Tips for online dating apps from 5 years of dating experience!

Some of you may know that I met my partner Joe on a dating app (Facebook). Before Joe, I was more-or-less single for 5 years, and the majority of my dating life was from people met online — I estimate I’ve been on 30+ online dates throughout my 20’s living in NYC and SF!

Even though most people have a penchant to meet their partner the “old fashion way,” I’ve come to REALLY appreciate dating apps and the opportunity it gives us. I’ve had the chance to meet so many people, figure out what I want/don’t want in a partner, and ultimately meet my wonderful Joe. ❤

I wanted to share with you all a bit about my successes, rejections, and what works/doesn’t work for me. These tips have also been crowd-sourced from my friends (around half have found long-term partners from online).

What dating app should I choose?

  • Facebook – The Facebook dating app just came out this year, but from my short experience with it, I thought it had the best UX and the best algorithms for matching (think about it…Facebook has SO much data on you). Joe and I joke that we got matched with each other because Facebook knew we both took solo trips to Nicaragua!
  • Coffee Meets Bagel – CMB sets itself apart by presenting only a few options per day, focusing on quality versus quantity. You fill out 3 short questions on your profile which really help in getting to know someone. I had the most success on CMB. Also from experience, I’ve seen CMB work the best for my asian friends in SF/NYC 🙂
  • Hinge – Very popular among millennials. It has a very clean interface and you can reach out to someone/make the first move without being matched first, which increases the probability of a match. I didn’t use it much because I felt the app attracted WASPy guys which I’m not into.
  • Bumble – A game changer in the dating world: this is the app where girls must make the first move. I’ve observed the most success among my female friends on Bumble (including several engagements/marriages!).
  • Tinder – This is truly the hook-up app. The selection is wide and you will most likely find someone if you are looking for something casual.
  • The League – A very selective app where you need to have graduated from a top college to be invited into the circle. I tried it for a few weeks and the people were as bougie/pretentious as the app sounds.

What should I put on my profile?

  • Photos. Diversity is key for choosing your photos (e.g. you don’t want a ton of shots with your friends where you’re lost in the crowd). You want to give people a full sense of how you look based on your photos, just as you would want to see how someone else truly looks.
    • Rule of thumb for your profile:
      • At least 1 full body shot
      • At least 1 closer face / headshot (no sunglasses)
      • 2-3 group shots at most
    • NO gym selfies! It screams you rely on your looks versus your personality. However, beach/swimsuit photos are typically kosher.
    • For the love of god, please don’t post that picture of your Tesla (I’ve seen this so many times in the Bay…).
  • Choose realistic photos. In my experience – you’ll have more success if you surprise your date by looking “better” in person than in your photos. On first dates, if my first impression of a guy was disappointment because he failed to look like his photos, it was very hard to bounce back. Similarly, in my early days of online dating, I posted pictures of myself wearing lots of makeup + filters, but after catching onto this tip, I started using more authentic/realistic pictures and found much more success.
  • Don’t lie about your height. I can’t count the number of times I walked into a date where a guy harmlessly “rounded up” his height to 6 feet…not cool. Don’t catfish your height.
  • Fill out that description + complete your profile. All dating apps have a description you can fill out about yourself, and several even have ice-breaker type questions that you can add to your profile (Bumble, Hinge). As cheesy as it may feel, I recommend filling out as much as you can. It’s been proven that people are more likely to swipe on a more robust profile, and several app’s algorithms will actually serve you MORE if you have a completed profile. Some things you can write in your description:
    • Adjectives that describe you: “I’m introverted, usually the funny one in a group, or “I’m open, always on the dance floor at a party”…etc.
    • Your interests/hobbies: the easiest way to find common ground with people
    • What you are looking for (e.g. a serious relationship, something casual, just to meet people)…I really appreciated when people were upfront with what they were looking for. It saves time for all.
  • Show who you ARE; not who you want to be. When I first started dating, I advertised myself as an ultra independent-career-focused-I-don’t-get-attached-woman on my profile…after several dating cycles, I quickly realized that this wasn’t the real me and I wasn’t attracting the guy that I wanted. I recommend reflecting your authentic self on your profile, versus who you want to be or think you should be.

My profile is done! How should I approach swiping / talking?

  • Opening lines. My favorite opening lines from guys were:
    • Compliments (Joe opened with complimenting my smile!)
    • Calling out something specific from their profile
    • Above all…be yourself! There are no rules to what to say.
  • It’s a number game. The best and worst part of dating apps is that there are SO many people to interact with, which makes the turnover/dating cycles very quick. With that in mind, I think it’s helpful to understand that dating is truly a numbers game. For every 50 people you swipe on, maybe 10 will like you back…and then 5 will talk to you…and then 1 will go on a date with you. The faster you bounce back from rejections, the more success you will have. You HAVE to put yourself out there. One of my closest girlfriends challenged herself to go on 40 dates in 40 days from Bumble…and now she is engaged. 😉
  • ENGAGE. Online dating can be awkward at first…no one is truly comfortable cold-messaging a stranger. Despite how you feel, you HAVE to make an effort. You truly get out of this what you put in, and one-word answers are gonna get you no where. Even if texting is “not your thing”, you have to engage.
  • Delete the conversations that aren’t going anywhere: It’s pretty depressing to see dozens of messages where you reached out and the person didn’t respond. Go ahead and delete them in your message board. It’s better for your morale to focus on the people who are actually engaging.

I have a first date! What are some first-date tips?

  • Coffee or drinks on the first date. For online dating, the widely acceptable first date option is to grab coffee or a drink. If the date isn’t going well, you’ll want an escape route after an hour (30 minutes if you drink quickly). The few times I accepted a dinner date for a first meet-up, I highly regretted it (as I was stuck for 2 hours)! It’s safer to start off with a drink and if it goes well, you can always take it further.
  • Don’t talk about next date on the first date. In the past, if a first date was going well, I’d typically get over-eager and ask about a second date on that first date…I learned that jumping the gun often led to mixed signals; it just put people on the spot and I would often get false-positives (which later on turned to rejections). I’ve also been guilty of getting caught up in the moment and saying yes to the next date in person, but later on changing my mind after having time to think. I learned that every person deserves some time after a date to go home, think, and then reach out for the second date if they chose to.
  • Wait until the first date to share phone number. A lot of people ask for phone numbers before a first date, but for your protection, I would wait until actually meeting someone in person to give out your number. You can always coordinate a meet-up by messaging on the apps. In my early 20s, I would hand out my number left and right, but after some pretty crazy stalking experiences…I am much more cautious with giving my number out.
  • Be on time. Dress to impress. Even if you’ve gotten to the point where dating is NBD, remember to continue putting your best foot forward. I’ve been on several dates with guys who strut in 30 minutes late in their sloppy hoodies, not making any effort to impress…that’s an automatic NO.
  • Don’t have expectations. Most people turn out to be different in person than who you think they are from their online profile. The less you build up who the person is in your head, the more open minded you can be to who they truly are.

After the first date

  • Don’t ghost. I’m happy to see that dating culture is transforming in a way that looks down upon people who ghost. From growing older and getting ghosted myself, my rule of thumb is if someone takes the time to take me out on a date, they deserve an honest answer about where I stand afterwards. My go-to lines were a simple “I don’t see this going further” or “I didn’t feel a “spark” with you.” Honest, simple, and SO much better than not hearing back at all.
    • At what stage of dating do I “owe” someone an answer? My take is that a rejection response is only warranted after a first meet up (or Skype/Facetime call, in the post-COVID era); abandoning a conversation before a first date is totally fine.
  • Take a break if you need it. Online dating takes a lot of time and effort, and you truly get out of it what you put in. If you’re feeling “burnt out,” it’s ok to take a break. It’s far better to stop completely and regain motivation, versus continue on the hamster wheel and not put your best foot forward. I typically did 3 months on, 3 months off with the apps.

Biggest tip of all…

There are no rules! Do what feels right by you. Contrary to the laundry list of dating “rules” I just shared, I want to emphasize that there truly are NO rules in dating. None of my tips mean anything if they don’t feel right to YOU. By staying true to yourself, you WILL find someone who fits you completely.

To share an anecdote, during my dating years, it was common after only one date, I would get attached and be ALL IN, only to get my hopes up and be let down. I’m sure you can imagine how this scared a lot of guys away and definitely made me question if I was doing something wrong…the concept of “protecting my heart” was foreign to me, despite all my girlfriends advising me to pull back more. And so I tried doing the opposite: playing it cool and acting disinterested, only to attract avoidant guys, grow super anxious, and obsess even more…

After throwing away all the thoughts of what I “should” be, I let my authentic, open-hearted self go…I embraced my “all in” style, and if it scared off guys, then I would just move on and not question if there was something “wrong” with me. And then I met Joe. We were both smitten from the start and fell in love quickly, and unlike other guys, there was ZERO anxiety for me! Joe is just as loyal, loving, and passionate as I am, and this only worked because I was my authentic self, versus playing the “cool girl.”

I hope this gives you all some encouragement to put yourselves out there, love yourselves, embrace dating, and above all, have fun!!! 🙂


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