By Mikaela Knight
Dating apps are undoubtedly the modern way to search for love.
Romantic comedies make bumping (sometimes literally) into your soulmate at a coffee shop, grocery store, or local bar look effortless. Today, meeting in the wild seems more challenging than ever. We’ve lived through isolation during a pandemic and now have more options than ever available at our fingertips, leaving many overwhelmed by choice.
Have you wasted hours browsing streaming platforms to decide which movie to watch, scrolled Ubereats so long you could have cooked an entire meal or lost 10 minutes in the supermarket aisle contemplating which peanut butter to purchase?
The theory of choice paralysis is just that, the more options people have to choose from, the harder the decision becomes – we can't make up our minds.
Rewinding a century and dating outside of your town would have been unfathomable. Today, the only limit on our dating pool is the filters we choose from dozens of apps and websites. While half of us still believe meeting someone IRL is ideal, according to Relationships Australia, 3.2 million Australians turned to dating apps last year, me included.
I wanted to be more intentional with my love life. Meeting guys at bars and clubs had led to a trail of heartbreak, so I decided I needed to be more selective and strategic. I downloaded an app and embarked on the quest to find the love of my life one swipe at a time.
After a tidal wave of cringy pick-up lines, date flops, ghosts, confusion, and tears, I threw the towel in. I scheduled my final date and braced for disappointment. As fate would have it, my “final” online date turned into my partner of almost a year and trust me, I am still as shocked as you might be.
On average, it will take eight months and 4,000 swipes to find a partner, and while there’s no secret to success, I want to share ten lessons I learned.
When I decided to hop on the apps, I asked a bunch of friends which was best for me - a single heterosexual female. This is what they revealed about the big three:
Tinder (Used by 21% of Australians) - “Ideal for hookups, not relationships.”
Bumble (Used by 18% of Australians) - “Women speak first (hello empowerment), but the pressure to start a conversation can become tiresome.”
Hinge (Used by 17% of Australians) - “Your best shot. Made for relationships.”
So I downloaded Hinge and employed my best friend to create my profile over wines...what could go wrong? She chose my six best snaps, answered three prompts, linked my Instagram account and noted my height, location and recreational habits. To her credit, she accurately summed me up in a glimpse. How did she do it?
You have a split second to spark someone’s interest, so why wouldn’t you put your best photo first? My bestie recommended something natural so people could make out my whole face, no sunglasses and no filtered selfies.
If you live in a small city like me, you will likely run into your workmate, neighbour and barista on these apps, perhaps all at the same time. I suggest not putting anything on there you wouldn’t want your mum seeing so save the lingerie and bikini snaps for future sexts.
Dating app prompts are a roadmap for how to date you. If you want someone funny, include a joke (Just not one related to pineapple on pizza, please.) If you love fitness and want to attract someone with the same interest, why not post a cute picture of you in activewear?
It may sound cliche, but you are one of a kind, so make your profile stand out by showcasing your quirks. For example, I love burgers and dancing, so I included the first as a prompt and the second in a snap, which led to easy conversations and many burgers ingested.
Remember, you’re looking for someone to date you, not your friends, so avoid others in your profile as it can lead to comparison and confusion.
It can be oddly thrilling when you first hop on an app. Three glasses of chardonnay later and my best friend said I resembled a kid in a candy store. After every sugar rush, there’s an unavoidable crash. My advice; pace yourself, check in with how you’re feeling, set time limits, avoid swiping late on a Sunday, drunk or on the toilet - I’m serious.
“Hey, how are you?” should be reserved for awkward small talk with work colleagues. When swiping, I recommend using their photos or prompts to initiate conversation. If they post a snap with a surfboard and you want to learn how to surf, ask them. For example, open with, “I want to learn how to surf. Tell me how you started?” Then, it could flow into a date if you ask, “How about you take me for a ride this weekend?” If you’re fun and flirty, let that come through in your messages.
Establish how long you want to chat before meeting, unless you want a pen pal. I wouldn't message for over a week without an organising a date. The faster you take it off the app, the quicker you will know if the relationship will progress. I preferred moving to Instagram to better understand the person I was meeting and investigate any problematic mutuals.
My partner’s chosen Hinge prompt was, “Together, we could…” to which he responded, “skip the small talk and grab a drink.” After seeing his first picture, I knew that’s exactly what I wanted to do so I messaged, “So when are we grabbing a drink?” Within minutes, we had locked in a date for 8 pm Thursday.
We’re all on a dating app to date, right?
According to Relationships Australia, 10% of men and only 7% of women admit they’re swiping for a casual hook-up, so presumably, most people are out there looking for a genuine connection. That won’t happen if you don’t put yourself out there.
I was anxious long before dating, so I would consider it a win if I didn’t implode before meeting a match. I treated my nerves with exposure therapy; the more I dated, the less shaky I felt.
My mind would be a merry-go-round of fears before a date; “What if they don’t show up? Will they look like their picture? Will they like me?” Rest assured, this is entirely normal. My partner admitted to feeling the same way when we first met. I soon realised most dates are just two nervous people trying to appear as laid back as possible.
Admitting you’re a bit nervous can be a great way to break the ice and allow you and your date to let your guard down (plus, it shows honesty and authenticity.) However, an escape plan is always a good idea if you’re genuinely uncomfortable.
According to Reviews.org, 17% of Australians have fallen prey to a romantic scam so never and I repeat, NEVER give unnecessary information online. I would date somewhere public, send a picture of my date to a friend and share my location if necessary.
You have plenty of options if your date goes South. I have excused myself, gone to the bathroom to text a friend and devised many excuses to swiftly exit. In the restroom, most venues will display a code name you can use at the bar for a question-free, speedy exit, so don’t feel stuck. You don’t owe anyone your time; your well-being is the top priority.
Dinner and drinks have been the go-to date for decades and frankly, it’s getting old. Sitting opposite someone you have just met can be intimidating and uncomfortable (Especially if either of you decides it’s not a good match by entree.) When asked to dinner, I would suggest a drink first, so if we didn’t click, I could return to the safety of my couch with a Big Mac and Sex In The City reruns.
One of my favourite first dates was a dog walk. I loved meeting their furry best friend, observing their interactions with passers-by and comfortably chatting side by side rather than face to face. I’m an activity date advocate, believing exploring each other’s interests allows more creativity, fun and connection. You can check out a bookstore for coffee, enjoy a picnic at your favourite spot, try an escape room, play mini golf, head to the arcade, hike, check out food trucks or a live music gig. There are endless opportunities to find something new you enjoy and learn more about yourselves in the process.
There’s only one thing worse than hangxiety: first date hangxiety.
Like many, I would band-aid my angst with a beverage or two while I overthought my outfit choice. This rarely worked in my favour. If we met at a bar, I’d be onto my third or fourth drink on an empty stomach, sometimes sharing things I wish I hadn’t. Alcohol blurs boundaries and vision and my dates 'magically' became more attractive the more I drank, leading to many next-day face-palm moments.
If you drink, I recommend two max on the first date. It allows more room to get to know each other and if you click, there will be plenty of opportunities for bottles of wine in the future. If you’re drinking to cope with anxiety before a date, try dancing it out, meditating, chatting to a friend and taking deep breaths rather than reaching for a whiskey.
It’s a controversial opinion, but in my experience, holding off physical intimacy led to more dates. I discovered (the hard way) that not going home on the first date created an element of mystery and nine times out of ten, lead to a text saying “I need to see you again."
Refraining from anything beyond the goodnight kiss solidifies your intention to find love, not just a hookup. However, if you’re having a great time, aren’t drunk and just want to “do it,” all power to you. Just be prepared for the possibility that it may be the last time you see them.
Forget falling in love for a minute.
Dating apps can be a priceless tool for teaching you more about yourself.
They allowed me to meet people from all walks of life, engage in conversations I wouldn’t typically have and get comfortable with getting out of my comfort zone.
I developed my communication skills and learned to set boundaries, refined my list of green and red flags and got serious about my deal breakers. I had some unforgettable dating experiences and, ones I would rather forget.
I’m not here to glamorise online dating. I deleted and redownloaded the app many times. I was stood up, misled and ghosted by some and had genuine, respectful connections with others. Dating apps are a rollercoaster but through the ups and downs, I discovered what I wanted and I was lucky enough to swipe on someone who wanted the same.
For better or worse, I believe apps are the future of dating. The sooner we educate ourselves and others, the better our navigation and communication will become, improving our chances of finding genuine human connection.
Enjoyed this article? Read Love Languages & How They Impact Our Sex Life.
- Y x