Talking it over with many of my friends, it seems that we all have one thing in common: We all get a lot of messages from people we don’t know. And especially messages that are fairly low content. Ones that are basically a greeting (and maybe a compliment) and nothing more:
“How are you doing this morning, beautiful?”
“How’s it going?”
It’s a pretty common experience, although it’s one that we tend to deal with in different ways. For example, I have a few friends who pretty much always pursue the line of conversation — but with a specific ulterior motive in mind. They belong to groups whose whole purpose is to post thirsty texts from strangers and ridicule them. So they approach it with an aim to draw out inappropriate behavior from said strangers.
Other friends always engage and reply to these messages but do so with an open mind. And if and when a thirsty come-on emerges (which is nearly always), they decline politely and go about their business.
Others reply to these messages only selectively. They check out the sender’s profile and see if they find them attractive or at least someone with common interests. If so, they respond.
And some ignore all of these outreaches, never replying.
I’ve Tried Nearly Every Strategy in Response to Thirsty Greetings
I haven’t participated in thirst-shaming forums (although I’ll admit to having read them ever so occasionally, usually when they’re brought to my attention by the activity of a friend who participates in them). But other than that, I’ve used all of the above strategies at one time or another.
For a while, my natural instinct was to take a second to research the sender of the message and only respond if they seemed like they’d have a lot in common with me.
But I also conducted a brief experiment several years ago when I wrote back to every single person who messaged me, regardless of how little we seemed to have in common. Or how little effort they’d expended in the initial outreach. As I said to a friend of mine at the time, I realized that I could be giving up on potential new connections (romantic or otherwise) unfairly by dismissing contacts before I’d had a chance to really evaluate them. My hasty bias could be leading me astray. Keeping me from interesting new opportunities.
So I consciously deviated from this pattern for a little bit. I wrote back to every single person who wrote to me. Regardless of what they said and who they seemed to be. And whether we had anything at all in common.
The results, however, were pretty underwhelming. For starters, the experiment turned out to be more time consuming than I’d anticipated. And most of our back and forth exchanges were quite unsatisfying (seemingly on both sides) and ultimately led nowhere.
So I went back to my old way of interfacing: For a long while, I qualified senders and occasionally (but quite rarely) responded to low-content messages.
These Days I Get a TON of These Messages, and I Don’t Reply to Them
However, these days, I’m squarely in the last camp. I’m that person who ignores all low-content messages. All of them. Never replying. Part of this is because my online life is a total mess. At any given moment, I have literally hundreds of messages that I haven’t responded to. And have little hope of ever writing back to.
Most days it’s all I can do to not horrifically disappoint my preexisting friends and romantic partners. Forget about spending hours getting to know a stranger who has sent me a “hey.” It’s just not realistic for me to be able to juggle it all.
If a message says something interesting, asks an interesting question, or seems somewhat related to the things I’m interested in, I may very well respond. But even all of those aren’t answered.
Because time is at a premium.
But that doesn’t keep low-content messages from coming in. “How are you doing?” “Hey.” “Hi pretty lady.”
If anything, having an increased following online has blown up the volume I receive of these sorts of messages. Even though I don’t have any active online dating profiles, strangers will reach out to me any way they can with come-ons, often via channels intended for work (i.e., for readers of my books and posts to ask me questions or for colleagues to ask for professional collaborations).
I used to find this a bit annoying, like the steady drip-drip-drip of a leaky faucet. But recently I’ve found a way to view this phenomenon as helpful.
Turning Thirst Into Mindfulness Practice
Here’s my new life hack: Every time a stranger sends me an unsolicited low-content message that seems like a prelude to flirtation, I use it as a reminder to do a mindfulness check-in.
There are two benefits to this:
- I’m actually doing a better job adhering to my mindfulness regimen. Most of the mindfulness exercises are easy; the hardest part is typically remembering to do them often enough.
- I’m less irritated because I’m interpreting it as a helpful timer and not as an unwelcome attempt at flirtation.
The switchover was actually pretty easy since so many of them sound like mindfulness check-ins: “How are you doing this morning, beautiful?” “Hey, how’s it going?” etc.
One of my favorite mindfulness exercises is to take a moment to fully attend to my emotional state. What am I feeling right now? How does my body feel doing whatever it’s doing? Where am I in the present moment?
“How are you doing this morning, beautiful?” How am I doing INDEED. An excellent question. Usually I’m too distracted to really know. Guess I’ll take five seconds and really feel it.
I’ll ask myself the question and really absorb the answer. And then move on with my day feeling much more emotionally grounded.