that the popular mobile game was also a great online dating icebreaker.


Grabbing Drinks Was The Go-To Date

Although the most popular date suggestion — grabbing a "drink or beverage" — seems vague AF, it's good news that OkCupid users were making a sincere effort to meet up IRL, and good dates don't have to be fancy. Slightly less common (though more specific) requests included grabbing: "tea or coffee," "beer or wine," "a meal or a bite," and finally, "some lunch" or "some dinner."


Sports Talk Isn't Dead

There was undoubtedly a lot going on this year, but that doesn't mean the Sporty Spices of the world didn't still indulge in their pastimes of choice. The OkCupid data found that the most talked about sporting event of both this year and last year was the Super Bowl, though the Cubs' 2016 World Series win definitely got people talking.


Having HBO Go Was Clutch This Year

If you're the kind of person who still uses their ex-boyfriend's sister's Netflix password, it might be time to bite the bullet and enter full-blown adulthood by snagging your own streaming subscriptions. OkCupid users were all about HBO Go this year, thanks to hit shows like Westworld and The Night Of, so it might be a good idea to fork over the cash — it might put you ahead of the curve when it comes to striking up a convo online.


Pop Culture Reigns Supreme

At the end of the day, one of the easiest (and safest) conversation topics to start with is trending entertainment. No one can fault you for raving about Zootopia or Stranger Things, so if you're nervous about how to approach a potential match, just relax and talk about the TVs and movies you know and love. According to OkCupid, the best move is to "stay current in your flirting," because you'll have a better chance of connecting with a match than if you're pop-culturally out of touch.

"OkCupid knows you're more substance than selfie, and our data proves that the best connections are made over deeper things — like interests — that make you who you really are and show off your individuality," Reynolds says. So that's the good news: As you enter 2017, you don't need to make resolutions to change yourself to find an awesome partner — just be yourself.