In many ways dating apps streamline so much about dating – you can select and filter who you want to see, it provides an opportunity for you to clarify for yourself and others what you’re looking for, and in an ideal world people can clarify before you even meet them whether they’re a top/bottom/someone who thinks mint and chocolate taste good together and therefore unfortunately not a viable option for you. However, there are some things dating apps cannot change – for instance, you are still going to need to speak to the other person if you wish to eventually have sex with them. It’s a hard knock life, etc.
Maybe the best way to psyche yourself up for this is through baby steps: “all you have to do is say hi!” This is true, and if that is what it takes for you to get yourself to message someone, you should absolutely do it! However, the truth is “hi” (or its variants, “hey” and a contextless gif) is kind of a tough sell; it doesn’t give the other person a lot to work with, and really kind of just moves the ball as far as initiating an actual conversation into the other person’s court. Much like how a bio should be written with the goal of giving a hottie something to react to, a first message should be easy to reply to and easy to move the conversation forward from! ” I ask of you.
Widely beloved first-messager and Autostraddle writer Molly told me her tried and true combo is “Hello + introduce yourself + compliment + ask a question,” noting that it projects self-confidence and also makes your interest in the other person clear, which are great goals for a first message. “Be specific with the compliment,” she told me, “make it something about their outfit or bio or haircut to show you’re paying attention. Finally, ask them a question about themselves; again, I like to be specific to the bio or photos, because it shows you’re not just spamming a bunch of babes with a copy/paste.”
This is excellent advice and I would urge you to follow it! Largely, though, in the same vein, let’s think about the goal of a first message: to start a conversation, and get the other person to respond; once you’re both present and accounted for, you can start seeing if anything actually even goes anywhere. With that established, here are five ways you can try sending the first message that show you’re actually trying.
What are you reading/watching/listening to?
Almost everyone on earth is doing one of these things every day! It’s telling about them as a person without being too personal to reveal, shows interest in them, and will also be good for you to get a sense of whether what they’re into seems weird or dumb to you. Best of all, this question has many natural followup questions that can lead into a full conversation – oh I haven’t heard of that band, how did you get into them? I love that author! Have you read this other title by them?
Ask for a rec
People love to feel knowledgeable and like their taste is admired and respected; it also creates a sense of trust to have helped you with something, and for you to have admitted early on that they know more about something than you. They mention they like horror movies? Ask them what you should start with! They like to read? Ask what book you should bring on your long flight next week! Obviously there are limits to this, determined by the difficulty involved on their end – if they are gonna have to do two hours of research to tell you what kind of seed you’ll need to attract Northwestern Warblers in your backyard, that is probably not flirty and fun. But a question that asks them to tell you about something they like and care about and indicates you’ll take it seriously and check it out? Hot!