Adventures in Online Dating, Articles

The 5 Kinds of Messages in Online Dating

I am fascinated with online dating. It appeals to the anthropologist in me on so many levels, few of which have to do with finding a potential partner. Would that be a welcome side effect? Sure! Until then, get ready to learn the fruits of my analysis.

1. “Hey, gorgeous ;)”

It’s nothing without that wink. There are variants on this that don’t have the wink, and variants that swap out “gorgeous” for “beautiful.” Other variants on this are the “You are stunning” approach, the only response to which is basically to say “Thanks?”

This one was my favorite so far – apparently, I’m exquisite?

Does this work?

Maybe for some people? To be honest, I find it a little weird to have a stranger start referring to me by an adjective related to my physical attractiveness. Like, would you initiate a conversation with a super smart and accomplished woman by saying “Hey, smarty-pants ;)”?

Yes you would? Okay, don’t message me.


“Hey, how’s it going? I really like your [hair/eyes/smile] in your profile picture. How’s your day been so far?”

Or something like that. It’s fine and normal to compliment attributes, but reducing a whole person to a complimentary adjective is a little reductive and weird. People got more going on for them, even the hot ones.

2. The SAT Question

I kid you not. Maybe this one is just me, but I get it a lot. Maybe because I live in Ann Arbor and the university produces many very attractive grad students who aren’t really great at talking to women. It also could be that I indicate an aversion to meandering small-talk in my profile, so some guys overcompensate.

thought intensive online dating opening question
To his credit, this guy took my answer really, really well

That said, I’ve also had guys start off by asking me questions related to geopolitics. This is a bold move and it pays off – I love talking about geopolitics.

Does this work?

It can, if done well. Honestly – know your audience. For every attractive person doing online dating, you can be damned sure they’ve had to sit through so much meandering small talk and done it all before.

But just remember, the goal isn’t to show you’re smarter than them, and a question that’s too hard or takes too long to answer will remain unanswered.

Try to ask a question based on their interests as stated in their profile that requires more than a “yes/no” or “good, how are you?”

Here’s an example of one, based on my stated interest in playing video games,

From there, we got into a discussion of our favorite games and what level of meanness we’re comfortable subjecting NPC’s to. A fun time was had by all.

3. The Elevator Pitch

You know that thing that they tell you to develop for job interviews? The little 2-minute mantra you’re supposed to rehearse to tell the people all about yourself? Yes, people do use that for their online dating intro. And I don’t just mean in their profiles…

Does this work?

It can be charming, but I’ve always had a soft spot for your classic nerdy guys. It certainly does give a lot of talking points up front. I’ve had guys feel the need to assure me that they have a house, a car, a job, and upward mobility. That said, it does feel a little weirdly like you’re reading an Amazon product review.

Here’s an example of one. The context is that I asked him what sort of stuff he does for fun, since his profile gave no details. It’s the overabundance of details that makes it very much so the elevator pitch:


Being detailed and chatty is the name of the game, but sometimes it’s too many details and not enough chatty. Before you hit send, read through the message. If you would say it in a job interview, you need to rewrite it.

Read their profile, see their interests. Tailor your post to include details that mention your common interests or things you think the other person would specifically find interestingĀ because of stuff they mention on their profile. Then omit most of the other stuff. Focus on the places where you connect. Don’t just throw your net out and hope something sticks.

cat with a stern no face
“No” Cat disapproves of this mixed metaphor

4. The Negging Guy

What is negging? Funny you should ask. Wikipedia defines negging as

an act of emotional manipulation whereby a person makes a deliberate backhanded compliment or otherwise flirtatious remark to another person to undermine their confidence and increase their need of the manipulator’s approval.

Honestly, I have so much fun with guys who neg. Mainly because I’m aware of it and how it works, as well as the deep seated insecurity of the men who typically use it, so I can pick them apart bit by bit.

Is that mean of me? Yes. But negging is emotional abuse that some people actually fall for, ending up in emotionally abusive situations, and so needs to be vehemently stamped out wherever it is found.

Because it’sĀ not okay.


Don’t be a dick.

5. The Genuine

Maybe the sub-header is a giveaway that this is the one that works. Good, because that’s exactly what I wanted it to convey. The Genuine takes a chatty tone and comes across as, well, genuine.

Usually asking an easy, broad question helps. My go-to is a friendly “Hello! How has your day been so far?” This lets them set the tone that they want to take, and they can answer the question or breeze past it and say something completely different. But it breaks the ice, sets a warm, friendly tone, and it’s not a hard question to answer (see point #2).

Here’s one I got recently that ticks all the boxes,

What does it do right?

  1. It’s warm and conversational
  2. Opens with a non-creepy compliment (“I dig your profile!”) with bonus colloquialism
  3. Connects his interests to my interests
  4. States a rhetorical question that he knows I’ll agree with – getting someone to feel like you agree with them/they agree with you is a great way to create a first impression of someone liking you
  5. He concludes by asking me to tell him more about something I’ve stated a passion for (a passion he shares, therefore increasing the feeling of connection)

And there you have it!

5 different types of opening messages — some good, some bad, some ugly — and what does or doesn’t work about them.

Are there more than these five? God, I hope so!

But these are the 5 I’ve encountered. If there are any that I’ve missed that just need to be mentioned, please tell me about it in the comments. I’ll probably do a list like this again!

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