Let’s face it, dating apps are a double-edged sword — they carry the possibility for a magnificent gift of love, but also a terrifying potential for getting cursed out, rejected, or humiliated. Of course, you’d never be alone: As of 2021, some 370.1 million people use dating apps, according to the website 2date4love.
Nearly everyone I’ve come across in my personal life has used a dating app, is currently using a dating app, or has heard at least one dating app story, good or bad. I myself used dating apps religiously, with messages coming in from Hinge, Tinder, Bumble, and even OkCupid before I started dating my boyfriend. Before you ask: We met through work, not a dating app. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t have luck on them; some of my exes came from Tinder.
And the clichés about dating apps are no farce. I saw so many things: meme accounts, accounts with one awkward picture, people who’d cuss you out if you didn’t respond quickly enough, and weird bios that made you scratch your head. You grow used to seeing these profiles, wondering what would happen if they had chosen just a little bit differently. Well, it’s about time to speak about the most common dating app faux pas — and give tips for fixing them.
1. Face-obstructing selfies
Whether it be an unfortunate haircut or an intentionally awkward angle to hide that surprise zit, the amount of low-quality, face-obstructing selfies I saw on dating apps was out of control. “If your romantic interest can’t immediately tell what you look like because your photos are old and low-quality, or because you have too many group shots (or because you’re wearing sunglasses, or because your photo is over-edited…) they’re swiping left! Do yourself a favor, and take an hour to take some quality photos if you don’t have six already,” says Blaine Anderson, founder and CEO of DatingByBlaine.com, a consultation service that helps men up the ante on their dating profiles.
A good, quality photo is an unobstructed view of your face, showing off your best features. For my pictures, I’d make sure to tilt ever so slightly to the side of my face I like, angle the phone slightly upward, and be sure I got a lot of light. (You might even invest in a mini-ring light and practice your angles if you’re committed to fixing this issue.)
2. Lying about age or height
Many think that they have to lie about their height or age to seem desirable. The most common examples of this I ran into were men lying about being six feet tall; in person, I’d inevitably find out they were six inches off. As Kevin Darné, author of Online Dating Avoid the Catfish!: How to Date Online Successfully says, “Lying about age, height, weight, career, and relationship status is a big mistake if you’re hoping to have a serious relationship.”
Charly Lester, a dating expert and founder of Lumen, a dating app for people over 50, says, “Put simply, singles want great dates. That starts with positivity and being your best self. By listing negative qualities, you not only put off the people you don’t want, but the ones you do want as well. There are more positive ways you can attract the right person. If you’re a tall woman, instead of ‘no one under 6 feet,’ try listing your own height to match up with similar people. That way, you can attract high quality matches and set the conversation off on a positive foot.”
Know that quality matches won’t care about those numbers. Tell the truth, and if they don’t like it, why would you want to date them?
3. Not enough photos
Another photo faux pas is the lack of photos. Having only one to two is a bit of a red flag, and not just for me personally. I remember when I religiously used dating apps, the biggest thing that’d make me swipe left is if there were only one to two available photos. Besides a good bio, photos are all you can offer in the crucial moments of swiping right or left. Many apps have six or more slots for photos, so use them.
“I’d also stay away from obviously clichéd photos like mirror selfies, posing with a fish, etc. The best photos are ones that clearly show what you look like, but can also tell a story about your personality. So, while a selfie could be good, high quality current photos of you doing what you love are best,” says Jonathan Bennett, an owner and dating/relationship coach for Double Trust Dating.
If all else fails, the best photos are those of you having fun and smiling. Photos show who you are and what you like, so make them count.
Amber Lee, CEO of Select Date Society, a matchmaking service, recommends including recent photos. “The worst thing you can do is show up to a date looking nothing like your photos because they were outdated.” Lee also recommends “showing off your many dimensions,” adding that you should “include photos of you dressed up to go to a black-tie event as well as photos of you in workout clothes. Show a variety of different looks to show how dynamic you are.”
4. Bad conversations
“Hey” just won’t cut it in the dating world. Conversations die fast, especially among strangers online. Anderson added, “Opening the conversation without good direction [is a big no-no]… The most important factor in landing a superb partner via dating apps is standing out.”
And sometimes, it’s about getting enough of a conversation going to get off of the DMs and meet in person.
A colleague of mine, Richard Baxter, who works in e-sports, told me about his personal experience, “I met my partner on a dating app. Quickly, she stopped our message exchange saying that there’s a good chance of messages creating false expectations and we should just meet for a coffee to check the chemistry before an actual date.”
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Now if you’re not ready to meet someone in real life or not ready to take that leap, always trust your gut at the end of the day.
Starting a conversation with a stranger you’re hoping to build a connection with can be difficult — even terrifying — but you have to at least try if you want to go on dates. Some things you can use to start the conversation:
A joke or pun you love
Ask about the other person. Check if their bio mentioned something you like or know of, and go from there.
Start with a simple compliment: a feature you like about them, something cool they like — stray away from shallow-seeming compliments that are too looks-based or aggressive.
You can also lean on some probing questions used by a researcher trying to speed up intimacy between strangers. But perhaps start with asking about what a perfect day would be for them before inquiring about their most terrible memory.
5. Cliché bios: Saying what you’re NOT looking for
Canwen Xu, dating expert at iris, a dating app, discussed what a bad bio can do. “If you’re listing some characteristics about yourself, try to keep them in a list rather than separating them with a bunch of commas. It’s way easier to read. It also might not be the best idea to include your social media handles because you open yourself up to lots of scammers.” Xu added, “A good bio is one that shows off a bit of your personality while leaving people wanting to know more. You can include a couple of basic facts about where you’re from, what you like to do, and what you’re looking for so that matches have something to ask you about when you’re messaging each other.”
You can make some simple adjustments to your bio, and if you’re having issues, Hinge has some built-in prompts you can add like what your ideal date is, two truths and a lie, etc. But if you prefer the free-form essay of dating app bios, there are a few things you can add, such as:
Entertainment you like (What are your favorite books, movies, TV shows, or games?)
Be honest about why you’re on a dating app
What’s something you’re super proud of?
Talk about your job or school (What do you do? Do you like it? What’s your dream job?)
It’s always good to figure out yourself before you figure out what you’re looking for from other people. And whether you’re more into dating online or dating in real life, just put yourself out there.