If you’re a single person equipped with a smartphone, you’ve probably heard of Tinder. If you haven’t (or if your friends haven’t already downloaded the app for you), Tinder is a dating app that allows you to browse other singles in your area, using a location setting that allows you to set the maximum distance between you and your future dream date anywhere from 1 to 100 miles. Other matching preferences include age range and gender (men, women, or both). You have to sign in to Tinder through a Facebook account, which lowers the possibility of getting catfished, and you can pick up to 6 photos from your Facebook page to use as your Tinder profile pictures. You have the option to include a short bio as well.
Once you’re done with the initial settings, Tinder sends you pictures of your “recommendations”, or people that match your preferences. You can see their photos, bios and your mutual Facebook friends and interests. If you’re interested in someone you see, you can “like” that person by swiping to the right, and if you’ve both liked each other, you get matched and have the option to chat. If you don’t like someone, you can simply swipe to the left, and a satisfying “Nope” will be stamped on their picture and they’ll be gone forever.
Clearly, Tinder is nothing like traditional online dating sites (Match, eHarmony or OKCupid) with multiple-choice personality tests and long, profound bios. In other words, it’s very superficial. Not only are you sorting through people based on mostly appearances, you’re also putting very little time, effort and commitment into an app. However, that superficiality and low commitment level are also Tinder’s appeals. Since it’s just like a game (Tinder even tells you to “Keep Playing” when you get a match), Tinder’s user base is well outside of the typical online dater stereotype. Even Sochi athletes and celebrities are on Tinder (Lindsay Lohan, anyone?)
I’ve had some unexpected success with Tinder. I started using it out of curiosity without any specific expectation; I downloaded the app because my friends were talking about how amusing it was. Then it quickly turned into a game that was just addicting as Flappy Bird. I’ve gotten some terrible messages – “Wanna bang” as an opener, for example – all of which become great stories so I felt like I wasn’t losing anything. I never messaged people first because I wasn’t really looking for anything, but I responded to messages sometimes, especially if they were interesting or funny. Many conversations died out half way, partly because people on Tinder really weren’t afraid to let their freak flags fly – after all, there was no real consequences.
At least Tinder provides great comedic materials
One conversation in particular came as a surprise to me – the guy was smart, engaging and most importantly, very sane for Tinder standards. (He also used a Mean Girls reference in his bio, which earned him points in my book.) When he initiated a meetup, I figured, why not – what did I have to lose? We decided to meet for a quick drink at a quirky bar, so we could make an easy escape if the date didn’t go well, but thankfully it did. We’ve been seeing each other ever since.
How did I manage to get this app, which has been dubbed the new Hot or Not, to work for me? Easy enough: I treat Tinder kinda like “real life”.
1. Go in with an open mind
The general misconception about Tinder is that it’s a “hookup app”, simply because it’s a snap decision heavily based on looks alone. However, this snap decision is no more superficial than the decision to approach an attractive stranger at a coffee shop or a bar. In real life, the first thing you notice about a person is their appearance, and everything else (personality, background, interests or personal values/beliefs) comes after when you get to know them. Tinder is more similar to real life than most dating sites in that sense. After all, when you meet someone at a coffee shop, you don’t get to read a long biography about them or get matched with them using complicated algorithms. Does this mean meeting at a coffee shop is bound to result in a hookup? Not at all.
Every romantic relationship requires some levels of physical attraction, so it makes sense that Tinder creators prioritize this factor. Of course, there are Tinder users who are strictly looking for casual sex, but there are also people who use the app for relationship or even a quick ego boost. According to a survey by marketing firm SessionM, more people are using Tinder to look for relationship than for a quick hookup. In the end, Tinder is what you make of it. It’s up to you whether you decide to use it to look for casual sex, a serious relationship, an ego boost or a drinking game (we’ll get to this later). If you really want to try Tinder, don’t let its (false) reputation deter you from potentially meeting a great person.
2. Choose flattering pictures and a clever bio
If you want to impress a potential significant other at a public place, you want to look your best. Of course, you shouldn’t try to look like a completely different person, but you do want to look like the best version of yourself. After all, first impression is crucial anywhere – we don’t expect to meet our dream girl/guy while in our stained sweatpants and unwashed hair, looking particularly hungover, do we? The same rule applies to Tinder. The difference here is that you have more control over how you look in photos than in real life – flattering clothes, angles and lighting always help. You do want to look like yourself though; for example, wear makeup in your photos if you do it everyday, but heavy makeup will look jarring if you always sport a clean face. Have at least one picture with your face clearly shown in a “natural” state – this means no sunglasses, low lighting, aggressive Instagram filters or weird faces. A nice smile is always a plus. A good rule of thumb is that your Tinder date should be able to recognize you from a crowd just from looking at your pictures. Don’t go overboard with group photos either. We all know Tinder is like a game, but no one is on here to play Where’s Waldo.
While Tinder is picture-heavy, you should also keep in mind your bio. You don’t need something crazy – a quick, simple self-description would suffice. Something that showcases your sense of humour won’t hurt either. There aren’t any strict rules for bios, because there’s no magic formula that works on everyone, but generally, stay away from generic quotes and long, overly descriptive paragraphs. If the other person has seen that same quote or song lyrics dozens of times on other people’s profiles, they’re not going to be impressed with yours. And while it’s understandable that you may want to write a lot (hey, it’s hard to sum up our whole persona in a few words), no one wants to read a novel on a Tinder profile. We live in the era of short attention spans! Another rule of thumb is that if your bio is too long for one or two tweets, it’s too long for Tinder.
3. Take the initiative to message and meet up
If you really want to find someone, whether for a relationship or a hookup, you can’t just wait around for that person to fall out of the sky and into your lap. Most people also get quite a few matches – anywhere from ten to hundreds. You have to catch their attention somehow! And ladies, there’s really no rule against girls messaging first, so if that’s what you want to do, do it! Many of my guy friends have complained that girls never message them first, so if you do, you’ll definitely stand out. If the conversation seems to flow nicely on Tinder, definitely switch to texting. You don’t have to ask for their number in your first message, but if you’ve been talking for days, don’t remain just another face on Tinder. A simple “This app is so buggy, wanna switch to texting?” will do. If the person has been messaging you back and forth, he/she will be very likely to say yes.
What’s next after texting? Well, at one point, you’re going to have to take the “online” out of “online dating”. Most people aren’t on Tinder to search for a pen pal, so you should suggest a meet up relatively soon (especially after you’ve gotten their number). Yes, online dating is convenient, but nothing beats a face-to-face connection. You want to know who this person really is. What’s a better way to do that than to actually meet them? Your date may be incredibly awkward and disappointing, or it may go so well that you want to keep talking to each other for hours. You’ll never know until you finally meet the person. And even if the date does end up disappointing you, wouldn’t you rather know sooner than later? You don’t want to wait so long that you’ve constructed a whole fantasy image in your head of this person, then find out they’re nothing like it. Don’t be afraid of rejection either. If they’ve taken the time to talk to you and text you, they’re probably willing to meet up with you. Pick something casual for your first date, like a coffee shop or a bar, and if that goes well, maybe extend the date for dinner or suggest a second date. Avoid dinner right off the bat since you’re stuck there until you’ve both finished eating, and movies are terrible for first dates because you can’t really talk and get to know each other. You do want to get to know each other, right?
4. Treat Tinder like a bar
I often see people getting extremely frustrated with Tinder when it doesn’t yield their desired results right away. Remember, Tinder is not a magical solution to dating. It’s just a platform that allows you to meet people you otherwise wouldn’t probably meet. There’s no guaranteed success, simply because the right person for you might not even be on there (yet. Tinder’s user base is expanding exponentially though.) Go into it with the same mentality you would have when you walk into a bar. Expect to have fun over a few drinks with your friend, and if you meet someone, great. If not, there’s always next time. If you go to a bar with the sole purpose of finding someone, you’ll likely be disappointed, but if you focus on the fun part, you’ll be more likely to keep returning to the bar (and thus have a higher chance of actually meeting someone cool). In other words, keep your expectations reasonable. You may not meet the right person after two weeks, but since Tinder takes even less time and commitment than visiting a bar, why not keep trying? And try to focus on the fun part. Swiping is extremely addicting (and while stamping a no on someone’s picture seems a bit inhumane, it’s also quite satisfying). Be positive – even those horrifying openers and pickup lines can make for great stories, which lead me to the next point…
5. If all else fails, turn it into a drinking game
Tinder can be full of hilarious clichés that can be used for an excellent drinking game if you know where to look. Shirtless gym selfies? Pictures of guys next to a tiger or holding a fish? Girls going horseback riding? Girls using that one Marilyn Monroe quote? Lines like “It’s going down, I’m yelling Tinder” or “I’m willing to lie about how we met” in bios? I’ve seen them all, about a hundred times over. There are so many more repetitive patterns on Tinder, so get creative! You can take a sip every time these clichés occur, or when you get a match, a message, a bad pickup line, etc. Get a group of friends together, hook your phone up to a large screen, and swipe/drink away!