Dating is, perhaps, the only activity you get a reputation for being good at by being bad at it. (Paradoxically, someone who was great at dating would not need to go on many first dates.) Fortunately for the rest of us, a new generation of Internet entrepreneurs has arisen to make finding love – or at least, finding someone to make out with – as easy as firing off a Snapchat.
Like other dating sites, the new phone-based dating apps are their own individual world, with their own subtle rules and social mores. Whether you’re an OKCupid addict who can’t help writing 5,000-word explanations of your favorite books, or a Tinderholic who swipes left with the unsparing air of a French revolutionary, join us in exploring this brave new world of phone-based seduction.
Normal Dating Sites
When people say “online dating,” this is what they mean. The setup of traditional dating sites remains fairly similar across all platforms. Users add their most flattering pictures, fill out profiles they hope fall in the sweet spot between “creative” and “boring,” and then answer questionnaires to find people who are similar. Stereotypes remain: OKCupid is for grad students, eHarmony is for people who want to get married, FarmersOnly is for, well, you get it. There are downsides – creepy messages for women, the possibility of obsessing over strangers you will never meet – but there’s a reason these sites haven’t changed much over the years. (They basically help people find dates.)
There’s plenty of advice online on how to “hack” these sites for your own benefit, and you’ll likely not have to set up a massive data-mining enterprise to do so. One Wired article narrowed it down to a few simple tips. If you’re a gay man, pose outdoors. If you’re a straight woman, shoot selfies. Everyone should take up – or at least, be seen taking up – surfing and yoga.
If changing your interests to become more datable sounds strange and inhuman to you, don’t worry. Another school of thought, backed up by OKCupid research, says that you really DON’T want everyone to like you. Instead, it suggests finding the things that are most distinctive about yourself, whether or not they’re considered “conventionally” attractive, and playing them up. A look at New York magazine’s interviews with the most-messaged New Yorkers would seem to bear this out: Better to have half the population think you’re a 1 and half think you’re a 10 than for everyone to agree you’re a 6.
Inspired by the tech industry’s continued nepali chat room failure to invent “the straight Grindr,” in 2011 the writer Anne Friedman came up with a list of suggestions for making a hookup app that would be popular with women. The main rule? Allow only ladies to search, which would supposedly eliminate the flood of messages that awaits any woman who signals she’s interested in casual sex. Tinder doesn’t do this exactly, but it found another way to cut down on the creep factor, through what its founders call “the double opt-in”: You can only message someone after you’ve both signaled that you’d be down to talk to the other. Due to this feature, Tinder is succeeding with women turned off by traditional dating sites.
The mechanics are simple: Sign in with Facebook (no need to invent a witty username), upload some cute pictures and choose your location settings – just as those spammy banner ads promise, you’ll be greeted with an endless array of sexy singles in your area. If you like the look of someone, all you need to do is swipe right on your s;re not interested) to get matching. This is another reason Tinder is popular with women: It lets them be just as shallow about online dating as men traditionally have been.