In late October, dating app Hinge delivered unto us a blessing and a curse: voice prompts for your profile page. Now, when looking at your perfectly curated profile, prospective dates can hear a bit of how that brain works and what that sweet, resonant tone of yours sounds like when you respond to prompts like “my most irrational fear.”
In theory, it’s an excellent idea. Voice notes can add a better sense of personality and humanity to the text-and-image portrait you’ve digitally selected for yourself, and much research has shown that voice plays a significant role in how we perceive the emotional state, dominance and attractiveness of other people.
The thing is, daters are discovering that they don’t like all that personality and humanity as much as they thought. On TikTok, lots of women have rounded up their most egregious, nonsensical and often purely innocent discoveries from men’s Hinge profile voice prompts, most of which involve guys doing weird celebrity impressions, telling jokes that only they laugh at or, in my favorite case, just reading the prompt out loud without answering it.
All of this begs the question: How does one record a decent voice-prompt response? More importantly, how do you avoid becoming fodder for a TikTok roundup?
Recording your own voice and then — *shudder* — having to listen to it afterwards is daunting for almost everyone. It’s completely fine and normal if answering these voice prompts stresses you out, and you might totally fuck it up the first few times. But thankfully, there are lots of people out there who have to do this kind of thing professionally.
Jeff Zhou, personal finance expert and co-founder/CEO of Fig Loans, has had to make some voice recordings in his line of work for presentations. His best advice? Get your recording set-up right. “One thing that helps you sound a little better, even without practice, is finding a nice, quiet place to rehearse and record your audio,” he tells me. Your closet is actually a solid choice for this, as the fabric from your clothes helps absorb whatever background noises you might have going on.
According to some Hinge users I spoke to, a lack of background noise is, in fact, a big deal. “If it sounds like they’ve recorded it in public or a social setting, that strikes me as uncomfortable, and I’d probably swipe no,” says Ron, 26, in the U.K. Basically, too much extraneous noise makes it seem like you’re taking the whole thing too lightly. You don’t need to act like you’re preparing a speech for the U.N., but you at least want to show that you’re not here to waste anyone’s time. And so, giggling at the bar with your friends may not leave the right impression.
Next, take a moment to think about what it is you want to say. Hinge gives you a few options for prompts, so pick one that you feel you can speak intelligently (or humorously) about. You might even want to rehearse your answer a few times. Also, remember who your audience is, advises British voice actor Tony Collins-Fogarty. “Keep in mind at all times that you’re talking to someone,” he says. “Don’t announce at them. It’s a one-to-one communication — you’re not on stage at a rock concert.” Moreover, rather than scripting out exactly what to say, which can sound, well, scripted, he recommends gathering some bullet points, and riffing off of them.
Another solid approach is to think of the little anecdotes you like to share in person. One guy, Conor, 23, from New York, tells me he’s had success with a voice prompt about his local McDonald’s, where the drive-thru window is on the passenger’s side of the car. It’s a small, weird story that’s completely low-stakes and interesting. So interesting that now nearly all of the introductory messages he receives from matches reference it.
If you’re not having any success with voice prompts, though, you always have the option of just… not doing it. Some cited specific voice prompts as a red flag — i.e., ones where it sounded like they were in a bar when they recorded it — but nobody I spoke to said it was a bad thing if someone didn’t use them. More than that, while a lot of the TikTok compilations of voice prompts are really funny, most of them aren’t that bad. With the exception of recordings where a guy uses the voice prompt as an opportunity for a misogynistic rant or instances where a guy sounds robotic or creepy, a silly voice prompt doesn’t strike me as an immediate turn-off. After all, this is a new feature, and most users are just beginning to get a handle on it.
No matter what you choose to say or how you decide to record it, the biggest factor here is that you’re being yourself. And while a little professionalism — again, figuring out what you want to say beforehand, recording in a quiet space, etc. — can go a long way, it’s just a dating app, not a job interview. There aren’t any set rules. If showing off your Borat impression brings you the utmost joy in this world, might as well let all your prospective dates know it from the start. Just be sure to deliver your best “My wife” from the confines of your closet. Otherwise, you might end up inadvertently going viral on TikTok.