Let’s get one thing out of the way: The best approach to starting a conversation on a dating app isn’t “hey” or “hi” or any derivation thereof, unless you’re actively trying to get ignored. In which case, by all means go for it. I can almost promise you’ll end up in the hey stack of rejected matches.
In truth, “hey” might be a perfectly acceptable way to start a conversation with a friend or colleague. You start at “hey” and end up debriefing on. But here’s the deal: You’re not approaching someone you have a preexisting relationship with. You’re talking to a stranger on the internet who, in all likelihood, is trying to place a bet on which strangers from the internet they should talk to while fighting off the creeping numbness that comes along with flipping through 3 bazillion dating profiles. At best, “hey” is uninteresting; at worst, it’s rage-inducing.
“Hey” just isn’t going to cut it. This is partly because, as is the case with your photos, your bio and other profile elements, you’re making a pitch about yourself to the person you’re trying to talk to. What’s more, you’ve got a limited window to make that pitch before someone decides if they want to spend their time on you. “Hey” doesn’t communicate seriousness, effort or promise that there will be decent conversation to come.
In sum, “hey” is the worst thing since stepping on a wet spot on your kitchen floor while wearing socks. Don’t do it. Just. Don’t Do. It.
So, what do you say?
There’s no science here, folks. But the opposite of a soul-suckingly generic greeting is actually taking the time to look at a person’s profile. Try asking them a question about something they’ve mentioned. Do they like to cook? Ask them what dish is their favorite to make. Into live music? Ask what bands are on their bucket list. Big Star Wars fan? Ask them why.
You’re just trying to break the ice and veer into a more natural chat about whatever is actually interesting to you both. The first contact is a small hurdle to clear to get you toward either figuring out if the other person has the personality of a wet mop or if you’d like to meet up in person.
Granted, you can scour the internet for cheeky opening questions like whether(it does and I will fight you) or send along a GIF of a waving panda. Yes, you can do that. It might work. I would argue, though, that’s a bit of an assembly line approach to trying to start a conversation.
Keep in mind that when it comes to online dating, it’s easy to feel like you’re on some kind of nightmarish, overcrowded merry-go-round. Just think — wouldn’t it be nice to get a message from someone who seemed like they were specifically interested in you?
CNET’s Love Syncs is a recurring advice column focusing on online dating. If you’ve got a question about finding love via app, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org for consideration.