The boom that Tinder created for the mobile dating market has created long lasting effects on how my generation perceives dating in the smartphone era. At once convenient but sometimes leaving a lot to be desired, the act of seeking out potential partners on these apps has brought with it its own mini-social code, as is common with the creation of online ecosystems. While I won’t be going over some of these specific social faux paus in this piece, I did want to shed some light on important tips you can remember while navigating these apps so you can use them in a safe and empowering way.
As a college student in 2019, most of my own personal experience with dating apps has been relegated to Tinder, but I know the below tips can be equally applied to other platforms as well; Hinge, Bumble, OkCupid, Coffee Meets Bagel, and Her are all popular options right now. While I wouldn’t say my usage of Tinder has brought along any successful dates for me, I think I at least know enough about the app and others like it to give insight on the best ways to use them.
1. Know What You Want
This one may sound obvious, but it’s really important to know what you’re trying to get out of using this app in the first place (Casual sex? Romantic dates? Maybe a mix of both?). Being able to clearly define what you want before even using the app will save you a lot of time later on when you’re determining how to interact with people on it. In general, it’s better to know exactly what you’re aiming for than to send mixed signals.
2. Be Upfront About What You Want
So you’ve determined what you’re trying to get out of your experience with the app—great! However, this is only half the battle. Whether it be in a blunt or subtle manner, you should find some way to communicate what you’re looking for on the app in your profile, that way people perusing it can know that to expect when interacting with you. A simple, “not looking for anything serious” or “not looking for hookups” usually suffices, but people have found other creative and funny ways to express their intentions too.
3. Ask Friends to Help You Build a Profile
This is not at all required of any dating app experience, but it can be really fun and rewarding to do! Think about it: no one else knows you better than your best friends, and I’m sure they would have a blast helping you curate an attractive and honest profile. Getting your friends to help you figure out how to broadcast yourself online is not only rewarding for crafting your online persona, but can result in really fun memories too.
4. You’re Not Obligated to Talk to Everyone
Always remember that dating apps aren’t actually that serious. These apps usually provide you with safety nets for anonymity for this exact reason. You don’t owe anyone anything on these apps; if a conversation isn’t going anywhere with someone you can drop it without consequence, and if you match with a person you later determine you don’t like too much, you can drop conversations with them as well. Just like with dating in real life, you should spend your time trying to interact with people you connect with, rather than interacting just for the sake of interaction (unless, of course, that’s your thing).
5. Trust Your Gut
Not everyone on these apps is being honest, but you are probably already aware of this. Phenomena like the viral TV show Catfish have shed light on the fake profiles that lurk in abundance on these apps. If you think a profile looks suspicious in any way, chances are it probably is. Beyond mere profiles, if you spot any red flags coming up in conversation with someone you’ve matched with, know when to drop the conversation all together and reach for the “block” button.
6. Remember: You’re in Control
These apps are providing you with so much choosing power for a reason! Don’t hesitate to cater your experience on these apps to your liking as much as possible; it’s okay to be picky. As aforementioned, you don’t owe anyone on these apps anything—so feel free to go all out on customizing your experience on these platforms! No one is stopping you, and more customization can make for more fulfilling interactions.
7. Have Fun!
At the end of the day, this is what matters the most. Using these apps should make for enjoyable and pleasant experiences. If at any point you start dreading using it, or start suffering from what you think might be dating app fatigue, it’s okay to take a step back from these platforms. Whether you’re inclined to believe it or not, the real world around you is just as often teeming with potential partners that you haven’t met yet.
As a young 20-something, dating app culture seems so ingrained in how my generation approaches dating that it’s hard to ignore. It feels like we are often so desperate to find someone on these platforms that we forget how to use them in safe and empowering ways that can be beneficial for our own mental health. I hope my above tips can restore some of the power these apps were meant to give to people in the first place—something that it seems a lot of people have forgotten. Happy dating!