24 Online Dating Rules + Etiquette You Must Follow

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Do this. Don’t do that. Rules are a big part of life.

And the world of online dating is no different. There are ways to do things, protocols to follow, proper and improper behavior.

Of course, not everyone will stick to the rules, and this can sometimes make things harder for those who do.

However, following correct dating etiquette means that you’ll get more and better matches. It increases your chances of finding a new partner, and that’s why you’re on dating websites and apps, isn’t it?

Here are the rules that you need to follow to successfully date online:

1. Send the first message.

A lot of people match on a dating site but never get in touch with each other. Often, this is because no one wants to message first. The old-fashioned rule that men should message first doesn’t exist anymore.

Some apps only allow conversations that are initiated by a woman. So, you should message first regardless of your gender.

Don’t wait for someone you like to reach out to you. Who messages first doesn’t matter in the online dating world; what matters is that you and your match get in touch.

So, don’t be afraid of reaching out to people you like, just make sure to come up with a great conversation starter.

2. Respond within 24 hours.

Making someone wait a week for your response implies that you’re not serious about dating or that you’ve ghosted them. You can take your time with responding, but make sure to reply within 24 hours of receiving the message if at all possible.

There may be times when you simply can’t get online to reply to them in 24 hours. If so, you might want to offer a quick apology and even a short explanation when you do finally message them back. As long as you don’t keep doing this every time, the other person should be happy to keep the conversation going.

3. Wait a few hours for a response.

For the most part, you can expect others to respond in 24 hours too. This means that you should wait before even thinking about messaging them again. Don’t expect them to reply right away.

Sending a second message before you’ve received an answer to the first one is bad etiquette, especially if you do it within 24 hours. Patiently wait for a response instead of sending several messages in a row.

When you don’t get a response within a few hours, resist any temptations you might have to message again, and wait for the full 24 hours. If you still don’t get a response, assume that the person isn’t interested.

4. Avoid follow-up messages.

If you haven’t received a response after more than 24 hours, you can send a follow-up message. However, it’s often better to avoid follow-up messages altogether.

Even if the person was genuinely busy the first time, sending a second message can make you look needy and less attractive.

Sometimes though, a person might not see your first message, and the second one can help them notice you. If you do send a follow-up message, make sure that you only send one, and try to make it sound funny or casual.

5. Ask interesting questions.

If you are interested in someone, ask them interesting questions to keep them engaged while also learning more about them. Ask about their hobbies, interests, likes, plans, and dreams.

Don’t ask more than two or three questions in one message though. Try not to sound like you’re interrogating them. Don’t just ask things, but share things about yourself too.

Ask open-ended questions that can’t be answered with a yes or a no. These inspire longer conversations and more details. You will appear more interesting to your match if you take the time to come up with interesting questions.

6. Give them compliments.

It’s always a good idea to give a compliment to your potential match. However, make sure to compliment them more on their personality than on their physical appearance. This will show that you’re serious about dating them, not just trying to get into their pants.

You can compliment them based on their likes and interests. For instance, if they’re an artist, you can compliment them on being creative. If they work out, you can compliment them on being active and leading a healthy lifestyle. Also, everyone likes to be told that they’re funny and smart.

7. Know the sexual-identity terms.

The LGBT+ community includes a lot of sexual-identity terms that you might already know about if you belong to the community. However, even if you’re a heterosexual person, there are sexual-identity terms that you need to be familiar with.

For instance, you should know what it means when someone says on their profile that they’re polyamorous.

Asking someone about what the sexual-identity term that they mentioned means makes them think that you’re not right for each other. Take time to do your research first and familiarize yourself with all the terms that you might encounter on a dating app or website.

8. Avoid sexting and be appropriate.

A lot of people would never really say the things that they’re ready to write on a dating app or website. Often, they start sexting very soon because they feel more confident online compared to in real life.

However, this is not always welcomed and might make you lose potentially great matches. It’s much safer to avoid sexting and stick to being appropriate until you get to know each other better.

You should always get the person’s consent before sexting them. Some people are not comfortable with sexting to the point that they wouldn’t do it even if they were in a committed relationship with you.

So, don’t assume that your sexting will be welcomed, and keep your messages clean and appropriate. You might even want to avoid using curse words unless you frequently use them when you talk in person too.

9. Don’t send photos unless asked for them.

Similar to sexting, sending nudes is a big no-no unless a person has specifically asked for them, and you’re happy to send them. And even then, you should proceed with caution.

Get to know each other better before showing your naked body parts to each other. It’s safe to assume that they shouldn’t see your body parts sooner than they see you in person. So, don’t send naughty pictures until you get to know each other, and even then, wait to be asked for them.

Not sending photos unless asked for them applies to more than just nudes. Your shirtless pictures from the gym or your latest bikini photos don’t belong in the person’s inbox unless they’ve asked for them.

10. Avoid politics.

If you have strong political opinions, you might be looking for someone who has the same views and feels equally strongly about them. That’s okay. However, keep in mind that there are a lot of good matches for you that might not share your views.

So, you’ll scare them off or show them how angry you can get about politics while you talk, which will, again, scare them off.

Consider putting politics aside when dating online. That’s a part of you that a person can get to know later on when you have established a connection. However, if you only want to find the person who has the same political beliefs, feel free to write about that.

Keep in mind that even the person who has similar political views as you might not be as passionate about them as you are though. So, you may scare them off too.

11. Avoid oversharing.

Oversharing can make people feel uncomfortable, and it’s generally considered off-putting. These people need to get to know you, but they don’t need to know all the details right away.

Stay a bit mysterious instead of letting it all pour out in front of a stranger. If you frequently overshare while dating online, it might be a trauma response. It would be good to talk to a therapist to determine why exactly you have the need to overshare.

To stop oversharing, remind yourself that you need to trust the person to show them your vulnerable side. And it takes time and consistency to build trust.

Keep the personal and intimate details about your life to yourself until you get to know someone well enough to trust that they can accept your vulnerability.

12. Don’t ask them out right away.

While you do want to ask them out soon after connecting with them, you don’t want to do it in the very first message. People usually need more information about you before they agree to meet you in person. If you ask them out right away, they will probably reject you, and it will likely end with that.

So, take time to get to know them and let them learn more about you before asking to meet them in real life.

If it doesn’t make sense to you to wait, ask yourself what would happen if they agreed to go on a date with everyone who messaged them… They would have to go on a lot of dates, most of which would end with just that one date, if not all of them.

13. Be honest.

Be honest about who you are and what you’re searching for. Don’t start a relationship with a lie because it’s far too easy to get caught. And once someone catches you lying, they’ll be done with you.

So, don’t lose potentially good matches by being dishonest. You’re here to find someone to like you for you. Someone who is looking for the same thing you are.

Being honest doesn’t mean telling them everything about you. If there are things that you’re not ready to share with them yet, simply say so. You can simply say, “I’m not ready to talk about that with you yet,” instead of lying to them.

Just make sure that you are your authentic self and that you’re honest about what kind of relationship you’re looking for.

14. Don’t send good morning messages.

Sending good morning and good night messages is great when you’re in a relationship. But when you don’t even have their number yet, and they’re talking to several other people too, it’s kind of weird to wish them good morning.

They’re a person you’re chatting to on a dating site, so it’s probably too soon for starting your days together.

Once you have their number, it might be okay to send good morning messages, especially if you’ve met in person. However, your safest bet is to wait until you’re in a relationship to do this.

15. Don’t assume that you’ll be in a relationship.

Online dating comes with no promises. Don’t assume that you’ll be in a relationship with someone just because you’re having a great conversation online. As far as you know, they might not be as interested in the relationship as you are. Even if they are, you shouldn’t trust online chemistry too much.

People don’t hook up on online dating apps and sites. They just get in touch there. Whether or not they will hook up depends on what happens when they leave the online world and meet in person.

In-person chemistry can be way different from the chemistry that you feel through messaging someone you don’t know. So, don’t assume that you’ll be in a relationship until you go on an amazing first date and schedule the second one.

16. Express yourself through emojis and gifs.

Messages with emojis and GIFs often get more responses and can lead to longer conversations. Plus, they make the person perceive you as fun and laid back, which is exactly how you want them to see you.

Messages with no emojis can sound too serious and negative, so a person won’t be eager to respond to them.

Texting is a limited communication method, but emojis and GIFs help make it easier to understand the tone of the message. It’s like emojis are the texting version of body language.

17. Don’t ask for their contact information right away.

People usually want to get to know you better before giving you their number or adding you on social media. So, don’t ask for their contact information right away. Have a few conversations before asking to go outside of the dating app/website.

A lot of people will still be uncomfortable about sharing their number or social profile. However, most will agree to some sort of method of communication, like Skype or Instagram. It’s a good start until you actually meet in person!

It’s natural to want to research the person you’re about to meet, so it makes sense to add them on social media. However, a lot of people will want to get to know you in person before connecting with you on that level. Respect their decision.

18. Schedule a date after a week.

You want to meet them in person soon after contacting them online, but not too soon. It’s best to schedule a date after a week of messaging online. If you wait for too long, someone else that they’re talking to might beat you to the punch.

In addition, they will create an image of you in their mind based on your messages that is likely not really you. When you meet in person, they’ll expect someone who’s not going to show up and it will lead to disappointment. You could also confuse online chemistry for real connection.

On the other hand, if you try to schedule the date too soon, you might appear needy, or the person will reject you because they don’t know you well enough. Wait until it’s been a week from when you sent the first message to ask them out.

19. Talk over the phone.

Have a chat before you see each other in person. You don’t have to do this, but it will help ease the tension before the date. It can also help assure them that you are a real person, not just a message on the screen. In addition, it will show that you’re serious about dating them.

You could even have a video call before meeting in person. If you are worried that a person is not who they’re making themselves out to be, it’s a great idea to ask them for a short video call before meeting in real life. This way, you’ll also eliminate the disappointment of seeing that your date looks nothing like their pictures.

20. Meet at a public place.

Don’t invite someone you don’t know back to your place or agree to go to their place. When you’re meeting someone for the first time, meet them somewhere in public and tell someone about it.

This will make sure that you stay safe, and at the same time, it will give you the option to excuse yourself and walk away if you don’t like your date.

The first date doesn’t have to last long. It’s probably best not to go for dinner and a movie with someone you’ve never seen in person. Go for drinks for the first date and just see if there’s chemistry and a connection in person. If there’s not, you don’t want to be stuck on that date just out of politeness.

21. Text them after the date.

If, after going on a date, you wait for days before texting them, they’ll assume that you’ve ghosted them or aren’t interested anymore. So, text them the day after the date if it went well. Tell them that you had a great time and that you’d like to do it again.

Don’t schedule the second date right away, just let them know that you’re still interested and aren’t going anywhere.

What if you’re not interested though?

22. Ghosting is okay if you didn’t make a commitment.

It’s not okay to ghost someone after making plans with them or getting involved with them. However, if this is just some stranger on a dating app/site that you don’t feel like messaging back, you don’t have to.

Maybe you have been chatting with them for a while, but if you’re not feeling it, feel free to stop responding. If it’s not working out, they aren’t going to be that shocked by getting ghosted.

However, if everything was going well and you made some plans that you can no longer stick to (probably due to being interested in someone else), it would be kind to let them know instead of ghosting them.

23. Don’t take rejection personally.

Just like it’s okay for you to ghost them, it’s okay for them to ghost you too. Don’t take rejection personally. They are searching for the right person just like you are. If they’re not right for you, it’s better to know now so that you can both be closer to finding your perfect match.

Not everyone you like is going to like you back, and that’s okay. You’re not going to like everyone either. Remind yourself that there are a lot of people in the online dating world, and not all of them can match with each other.

24. You’re not anonymous online.

Lastly, don’t act like you’re anonymous online. Don’t say or do things that you normally wouldn’t say or do in real life. Dating online should be treated just like dating in real life. Have the same approach and always be true to yourself. Don’t be rude or mean just because you’re online.

Online anonymity basically doesn’t exist anymore now that we all have an online presence in some form. So, you’re not really anonymous online. Don’t hide behind a fake dating profile. Take dating online seriously. When you could use something as a way to find the love of your life, don’t use it as a way to treat others badly, especially if you normally aren’t like that.

Have questions about online dating or things you need help with?

We really recommend you speak to an experienced dating expert rather than a friend or family member. Why? Because they are trained to help people in situations like yours. They can guide you on your whole online dating journey to help you get the very most out of it in terms of matches, dates, and even finding love.

A good place to get help is the website Relationship Hero – here, you’ll be able to connect with a dating expert via phone, video, or instant message.

If you’re really serious about dating and you want to boost your chances of finding a partner, speaking to a dating expert is well worth it. So if it’s within your means right now, we recommend it.

Click here if you’d like to learn more about the service Relationship Hero provide and the process of getting started.

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About Author

Ana Vakos enjoys writing about love and all the problems that come with it. Everyone has experiences with love, and everyone needs dating advice, so giving these topics more attention and spreading the word means a lot to her.