When I think back to dating in high school, I don't really remember what I talked about with the guys I liked. Driver's ed? This weird new thing called Twitter? I don't remember. The one element that remains crystal clear in my memory is waiting several long, torturous, panicky minutes to text my crush back so I didn't look too interested, because I figured that looking eager would be the kiss of death. So, not sure how long you should wait to respond to a message on a dating app? You're not alone.
It wasn't until I met my first serious boyfriend in college that I realized I could drop my calculated texting strategy. It finally sunk in that he actually wanted to hear what I had to say, and the sooner I could write back, the better.
The truth is that if a person wants to hear what you have to say, they won't think you're a loser for saying it sooner rather than later.
But you're like, Hannah, if you text back right away, they lose interest. And hey, maybe that's true sometimes. But the people who are really interested in you for you — not whatever constructed version of you that you present through texting games — are going to stick around no matter what.
The Perfect Solution: Wait Five Minutes
When you get a first message from someone new, is it better to jump into a conversation or pretend to look chill, like you did not specifically turn on push notifications for Tinder and turn up the volume on your phone just in case you're in the other room when they write to you?
I asked Meredith Golden, a dating expert who actually takes over her clients' dating apps and messages for them up until the first date (yes, she lands dates — she knows what she's talking about).
"Being an eager beaver tends to backfire, as does waiting too long," she says. "It's definitely more of a balancing act. If you write back within five minutes of receiving the message, it may appear as though you've got nothing going on even though you’re probably really busy! Having a full life is attractive and it's important that this perception is conveyed."
Even if you're swiping through Tinder during Scandal's commercial breaks while you're home alone in your PJs, your match doesn't necessarily know that. For all they know, you could be trying out that new tapas place with your best friends, or even on a date with some other suitor. That five-minute buffer time gives you just a hint of mystery.
If you can't write back in five minutes, don't worry. "Responding within 24 hours will keep things moving," Golden says. But don't let that message sit in your inbox forever. "Waiting a week, probably not!"
Don't Let Banter Go On Forever
So you're chatting now! Mazel tov!
It might sound counter-intuitive, but if you want them to message you again, you shouldn't be too available. Golden recommends cutting off the conversation at the five-minute mark. She has a sample script you can follow: "Great chatting with you. I have to run to a meeting, but I'll respond later."
Why does that work? "They should get a taste of your personality and be intrigued enough to ask you to meet," Golden says. "When you're too accessible, the incentive to meet fades."
The busier someone thinks you are, the more they successful they feel when they finally get a sliver of your time.
Later, after your "meeting" (or your real meeting — I'm sure you actually have sh*t to do), you can write back.
Don't Read Too Much Into Their Response Times
Oh, look, they wrote back to you in 30 seconds. Maybe they're ready to elope, or maybe they just saw your message and felt like writing back!
Or wait, now they took six hours to get back to you. Maybe they secretly hate you, or maybe they didn't see the notification pop up on their phone!
There are so many elements that can affect a person's response time, so there's no reason to analyze what it could possibly mean.
"How often someone responds can depend on what else they have going on in their life, but if they used to be readily available and now are suddenly too busy to respond, that could spell trouble," Golden says. "The dating game changes, as do expectations and timing, once you meet in real life."
When in doubt, keep the five-minute rule in mind: Wait five minutes to write back, then don't chat for more than five minutes. Or, honestly, do whatever feels most natural to you — with the right person, none of these "rules" really matter.
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