Over the past couple of decades, online dating has undoubtedly become increasingly popular. It used to be associated with "weirdos" or seen as a social failure to need to turn to a website in order to find love. But now, it's practically everywhere and used by practically everyone. Even those not actively using it still have Tinder or Bumble lurking somewhere on their phone. And it's now a totally normalized and (mostly) respected way to go on dates.

This reliance on online dating has vastly increased in the past year of being stuck at home. Not surprisingly, online dating usage has gone up during the pandemic—and this trend is likely to only solidify app-based dating for the future. So, like it or not, online dating is here to stay—and if we're going to participate in it, we'd better figure out how to do it skillfully.

The Art of Online Dating

Woman using dating app and swiping user photos

There's no way around it: Finding dates in real life and finding dates through online dating are two different things—and two completely different skillsets. With in-person courting, you can make eyes across the room, buy someone a drink, initiate (respectful, consensual) physical touch, interpret and communicate through body language, and flirt away. These cues—and more—allow three-dimensional development of interest.

When you're on an app, all you've got are your words—and typed words, for that matter. So knowing how to navigate written conversation is the most important component of becoming an online dating master.

Conversation Starter Dos and Don'ts

woman holding black smartphone

Conversation starters can literally kill—or ignite—a connection before it's even really begun. We've all been told at some point in our lives how important first impressions are, and online dating is no exception.

For starters, never open with anything rude, disrespectful, or overly suggestive. Some folks may be open to teasing or to sexual come-ons, but you really can't know that right off the bat, so it's best to play it safe and just be friendly.

A less catastrophic but still not ideal mistake is that lone "Hi" or "Hey" as an opener. Best to give the person on the other end a lil' something to work with. Many a time, I've not responded to someone who has a one-word conversation starter (or non-starter, rather)—and I'm sure I'm not alone.

In terms of "Dos" for conversation starters, here are a few:

  • Be friendly and genuine.
  • Ask questions.
  • Comment on something from their profile.
  • Find something to connect over.

The Ins and Outs of Questions

Online dating and social networking, virtual relationships concept .Male and female chatting on the Internet. Vector 3d isometric illustration.

Let's face it: We're not all great at asking questions. Some seem to forget that it's a conversation—not a monologue. Sometimes questions can be mind-numbingly dull—or, on the opposite end of the spectrum, way too personal or intrusive.

Everybody has slightly different boundaries and expectations when it comes to online conversations, but here are a few good ground rules to stick to:

Ground Rule #1: Ask Questions

Sounds simple, but it still needs repeating: Always ask questions. First off, it's just decent human conversation 101, and it'll also help you find out more about the person on the other end. Get curious and ask away.

Ground Rule #2: Be Genuine

It's generally easy to tell when someone is robotically asking questions versus genuinely trying to find out more about you. Be the latter. If you're not actually, authentically curious, why talk at all?

Ground Rule #3: Let Them Talk About Their Favorite Subject

For a lot of people, their favorite subject to discuss is themselves. So, be inquisitive about your potential date's hobbies, work, passions, family, pets, talents, etc. Chances are, they'll be more likely to want to build the connection if they feel encouraged to share who they are.

Good Questions to Ask Your Matches

Photo of pretty ethnic woman ponders on how to answer question, thinks deeply about something, uses modern mobile phone, tries to made up good message, keeps index finger near lips, stands indoor

Still not quite sure how to proceed with matches? Here are some examples of conversation-starting questions to ask those online strangers:

  • What kinds of things make you laugh?
  • What's your greatest passion?
  • Do you have any pets?
  • What have you been reading/watching/listening to lately?
  • What's your dream vacation?
  • Are you close to your family?
  • What does your ideal weekend day look like?
  • What's your favorite part of your job? Least favorite part?
  • What's on your bucket list?

All-Star Conversation Starters

that's a good question retro speech balloon

While most people fall onto the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad-to-decent side of the online dating talent spectrum, there are a few folks out there who are just naturally good at it. Here are some great, real-life lines that make us swoon:

"You mention that you love cooking. What celebrity chef is your spirit animal?"

"Hey [name of match], better after-work adventure: yoga class, Netflix binge, or aggressive happy hour-ing?"

"Corny pick-up line, gif, or being asked out?" (As options for which opening line you'd prefer!)

Become an Online Dating Pro

women holding hands

Though online dating is remarkably different from "real-life" dating in many ways, a whole lot of the basics hold true. Be kind. Be genuine. Be friendly. Be respectful. Be curious.

Too often, Tinder and Bumble and Hinge (and all the rest) become way too fake and contrived. Do your best to be your authentic human self, and that alone will go a long way.

Using these basic principles will help you decrease incidences of ghosting, awkwardness, or just plain boring chats. Though, knowing online dating, we may never be able to avoid those things altogether. But we sure as hell can try.

So, get swiping!

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