Dating App 101: If You Hate Them, You’re Doing It Wrong.
I answer The one question I get asked most often since starting this blog…
I’m not joking, I get asked ONE question a few times a week over text or random DM’s from people around the globe. (YES, I can help you set up your dating app profile).
While recently attending a friend's birthday dinner, the table soon found out that I write about relationships, and instantly, the question everyone wanted my insight into was...
Social media and technology create a mindf*ck when it comes to analyzing modern dating scenarios. With a never-ending supply of good looking men and women in your pocket, can these virtual rolodexes lead to quality relationships?
More so, are they the only way to meet someone new?
I’ll be honest: I love and hate them as much as you do. But as they say, you can either ride the waves (thirty waves) or swim against them. Technology and human connection is changing, so instead of fighting the inevitable, I’d rather increase my odds for meeting someone.
If you’re against online dating, it’s because you’re doing it wrong.
Hopefully, this article will get you to think differently about dating apps. Whether you’re brand new to them or have despised them for years, this will be your study guide for Dating App 101.
In 10 mini-chapters: I’ll tell you a few tips for how you should craft your profile, which two apps are my favorite, real-life funny stories, and my least favorite opening line.
A brief history of why we hate them.
Let’s break down the exact reason why apps get a bad rep.
I’ve never heard anyone say they LOVE dating apps. Let’s clear the air…we all kind of hate them. I’m with you. Dating apps seem to have lead to an exponential increase in human flakiness and entitlement behavior.
But, WHY is that?
It’s because, the more I swipe left or right, my electronic checklist for finding my “perfect match” is perpetuated.
We’re now able to size up potential partners based on given data points with a click of a button. Whereas, in previous times, you had to spend a few hours getting to know someone before making judgement. Simply put, technology has allowed us to be even pickier. You can now reject someone based on which school they went to or if you don’t like a sweater they wore last year, AND prioritize that, before even knowing if they’re an all-around kind person that you might actually have 90% in common with.
Perhaps the most famous love and relationship column in the world, The New York Times Modern Love, chimes in on this. The editor, Daniel Jones believes technology is being used as a shield to find love:
“We are using technology to protect ourselves against vulnerability. These glorious tools that allow us to communicate as never before have turned, in many cases, into shields that we use to fend people off and manage our love lives in self-protective ways."
Thus, people now date in a polarized world. We’re either looking for a display of fireworks or dismiss them like yesterday’s news. Dating app technology has perpetuated the mentality of the “grass being greener”, and in a sad way, has killed a bit of romance.
The effort to connect with a new person has drastically changed since the pre-app era. In 1995, someone was still able to date multiple partners a week, but gathering 3-4 numbers in your pocket took time…and now you can get 20 with copy/paste and a few swipes. Charisma was also necessary since opening lines like “Hi.” or “What’s up?” rarely worked.
Because of all of this… romance feels more
lazy casual, other's feelings aren’t taken into consideration, and people take dating a lot less seriously. Like the quote above, if a date is even less than perfect, you can line up other another one with people eagerly waiting in your pocket.
Sometimes online dating really sucks. I get it.
2. but wait, there’s a silver lining.
Knowing that modern dating has evolved with these complexities, I want to tell you why I still think dating apps are worth using.
Here’s how you have to wrap your mind around them.
Ironically, I’ve worked for a dating app. NO, this did not make me bias towards them.
YES, I learned tricks on how to increase your odds of matching with quality people, AND how to better filter for whether you’ll mesh well IRL (read more below).
It really comes down to having one type of perspective:
👌Dating apps are a nice-to-have. 👌
They are not the end-all-be-all. We should not put any less effort into being social or open to meeting people IRL. LOWER YOUR EXPECTATIONS OF THEM.
There are healthy and unhealthy ways of using them, and if you’re able to learn to strategize the best way to use them, you’ll feel less dating app fatigue.
Good things come to those who take risks AND who don’t take themselves too seriously…
(Basic comment, but true) I know of amazing relationships and marriages that have resulted from online dating, and I also believe that almost everyone will experience ghosting or a bad first date if you’ve played the game long enough.
The secret to winning is to HAVE FUN with dating apps and go into each date or conversation with low expectations (or the same mentality you’d have with a guy you’ve met for 5 minutes at a bar). Do not put unfair expectations on them being your future boyfriend or husband. Just because you’ve found a perfect profile, doesn’t mean he’s the perfect guy for you.
Love is a very strong word when it comes this. But I really have LOVED experiences that have come from them (aka the Brazilian model story below). I use dating apps as a way to meet new people in the city and visit new places in the city.
View every date that emerges from a dating app as an opportunity to have an interesting conversation with a new person, or see it as a chance to indulge in a great meal or cocktail at a new spot you've been eyeing. I'm always game to mention a place I've been wanting to try. This way, I'm doing something I would have enjoyed doing anyway, and there is nothing to regret about the time invested.
If this still isn’t enough, I’ll tell you more tricks on how to enjoy dating apps (see my biggest dating profile tip below) OR fill out…
3. The brazilian model
I can honestly say, that some of the very best dates of my entire life have come from dating apps.
In fact, I’ve met half of the people I dated this year from them.
Maybe I’ve been lucky, or maybe dating apps are my best sport, but I’ve had some epic experiences and relationships from swiping right.
Tinder led me to the most beautiful Brazilian man I’ve ever laid eyes on. In fact, he was my very first dating app date in 2012. We shared a bottle of wine along the infamous Hyde trolley street in San Francisco, held hands within the first 20 minutes, and he walked me home ending the night with a romantic kiss under the stars.
Other amazing dates involved hanging with a winemaker and exploring his vineyards in Napa for an entire weekend….or one adventurous night in a limo with champagne around NYC. Not everyone will have stories like these, but if you go into using dating apps with an adventurous soul, you’ll be more likely to experience new things with some spontaneity. Don’t they say you’re a mirror to the world?
From East Village to London, I’ve been on so many amazing dinners and explored new neighborhoods, unique bars, concerts, learned about new bands, etc. I really can’t complain. And when one awkward date or ghost disappears, I know it’s not the majority.
4. Then, there was the guy that almost cried.
Alas, I’m a regular 32-year-old human who has also experienced the bizarre and other side of these notorious new dating tools. This past spring, one guy told me so many sad stories within the first hour of a date (perhaps out of nervousness or because he was genuinely depressed), that he started tearing up. At the end of the date, we hugged goodbye and I legitimately caught myself saying, “This was fun…sad, but fun”. I walked away almost LOL’ing that I actually told him I had a sad time (of course I had empathy that he was). But, you get it… it wasn’t the flirtiest of introductions.
I met another guy this summer, and within 20 minutes of the date, a girl sitting next to me at the bar told me to “run” when he got up to go to the bathroom. She had heard the beginning of our convo and knew it wasn’t going anywhere. Of course, I didn’t leave, but he wasn’t my knight in shining armor.
Like anything in life, dating apps are still a gamble. I’ve also (and quite often) experienced the let down of great conversation via text and then meeting a completely different person than whom I thought I was talking to.
There are ways to avoid having less bad dates (like I say below), but above all, the good and bad experiences from them have taught me the dating lessons that fuel content for this blog.
5. The biggest dating profile tip.
I often hear that people get a lot of matches, but never have a conversation. “I have a bunch of matches but they never message me”. In the dating app industry, we call them “lurkers”.
I’ve also heard the complaint that people aren’t matching with the right type of people. “It’s an instant flop when I meet them.”
I have one simple tip: if you have a “whatever profile”, and don’t put time into it, you’re taking a whatever approach to dating. Thus, if your profile isn’t quality, how on earth is someone supposed to know how much fun you are to spend time with? How do you expect them to message you with an interesting topic? Most importantly, how are you giving out vibes that will match someone with similar values intellectually, physically etc. if you don’t put time into creating a profile that shows yours?
I’ve always put time, personality, and thought into my profiles.
If you’re frustrated with dating apps, perhaps you’re not putting enough effort into creating your true online persona. Like anything you tackle in life, if you’re going to do it, do it well.
There are plenty of tips you can follow to increase the algorithm of matches (i.e. always have at least 4+ photos), but for the most part, just be yourself.
It goes both ways, you should filter profiles using the same standards as you have for your own. Do they have 4+ photos, do they have grammar mistakes, have they included a level of humor or humility?!
One of my best performing quotes on Hinge says, “I listen to oldies music while drinking my morning coffee.” It’s a dorky fact about me that’s true and unique. It creates a great opening line for men to start a conversation, and it hopefully comes across that I can be down to earth. And…if it kills a guy to listen to Frank Sinatra, Aretha, or the Supremes at 8am, we’re probably not a good match anyway.
P.S. You can get more tips or app profile help here.
6. Two favorite dating apps
I could write an entire blog post on my reviews of all dating apps, but I have two favorites I’ll quickly tell you about. Lately, I’ve had the most respect for Hinge and Raya. They are both constantly making smart product improvements to better connect their users physically, and emotionally.
Hinge’s profiles are dynamic and include quotes, fun facts, and overall icebreaker questions, etc. Discoverability isn’t as quick as others, but the company is moving in the right direction of making dating apps more enjoyable. This is probably my favorite app of the moment.
Raya is a member-only app (and while a bit pretentious), the design of the app makes you feel like you get a feel for each user’s personality on a deeper level. It’s connected to their Instagram (so you have some accountability) and each person makes a slideshow of their life using around 10-20 photos. On top of that, you pick your theme song to go with it. The culture is quite artsy on the app but people do a good job of posting photos that aren’t selfies or perfectly curated. For example, mine includes a picture of my record player, a concert venue and one cool sunset pic with a blanket of beers and my flip flops.
Bumble, of course, has a larger quantity of people and their new design is an improvement (this would be my third choice). However, I still feel like I can’t get enough info from a profile on it to take time planning a date. I need quotes, or words, or any sort of developed thought besides a filtered photo. I also don’t like the 24-hour rule and often miss it. I just looked, and the last message I sent on Bumble was in June. Case in point, I hope they learn from the apps above.
Tip: Stalk away!
“This can also ensure a person hasn’t put up photos from 2014 and they’ll look similar upon first meet and greet.”
7. What makes me swipe right?
I’ll admit dating apps make it too easy to write people off very quickly. I’m guilty of it. We’re too quick to find flaws. However, I constantly catch myself swiping left for the same reasons over and over.
One: any super vain, mirror-selfie or uber sexy photo will be a sure NO. Two: if they only have a few photos, I usually swipe left because it shows they’re putting little effort into their profile, thus transferring to real life’s level of effort they might put into dating.
I do like to see photos of traveling, family, or simple ones with friends that show you’re genuinely having a good time. In general, men who come across as well rounded with a full-life get my vote. I also suggest not doing all of the same types of picture i.e. not all party or group pics, outdoorsy pics, all close-ups.
And lastly, I’ll be honest, they have to be my physical type.
8. I support stalking.
Do your due diligence.
It pains me when friends get lazy about dating apps. There are 10 different ways we can research someone (I know it’s creepy, but I’m being honest). I don’t understand why someone would see a quick picture and take time out of their busy schedule without gathering data points to verify a potentially good match.
If it’s not connected to their account, I’ll usually check to see if they have Instagram, or Google their name or LinkedIn.
This can also ensure that a person hasn’t put up photos from 2014 and they’ll look similar upon first meet and greet.
9. My least favorite opening line.
The “I hate apps, wanna grab drinks” is one of my least favorite dating app opening lines.
I get it; cutting the bullshit of texting (especially if you’ve been on the apps for a while) feels relieving. However, I like texting with friends and enjoying good banter with someone. And most importantly, my time is valuable.
On any given week, I usually have one or two free days between social events or my gym schedule. If I only have next Wednesday open…
Often they say that you’ll know if you like someone within the first 20 seconds. Well, without any kind of filtering of communication (like literally not texting me anything interesting), that cuts your chance down of me only being able to judge off a few photos. Wouldn’t you want a chance to show your personality more?
Plus, in my opinion, it’s better to chat for even a few lines to increase your chances of not wasting your one day free. AND, since most dates involve a drink or two, it’s well worth preventing a slight hangover at work the next day if you can avoid it from the get go.
Case in point: A good friend matched with a cute guy in Seattle last week. Once they started chatting, his true colors came out…
Regardless of her preference, this guy wasn’t on the same page looking for a relationship or quality time getting to know someone. Chatting, filtered this Sexter from the get-go, and helped her avoid a potentially uncomfortable meet-up in person.
10. The alternative of being anti-apps.
You can also choose not to be on them. In uber social cities like New York, I understand it can be easier to meet new people out and about.
However, I still stand by having at least one app on your phone as an added bonus.
I have a friend who refuses to be active on dating apps and barely goes on dates. Whether or not that’s a choice or a defense mechanism, her chances of meeting a new partner are inherently lower than someone who is equally as social but also active on a dating app.
Remember, they can be fun. I went on a dating app date last week, and even though it wasn’t a romantic match, I laughed for a few hours, listened to some new music, and had a fun night out on the town being treated like a lady.
In an ideal world, I wish we could go back in time to traditional dating scenarios, where everyone valued long-term investments. There were fewer options to leave us less confused, and instant gratification or the “get-rich-quick” model to find our perfect match didn’t exist.
Until that happens, I’ll continue using dating apps as part of my strategy.
Other Tips & Tricks
Once you’ve matched and started talking to someone, give it 1-2 weeks. By then, if they haven’t picked a day to meet, then they’re most likely not focused on finding a real relationship or excited to really meet you.
Be yourself and text how you normally would. I’m not saying write 5 sentences in a row as you would to your best friend, but make sure you’re personality comes across in your texts. You have nothing to lose by texting this stranger, be true to yourself.
Make sure to use the filters for age and location to find a better match. I’m keen to only date 30+ year olds living within a 5-10 mile radius of where I live.