Going the distance: How to have a conversation on Tinder

Feb. 7, 2017, 7:27 a.m.

“It’s a Match! You and Michael have liked each other. Send a message or keep swiping?”

You were so impressed by his “New Girl” reference (“I’m not convinced that I know how to read, I’ve just memorized a bunch of words.”) that you really hope he messages you back … or maybe you should message him? Having a conversation on a dating app is pretty intimidating and difficult. But, with the following simple tips, it’s easy to have great Tinder conversations that will lead to something offline.

Here’s a truth: If your first message is somewhere along the lines of “Hey, what’s up?” and the other person responds with the same kind of generic greeting, nothing is going to happen. The conversation is dead, and that spark has withered into ash. These conversations are reminiscent of those first text conversations exchanged in middle school that you had when you were bored, and no one wants to remember their middle school days.

Going the distance: How to have a conversation on Tinder
A great conversation starter is to comment on a tidbit off of somebody’s bio on a dating app. (ARIANNA LOMBARD/The Stanford Daily)

Instead, try to initiate conversation by mentioning something in their bio. Whether it’s that you love their puppy, you’re confused about why they have a kangaroo in their pictures or you loved the joke they put in their bio, this is a good way to start exploring who they are before deciding whether to meet up in person. Try to get past likes and dislikes and eventually start talking about perspectives, experiences and ideas, because those are what really matter in a relationship.

Another good way to spark conversation is through humor, though this is a little tricky. Someone once messaged me telling me that my name reminded him of pregnant spiders. You read that right. I was just as confused as you are right now. This somehow ended up working in his favor for about 20 minutes, as I was extremely curious, but the exhaustion of his randomness eventually outweighed my curiosity.

Instead of going for the out-there random first message, try toning it down and staying relatively casual. Quick, witty one-liners are usually perfect, and funny GIFs can do magic. Don’t feel pressured to come up with a perfect opening joke though — if you have one, that’s great, but opening with a genuine message along the lines of “you seem like a cool person” is much better than a forced, barely-working joke.

Other things to avoid when starting a conversation on a dating app: Insults, sexting (unless you’re just trying to hook up, and in that case, why are you reading this?), double-texting (i.e. when someone sends a barrage of messages) and defensiveness. Some people think it’s a good idea to open a conversation with an insult, hoping to make you feel so insecure about yourself that you will crave their approval. These people are terrible, pathetic and toxic; don’t give them that power.

Other suitors go straight into trying to hook up, which is fine if that’s what you’re on the app for but will not really lead to a dating relationship. And finally, double-texts and defensiveness tend to go hand in hand and are pretty overwhelming. A recent match of mine sent me a funny pun while I was in class. When I didn’t respond right away, he sent me two messages, the first reading “Oh, come on,” the second reading “I think that deserved a little response.” He came off as needy and high-maintenance, and I honestly didn’t have the energy to pursue that conversation.

My final talking point (pun intended) is pretty important: when to ask the other person out. You do it too early, the other person is spooked. You do it too late, the moment has passed and the person has moved on to a different match. This is a really tricky thing to figure out, but what I would suggest is to not ask someone on a date in the first conversation. Remember that you two are essentially strangers, and it is pretty weird to agree to meet a stranger in a romantic situation after 15 minutes of messaging each other.

Do, however, try to pop that question within the first three to four days of conversation. This means if you guys have been talking to each other for a couple of days and these conversations have gone beyond that “hey what’s up?” zone, then you should be in the clear to ask that person for a date. If they’re still a little unsure, be patient; suggest something super casual and in a public setting. Also, keep in mind that it is Stanford, and we are hella busy people, so if someone says they’re busy for the next few days but they would still like to try sometime, be flexible and try to work with their schedule — it’s very attractive.

Now, get out there and send some messages!


Contact Arianna Lombard at ariannal ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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