“Hello there…You look outgoing and interesting. Not like a specimen but in a good way…ughh never mind. Hi. Hope you have a great week and find interest in looking me up sometime. Peace out!”

This, my friends, is online dating. It’s wild, it’s (sometimes) wonderful, and it is definitely not for the faint of heart.

I’ve dabbled in my fair share of apps and sites, usually starting out happy and hopeful and ending a few days later by deleting everything and throwing myself down on my bed dramatically while Jagged Little Pill plays in the background.

My problem, I think, isn’t online dating, but the initial kick-off to online dating: the first messages. It’s tough, because what would work on one person, might bomb with another. Some like it hot, as they say. And some, well, some are just begging for you to be normal and nice. Still, there are some hard and fast don’ts when it comes to online dating messaging. Here are a few of them:

1. Don’t share your life story

I understand that people want to be efficient. They want to get it all out there and then let the other person decide. But that’s not how it happens in real life, so why would it be appropriate here? I think keeping things short and sweet is a good rule of thumb; saving some of the deeper, more personal information for later on in the relationship.

2. Don’t send an aggressive follow-up if you don’t hear back right away

Anything that looks like this: “You didn’t respond to my first message, so here is my final attempt to reach out to you. Either you are uninterested or lacking in manners completely…” should be avoided at all cost. I get that silence and rejection totally suck. It happens all across the board for any human in every dating situation, just don’t let it get the best of you and seep into your interactions.

3. Don’t ask about someone else in a person’s photos

This one really happened to me. It made me laugh really hard and then throw my laptop across the room. Just kidding, mostly. I don’t even need to go into the fact that you shouldn’t inquire about other men or women in the person’s pictures with whom you are messaging, right? Right.

4. Don’t open with a comment about the other person’s body

This is a “to each his own” kind of situation, but most of my friends agree that it’s inappropriate to comment on someone’s body, right off the bat. It is flattering to be found attractive, but to say that my “bod be bangin’” or that my legs are “off the charts,” well, if I was looking for something serious, I’m probably not going to peg you as a potential. Again, that’s just me, but it’s probably a safe rule at least for the first few messages. You can generally read someone in what they’re looking for or what they like after a few back and forths, or from the type of information they share on their profile, so just know your audience.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m just as bad at this as everyone else. Once, after having a few margaritas, I asked a guy on Tinder if that was a wolf in his photo. It was an Alaskan Husky. See? We’re all human and dating brings out some weird sides. All we can do is be our best selves and leave the rest up to the guy on those eHarmony commercials.

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