December 8, 2016

“This guy said hey with two Ys. That shows me he’s laid back.” Michelle Markowitz

In this episode we explore one three-letter message that we’ve all received. Hey. Is it the universal language of courtship or does it simply bring about the best return for the least amount of effort?

Acquaintance cards examples, courtesy of Alan Mays:
Acquaintance Cards

Skeleton pizza:



To see more of the gifs mentioned in this episode, visit giphy.com/dtr!

Spark a new conversation with DTR—a branded podcast from Tinder, produced in partnership with Gimlet Creative.



In person, it usually goes something like this:

You’re at a bar, or Whole Foods, or the Whole Foods Salad Bar, and you briefly lock eyes with the hottie across the room…

But wait, maybe they weren’t looking at you at all…were they just looking at what beers were on tap? Anyway, you flash a smile, they smile in return. Nice. But now, if you want it to go any further, you have to open your mouth and say something.

But, what do you say? You don’t even know if this person is interested in you or just being polite. And that’s the peril of the real world.

But matching on a dating app? That’s a whole different story. You skip right past the mysterious flirting to: YOU MATCHED…but then here we are again..the fuck do you say to this person? You already know there’s interest, but now you have to back up, and talk to each other.

Either way, eventually, you arrive at the same place. That first communication, that first message. And you know people read into first messages — they’re agonized over, analyzed by friends, screenshotted and shared.

If you’re like a lot of people using online dating apps, whether you want to or not, whether you hate yourself for doing it or not, you usually say one word.

You say:

Hey. [normal]

Hey! [excited!]

Hey [bored]

Heyyyy. [long drawn out]

Hey, I’m Jane Marie and you’re listening to DTR, a new branded podcast from Tinder, about defining relationships in the digital age.

On today’s show: Hey.

We’ve all received that message. Three letters. No context. Just…h-e-y.  

In English speaking countries, each month, more than half a billion messages are sent on Tinder. Half a billion! And guess what, one in five of those messages on Tinder, that’s 100 million per month, start with the word ‘hey.’  

Those three little letters — just might be the defining characteristic of dating in the digital age.

“Hey” is everywhere. But it’s also controversial — some people think it’s a plague of lazy messaging. And some people think it’s just how you play the game.

So, how did we get here? Have people ever known what to say?

Even back in the day, we had trouble breaking the ice.

In the 1800s, dudes would hand out cards to women they were into, for real. They called them escort cards. They looked a lot like business cards, except instead of where you’d have your phone number and your twitter handle they had stuff like this written on them:  

MAN VOICE: You are sensible and good,

and have all the charms of womanhood.

Your eyes resemble the stars above you,

I shall be miserable — if I can’t love you.

[LAUGH] That’s from a real 1800’s-era escort card. And that really was like their version of ‘Hey’. You couldn’t just talk to someone you were into — that sir, would be too bold — so you just handed them this little note. And if they were into you, too… they’d let you walk them home or something. Pretty romantic, right?

But fast forward to now, and modern…awful pick up lines. All of that romance is out the window…

MALE VOICE1: Ay girl where you going, come here. I want to pay your bills for the next six months.

MALE VOICE2: Are you Google? Because you’ve got everything I’m searching for.

MALE VOICE3: Put your crash helmet on because you’re going through the headboard tonight, baby.

Or my personal favorite: Nice shoes, wanna fuck?

At least “Hey” is better than that garbage.

But lots of us have no idea how to respond to it. What do you say back?

Just for fun, we tried to “Hey” people in real life. My producer Nicole Wong walked up to strangers on the street, and hey’ed them the way we all get hey’ed online. And it turned out, super weird…

NICOLE: So it’s Saturday night on the streets of Brooklyn. I am going to say ‘hey’ to some random people.


MAN1: …No!

NICOLE: Okay…That guy just put his hand up to the mic and said, NO.


MAN2: What’s this about?  

NICOLE: I’m just saying ‘Hi’ to people.

MAN2: OK, how you doing?




WOMAN1: Hi, what’s up?

NICOLE: Just saying hey.

WOMAN1: Oh hey, okay, how are you?

NICOLE: I’m good! How are you?

WOMAN1: I’m good, ya.


MAN3: Hellooo


MAN3: Hey ho! [laughs]


MAN4: How you doing?


MAN4: How you doing? Can I help you?

NICOLE: Yeah, I’m just saying Hey.

MAN4: Hey to you, too.

It sounds insane to go up to someone in person, a stranger, and just say “hey,” like out in the wild, out of context.

So why do we do it online? Today, we’re going to figure it out.

Ok, so some people HATE Hey. With the fire of a thousand suns. They think it’s frustrating, and lazy, that it represents the half-hearted wishy-washyness that’s like the epitome of blase millennials. It’s a way to force the other person to initiate the small talk we all resent when all we’re trying to do is hook-up and move on.

But not everyone hates it. Some people think it’s actually the most reasonable way to kick off a conversation with a total stranger. People like avowed hey defender Daniel Scotti.

DANIEL: I think that hey is the dating app conversational equivalent of the breadbasket that is on the table when you go into a restaurant. It’s just to try and get the ball rolling, get the gears going, you know, get the stomach ready for the meal that’s going to come. It’s not like you go into the restaurant and eat the bread and leave. You’re doing that before you even get even into your appetizer.

JANE: But sometimes you go into a restaurant and a waiter comes out and says “compliments of the chef” and they give you a little amuse bouche.

DANIEL: You’re setting the bar very high. Unless you’re ready to pen these witty fucking quips throughout the relationship, from that point on? The best case scenario is you’re with a girl who thinks you’re some type of poet laureate, wordsmith here. So I dunno, I haven’t ever gotten any compliments from the chef. No chef is sending me any steak tidbits before my meal.

To Daniel, you have to start the conversation somewhere, right? And ‘hey’ is as normal a place as any.

DANIEL: If I was to meet someone in person I wouldn’t jump right into a funny anecdote. I’d probably greet them first, make sure that they’re on the other side, they’re receptive. And then take it from there.

JANE: Mhmm..

DANIEL: Just like I’d speak to a real person, if I say Hey, they say Hey, okay, check one off, they replied.

JANE: I figure that the match, like when we match, is already the first message…you know what I mean? Like oh good we liked each other. So then ‘hey’ to me feels redundant because the right swipe was ‘hey.’

DANIEL: I look at it completely different. The match for me isn’t a ‘hey.’ The match is pretty much the two sticks lighting together. You know, it’s the spark. Right? At that point, you already know the person’s interested. They’ve given you the once over. You passed the eye test, right? I’m curious how that interest disintegrates after a three letter response. It just vanishes. All the interest they might have once had is gone because of hey.

I look at these matches, there’s about 20-25 of these that just sit dormant, and I’m thinking these women at one point swiped right, they did that. How does it not get any further than ‘hey’? I feel like ‘hey’ is the most organic.

JANE: Here’s the problem. What I like is a conversation starter that indicates that the guy has actually looked at my profile, and it’s a specific to me kind of message. So if it’s just ‘hey’ I feel like maybe you didn’t even really check out my profile and…you don’t know why you’re here.

DANIEL: You’re selling yourself short by not answering these people. If you get some mail to your house you’re gonna open it regardless if it’s junk mail just to see what it is. I think that these people that don’t even acknowledge the hey, they’re shaming hey, they are Hey shamers.

JANE: I gotta say I’m also one of those people that throws junk mail away immediately.

DANIEL: There could be a check in there. Maybe it went to the wrong…it’s happened. That’s all I’m saying. Doesn’t it settle the mind? It settles the mind for me.

I looked Daniel up on Facebook, as you do, and he’s what my parents would have called a long hair. And…he’s, he’s HOT. He’s only 24, but he’s got a sort of 1960’s bohemian look, like his style icons: Jim Morrison and Mick Jagger. And he genuinely believes in Hey…not just because it’s easy in the beginning…but because he feels like it’s more honest in the long run…

JANE: Do you think you use ‘hey’ so that you don’t fuck it up right away?

DANIEL: I suppose because if I was to ever get into anything serious with these people, if they can’t put up with the ‘hey,’ I’m gonna probably be doing a lot worse things in the days to come, than penning a hey text. You know what I mean? That’s probably not a good barometer for a potential connection.

JANE: Right, so you need a woman who can get past the first mistake, who can forgive you immediately for sending the lamest first message?

DANIEL: Yes, that would be good.  But I don’t think it’s that lame of a message!

Hey is Daniel’s strategy for dating online. It’s all about efficiency for him. It’s a numbers game, and he just doesn’t have the energy to invest in people who can’t look past that first lame message.

Messages like this:

MICHELLE: Hi cutie. But cutie is spelled with two t’s and then I didn’t write back to it and then he just goes Wow, which I’m taking the wow to be like wow you’re so awesome I can’t believe you didn’t write me back, and not like a wow now I’m really hostile and now my aggression is coming out.  

This is Michelle Markowitz. And she’s got a complicated relationship with hey.

And Michelle has a lot of experience dating online. And just like anyone who’s been putting in reps and getting a lot of practice… she’s gotten better at it.

Her profile has evolved over the last couple of years, into a finely tuned online dating machine. It’s chock full of pictures of her looking like an independent, outgoing world traveler with refined tastes. And that’s all true on a good day, but it’s not the most accurate representation of who she is all the time…

MICHELLE: The like, Tinder version of Michelle’s like I travel to countries and I eat food that’s like lobster so I have to work for it because I’m not lazy and I’m super lazy and like I can’t put that out there.

But I can’t put pictures of what I’m actually into which is like watching something on Hulu, Seamless on the way. Texting, screenshotting bad Tinder messages…

JANE: I like this version of Michelle you’re describing.


JANE: Yeah, I’d date ya.    

MICHELLE: Really just like holding a baby and like listening to like Carole King’s Tapestry and like doing some like Filene’s Basement shopping, just taking a picture of that.


Michelle is like Daniel in that she’s got a style — she’s putting in the effort to show people she’s worth dating. But whereas Daniel is about being efficient — Michelle is more about being earnest, think quality over quantity. And when guys aren’t being earnest, she can smell it from a mile away.

MICHELLE: Okay the first one that came up. Nice profile winky face and then he signed his name…


This guy goes, um, we match. Is this how we’re going to tell our kids we met. And then the emoji with like, um, where the guy is blushing.

JANE: Ugh!

MICHELLE: Yeah. But a lot of guys do that where they do you like the fake like is this our first fight, act like you’re in a relationship as a joke. It must’ve been in The Game or like it must have been in like a Reddit sub thread because it’s very common these days.

JANE: Yeah…

MICHELLE: This guy said hey with two Ys. That shows me he’s laid back.

These guys aren’t giving Michelle much to work with. They don’t even notice that she’s jet-setting and eating lobster. She might as well be holding a baby in Filene’s Basement.  

But just as Michelle’s profile evolved, so did her militant anti-hey attitude. Michelle used to hate getting hey’ed…

MICHELLE: I would always be like, okay he’s sending a million messages and wants to put in the minimum amount of effort. And like, let me extrapolate from there, like this person probably isn’t to put that much effort in the relationship if it gets to that point…

Once she started initiating the messaging, putting herself in the guys’ shoes, things changed dramatically. She tried finely tailoring her opening lines before, making them unique to each guy…but those didn’t work either!…and so she found herself resorting to…hey.

It turns out, if you turn HEY over, and look at it from the other side, it’s not an empty gesture — it’s a blank slate!

MICHELLE: I have so much more empathy than I used to. It’s definitely like you know what, there’s a really bad return on investment with sending like crafted messages, so I’m just gonna say hey and if she’s like interested, or he’s interested, they can write back and we can take it from there. Which I kind of like, completely understand at this point.

Everyone kind of wants the same things in life, you know if it’s like a relationship, or like, you know to like have sex while they’re at their parents for Rosh Hashanah, like, you know, I feel like everyone’s sort of trying their best with different amounts of effort.

Michelle realized that everyone out here is dealing with the same struggle. But everyone has adopted a slightly different strategy for dealing with it.

Hey can work under specific conditions, based on boredom, horniness, or how generous you’re feeling…

And, let’s be honest, I mean, ‘hey’ is not the worst line in the world…

JANE: What’s worse than hey?

MICHELLE: I feel like anything where someone references being open-minded, I’m just going to read into that as like…threesomes?

JANE: Mmhmm, yup!

That’s a totally different kind of hey.

Here’s another…

TYLER: This gif of a whale breaching, and it says “WHALE HELLO THERE.”

This is Tyler Menzel, and here’s why we’re bringing him in.

Remember that statistic from earlier — that 100 million Tinder messages per month in English-speaking countries starts with the word hey? Tyler has a way to make yours stand out.

TYLER: I’m the editorial director of Giphy.com.

You know, GIFS! Those 3-or-so second looping animations of like, a cat playing a piano in a box, or in this case…a whale jumping out of water.

Now stay with me. I’m being serious.

It turns out, people who use gifs on Tinder messaging are 30% more likely to get a response than those who don’t. And not just that, but people who use gifs are more likely to have conversations that last twice as long.

But Tyler is also just a guy genuinely looking for love, using gifs himself when he goes on Tinder. He told us about one flirtation, where they chatted exclusively in gif form for almost a  week.

JANE: Have you guys met in real life yet?

TYLER: Oh boy oh boy.

No we haven’t. We haven’t. We’ve kept it we’ve kept it purely in the virtual realm.

JANE: Have you actually started using words?

TYLER: We have…we have started actually using words.

There’s a whole team of people working with Tyler at Giphy to curate those GIFs that show up in your Tinder search, to make sure that first message something a little friendlier, or flirty-er, or weirder…depending on what you’re going for…

TYLER: I love thinking about a number of like Tinder relationships that I or like my co-workers have personally liked help move along. Like a gif that I made in like photoshop, has like potentially maybe helped two people fall in love.

Tyler says there are two schools of thought when it comes to users sending gifs on Tinder.

TYLER: There’s the people who use gifs literally “Hello, Goodbye, Good morning. There’s this one gif that is of a polar bear jumping out of a pool and he’s saying “OMG HI!” That’s a literal use of a gif.

But then there’s this other use that is just immaterial it doesn’t it doesn’t quite have a literal sense it’s just funny or it’s just weird or it’s just…this is my personality…this slug with..on a rocket ship coming out of it, this is me.


Isn’t it just so true that the world is divided into literal-waving-polar-bear-people and bonkers-slug-rocketship-people?

And it is really helpful to know who you’re dealing with first thing. Right? This slug, this is me. Or, I’m just a cuddly polar bear…hiii.

Tyler says lots of people use gifs in that literal way — the top 10 most popular gif search terms in the Tinder app include words like: hey, hello, flirt, wink and sup.

And then…there’s Joey…

TYLER: Everybody searches for Joey. How you doing. Everybody searches for it. Everyone thinks they’re being so funny or so unique. They think that they’re the first ones ever to search “How you doin?” On Tinder, it’s like top five. It’s this crazy spike in just “Joey, how you doin?” or “Joey Friends” or “Joey Tribbiani,” “Matt LeBlanc,” “Joey flirting.” Like it would probably be our number one search if you added all those different searches up.

But even with all the world’s gifs – including Joey – at his fingertips, Tyler says that when he’s messaging someone…sometimes he still finds himself at a loss… searching for that perfect first message…that needle in a HEY-stack…get it?

TYLER: I think Hey is a necessary evil. I’ve sent that Hey tinder message before, we all have! But, sometimes you’re just stuck. Every time I’ve said hey I have nothing else to go on like I am all out of options. I don’t even know it’s just out of helplessness. You say hey out of helplessness.

If you have to send hey if you feel like you need to, do it. But I think you would be better

off just sending…Hell we have some like abstract art gifs that are like beautiful and

weird. Send one of those instead. The worst thing that could happen is the person sends

back like what!?

OK here, I’ve got it. We have a gif, a 3-D animated skeleton holding a pizza knocking on a front door. If you feel like you have to text hey to someone on Tinder just search for “skeleton pizza” and send that instead.

Flirting online isn’t the same as flirting in real life. Though, hot tip: if you showed up at my door with a pizza, that wouldn’t be a bad move.

This whole “hey” investigation has shown me that there’s a reason it exists. It might be lazy. But it’s also efficient. It’s a neutral place to start, a blank slate.

You can read whatever the hell you want into a “hey.” And perhaps, that’s part of its beauty.

Because, hey is in the eye of the beholder. You can’t choose if people send you a hey but you can choose how you receive it. That’s all we’ve got for today….but stick around after the credits for a peek into next week’s show…

DTR is a branded podcast from Tinder, made in partnership with Gimlet Creative.

This episode was produced by me, Jane Marie, along with Nicole Wong, Katelyn Bogucki, and Frances Harlow — with Creative Direction from Nazanin Rafsanjani. This episode was mixed and engineered by Zac Schmidt, Austin Thompson, Matt Boll, and Dann Gallucci.

Special thanks to: Dan Gould, Cameron McCall and Alan Mays. That skeleton pizza gif is by the artist John Karel. And thanks to everyone who sent us those terrible pickup lines.

To learn more about DTR, to see all the gifs we mentioned in this episode, and to listen to future episodes, visit DTRshow.com. DTR is on iTunes, Google Play, and wherever you listen to podcasts. If you like the show, subscribe and leave us review telling us why! I’m Jane Marie. Thanks for listening.

Next week on DTR…..Dick Pics. Yes, Dick. Pics. You can’t send them on Tinder but they’re EVERYWHERE…

KATIE: He must have just gotten this really genius idea to go into the bathroom and snap DPs. I mean I didn’t get them until I got off the plane.

That’s  next week, on DTR.

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