Chapter 4: Dating Apps 101
Dating Apps 101: How to have fun and be successful
It is undeniable that dating has changed overtime. Throughout history, we’ve seen everything from arranged marriages and marriages focused on alliances, to courtship and the chaperoned outings we see portrayed in Bridgerton, to asking your high school partner to “go steady.” The modern evolution of dating is online dating. Online dating started in 1995 with Match.com, but it really exploded with the invention of Tinder. While in the early 2000s, it might have been embarrassing to tell your friends and family you met someone online, it is now the number one way people meet their partner.
If you are separated or divorced, there is a good chance you never had to use dating apps before. Maybe you were on them, but it was ten years ago, or maybe you’ve only heard your friends and family complain about how draining they can be. Dating can be hard, but it can be especially overwhelming when you are getting back into it after a long time away. The goal of this chapter is to make it a little easier for you, to take away some of the mystery behind dating apps, and give you some useful tools and tips to make it a more enjoyable experience.
My number one tip, and I know you probably hear this regarding many things, is just to dip your toe in the water. With online dating, there is really no “messing up.” Trust me, the stakes are not that high. Your first swipe is not going to be your soulmate. You are not going to miss out on the love of your life because your profile wasn’t set up correctly. It’s important to remember throughout this entire process that love does not just happen overnight; you have to put in the time and be open to the process for it to really work.
What I’m going to go over with you in this chapter is the very basics of online dating. We will go over apps, though not all apps. We will go over best practices, but these can and will change over time as apps evolve to serve customers the best they can. We will go over how to stay safe, but it is not an exhaustive list, and it’s important to be patient, honest, and cautious as you navigate the world of online dating. Dating apps can be fun and addicting but remember that it’s okay to take things slow and prioritize your emotional well-being. With patience and consistency, online dating will absolutely get you back into the dating game and even, possibly, with a little luck, lead you to your perfect match!
Which dating app do I start with?
You can’t start online dating without first picking an app. With so many dating apps, it can be hard to choose the right one. While there are apps specific to almost all sexual orientations, religions, age groups, ethnicities, incomes, or even hobbies and interests, I find it’s best to start on one of the major players in the game. So, which one’s right for you?
I’ll give a brief overview of six different apps below. Just know, as of February 2022 there are 44.2 million dating app users, according to Statista Research. So, no matter which app you pick there are a ton of potential matches out there. I want to note that dating apps, and their popularity, really ebb and flow.
Below is a snapshot of what is popular now, in 2023. Do a little research yourself before signing up to see if there are some new ones that might work better for you!
Tinder is the dating app that almost every single dating app is based on now. It created the concept of swiping: left to reject someone and right to like someone. With swiping, Tinder was able to gamify the online dating space making it easier, quicker, and more fun to date online.
After setting up your personal profile, you’ll see one potential match’s profile displayed at a time. If they have more than one photo, you can click through to see all of them. You can also click their profile to read their bio and see any other info the user has inputted about themselves, such as their job or college. From there you can decide if you like them or not. If you don’t think they will make a good match for you, you swipe left, and they disappear. If you like them and want to give them a chance, you swipe right and see if you match.
Now, I want to expand on swiping because it’s very important you understand this concept as it’s used on almost every dating app now. If they have already swiped right on you, you’re shown the match immediately when you swipe right. If they haven’t seen your profile yet, if they do swipe right on you down the road, the match will come when they swipe right later. If you swipe right and never end up matching with that person, it means they swiped left on you. While it can seem complicated, the act of swiping becomes second nature to most users after about 10 minutes.
Tinder is free to start but does have a paid service that gives you access to different tools and more swipes, as you are initially limited to 100 right swipes a day. Users on Tinder are looking for all different types of relationships. While Tinder has a huge number of users, it also has the most fake profiles and “junk” you’ll have to sort through. It also is one of the only apps that does not let you filter by any demographics besides location, age, and sexual orientation. Even still, Tinder is a great app to get started on, as it is super simple to set up a profile and start swiping!
Bumble is basically Tinder, but it only allows women to make the first move. What this means is that the woman has to start the conversation with a man after matching; otherwise, the match will disappear in 24 hours. In same-sex matches, either person can make the first move within 24 hours. In both cases, one the first message is sent, the other person has 24 hours to respond, or the connection expires. Unlike Tinder, Bumble allows you to filter by different demographics, including religion, political affiliation, and more.
While Bumble is considered slightly more “serious” than Tinder, there are still people looking for all different kinds of relationships on Bumble. Bumble also has paid features with the goal of getting you more matches, but it’s free to set up a profile and swipe.
Out of the newer aged dating apps, Hinge is currently considered better for forming more serious connections. The apps tagline is “designed to be deleted.” Hinge’s profiles are a little more involved, not only including photos and bios, but also question prompts, voice prompts, and a demographic information section. Hinge limits the amount of people you can “like” a day to 10. Like almost all apps, there is a free version and features you can pay for. Currently, Hinge might be better for people under 50, as it is a newer app and was embraced by younger people first.
OkCupid is focused on long term connections. It uses a complex algorithm to try and match users based on their interests and values. Profiles are very thorough, with up to 10 long answer prompts. There are also a ton of short answer questions, ranging from political and ethical questions to silly and fun questions. Choosing to answer these helps people learn more about you and theoretically get more accurate matches. You can even highlight certain answers and tell OkCupid you only want to match with people who answer the question the same way.
OkCupid is going to show you profiles they think fit your requirements, but you can also search for matches yourself. While it doesn’t use swiping exactly, it does use “pass” or “like” buttons, which are basically the same principle.
OkCupid, while free to use, does have Basic and Premium paid plans, which gives you access to more matches quicker.
Match, the first player in the online dating game, is one of the more involved dating apps. You are required to answer in-depth questions about your interest and wants in a partner as well as your goals, habits, and values, from religion to whether you want kids or not. Match will try to show you potential partners based on your preferences. Like OkCupid, Match will show you people they think you’ll be compatible with, but you can also search for matches. They use “Skip” or “Like” buttons instead of swiping. Unlike other platforms, Match allows you to message others before they “Like” you.
Another distinction about Match is that they really don’t have a free version. While you don’t have to pay to make an account or look at others, you do have to sign up for a paid account if you want to communicate with matches in any way.
Match might be better suited for older individuals as that is currently the main demographic on their platform.
eHarmony is currently primarily for people looking for a more serious relationship. eHarmony advertises to people“done with the swiping game,” so it is really trying to reach people who feel as if they’ve exhausted the other dating apps.
It has the most involved process for creating a profile. It takes about 20 minutes to complete the detailed personality assessment required to make an account. eHarmony then uses the information from your personality assessment to provide you with a list of compatible matches accompanied by a compatibility score, with 140 being the highest. If you are interested in any of your matches, you can message them to start a conversation. It encourages you to talk with anyone with a compatibility score over 100.
Like Match, eHarmony is a paid service. To even message others or see their profile photos, you need to sign up for a paid account.
Tips for Dating Apps
You do not need to be on ALL the apps. I will repeat this because it is a common mistake: do not be on every dating app you can find. This will lead to being overwhelmed, confused, and probably burnt out from the online dating scene pretty quickly. Pick one or two to use at a time. With the big players, it is very common to see the same people on different apps, especially if you have a small location limit set, so you don’t need to worry about missing out on someone!
Speaking of location, let’s talk about that. Every single app I mentioned above is going to show you matches that live in your location. Many apps have a max distance of 100 miles from your set location, though some will let you look at people outside your location with paid features.
If you are looking for a serious match, pick a distance in which you would be comfortable driving to meet someone. For example, in the Triangle NC area, if you live in Raleigh, you could set it to 10 miles to only reach people who live in Raleigh proper. If you upped it to 25-30 miles, you could hit people in all the surrounding cities, including Durham, Cary, Chapel Hill, and more. If you’re willing to go a little bit further to get more matches, up the distance. Play around with the distance filter to find the right settings for you and your lifestyle.
Age is the other primary filter on every single dating app. You need to tell the app a range of ages you’d be interested in dating. I’ve seen clients get very caught up in the specific age range they want to set. They get worried about setting it too young or too old. The most common mistake I see is setting a very small age range because of some unfounded beliefs about what is “age appropriate.” Consider setting, at minimum, a 5-year age range, and then up that as you feel comfortable. You never know, you could find your perfect match just one year older or younger than you thought!
One last thing to address before we get into more details about your profile: pay for play. Most apps are going to have a free version that everyone can use. This is because they want more users on the app so they can make more matches and keep people using their services. That being said, as you can see from the six we talked about above, almost all the apps will also have paid versions. I have many clients who assume that if someone is paying for a dating app, they will take it more seriously, but I have not found that to be necessarily true. I would start every app with the free trial, see who is on there and how you like it, and then consider paying for the upgraded version if you think it’s worth it. This is one of the only places where the saying “you get what you pay for” might not ring true.
How do I fill out my online dating profile?
We’ve gone over the apps, maybe you’ve picked one or two you want to get on, and now you have to build your profile.
Starting on Tinder is going to give you an understanding of the bare bones of what a profile needs. They only require one photo, name, and age, whereas other apps require a little more work upfront. Each app is going to have a few nuisances, but there are basic dos and don’ts that can be applied to every app, and that’s what I’m going to hit below.
Step 1: Pictures
First, let’s go over pictures, which many consider the hardest part of building an online dating profile. I will go over the technical aspects of pictures, but as we all know, pictures are emotional. To really understand the impact of crafting your image and how that affects online dating, I highly suggest you watch our video with Lee Hayward or read her chapter.
Let’s get into it. You must have photos! Please don’t put up a profile without a picture. As much as it sucks, the reality is that online dating is based on looks, and you need pictures to get a real match. While the minimum number of photos I let clients have is three, five to six is the sweet spot. It lets you show off your personality without overdoing it…and yes, too many photos is a bad thing on dating apps.
There are a ton of articles and studies on what photos get you more matches, but in the end, the photos that are going to get you quality matches are photos that tell the story of who you are. If you have hobbies, a pet, or anything that is important to you, use a photo of that! Again, don’t overdo it; you don’t want to become the stereotypical profile that only has pictures of you fishing or only of your truck (if you are seeking men, you will see a ton of profiles like this).
You want vibrant, quality photos. Nothing that is blurry or dark or where you’re blocking your body or face. Don’t use heavily filtered photos or photos where you’re not even included. Selfies are fine, but only one or two. You should be the main focus of all photos; do not have all group photos where potential matches can’t figure out which one you are.
With photos, moderation and variety are key. If you think your photos aren’t working for you, ask a friend to take a new photo of you when you’re out at dinner, or ask your family to take a photo of you at the holiday dinner table. Test photos out and see which ones get comments from matches. Use that data to continue crafting a better profile. You don’t know what works for you until you try!
Step 2: Bio
Okay so we’ve got the photos down, but what about your bio? Just like photos, the number one piece of advice I can give you is to have a bio! According to Lucille McCart, the Communications Director for Bumble Australia, people with a bio get 32% more matches than people who do not have one. Not only that, but the matches are going to be of higher quality because they understand your personality better before swiping. A good bio is also a great way to make up for a lack of photos!
Unlike photos, I can’t give you a hard number for the minimum or maximum length of your bio. Some of the best bios I’ve seen are two sentences, while others are a full paragraph. You should not share your entire life story. If you are over five or six sentences, it’s probably too much. On the other hand, don’t just have something short that means nothing, like “I love to laugh,” “ask me anything,” or “dog mom/dad.” You need something that people will actually read, that will differentiate you from everyone else on the app, and that gives a little insight into who you are.
A good bio gives 3-4 interesting tidbits about you, whether that is in one sentence or four bullet points with emojis is up to you. You can make it funny or serious, but just like your photos, make sure it represents you and will attract the matches you want.
A great strategy that does not require a lot of thinking is doing two truths and a lie. You can also give a few details about yourself and end with asking people to answer a “this or that” question or “what is your favorite (fill in the blank).” These give people something to respond to as well as insight into your interests.
Let’s expand on some of the dos and don’ts above so you can understand how to craft a good bio.
DON’T: “Love to laugh”
Everyone loves to laugh; this does not tell anyone anything about you. Change this to “will always laugh at [fill in blank with tv show, movie, or certain comedian name],” or “tell me your favorite joke of all time.” If humor is a big part of your personality, expand on that!
DON’T: “Ask me anything”
If you don’t give people specifics about what to ask, they won’t ask anything. You could say, “ask me about the time I got lost in [vacation destination],” or “ask me about the time I met [fill in famous person],” or even “ask me about when I [insert cool thing you did].” This will spike curiosity in others and lead to a lot more conversations.
DON’T: “Dog mom/dad”
I am not hating on people who love their pets; I get it! But you can make it so much more interesting and fun by saying something like, “looking for someone who can throw a tennis ball further than me so my dog can get some more exercise,” or “tell me the best spot to get a drink with my dog,” or even, “trying to find a girlfriend for my dog, please send photos of all applicants (yes, I do just want dog photos).” Just add some details and make sure people can message you about it!
DON’T: Overused Phrases
For the love of everything please do not put “looking for someone who doesn’t take themselves too seriously.” There are a handful of bios that you see over and over – using the same lines will hurt you rather than help you. A simple Google search will let you know what these are. Avoid them.
DO: Two truths and a lie
If you are not familiar with this common icebreaker, it involves writing two interesting truths about you and then a made-up fact, the lie. The goal is for the other people to guess the lie. It’s an easy way to make a bio because you can use all of it to let people know more about you, and it creates easy tidbits for people to message you about. For example, one client I have has her truths being that she has won 3 Simon Says contests and went to every college basketball game during her four years in college. You can see how these two would start conversations. Her lie is that her favorite place she’s visited is Morocco. While she hasn’t been there, it is her number one bucket list destination, and she is able to start conversations about this when people find out the lie!
DO: “This or that” or [fill in the blank]
If you just can’t figure out what to put in the bio, keep it simple. If you’re interested in craft beer, have “tell me about your favorite beer” in your bio. Do you love being active? Ask people where their favorite local hiking or biking trail is. If that’s too much, you can even ask “this or that” questions, like “beach or mountains “or“ tv shows or movies”; anything that someone could respond to and have opinions on is great!
Step 3: Personality Questions
Now that you’ve got a bio, let’s go over personality questions. Like Match and eHarmony, some apps will ask you predetermined questions you need to answer. Some are as easy as “are you a morning or night person?” While others are deeper, such as “do you believe in the afterlife?” The best advice I can give you here is to answer them as honestly as possible, even if you don’t like the answer. And make sure you take these into consideration when looking at others’ profiles, as it can lead to a better match or at least a way to start a conversation.
Step 4: Filters
Lastly, you need to understand filters and how to use them appropriately on dating apps. Some dating apps have categories that can be used to filter people based on things other than just age and location. For example, Hinge lets you filter by height, religion, political affiliation, smoking status, drinking status, family plans, and what type of relationship you are looking for. Apps like OkCupid let you filter by even more unique categories, such as zodiac signs and if you like watching movies with subtitles.
You can use these however you wish, but before setting any filters on dating apps, you really need to evaluate your preferences and deal breakers. Preferences are qualities you’d like but don’t necessarily need in a partner, while dealbreakers are qualities absolutely necessary for you to have in a partner. This is more challenging than you think, though. It’s easy to imagine your perfect partner, but it’s much harder to figure out what would make you not even consider this otherwise “perfect” person. For example, are you a recovering alcoholic and can’t date someone who drinks? Are you religious and need someone who matches your same religious beliefs, or can you be flexible with this if they are open to learning more? What about political affiliation? The minute you put in a filter, you eliminate a ton of potential matches. My best advice is to use them sparingly and only after a good amount of thought on whether something is truly a dealbreaker for you.
In the end, your dating profile is your chance to make a good impression, so make sure it accurately reflects who you are. Be honest about your age, relationship status, interests, and what you’re looking for in a partner. Don’t be afraid to show your personality in your profile, as it can help attract like-minded individuals.
How do I stay safe on dating apps?
We always want to believe the best in people, but like anything done over the internet, you need to take precautions to stay safe. This is not meant to scare you, as the large majority of your matches will really just be regular people looking for a relationship. Still, there are things to look out for. On all dating apps, there are fake profiles that are bots, catfish, and people who are trying to get your money. So how do you stay safe?
Use a fake email or phone number
Many dating apps connect to your social media profiles, but if you don’t want to do this, or you just don’t want all these platforms having your email, create a new email just for dating apps.
It is also pretty easy to create a Google number that you can use just like a regular phone number. If you are really worried about giving your number to people on the internet, creating a new number gives you some privacy and protection if something does go wrong.
Google, as I’m sure you know, is amazing. It is now easier than ever to look into people by knowing just a little bit of information about them. Obviously, it is going to be easier to search your matches if you know their last name, but even if you just know their first name, job, location, and age, you can usually at least figure out if they are real. If you really want to do a thorough check on people you meet, you can purchase a membership to an online people search, where you use their phone number or email to find more information about them. The ones I’ve used in the past are PeopleFinders and BeenVerified, but there are a lot out there. If you’re not savvy online, enlist a friend or family member who is good at it.
I’ve done it for my friends and I’m sure you have someone in your life who would be willing to help you out too!
Request a facetime or video chat before meeting in person
You got their number, chatted online for a while, moved to text, and now you want to meet in person. The number one tip I can give you for feeling secure before meeting in person is to ask for a 10-20 minute video call before the date. This will give you peace of mind that the person you are meeting is actually who they say they are. It also becomes an amazing way to figure out if you really want to put time, effort, and money into meeting this person. While video chats became big during COVID, they remain an excellent tool to use on your online dating journey.
These are some telltale signs of a fake profile. While this doesn’t mean every profile you find that has these are truly fake, if a profile you come across matches anything below, make sure to stay alert to any suspicious behavior:
- Only 1 photo or multiple photos that are highly filtered, professional, or blurry Photos that have URLs in them or sending you messages with URLs right away.
- No bio
- They start conversations, but their responses seem off or don’t really make sense.
- They reply to your messages super-fast, faster than someone could realistically type.
- They want to meet up right away or ask for your phone number before exchanging a few messages.
TRUST YOUR GUT! While there is a ton you can do to protect yourself online, the number one thing you can do is trust your gut. If something seems off, it probably is. It is better to be safe than sorry. Unmatch people right away if you sense something is off.
Now you know about the apps, how to set up your profile, and how to stay safe. What’s next? Start! Swipe, just swipe, even on people you aren’t sure about or don’t match what you think your dream partner is. Take chances, and don’t project your insecurities onto the people you’re swiping on. I cannot tell you the number of people who’ve told me that they don’t swipe on people who say they like working out because they don’t or people who think that they can’t swipe right on someone who is “too attractive” for them. You do not know what other people are looking for until you give them the chance to tell you.
You do need to commit to this for a certain amount of time. Please don’t get discouraged after a week or so; it will take some time to really figure out how to make the apps work for you. If you really feel like you can’t get a match or a match you want, reevaluate your profile or bio, your age and location settings, maybe try a different app, or just change the way you swipe. And stay engaged! Are you sad because no one is messaging you? Message them first! I don’t care what gender you are. You will get better results if you try messaging people first. I suggest responding to something in their bio or photos. For example, if you see in someone’s photos that they like to travel, ask them their favorite place they’ve visited, or if you see they like a certain sports team, ask them if they plan to see a game this season. If this is too hard, or there is nothing from their profile for you to ask them about, come up with an interesting leading question. I had one client who used “pause time or rewind time?” and another person who would ask, “what’s your go-to shower song?” Do not start with a yes or no question, do not start with “hey” or “how are you?” These are not going to move the conversation forward, and it is very easy to just get stuck without something to specifically respond to. Be respectful and engaging, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Remember that the goal of a dating app is to get to know someone better and see if you’re a good match.
It’s also important to remember to take things slow when you’re getting back into the dating world after a divorce, especially with online dating. Don’t rush into anything; take the time to get to know a person before deciding if you want to take things further. Not every person you match with will be a good fit, and that’s okay.
Make this process fun – it does not have to be full of anxiety or dread! If it’s not fun, take a break or reevaluate what you are looking for and make sure that aligns with finding someone online. The hardest part really, is getting started. So, take about an hour, get your profile set up, and start swiping. You are opening yourself up to new experiences, new connections, and ultimately the opportunity to find the love you deserve!
Which dating app is right for you?
Download our free dating app comparison guide.
Have questions? Contact us!
Dr. Katrina Kuzyszyn-Jones
In this chapter, Dr. Katrina Kuzyszyn-Jones offers guidance to divorcees experiencing the aftermath of separation or divorce. She explains the importance of going through the grieving process and the value of self-reflection, self-growth, forgiveness, and compassion. By taking the time to reflect on your emotions and needs, you can better understand what you’re looking for in a partner and when you’re truly ready to pursue a new relationship. Dr. Kuzyszyn-Jones is a national forensic and clinical psychology expert who has counseled thousands of families going through separation and divorce. Her purpose is to help you find your purpose.
Attorney Jenny Bradley
Can dating during separation, or even after divorce, affect your legal case? Attorney Jenny Bradley answers that question and more in this chapter. She goes over what you need to tell your ex, what your lawyer needs to know, and how to avoid making mistakes that could lead to unintended consequences! Jenny Bradley is the Founder of Triangle Smart Divorce and aims to stop smart people from screwing up their divorces. Not handling dating appropriately is definitely one way to screw up your divorce.
How you think about yourself and present yourself to others has a significant impact on the results you get in life, personally and professionally. In this chapter, Lee Heyward gives you practical advice on making a good first impression, both in person and on dating apps. Anyone looking to rediscover their authentic selves and rebuild their confidence needs to read this chapter! Lee Heyward is a highly sought-after image and brand consultant who helps business owners look and feel great, which in turn grows their businesses exponentially.
Dr. Lori Thomas
In this chapter, Dr. Lori Thomas offers unique insight into how children are positively and negatively affected when their parents begin dating after divorce. She provides the tools and support needed to successfully integrate dating into your life as a parent, including tips for how and when to introduce dating partners to your children. Dr. Thomas is a frequently called-upon expert in clinical psychology who has worked with hundreds of children and teenagers adjusting to their parents’ divorces.
Attorney Jenny Bradley
Relationships often fail because people do not understand their partner’s basic innate drives. Jenny Bradley explains how the Predictive Index Behavioral Assessment, which has been used by businesses for over 60 years to understand employees’ hardwiring and predict their behavior, can also be used in the dating world to become more aware of what kind of partner would be a good match for you. By understanding one’s own drives and assessing compatibility more accurately, people can identify areas for improvement in their relationships and improve compatibility in future relationships. If you’re looking for a fresh start in your love life, this could be the key to finding a more compatible and fulfilling relationship. Jenny co-authored this chapter with Barry Shulman. Barry is a consultant, career coach, trusted advisor, and expert in the Predictive Index. He’s helped companies and individuals be more self-aware, coachable, and effective for over 30 years.