Photo via Alamy. Collage by VICE Staff.
If you spent lockdown flicking through dating apps, you’ll have come to realise that most people have shit profiles. Open any app and you’re confronted by overzealous use of the plane emoji, recycled Peep Show quotes and people who have managed to base an entire personality around the fact that they went to South America once. Of course, we are all guilty of falling into dating profile cliches. The bio you thought was clever and funny is probably being torn apart in a stranger’s group chat right now.
Of all the popular dating apps, Hinge requires the most effort. Not only do users have to provide photos of themselves, they also have to complete a series of icebreaker-style prompts, aimed at sparking conversation with potential matches. These range from the mundane (“The next vacation I want to go on… ” or “My dream dinner guest… ”) to the outright cheesy: “My ideal date…” or “I’m looking for… ”. Unsurprisingly, “socially distanced drinks” and “a quarantine bae” have been two popular responses to the latter two since the start of the pandemic. And if you thought you were kooky by choosing Louis Theroux as your dinner party guest, you are sorely mistaken.
Clearly, perfecting a Hinge profile is hard, so it’s not surprising that a community of keen Hinge users has popped up on Reddit. r/HingeApp is a subreddit dedicated to “discussing the online dating app” and invites posters to talk about how successful and – more importantly – unsuccessful they’ve been on the app.
Unlike r/Tinder, which mainly consists of people posting screenshots of funny pick-up lines, the Hinge equivalent is a little bit more serious. Most posters seem to genuinely care about finding “the one”: a post celebrating a woman shooting her shot by commenting on a man’s picture gets over 100 up-votes. As with many subreddits, there are also plenty of questionable conspiracy theories. One poster claims that only conventionally hot users have their profiles marked with “just joined”, while two say that they “only see unattractive girls” on the app, wondering whether “physically attractive girls are having success with Tinder and Bumble” instead. Another goes to the trouble of tallying the number of profiles they have seen in a month (3,666), the number of these that they liked, the number of matches they received and finally, the number of dates that they actually went on: one.
But the main focus of r/HingeApp is its critiquing of posters’ answers to prompts and choice of photos. Zach Schleien, the subreddit’s creator and sole moderator, tells me that he wanted to give Hinge users a space to receive honest feedback on their profiles.
“I’ve always really been obsessed with online dating and the ability for technology to bring people romantically together,” he says. “I had a dating blog before [creating r/HingeApp] and it was just a way to review dating apps and give tips to millennials who were dating at the time.”
One r/HingeApp poster I speak to, who wishes to remain anonymous, has found the subreddit useful. “Most of my friends are married or have long-term girlfriends,” he says. “They’ve never used dating apps, so they have no idea how it works.”
When I ask Schleien about the appeal of discussing your dating profile with strangers on the internet, he claims that posters on r/HingeApp will always be honest – and this is a good thing. “When you ask your friends, they may be biassed, or they may not want to hurt your feelings,” he says. “With a stranger, you’ll take it with a grain of salt but they’re not going to be biased. A stranger can be like, ‘Hey, that photo just is not a good look’ or ‘That fun fact is super boring’.”
Many posts on the subreddit do appear to be constructive, but some responses are pretty brutal. A 24-year-old woman asking for feedback on her profile because she isn’t getting any matches is met with the age-old advice: “You need to smile more”. A 19-year-old man who asks, “Am I ugly?” receives a blunt takedown: “Awkward selfie. Bad lighting, plain room background, no smile. Replace photo”. Strangers may be honest, but it’s a far cry from the safe space of sharing a cute new selfie in a friend WhatsApp group.
Despite all this, Schleien believes that on the whole, the Hinge subreddit is helpful.
“I think it’s nice to kind of crowdsource because dating apps don’t really show you your best photo, or things of that nature,” he says. “People have no clue how to position themselves.”