Everyone says the best way to find love is to “be yourself,” but it’s hard to show a guy who you really are when you communicate almost exclusively via text, whether on your phone or on a dating app.
“Got Pics?” is not exactly the most romantic question after all but it is the reality in the age of Internet dating. Without body language to show what you mean with your words, or inflection of voice, how do you communicate what you actually mean by what you say (or in this situation, text)?
You may have little phrases and tricks you think are cute, but be warned: Every text message runs the risk of being misinterpreted, offensive, or, even more likely, just plain boring.
Here are ten tips to showing off best self without sending any photos, when you want to use your brain instead of your brawn…
Stop messaging this as a greeting to anyone you like. “Hey” means nothing. This is an initial greeting to send to a stranger on a dating app, as a gauge to test initial interest, like you are saying, “Hey, I like your photo, do you like mine?” Once you get past that, “Hey” is over. Texting him “Hey” day after day is your way of trying to get him to pay attention to you, probably because you are bored and you don’t have much to say, so you want someone to entertain you for a few minutes. And more importantly, it is very possible you are texting “Hey” to multiple guys, to see who will respond first. “Hey,” “Wassup,” “How are you” exchanges may be fun for you, but it is really just self-indulgent, and on his end it can be very tiresome. Put a little energy into it. If you want to send him a message, have a reason to do so.
It seems these days guys use the word “nice” as a reply for everything. He has the day off; you respond, “Nice”… He is watching Netflix; you respond, “Nice”…He is sitting on his couch in his underwear; you respond, “Nice”… Never mind the fact that his underwear is covered in Cheetos dust and he been watching TV for 7 hours. Texting him “Nice” just means, “You wrote a sentence and I have nothing to say in response, so I will send ‘Nice’ as a way to volley the conversation back to you so you have to text me again.” And then you wait, Mr. Passive-Aggressive, you wait for him to text you, because you texted “Nice,” and it’s his turn. Not nice.
We humans like to talk about ourselves–researchers at Harvard University proved humans bond with each other when we share personal information. Asking him questions about himself will make him feel good. It shows you are a courteous and curious adult, qualities everyone wants in a date. But please, be interested in the answers. Asking question after question after question feels like a script, like it doesn’t matter how he answers. Asking too many questions is an easy way to fill up time. When he gives an answer, stay on that topic for a little while, and perhaps share something about yourself that is similar. Picture Nomi Malone and Cristal Connors in Showgirls, eating lunch at The Forum, when they shared a bottle of champagne and Nomi asked Cristal if she’s eaten dog food. Cristal said, “I used to love Doggie Chow,” and Nomi giggled and said “I used to love Doggie Chow too!” And suddenly, they couldn’t keep their hands off of each other. Although then Nomi kicked Cristal down a flight of stairs, so that’s not the best example. (Look at that, it is possible to reference Harvard and Showgirls in the same paragraph in an article about dating.)
4. One letter/number/character responses
Writing “K” for “OK” or “U” for “You” is a form of baby-talk. Ditto, Emojis. Although some people think it is cute, others think it is condescending. “Y” is not “Why.” “2” is not “To.” “STR8” is not “Straight,” and nothing is gayer than saying you are “STR8,” so stop it. Every phone now has an autocomplete function, so there is no reason to not have the time (or patience) to send semi-legitimate sentences with actual words in them. Remember, these end up on the mobile device of the guy you are trying to impress. (Also, baby talk is lame.)
5. Group texts
If you want him to feel like he matters, never include him a group text. Send him a separate message, to make sure he gets it and responds. And while we are on this subject, no one should ever, ever respond to a group text. Group texts are for telling multiple people what time to show up to a party, or the address of the party, or what booze to bring to the party. They are not for responding, because then everyone gets every text sent by everyone, and seriously some people have more important things to do than read a text from the sad lady you work with who can’t come to the party because she has to take her cat to the vet. No one cares! Are you in an already-established group text? Fine. Enjoy your bratty clique, because that’s what it is, and keep it to yourself. Unless you somehow figure out a way to join the Tina Fey-Amy Poehler-Maya Rudolph=Rachel Dratch-Ana Gasteyer group text, which would be amazing. That’s allowed.
6. No punctuation
Run on sentences are confusing to read it is hard to know where one thought ends and the next begins with no commas this is how creepy guys wrote personals ads in the 90’s
7. Too much punctuation
Do people say you are rude in your texts? Try leaving off the end punctuation of each sentence. A team of researchers somewhere in New York proved texters who end single-sentence text messages with periods seem uptight and “less sincere.” Try an experiment: respond with “No” and to another message with “No.” There is a big difference.
He knows you’re not laughing. Don’t lie. Type LOL only when actually, physically, joyously laughing. And for the love of all that is holy, be a man and just say what you want to say without LOL just in case you need to avoid rejection. “I’m horny lol want to play lol” is the least sexually desirable statement in the history of the English language. Don’t be such a wimp.
Facebook and some other messenger apps will time-stamp when a message is read. It is supposed to be a helpful service to the sender. But I received this note from a friend: “I HATE that I can see that you’ve read a message and haven’t responded. My anxiety can’t handle it and I automatically assume you are pissed/offended/annoyed and you are ignoring me. It’s really an unnecessary addition to the whole texting process. I’d rather not know if you had read it.” Okay, lesson learned.
10. Texting is legitimate conversation
Quick texts throughout the day are fun and build bonds between the two of you, because you are thinking of each other while you’re apart. Tell him something funny you saw on your way to work, tell him you’re mad because someone stole your lunch from the employee refrigerator, and then put your phone in your pocket and continue on with your life. But if you are having an actual conversation, he is paying attention to his phone, waiting for a response. If you have to depart for 15 minutes, “brb”–we’ll let this single-letter response slide–lets him know he can relax for a few minutes. Don’t disappear and make him wait. And if you are having an argument, there is nothing more immature than texting a nasty message, but when he responds, you disappear.