Welcome to the wild west of internet dating.
Navigating the superficial world of online dating can be hard, especially if you’re new to its bizarre amalgamation of lefts, rights and super likes.
We’re told all our lives not to judge a book by its cover, but that’s exactly what online dating invites us to do. So how can you make your cover sparkle and catch the eyes of your future swipe?
And more importantly, how can you navigate the ever-changing landscape of online dating in an era of social distancing, COVID-19 restrictions and cat-fishing?
As seasoned dating app users, we have spent years on-and-off lurking on the big three – Bumble, Tinder and Hinge. While you’d think we’d have lost hope in humanity by now, we’ve both had great relationships from the apps. We really do believe in the process.
This also means we’ve got our filtering systems down to an art, with all kinds of arbitrary criteria to avoid incompatibility or general assholery from our matches.
We had our hunches that people generally aren’t drawn to the guy proudly holding up the giant dead fish or the queer-baiting girl who’s actually looking for a threesome with her boyfriend, but we wanted to figure out if our deal-breakers and preferences were common or just us being picky.
Instead of Googling, we decided to go right to the source and virtually sit down with Bumble’s Associate Director of PR, Lucille McCart, to break down what the online daters of Australia are really looking for.
The pandemic has changed a whole lot about the way we date, but as we return to some semblance of normal life, a lot of people are unsure about how to dip their toes back into the water.
Lucille says 86 per cent of Bumble users are interested in real life dating again but almost half feel unsure of how to do it. With that in mind, here are her handy tips.
Pictures are the core of any online profile and your dating profile is no exception. Be it Bumble, Tinder, Grindr or Hinge, you’ll always be asked to start by selecting a photo.
According to Lucille, more is definitely more when it comes to photos. People who feature three to six photos on their Bumble profiles have been found to receive 93 per cent more matches than those who feature less than three images.
Not only that, but variety is important. Lucille says you should always start your profile with a picture of just you so it’s abundantly clear what you look like. Photos where you’re smiling might do statistically better, but if you’re more of Daria type, we say embrace it.
What about group photos? Or selfies?
You’ll be happy to know they get Bumble’s tick of approval – in moderation. Just like you don’t want every photo to be a sea of faces, you don’t want every photo to be a selfie either. Same goes for bikini or shirtless pics, unless you’re looking for a hookup.
“You want to show yourself doing things you enjoy… like going to the beach, hiking, cooking,” Lucille says. “Use your photos as a way to communicate bits about your personality.”
But what should you avoid?
Anything out-of-focus or blurry is a massive no-no and although they might look good on your Instagram feed or Snapchat, heavy filters are also out of the question.
As for the hunting and fishing photos, only include them if that’s truly what you’re passionate about. Otherwise, best to leave that for Instagram.
According to a 2016 study by Tinder, sunnies and hats shouldn’t live in your online dating profile either. The research found users wearing sunglasses or prescription glasses were 15 per cent less likely to get a swipe right, and people wearing hats were also 12 per cent less likely.
But as glasses-wearing gals, we say live your best four-eyes life and wear your glasses anyway. Anyone worthwhile won’t consider the glasses you actually need as a red-flag or a reason to swipe left.
Lucille’s big tip is to “just be original [and] show yourself in your natural setting”. If you’re in Melbourne like us, that might be your living room in your loungewear or the local park on your government-mandated walk. Keep it real.
And how about bios?
It can be tempting to avoid filling that pesky little section inviting you to distil your personality into a sentence or two, but Lucille says that leaving your bio blank is probably one of the worst things you can do.
“If you put a bio, any bio, you’re 32 per cent more likely to get a match,” she says. Leading with something positive or humorous is also setting yourself up for success. Mention things you do like or you are looking for, rather than the things you’re not and you’ll probably have a better time.
Lucille says that alluding to what you’re after, asking a question, or including a tidbit that’s going to spark conversation can be a great start. One of us (Emma) means business and has “not here for a hook up so I’m only going to swipe right if you’re super hot or if I think you have what it takes to be my man x” in her bio.
Not only does this tell potential matches she’s looking for something more long-term, but they almost always message first to find out which one they are. Man material, or just hot? Isabelle on the other hand dares her suitors to debate her on American politics. There’s no correct way to go about a bio, so make it your own.
Your bio is just another way to show people who you are, so conversation-sparking content is a plus (hint hint, no one is going to have anything to say about a bio full of emojis or your standard ‘add me on snap @username’).
What’s the go with prompts, badges, and linked accounts?
So what about all those extra features you can add to bulk out your account? Lucille says adding prompts, badges, and linked accounts like your Spotify and Instagram are just more great ways to create a complete picture of who you are.
Similar to your bio, try to pick prompts that best convey who you are and avoid cliches if you can. Answering the prompt ‘what are you overly competitive about?’ with ‘everything’, doesn’t really inspire confidence.
No surprises here, we also know that people love pets. On Bumble, the pet badge is one of the most utilised on the platform with 64 per cent of users in Australia featuring it on their profiles. Of those, nearly 30 per cent use the dog badge specifically.
According to Lucille, including any of the badges on your profile from height, star-sign or whether you’re open to kids increases your chances of matching by 3.3 times, and linking accounts such as Instagram and Spotify are also great conversation starters.
“For some people, if you can see you have the same music taste as someone, that’s a really amazing thing to talk about when you match,” she says.
Linking these accounts and verifying your profile not only make you come across as a ‘real’ person and not a catfish, but they also increase your chances of a match by 24 per cent.
Dating in a pandemic
There’s no denying the landscape of dating has changed as a result of COVID-19, and many of the apps have changed to accommodate this.
Bumble introduced video calls before the pandemic as a security feature, but it’s taken on a whole new level of importance in the era of social distancing. Lucille said they saw a 76 per cent increase of video calls in Australia in March and May, with an average call time of 28 minutes.
“We saw people really trying to replicate the real-life dating experience as much as possible… like during happy hour they’re having a glass of wine together, ordering the same food, cooking together or really trying to replicate that dinner date experience,” she says.
According to Lucille, dating app users are unsure of appropriate intimacy levels in a post-pandemic world and where to even go for a date.
“All the routines of dating, the foundations of that, have really shifted and changed and we approach things in a very different way than we used to,” she says. “People are talking on more meaningful levels before they even agree to a date.”
At the end of the day, include and do what you’re comfortable with. If this is your first dive into the online dating pool, you might be reluctant to post too many photos or add too much information in your profile at first, and that’s completely okay! Take your time, vibe it out and keep on swiping.