How to Get Talked to
September 14, 2010 8:58 AM   Subscribe

How do I make it easier for others to initiate a conversation with me in the context of online dating?

I'm a straight mid-20's male on OKCupid if it matters.

I've noticed, browsing profiles, that even if I find a girl interesting and attractive if there's no "opening" for me to talk about something in a message other than "Hey, you're cool wanna go out?" then I won't send anything. If this is an actual phenomenon then I'm sure my profile suffers from it too since it's in no way strategically crafted. The trouble is, I can't really put my finger on what creates that opening.

So, how do I provide that opening in my own profile? Or is my picture of how all this works wildly inaccurate?
posted by cmoj to Human Relations (12 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
You say you find her "interesting"? Is that based on something in her profile or is this a physical "interesting"? Because if it's something she wrote, then that is your opening. You can aso comment on some aspect of her picture. If there's a quirk or something there. Be proactive.

You may also want to read the articles the OKCupid people keep publishing on their blog for a look at what kinds of pictures work, what kinds of messages, and so on.
posted by cmgonzalez at 9:06 AM on September 14, 2010

What do you view as an "opening"? When I was doing the online dating thing, it struck me that there was always an opening. She says she likes photography, ask her if she saw the traveling Avedon exhibit. If she's a reader, ask her if she's read the new Franzen. Did she see XYZ the last time they played at the Rialto--it was amaaaazing. And so on and so forth.

I've got a few years on you, but I always had good successes with the women I was interested in by striking up conversations about what their profiles actually said. And if their profiles had nothing I wanted to talk about, I took that as a pretty good indicator that I wouldn't want to get to know them romantically.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 9:09 AM on September 14, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: First of all, as a male this is close to being a non-issue for you, because the way that it generally works on OK Cupid and similar sites men are expected to message women first rather than the other way around. There are exceptions to this rule (my current girlfriend messaged me first on OK Cupid) but you should probably focus more on sending good first messages and having a profile that expresses who you are than having a profile that is conducive for getting first messages.

In my experience of messaging women, the things that make it easy to send a message are generally pretty obvious. One is just more content in the profile in general, because the more content the more likely it is that I can find something to bring up. Another is not filling out vague non-answers to the questions, so "I like Band Y and Band Z" is better than "I like all music except rap and country" because I might also like Band Z and could ask them a question about it.

Also as far as the content in my profile that ended up being mentioned in messages that were sent to me, I think the most common things mentioned were silly jokes that I added on a whim, to the point where I sometimes had to re-read my profile to figure out what they were talking about. For example in the "You should message me if..." section I had a "Take your age, divide it by 2, add 12" type calculation that always resulted in 5, and said you should message me if you get 5, and a large percentage of the messages mentioned that. Or that I put my answer to "The most private thing I am willing to admit..." in rot13 or silly stuff like that. If I mostly answered a question normally and added a joke answer at the end of the paragraph, the joke answer part ended up getting referenced in a first message a lot more than the straight answers. Which is not to say that having a lot of jokes made my profile more appealing in general, that's just what tended to be brought up in the first message.
posted by burnmp3s at 9:24 AM on September 14, 2010

I have done online dating and I've generally had success with random, stupid questions. I love getting them; way better than "So, what do you do for fun?". That's just my sense of humor, so YMMV, but just ask some non-sequitur question if the profiles offer no specifics. "What's your favorite thing about airports? I like that pic of you at LAX!" "Do you know what band Paul McCartney was in before Wings?" &c.
posted by ShadePlant at 9:26 AM on September 14, 2010

As a female OKCupid user, I'd say commenting/asking about something specific in her profile is a good start. Did she mention a specific band she likes? Has she seen the latest episode of that TV show she likes? (Or at this point in the year, is she excited for the season premier)

That, and proper capitalization.
posted by maryr at 9:36 AM on September 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I found that when I included an "opening" in my profile, the responses went up a lot. I mentioned something vague about myself and asked folks to guess the exact answer (i.e. I'm missing an organ, guess which one).

I think this helps a lot. I know I've looked at profiles where I've tried to start a conversation and everything I attempted felt awkward and forced. The opening made me feel invited to respond.
posted by gyroscope at 9:49 AM on September 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm on OKCupid too, and I think you have the right instinct thinking "Hey ur cool" never works. That's because every girl on there gets about a million of those a day. I never bother responding to vague unspecific messages, because to me it means the guy is poking everyone until something sticks. I don't think you need a really clever opening line, but you should at least be able to articulate why THAT profile, specifically, piqued your interest.

So it follows that there should be something that stands out, something for people to grab onto when they write to you. I usually skip over the lists of books and such when reading a profile, since everyone seems to be listing the same shit, and go straight to the "You should message me if..." That seems to me like the perfect place for setting yourself apart, and everybody wastes it with obvious crap like "You want to make a new friend!" Mine says "You can spell", which provides 1) a handy filter for 90%+ of incoming messages 2) a challenge to the rest, and 3) a beacon for fellow grammar lovers.
posted by Freyja at 9:49 AM on September 14, 2010

How to be a better improviser, besides getting you started with improv comedy, is a great guide for social interactions in general.

Accept and expand. Keep the momentum going. "Yes, but ..." is the same as no --- it's a form of denial or obstruction and you lose momentum.

Rhyme (metaphorically). That is, find a way to echo or reference things that have already occurred, in a clever way.

If the other person responds monosyllabically, it's a pretty good indication they don't want the interaction to continue. Cut bait and move on.
posted by Araucaria at 12:11 PM on September 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You're right, you need to put in openings. Looking back in your MeFi history, I suggest you mention:

Racing in a zentai suit
Designing custom temporary tattoos
Stuff you eat which change the way you smell (in a good way only, please)
Making your own cheese
Doing a maypole dance in elementary school in around 1995 in Fort Worth, Texas

See? You sound interesting already!
posted by Eshkol at 1:11 PM on September 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Here's what to do. Go log out then go back to the site and instead of looking for women go look for *men* (who are similar to you in age etc). Look for what it intrigues and interests you but most of all look for what doesn't, look for the clichés. Then go do the opposite.

When I was online dating I got a lot of contact from women (probably the majority of dates resulted from women taking the initiative including my now wife who was pointed at my profile by a friend). There was a pattern that emerged. Women would complain about a constant stream of messages form men who obviously paid no attention to what they had written in their profiles and just spammed everyone regardless. Then they would say something like I looked at your profile and you came across as different from that.

I have talked to my wife about what exactly that was (apart from being her type) and apparently it was that I came across as someone who was being honest about himself. It's often said that women are attracted to self confidence, it's not so often said what that means. Well if you are capable of being honest about who you are, and like and accept that, faults included, that's it right there as far as I can tell. You don't have to be a muscle bound Adonis to have this, you can be a regular guy (or even a clueless geek like me) just as well. Nobody is perfect, but admitting it, and being happy with it: hot.

The thing is with online dating is that there seem to be a lot of men who have either inflated expectations of who they are willing to date (which bears no resemblance to the women out there) and/or fill their profile with stuff they think will impress people, or is what they want to hear, rather than anything that might actually tell you something about them. It's easy to tell when people are doing this, too, because that is when they resort to clichés. Your job it not to do these things.

So be specific. if you are filling out a list of favourite, don't put things to impress, put down a book you have read a write a short sentence that shows you have actually read it. Try to be open ended. When you write something ask yourself. Would this make me want to know more about this person? What is the question I would ask them if I were writing a message. If there is something you are passionate about? Show it, don't worry what other people will think about it, its the passion that counts.

It probably helped that I was older than you (mid to late 30's) but there is a really good example in that. Specifying that I was looking for women as well as younger than me (even if I was towards the top of the range) and following through on it: got me dates, by itself, and with some really interesting women.

Finally a little intrigue and mystery goes a long way. I never really used OKCupid for dating (I just like the quizzes, honest) and I deliberately chose the name of an obnoxious (and fairly obscure) literary character as a username. My profile is basically a photograph and a sentence that says points if you know who [username] really is. And yes, women message me to tell me that I am (to quote the blurb) a 'rage-driven cripple'. Go figure.
posted by tallus at 1:19 PM on September 14, 2010 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I was (am?) a girl in okc and while I generally only receive, I do send some messages. The guy I'm dating now is because I messaged him actually. I can't really tell you what WILL get me to message you because that is all about making a connection with something interesting you have to say but I can tell you a couple things that will actively make me NOT want to message you.

- Answering the most personal thing you're willing to admit question with "wouldn't you like to know?" or "you'll have to get to know me better." Either answer the question (and this is an awesome place to bring up something funny or endearing about you) or don't answer it. Trying to be coy is really just more annoying, especially since it seems like every other guy on okc is trying to be coy with that question. Thinking about it, this is where I saw the thing that caused me to message the guy I'm currently dating.

- What my roommate and I call "The Trifecta" (and I think this goes along with tallus' theory of trying to impress people). Go ahead an count how many guys favorites' lists include Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Radiohead, and Vonnegut. I guess don't be afraid to tell me that your favorite movie is something stupid, I'm more impressed with people doing that than people who have the same favorites list as everyone else.

- This should be obvious but I see it so often I think it has to be mentioned please please PLEASE don't finish the sentence You Should Message me If... with "you're hot." Even if you're "just being funny." We don't think this is funny.

Mostly I guess, fill your profile with things that make you unique. And have someone look over the pictures you've chosen. I dated a guy with 4 incredibly hot pictures and 1 that made him look like a fat slob but he didn't think it was a bad picture.

And ditto talus' note about giving us a bit of a challenge (like knowing his username) we like being able to show off that we get that totally obscure reference too!
posted by magnetsphere at 5:47 PM on September 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for the responses. All of them are useful, but I've best-answer'd the ones addressing the main question more specifically.

Also, funny story/highly specific caveat about the username advice. My username on OKC is meant as a Mitch Hedberg reference, but I subsequently found out that it's also a Scrubs and an Ed Wood reference, so I get way more, "Haha! Scrubs!" responses and messages than either of the other two. This is sort of awkward because I've only seen a couple of episodes of Scrubs and have no idea what the specific reference is, but I gather from wikipedia that the Scrubs joke is itself an Ed Wood reference.

I'm sure this gives away my username to some, but if you're actually motivated to figure out the spelling and formatting I used then whatever.
posted by cmoj at 8:33 AM on September 15, 2010

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