While getting to know your matches on dating apps, it's inevitable that some of them may not turn out to be exactly what you're looking for. It's NBD, truthfully — after all, weeding out people you aren't compatible with is just a natural part of the process. It does, however, put you in a semi-awkward position. The question is, do you have to respond to a dating app message if you're not into your match anymore? Directly letting them know that you're ending the convo may feel too dramatic if you've only been casually chatting back and forth for a short period of time. On the other hand, simply leaving them on read may feel rude. If you're dealing with this dilemma, don't stress — I consulted three dating coaches for their take on how to handle it.
Maybe it's starting to become clear that you and your match don't have a ton in common, or that your values don't line up. Maybe you're simply realizing that you don't have a similar sense of humor or world view. Regardless of why you've decided you don't want to continue the exchange, experts say the way you approach this scenario depends on how long you've been corresponding with your match. If you've only had a few interactions, it may be acceptable to just let the conversation die out.
"If you hadn't advanced to video chatting and only sent a few random messages, it's fine to fade away, and your lack of response will probably go unnoticed," says Julie Spira, an online dating expert and creator of the advice site Dating in the Age of COVID-19. "You haven't invested much with this person."
Dating coach and dating app expert Meredith Golden agrees that it's fine to not respond, but only if you haven't met up IRL yet.
"It’s standard to not respond when a single is either no longer interested or life is too busy," she tells Elite Daily. "If User B got a message from User A, when they had never met, saying, 'I don’t think we are a match' this just makes User A look presumptuous that User B was interested. User A is most likely messaging with 10 other people. Silence is better in this scenario."
It should come as no surprise that experts strongly advise against ghosting if you and your match have already met, whether for an in-person or virtual date. For all you know, your date isn't feeling it anymore, either — and will appreciate your candidness. And if they were interested in you, it's still usually best to be direct about how your feelings have changed so you don't leave them wondering what went wrong.
Golden recommends texting your match something along the lines of, “It was great to meet you but unfortunately I don’t think we are a match. I wish you all the best!” This simple and considerate move frees up your match to move their energy and attention elsewhere.
Even if you haven't technically had a date yet, but you've been messaging back and forth a lot and starting to build a rapport, experts say you still may want to be real with your match about where you're at.
“I've you've had a consistent flow with someone, and they've become a regular part of your day, I recommend kindness over ghosting,” says Spira. “Let the person you've been chatting with know that you've enjoyed the conversation, but didn't think you had enough in common to develop a romantic relationship.”
Erika Ettin, an online dating coach and founder of the coaching service A Little Nudge, agrees that honesty is typically the best policy here, as just bailing on the convo could potentially be hurtful if your match was feeling a connection. She suggests saying something like, "Hey! While I've been enjoying our chat, I'm getting the sense that we're not a match after all, so I just wanted to wish you the best."
Here's the thing about apps. It can actually be kind of difficult to tell whether you're compatible with someone solely via messaging back and forth. That's why, if you're on the fence about someone, Golden highly advises giving your match a fair shot by hopping on a video chat before writing them off. According to Golden, a video date — even if it only lasts 15 to 20 minutes — can often serve as a better screening tool than DMs alone. You may get a stronger sense of your match's personality, and you'll likely get a more accurate gauge on your chemistry through body language and other visual cues.
The bottom line? There is no right or wrong way to handle this situation, and whether or not you choose to respond may depend on how much you feel you and your match have invested in the interaction. That said, if you're really struggling to figure out what to do, you may want to consider the Golden Rule. If your match wasn't interested in continuing the conversation, would you rather they tell you that outright or just silently bow out? Putting yourself in their shoes might help guide you toward an approach that you can feel good about.
Julie Spira, an online dating expert
Erika Ettin, online dating coach
Meredith Golden, dating coach and dating app expert