It seems like only yesterday we were secretly making Tinder profiles, stashing the app in a discreet folder on the second or third page of our home screen and making up ultimately unconvincing stories to explain how we met the new stranger we’re bringing to Rachel’s wedding. But dating apps are about to enter their second decade of mainstream use, and times have changed.
In the nearly eight years since Tinder launched, online dating has gone from a taboo, last-ditch resort for desperate loners to one of the most ubiquitous platforms and defining cultural touchpoints for modern dating. There are more dating apps than you can count on both hands, and while they’ve led to plenty of hookups and one night stands, dating apps have also led to many a relationship, marriage, divorce, pregnancy, etc. Yes, there are literally whole ass human beings out there who wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for dating apps.
Depending on various factors like your affinity for rom coms and/or thoughts on the word “meet-cute,” the rising ubiquity of dating apps may be either the biggest blessing or curse of the 2010s. But like it or not, they’re here to stay.
Not here to stay? Some of the many, many annoying dating app habits we’ve cultivated over the years. By now you should know that no one wants to see you holding a fish (unless you can figure out how to hold it with the right veil of irony) and that you shouldn’t catfish people. But take it from me, a person who has spent literally the entirety of my adult life on dating apps, there are many, many more ways you can go wrong.
For your edification, I’ve graciously compiled this list of 20 things you should stop doing on dating apps in 2020. If you’ve been guilty of one or more of these things, it’s important to remember that it’s not your fault. We are all complicit in the massive garbage heap that is dating app culture. Ditching these 20 habits will make the online dating landscape a little more successful for you, and a little more habitable for the rest of us.
1. Pretending to be very over/ambivalent about/too good for dating apps
This includes any mention of the following:
“Not really into dating apps just trying this out”
“We can tell our families we met at *blank*”
Answering the Hinge prompt: “Worst idea I’ve ever had” with “Hinge” or “dating apps”
Answering the Hinge prompt: “Change my mind about” with “Hinge” or “dating apps”
Aside from being boring and cliche, this also reinforces very dated attitudes toward dating apps. It’s not 2013. There’s nothing shameful or weird about dating apps. Also not shameful or weird? Not using dating apps! So if you don’t like them, don’t use them! No one’s holding a gun to your head and forcing you to make a Hinge profile. If you really don’t want to use dating apps, a much easier way to convey that than complaining about it in your dating app profile would be to simply not make a dating app profile in the first place! Problem solved.
2. Asking for someone’s Snapchat before their phone number
The bigger issue at hand here is that if you’re over the age of 20 and Snapchat is still your primary form of communication, you shouldn’t be allowed to date at all. If Snapchat is the first place you want to take our conversation when we’re ready to move off the app, I assume you are either: 1. A teen 2. Looking for nudes or 3. Married. Yes, I understand that some people aren’t comfortable exchanging phone numbers with a stranger they met on the internet. Totally reasonable! Might I suggest using another secure messaging app, such as WhatsApp (might still think you’re married but really that’s none of my business), or perhaps just continuing to chat on the dating app, which has a chat feature for this very reason. Which brings us to…
3. Exchanging numbers too early
There are no hard and fast rules dictating when and how to take a conversation off an app, but attempting to do so too early can work to your disadvantage. No, you don’t want to get stuck in an endless back and forth on the app where your chat will eventually get lost in between all your other matches, but weary swipers may be reluctant to add yet another “Matt Tinder” or “Maybe: Matt” to their phone. In my own expert opinion, numbers should be exchanged when you are ready to make plans to meet in person — which may very well (and I’d argue, probably should) happen relatively shortly after matching. The key is not to just ask for someone’s number only to then continue the same back and forth on a different platform. If that’s all you’re interested in, the in-app chat feature will do just fine; it’s not actually “so hard to text on here.”
4. Starting conversations with “hey”
This isn’t going to get you anywhere. Period. We’re all tired. Just delete your account if that’s all you got.
5. Starting a conversation with one of the app’s pre-written conversation starters
The person you send it to is obviously also on that app and has also seen all those same conversation starters. But unlike you, that person looked through those conversation starters and thought, “Lol who would use these?” And unfortunately, now they know. Frankly, you’re better off with “Hey.”
6. Overusing someone’s name
Once upon a time, some social psychologist or other told some sex and relationships writer or other that using someone’s name in a text can help establish intimacy. Unfortunately, all it really establishes is creepiness — especially if this is a person you’ve never even met. Yes, great, you know my name because you read it in my profile. You have established basic literacy. There is no need to use someone’s name on a dating app. If you message me, I already know you are talking to me. There is no one else you could possibly be addressing in our private chat thread. If you like unnecessarily saying my name, I encourage you to save it for when we’re in bed.
7. Too many group pics
As someone with very few friends, I understand the impulse to prove that you do, in fact, have them. That said, having all or mostly group photos is a quick way to get left-swiped. We don’t have time to play guess who with your profile. Your first pic should absolutely be a picture of just you. A couple subsequent group pics where you are easy to identify is fine. Please keep any pics of you and 25 of your closest shirtless bros to a minimum.
8. Having fewer than three pictures
Two pictures is not enough for us to make an informed decision about what you actually look like. It also makes it seem like you’re either extremely lazy and/or not a real account. Three is an absolute minimum. The more the merrier.
Attention all men: Exactly 175 percent of you are absolutely terrible at taking selfies. I’m not sure why or how this happened, but you really can’t seem to do it well and I suggest you stop trying. Besides looking bad, an overabundance of selfies makes it look like you don’t go anywhere or have anyone willing to take pictures of you. The real way to prove you’re not a weird loner isn’t to use a bunch of group pics, it’s to use non-selfies. One to two mirror selfies are permissible (you seem to fare better with those) and maybe one well-taken selfie of you and some friends. But that’s it — and please ask a trusted woman to verify whether or not that selfie is actually good.
10. Pictures that aren’t you
Cool landscape/skyline/beach etc., but that’s not what I’m here for. You can have one non-you photo if it is truly impressive and related to you, like an award you won or a piece of art you’ve created. But no one wants to see your vacation pics.
11. Using pictures of yourself at the Women’s March
Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad you went to the Women’s March and you should feel good about it. But using pictures of yourself at the Women’s March on your dating profile makes it seem like you’re using feminism to attract women — because whether or not that’s your intent, that is in fact what you’re doing. It’s a dating app, and if you are a straight cis guy on a dating app, everything you do on that app is, inevitably, done in an attempt to attract women — that’s its only purpose. If you really are the great Women’s Marching male feminist you want your prospective romantic partners to think you are, I promise it will come through anyway. It’s also still great and fine to post your Women’s March pics to Instagram, which most apps will let you link to your profile, so you can flaunt your feminism in a more subtle way that doesn’t make it look like you’re trying to cash in woke points for ass.
12. Calling yourself an “entrepreneur”
Some people might be entrepreneurs, but there is very little overlap between them and people on dating apps who call themselves entrepreneurs. As my friend put it, “The guy on Tinder who is an ‘entrepreneur’ and the girl from high school in a pyramid scheme on Facebook who is an ‘entrepreneur’ are two different breeds of equally fake entrepreneurs.” If your job sucks, just don’t put down your job.
13. Lying about your age
This seems to be most common among men around certain milestone ages. I’ve been on a few dates with presumed 38-year-olds, only to find out (much to my preference) that they are actually 42-year-olds who were concerned that too many women cut off their age preferences after 40. Guess what? A woman who doesn’t want to date someone over 40 also doesn’t want to date someone over 40 who is also a liar. I promise, there are plenty of people out there who genuinely want to date people in your age range, whatever that age range might be. The beauty of dating apps is they can filter everyone else out for you so you only see people who may have a mutual interest in you. It’s a win-win, and no one has to lie.
14. Listing very specific height/weight/body type requirements
This isn’t about being shallow or superficial. We all have preferences about physical appearance and those preferences aren’t inherently bad or shameful or less important. This is about not being a huge jerk. Matters of physical appearance, especially weight and body type, can be extremely fraught and emotionally charged topics for people. It is completely unnecessary to go around stating your physical demands in your dating app bio (and yes, this goes for women who establish “deal-breakers” about men’s height too). Many dating apps allow you to privately filter based on height anyway, and a few allow you to filter based on body type as well. Again, it’s completely fine to have and act on these preferences, but there’s literally nothing to be gained from mentioning them in your profile. If you don’t have anything nice to say, just only match with people who suit your fancy and leave everyone else alone.
15. Really long bios
TL;DR. Keep it short and sweet. We don’t need your life story and the fact that you enjoy long walks on the beach. Many dating apps, like Bumble, Hinge and Facebook Dating, include other places for you to lay out the fundamentals in your profile anyway — like whether or not you want kids, drinking/smoking preferences, religion, etc. Since the basics are already covered, you can save your bio for something chill and hopefully funny and/or clever. (Note, a quote from The Office is neither.)
16. Making your entire profile about dogs
Liking dogs may very well be a personality, it’s just a really boring one. Yes, dogs may be important to you, and many people like them, which makes it a great place to establish common ground. But the whole “only here for cute dog pics” / “probably will like your dog more than I’ll like you” / “probably like my dog more than I’ll like you” / “Fido comes first” etc. is played out and boring as hell. Yes, we all love our dogs. It’s very endearing and not at all unique or interesting.
17. “Swipe left if you are/are not *arbitrary thing I like/dislike*”
Again, no one needs to see a list of demands that you’ve decided make for the perfect romantic partner. It’s presumptive, makes you seem closed-minded, and it also suggests you assume that you have the ideal qualities everyone must be seeking in a mate and the onus is on the rest of the world to evaluate themselves for you rather than the other way around.
18. Messaging matches you’ve never met in real life because you happened to actually spot them out in the wild and recognized them from the app
One time I was walking out of the CVS in my neighborhood and looked down and saw a Tinder message from a match I’d never met in real life and had barely spoken to on the app that said, “Hey did you just walk into CVS?” This was absolutely terrifying. Please don’t do this. In very densely populated cities like New York or Los Angeles, it’s entirely possible that you might bump into someone in real life who you recognize from an app. Do not acknowledge it! This is not fate, it’s not your in, it’s not a fun conversation starter. It’s terrifying and a really quick way to get blocked and/or reported.
19. Rapid-fire right swiping on every single prospective match
I’d heard rumors that men would just open up Tinder or Bumble and swipe right on every single profile in the hopes of racking up some matches, but I didn’t believe it until one day at the gym when I watched in horror from my perch atop a stair climber while a guy pedaling along on a stationary bike did exactly that. Don’t do this. Best case scenario, you clutter up your match queue with a bunch of people you aren’t actually interested in. Otherwise, you’ll just end up feeling disappointed when, after all that swiping, you still only come up with one match. It’s a quick path to swipe fatigue and/or carpal tunnel. Slow down and swipe with intent.
20. Getting unduly upset about ghosting
The 2010s were the decade of ghosting outrage. Let’s leave that behind in 2020. Yes, it’s rude to just disappear on a person you’ve been seeing, but times have changed, and ghosting isn’t the egregious moral ill it once was. In fact, there are many situations in which ghosting is not only permissible, but in fact preferable. If you’ve been on a few dates with a person, yes, you should probably let them know if you’re no longer interested in continuing to see them. But if you never even took things off the app, no one owes you an explanation. In fact, no one owes you anything. Ghost and let ghost.