One of arguably the best and most controversial 21st century developments seems to be dating apps. For better or worse, you can skip any quaint courting ritual and go straight to getting it poppin’ and sneaking out the morning after. But the question remains: Are dating apps just for hookups? If you’re no longer interested in hookups or never were, it’s easy to get jaded with modern dating. Whether it’s your friends, pop culture, or your own lackluster experiences, it might seem that dating apps are just for one-night stands, FWB situations, and flings at best. You’re left wondering, “OK, is there a version of my swiping, matching, and messaging on dating apps that can get help me get back to actual dating?”
Ultimately, it comes down to a mix of your intentions, those of your potential matches, and which app you’re on. Looking at the big three (Tinder, Hinge, and Bumble), you’ll find that yes, you can find a committed romantic relationship on dating apps. A 2017 study found that about half of U.S. couples met online. On average, 39% of straight couples met via the internet and 60% of queer ones did. So, never mind any preconceived notion of what dating apps have to offer. And as it turns out, there’s a lot going on behind-the-scenes that puts the odds in your favor — beyond curing horny Friday night boredom.
For starters, there’s Bumble, which is founded explicitly on respect. That’s evident in women holding the power to make the first move on the app, subverting gendered power imbalances. It’s also evident in new features like d*ck pic detection, aka “Private Detector,” which goes live in June 2019. More than the app’s reputation and features, a 2018 survey found that 85 percent of Bumble users are “looking for marriage or a boyfriend/girlfriend.” Less than four percent of people were looking for a hookup.
So if you’re looking for someone to date on Bumble, it’s truly just a matter of specifying what kind of dating you’re interested in. “Not everyone is looking for the same thing when it comes to dating, so we encourage our users to make it clear what they are looking for on their profiles — to help set expectations on both sides,” says Alex Williamson, Bumble’s chief brand officer.
One tangible way to do that is by customizing your Bumble profiles badges. Do you want casual dating, a long-term relationship, or marriage and kids? Whatever you’re looking for, don’t be shy about it. You can even filter what other folks are looking for, too, Williamson says. She also explains that she and Bumble staff hear from app users all the time about how they’ve found love. Williamson has already officiated a Bumble couple’s wedding and will be officiating more later this year. She adds, “I was just getting coffee somewhere in Austin wearing my Bumble hoodie and our waitress pulled out her phone to show me a picture of her Bumble baby!”
Hinge, too, makes a compelling case for romance over hookups via dating apps. Its tagline is “Designed to be Deleted.” Basically, that means Hinge was designed with IRL dates and (fingers crossed!) a budding romantic relationship in mind. From the jump, Hinge encourages users to put their most authentic self forward. It invites you to add tidbits like lifestyle habits to your Hinge profile or fill out its monthly, thought-provoking prompts. Then, the app’s “Most Compatible” feature takes care of the rest. The algorithm takes into account likes you and the community have sent within the past 24 hours, and then analyzes in-app behavior. By limiting likes, too, Hinge ensures that users’ likes are meaningful. The app also prompts people to reply when its their turn in the convo, cutting down on accidental ghosting in the process.
The “designed to be deleted” slogan doesn’t just apply to Hinge’s “getting to know you” set-up. The app’s interface was literally designed to help you focus on your match and get on a real date with them. The ample white space, cute drawings, and gentle splashes of royal purple, lilac, and yellow are intentional. Hinge’s Director of Design Lucy Mort said, “The colors and illustrations invoke a sense of optimism in a process that can often feel draining. We want the warmth and spiritedness of the new design to motivate our members to get off the app and out on a date.”
The changes appear to work. “The new illustrations, rounded corners, and more whimsical palette do make the design less serious or sterile,” UX designer and cognitive researcher Maxim Leyzerovich told Elite Daily. “By designing experiences that are aesthetically calming — but also visually balanced and laid out — the inherent anxiety of using the app can be decreased.
And then there’s Tinder, the one with a reigning reputation as a hookup app — a playground of nothing long-term, nothing serious. It seems the data reflects that, too. Tinder’s 2018 survey of more than 1,000 singles from 18 to 25 years old found that 72% of millennials have “made a conscious decision to be single for a period of time.” Of that group, 62% made this decision to focus on their own needs and 47% did so to focus on school.
So, yes, millennial Tinder users may be staying single for responsible reasons, like nurturing their ambitions and working on themselves. And the fact that 40% of respondents said they wouldn’t “settle for the wrong person for the sake of being in a relationship” could be encouraging. You can even be explicit about what you’re looking for in your Tinder bio. But the bottom line is: The vast majority of Tinder users aren’t looking to be boo’d up anytime soon. Bumble and Hinge are going to be your best bet if you’re looking for a serious relationship.
So, if you’re out there on dating apps, there is a chance you might run into one or two or five matches you really like (who just want to hook up). But there’s an attitude shift, on behalf of dating apps and app users, that’s looking super promising for finding love online. With the right app and intentions, know that a potential spark is only one swipe away.