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It’s true—Cassanova didn’t have to swipe right to find his temporary bae, and Cleopatra definitely didn’t have to know how to start a conversation on Tinder to make Julius Caesar fall in love with her.
The dating standard has completely shifted over the past 100 years—from arranged marriages to formal courting to starting a conversation with “DTF?” on dating apps. But the way to win someone over is still the same. First impressions are everything.
The way you message someone on Tinder is equal to walking up to them in real life and saying, “Hey, I’m into you,” sans nervous eye contact. So perhaps the most nerve-wracking dilemma specific to online dating is the question of who should message first. Luckily, the world of online dating is more progressive than what you probably learned from your parents. Toss out that dusty, hand-me-down copy of The Rules, because it doesn’t matter who says what first. Just say something!
Here are the steps you should take before sending that risky first Tinder pickup line.
The best Tinder conversation starters
1) Take a look at their profile
The first step on any dating app should be to scout a person’s profile. A profile can tell you a lot about someone—like whether they have a booming social life or if they hunt animals in their spare time.
If you didn’t already stalk their entire profile before matching, take a look and see if you can find a commonality. Tinder gives users the option to display their taste in music with Spotify and link to their Instagram account, so there’s plenty of surface level material you can mine from when it comes time to chat.
Don’t like what you see? Just swipe left or unmatch. It’s no big deal.
2) Send a message later in the day
Do you check your Tinder at 9am on a workday? Well, considering you’re at work or just walking through the door, probably not.
According to a 2016 trend report by Nielson, the peak time users are swiping on Tinder is at night anywhere from 8pm to 10pm. Messaging your match at night increases the chance you’ll get a reply versus sending a “good morning” message at the crack of dawn.
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3) Think of a clever line
Pick-up lines get a bad rap. Most are offensive and the majority of those that do land well don’t get any kind of meaningful follow-up. However, if you think you have what it takes to make your match laugh, don’t hold back.
Sending a humorous pick-up line instead of a simple “Hi” will not only make you stand out, but it’s a great way to see if your match shares your same sense of humor. Just be prepared. Not everybody can handle a good pick-up line, and you may be left in the dust without even a pity laugh.
4) Use a few GIFs
Sending GIFs or memes to your match adds more to a conversation than a few emoji ever can. If you want to send a GIF, just press the “GIF” button and use keywords to search and find the perfect one to convey what you’re feeling.
If you’ve matched the right person you could keep a whole conversation going with GIFs, which is more exciting than a boring paragraph of text. Just beware that sometimes your match may not catch the reference, or worse—get bored. Be sure to use GIFs effectively and not just as a substitute for actual getting-to-know-you conversation.
5) Envoke emotion
If you’re the type of person who wants to get down to the stuff that matters and figure out if your match is right for you, ask questions that really make them think. Playing 20 questions and seeing how someone views certain situations creates a base of understanding. Plus, it’s a good way to gauge someone’s sense of humor and playfulness.
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6) Find common ground
You could also just skip the introductory conversation and chat as if you’ve known each other for a while. Keeping a casual (but still clearly interested) demeanor will help ease any nerves floating in the virtual ether. In any conversation, the goal is to find a common thread to keep information flowing. A great place to start is by asking about something you really care about to see if your match feels the same way. Odds are, if they do, they’ll reciprocate with the same kind of questions for you.
Editor’s note: This article is regularly updated for relevance.
Kristen Hubby is a tech and lifestyle reporter. Her writing focuses on sex, pop culture, streaming entertainment, and social media, with an emphasis on major platforms like Snapchat, YouTube, and Spotify. Her work has also appeared in Austin Monthly and the Austin American-Statesman, where she covered local news and the dining scene in Austin, Texas.