Hackers 2.0: how to game the dating app algorithm

Stop swiping into the void - here's our cheat code to help you unlock your appily ever after

Hero image in post
photo: Gregg DeGuire / Getty
Hero image in post
photo: Gregg DeGuire / Getty

Stop swiping into the void - here's our cheat code to help you unlock your appily ever after

By Megan Wallace20 Jan 2023
7 mins read time
7 mins read time

Hiya shaggers. I'm Megan, and for the past five years I've written about all things sex and relationships: heading to sex parties, reviewing dildos and navigating non-monogamy to find out what's new and exciting in the world of the sexually delighting. Every month, I'm coming to you with sexpert advice: my picks of the best ~sexual wellness~ bits from the world of woo, the science of sex and my (sometimes unhinged) musings from the dating wilderness. Today, I'm cracking open my Gamer Theory paperback (not really) and delving into the gameified world of dating apps.

Ah: the apps. While we all seem to have succumbed to collective dating app fatigue (and are trying to embrace the cringe world of app-free, IRL indie dating), most of us can't seem to resist a mindless swipe on Hinge. But why? Well, even if you've given up on the idea of finding love on what is essentially a digital meat market, you probably struggle to stay away for long - because the repetitive action of swiping, swiping, swiping and sometimes, randomly, getting a match, mimics the reward system at the heart of digital games: from slot machines to Candy Crush. It's futile, yes, but it's plenty addictive.

Realising that dating apps are gameified - and that they basically exist to keep you on them, being served the occasional ad - anyone seriously on the search for a partner knows that they have to up their own game. Yep, with Dating Sunday (the first Sunday of January, and the busiest time on apps) firmly in the rearview mirror, it's time to get strategic and a bit more...intentional...with our dating app usage. After all, you're not ever going to spring for that premium membership, are you?

Dating app tips for your perfect match

Bin any idea that you're going to meet someone in an organic or carefree way. This isn't a noughties romcom, there is not a meet-cute round the corner. Instead, try some of these pointers:

  • Respond to the app's oh-so-subtle cues: Like social media, apps work on an algorithm. When little messages or prompts pop up telling you to play along with whatever Badoo, Bumble or Feeld has in store, just do it. These are often invitations to provide certain info on your type, such as Hinge's We Met feature, which asks you if you ended up actually going on a date with the person you swapped numbers with. It's not there to mock you every time a lead goes cold and you get ghosted, it's actually there to get a feel for who you would like enough to meet up with in person. If you hit the button, the app will start serving you more appropriate potential matches.

  • Ditch the reservations about digital privacy: The world is a scary place and we live in a social media panopticon of internet surveillance. Either you know this and you don't like to think about what selling your data means, or you don't use apps and social media. If you're in the former group, it helps to maintain your selective amnesia about the importance of digital privacy and just give the app what it wants: lots and lots of info about you. If you let it track you in the background, it will gain info about links you're opening (therefore your tastes in things) and if you sync your social media it will get info about who you interact with (therefore your tastes in people). Yep, it's terrifying - but the choice between anonymity online and a useful selection of possible hookups is yours.

  • Delete and re-download: This is a good move for Hinge in particular as whenever you're newly on the app it floods you with potential matches to try and gather details of your type and pushes your profile out to looooads more people. I periodically delete the app for a week or two and then come back for a turbocharged experience. If you're sexually fluid, you can also start randomly toying with your selected gender preferences for a similar effect. Another win for the bis.

  • Move the conversation elsewhere: This one isn't so much a hack as common sense. If you're actually vibing with someone you are messaging on a dating app, try and take the chat elsewhere. Dating app messaging functions can be clunky and off-putting and it's easy for your match to get distracted by the constant stream of romantic leads on whatever app you're on. Get their number or their IG and get moving! Or better yet, ask them to actually meet up, we're not all looking for pen pals, after all. f you're worried about safety or that they might not be who they say they are, you can weed out any catfishes by setting up a virtual date with the the in-app video call feature to check out the vibe first.

woo presents: life In love

Get a load of this 🍆 🍆

One thing about us? We know sex toys: we've even got a whole online store full of 'em. Here, we give you a round-up of our favourite piece of sex tech of the month.

How does a tight foreskin impact your sex life? 🍌

Here in the world of woo, we've been breaking down the stigma about having a tight foreskin (aka phimosis): speaking to experts about what to do and hearing from people who've been through about what it's like. Below, Greg from London relays his own experience with phimosis and how it has shaped his sexual encounters.

“I always knew something was different, and as I got older, I felt really body-conscious whenever I was naked or in a sexual situation,” he recalls. “I couldn’t really enjoy sexual encounters before my circumcision. I was scared that someone might ask questions, and there was also the fear of pain or discomfort if my sexual partner was a bit rough or inexperienced when it comes to a tight foreskin.”

"As I got older I felt really body-conscious whenever I was naked or in a sexual situation"

“I chose to have a circumcision because my urologist explained that while steroid creams may offer some relief, they weren’t a guaranteed fix in the way that a circumcision would be,” Greg continues.

“I’d lived with the condition long enough and didn’t want to wait any longer. I wanted to get it sorted as soon as possible and to know that it would be 100 percent effective, so circumcision was the best course of action for me, and I’m so glad I did it.”

Read the full entry in our Health Check: Phimosis feature.

The science of sex 🧠

Did you know that women in straight relationships are still shouldering a disproportionate amount of household chores? I know, wild. YouGov research from 2021 suggested that 38% of women who work full-time and have a partner say they do most of the housework and childcare.

And even if you're waaay off from thinking about procreating, and aren't too plugged in when it comes to stats, you will probably have seen the videos saying; "People often ask me how I keep my home so clean and organised and aesthetically pleasing and the answer is simple: I don't live with a man." You might also have seen the persistent "navy blue sheets" and "flattest pillow" slander on TikTok. Yep, the internet thinks that straight men a) are untidy to live with and b) have abysmal living standards.

Yes, it's giving misandry (bad!) but also...maybe invest in some cute homeware and spend a little time doing a spring clean, guys. While social media has made it very clear that this will automatically up your dating game, it's a theory that's actually backed by science too.

A recent study published in The Archives of Sexual Behaviour in 2022 argued that unequal sharing of chores in het relationships, which can see women picking up the slack when it comes to cleaning, planning and cooking, contributes to feelings of stress and resentment. This is obviously isn't great for her (duh!) and is also pretty bad for the relationship - even leading to lowered libido for the female partner. It's also probably responsible for 50% of the "Dump Him" chorus on social media.

So, het boys, for the sake of your relationships; get the hoover out, invest in some decent sheets and enter the 21st century xox