The giddy sensation you feel when you match with someone cute on any dating app can quickly die down if they hit you with a straightforward, personality-less "hey" as an opening line. Sure, "hey" does the job of opening up the conversation, but it's not particularly interesting and doesn't really make someone want to reply. Finding fun, clever, witty, or even silly opening lines for OkCupid, Hinge, Bumble, or your preferred dating app of choice can seem a little tricky if you're lacking inspiration. (Um, yes, hi, me.) But don’t stress. In 2009, the OkCupid team conducted an experiment where they analyzed 500,000 first messages on their site, and found several factors that play a part in whether or not you get a reply from an OkCupid intro — and whether or not that could lead to a first date.
The experiment looked at keywords and phrases, how they impacted replies, and what conversation starters really made a difference. Based on what the experiment found, OkCupid co-founder Christian Rudder created a few suggestions (and blogged about them on the dating app) to consider applying to your own OkCupid intro. First, he suggested users spell out full words, and not use abbreviations. Second, he suggested trying to avoid physical compliments. Instead of "hey" or "hi," saying something like "How's it going?" — a question that requires an answer — has a higher chance of response. Rudder also suggested bringing up specific interests based on something you saw on your match's OkCupid profile.
Even earlier research from 2015 — published in an OkCupid data report from 2016 — supports starting a conversation with something other than “Hey.” Data scientists from OkCupid found sending "Hey" had an 84% chance of being ignored. After scanning more than 1 million conversations, the report also found data scientists that, across all sexual identities, 40-90 characters was the ideal length for a successful first message. That said, not adhering strictly to the 40-90 characters “rule” didn't offer much of a difference between "good" and “bad” conversation starters. Most tellingly, the report found short and sincere messages (i.e. something from their profile you liked or found interesting) were more likely to result in a good conversation.
Short and sweet messages do the trick, as does sending a question to be answered, but beyond that, what makes an OkCupid intro message worthy of a response? Do you send a punny first message? A thoughtful one? Is it better to be cheeky? Sexy? Is a lame first message actually kind of endearing to a stranger? Damona Hoffman, OkCupid Dating Coach and host of The Dates & Mates Podcast, says that even though she’s not a huge fan on pick-up lines IRL, “on a dating app they actually can be effective and might even make the recipient laugh, which can lead to a reply.” When in doubt, go for a laugh. And if you’re worried how that might land, Hoffman recommends you can “acknowledge the cheesiness of pick-up lines or the fact that you're sending it with a wink and a nod.”
Hoffman adds that according to internal OkCupid data, “30% of users said that asking a question is the best ice-breaker followed by a simple introduction, which is preferred by 27%.” So a cheesy opening line and a question are both icebreakers OkCupid users are clearly into. But if you’re still stumped on what to say, try these suggestions below.
- Titanic. That’s my icebreaker. What’s up?
- If you have a three-day weekend, where are you headed? The beach? The mountains? Bed?
- Let's skip the small talk, want to meet up for a drink?
- You’ve just won a free trip to anywhere in the world! The catch is you have to leave tomorrow. Where are you headed?
- Hi, I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.
- I still use my ex's Hulu log-in, and yes, I will gladly share it with you.
- This is my life story in four emojis: [insert emojis.] What's yours?
- Two truths and a lie, go.
- Name a theme song that adequately describes your life.
- If you could do anything around the city right now, what would it be? (Let them answer, then say, "Let's do it.")
- Hey. So, it’s not safe for us to talk here. Siri and Alexa are listening. We should meet up so they don’t record our conversation. What do you think?
- Serious question for you. Best discovery — avocados or Netflix?
- Before we get to know each other, I just need to put it out there that I will need you to kill all the spiders for me.
- Before we get to know each other, I just need to put it out there that I will kill all the spiders for you.
- Are you ready for some smooth math moves? OK, here we go. Are you an angle? Because you're so acute.
- Should we talk for a while or do you want to just cut to the part where I take you out on the best date of your life?
- It's karaoke night at your local bar, what song are you screaming the lyrics to when it's your turn to sing?
- Do you believe in love at first swipe, or should I un-match you and make you swipe again?
- If you were a vegetable, you’d be a cutecumber.
- I’d like to take you to the movies, but they don’t let you bring in your own snacks.
- I think there’s something wrong with my phone. Could you try calling it to see if it works?
- If you were a fruit, you’d be a fineapple.
- Want to play “Never Have I Ever?” You go first...
- What’s your sign?
- What are you doing this weekend?
- What’s one quality you think your best friend and romantic partner should both have?
- Tell me about the best first date you’ve ever been on.
- What’s your go-to hangover meal?
- Let’s play a game of This Or That. I’ll start: Dinner, or drinks?
- What’s the most important quality you look for in a partner?
Additional reporting by Kylie McConville
Damona Hoffman, OkCupid Dating Coach and Host of The Dates & Mates Podcast
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