It’s been 10 years since Tinder first launched. This means that it’s also been 10 years since people started using the eggplant emoji to refer to something that’s definitely not a vegetable. That’s not the only thing that has changed over the past decade. It has also become normal to reschedule a date about four times before it actually happens. Meet our life partners in the pub has been replaced by a direct swipe on a dating app during a TV commercial break. People who use apps seem to either date the first person they meet or languish in them for years. I’m definitely in the second group, which is annoying, but it also means I have a lot of experience navigating the complicated world of dating apps. Here’s everything I learned along the way.
Don’t start the conversation with something vague
If you start with “hey, how are you?”, they will simply respond with “yeah, good, you?” The conversation will continue down this road of boring banter until one of you runs out of energy to continue. Instead, choose something really specific from their profile – if you recognize the pub they’re in from one of their photos, talk about what happened the last time you were there. Or ask for a book that you can see on their shelf. Keep your answers short and punchy so that the act of responding is easier. The long, endless paragraphs can come later when you’re in love and pissed off that they forgot to get milk from the store.
Set yourself a 48-hour deadline to arrange a date
When they first message you, respond immediately and try to get an instant back and forth until you know whether you get along or not. Do this for up to 48 hours. If after this period you haven’t managed to fix an appointment, it won’t happen – trust me. They will just become one of those people who periodically send flame emojis in response to your Instagram stories. Their grandma isn’t sick, they’re not too busy with work, or both of those things are true, but they still can’t make time for you, so stop making time for them.
Men with mystery photos are usually hot in real life
If her photo selection consists of a photo of a duck wearing fluffy slippers and a meme about Greggs sausage rolls, it’s not necessarily a red flag. Or maybe he appears in some photos but his face is partially covered (by orange smoke in one, by a flowerpot in another). For some reason, men with these kinds of profiles are extremely hot IRL, especially if you like slightly unhealthy people with small earrings and shaved heads.
Don’t stalk people online
He has his full name on his profile, so you find his Instagram page. You scroll through his tagged photos that show him at work smiling under artificial light and wearing a thong and pants his mom definitely bought him from M&S. You look at his Facebook page and, after flipping through photos of him with his college debate team, you’re back to when side bangs and flared jeans were a thing. He invites you for a drink but you don’t care. He could have been that.
Reduce your scrolling
When I’m on dating apps all the time, the people the app shows me get worse and worse until I get really offended that the algorithm is insinuating that we’re in the same league. If this happens, I disconnect for two or three days. When I come back, the people the app shows me are much hotter, probably because the app thinks you’re leaving, so it tries to lure you back in. So if you’re not attracted to anyone on the app, log off and read a book or something. Or go rock climbing! I don’t know, do what you did before your attention span turned to mush.
If you find it difficult to write a funny answer to a p-hingebreaks up, rob someone else
If you need inspiration, check out the ‘standout’ tab on Hinge – that’s where all the good profiles are. I saw once that a guy answered the question “What are you looking for?” with “Captain Tom merchandising”. I copied it because it made me laugh. Also keep in mind that sometimes the more generic answers work better. It’s not very interesting, but on my profile under “What I order for the table” I put “More sauce”. This answer gets by far the most responses. So don’t be afraid to reference your McDonald’s order or how much you love tacos.
Don’t judge people too much if they seem grumpy (because everyone does it on apps)
Recently, a friend of mine was ready to cut off a guy she had been talking to for weeks because, seemingly out of nowhere, he asked her, “What’s your favorite animal?” “. She, naturally, had the impression that she was being spoken to like a child. Later in the conversation, when she mentioned she was moving out, he tried to sell her a mirror. “It’s really long,” he said. “And you can just lean it against the wall.” My friend wanted to back out of the date, but I told her not to because the way he texts will probably have very little bearing on how he looks in real life. In person, the way he asked about his favorite animal could be funny, delivered with a theatrical raise of the eyebrows to let her know he was half kidding. Or maybe it still wouldn’t be funny but she could screw it up and he’d laugh at her when she sniffled a bit and then they developed this cheeky back and forth. This is what makes dating on apps really difficult because it’s basically a lottery (see my next point).
It’s a numbers game – so be prepared for a lot of dates
A few months ago I went out with this guy who was very annoying. When we left the pub he rushed in for a kiss. I dodged it, then we had to endure a very strenuous walk together to Shoreditch High Street station. A few weeks later, I went on a date with a guy I really liked who told me he “hadn’t connected like that with someone in a while.” I saw him again a few evenings later in an Indian restaurant and he completely blew me away. I was about to check in at the convent. But as my friend who found love on an app pointed out, “It’s a numbers game, the more dates you go, the more likely you are to find someone.” The unfortunate irony is that the more dates you have, the less likely you are to want to keep dating.
Don’t go on a date with someone who only has selfies on their profile
Certain signs usually mean that you absolutely should not date this person. The selfie thing is one of them. Like anyone who responds to the “Worst idea I’ve ever had” prompt with “Downloading this app”, or anything else that makes it look like they’re above it all. You think I wanna be here either, buddy? Romantic comedies made me think I’d meet my husband in a cafe while we were both having a sandwich at the same time, but here we are. Avoid women who refer to gin and men who refer woozy Blinkers. Same for anyone with too many photos in the gym, unless you also think discussing macros is a great conversation starter (my friend broke that rule and ended up on a date with a guy who tossed chicken in a Nutribullet and drank it). Anyone correcting something on your profile isn’t worth your time – I don’t care if there’s an apostrophe there, okay? Avoid actors. And the people who try too hard to plug in their travel stories. And the people who use their famous friends to get matches. Avoid people with a dog, it’s a trap! They are not sensitive – they have determined the weak point of women and exploit it. In fact, there might not be anyone else left if you follow this advice, so maybe ignore me.
Use the “We met” feature
This feature is triggered if you share your phone number when chatting on Hinge. A few days later, the app will send a notification asking if you met, if you enjoyed the date, and if you plan to go on a second one – and it won’t tell the other user about your answers. I always thought that was pointless, but it turns out that if you respond, your algorithm will get a better idea of the type of person you actually want to date and send you similar profiles. To me, that means documentary makers looking like they need to wash up.
It’s not you, it’s not them, it’s just… dating apps
When nothing is going well in your love life, it’s easy to think that something is wrong with you. That your soft, fluffy facial hair is unattractive, that you need Invisalign, and stop talking about J-Lo and Ben Affleck. But they won’t have noticed the hair, your teeth are fine, and J-Lo and Ben Affleck’s reunion is a love affair for the ages, so obviously you will talk about it. The problem isn’t you, or them, it’s that apps give us so many options that no one ever seems to be the right one. We are constantly craving the endorphin rush of another game. It’s easy to ghost people because they probably don’t know any of your friends or work in the same place as you, so they can easily disappear without any responsibility. But there are ways to beat the system, jump, jump, and overcome the many problems apps place in your path. There must be, because how are you going to meet anyone else? Go see them in a bar and say hello? Come on, let’s be real.