How to Respond to “Hey”

If you’ve gotten one, you’ve gotten hundreds: those one-word dating app messages. Not even “Hi, how are you?” just “hey.” What are you supposed to do with that? What’s behind the “hey,” and how should you respond to it?

It’s universally seen as annoying rather than flattering. So why are those single “hey” messages so common on online dating sites? Let’s break down the possible motivations for “hey,” and figure out how to respond.

The words Hey Y'all in Neon white lights

Possibility One: They’re New To Online Dating

In the real world, a simple “hey” could actually be a conversation-starter. Not a particularly great one, but not a surefire loser, either. And in a loud bar or club, it may be a necessary precursor to a real conversation. So if they’re new to the online dating world, they may not realize that “hey” isn’t enough to get your attention. It’s possible they don’t realize that you get a dozen “heys” a day. It’s a stretch, but let’s pretend that’s truly the case.

So you get a “hey” and their profile pic catches your eye. If you’re willing to take the reins, go ahead and dig a little deeper into their profile. Is their profile as barren as their messaging style?

Hard pass.

But if their profile actually looks like they’ve put some time in and you seem compatible, go ahead and try to draw them out with a question about their work or hobbies. If that doesn’t spark conversation, move on. Life is too short to bother with people who aren’t really dedicated to the process of meeting someone new.

Possibility Two: They’re Blanket-Messaging

It’s sad but true: some people treat dating like a numbers game. Just as some people swipe right on everyone knowing that someone will eventually respond, some people send a “hey” to every profile, waiting to see who bites. In this case—the most common and likely scenario—they’re not interested enough to mine your profile for any information, and “hey” is a lazy way of playing the odds.

Clearly people who blanket message aren’t really taking things seriously. Sadly, because there are so many people playing this numbers game that they’re the type of dater you’ll find most often on dating sites.

Are any of those single “hey” daters actually seeing success? It’s difficult to say. There’s no real way to gather statistics on information like that without services digging into their users’ messages. But logic would dictate that putting in little to no effort would yield little to no result.

You don’t owe anyone a response, not matter how short or long their message (overly long messages are another can of worms). Realistically, you should keep moving; they’re not interested in you specifically.

Telling them off or letting them know that you know what their game is just wastes your time, no matter how annoying it is to be notified you’ve got a message only to find out it’s just a “hey.”

Possibility Three: They’re Just Not Great Conversationalists

Much like the possibility that they’re new to the online dating terrain and don’t know the rules, some people just don’t shine online. It’s hard to read tone in any kind of text communication, but daters should be able to go beyond just a single word.

It’s a shame, because without a good grasp of small talk, it’s hard to tell what someone’s motivation is for messaging you. It’s up to you if you really want to chance it.

How can you tell the difference between a lazy dater, a shy dater, and a dater who’s just not great at chatting? The biggest tell is their profile. Have they included clean, in-focus photos? Do they use the text in their profile to make up for their iffy conversational skills?

Do they talk about what they’re looking for, and how they spend their time off? It’s a toss-up. Responding usually won’t do any harm—though it’s possible, just as with any message, that it could take a sharp turn. Trust your instincts.

One of the toughest parts of dating, online or off, is putting yourself out there despite fears of embarrassment or rejection. But if you’ve taken the effort, you should expect other online daters to take the effort, too. No matter what the motivation, you don’t need to put extra energy into anyone that doesn’t truly interest you.

Halting The “Heys”

You may be at your wit’s end as you get notification after notification just to open the app for a one syllable message. You may be tempted to take to your profile to add a note that you don’t respond to “hey.” Don’t bother—as we’ve discussed, it’s unlikely the hey-sayers are reading your profile.

You’ll have to take steps of your own to stem the tide, or at least take away some of the annoyance. If you’re on a particularly user-friendly dating site, you may be able to set message filters which send single-word, or keyword-specific messages directly to the trash, or into a secondary inbox.

That can not only stop the “heys” but also some of the more tasteless comments that often find their way through. It’s worth getting to know the nitty gritty of the apps you use so you can get the most out of them.

Here’s a tip that will cure a multitude of ills: turn notifications off. Yes, really. Even receiving messages top-shelf dating prospects don’t mean you have to respond immediately. Turn off notifications, and pick a few times a day to check back—for example, on your coffee break, at lunch, and after work. Check in and scroll past the “heys” and go straight for the messages that matter. Dating should be fun. If it’s stressful or annoying, why bother?

We’ve given you several options for responding to messages that just say “hey.” Remember, once that “hey” is sent, the ball is in your court. You have the right to respond however you please—and you’ll probably find that most often, the best response is none at all.

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Author: Matt Seymour, MSF

Matthew J. Seymour is a dating industry expert with over a decade of experience coaching singles, reviewing dating apps, and analyzing trends within the industry. Matt is a published author with his most recent work “Get More Dates: How to Master Online Dating Apps” that hit shelves in 2023. With a Masters of Science in Finance (MSF) degree from the University of Florida and extensive knowledge of the innerworkings of the online dating industry, Matt frequently serves in an advisory role to some of the largest dating apps on the market. In Matt’s current role with Healthy Framework, he leads the interview team that regularly interviews key dating industry leaders, and leverages his financial knowledge and dating app experience to review and share what singles need to know to get the most out of dating online.