How to use dating apps so they don’t suck

Want to game the apps? With both Hinge and Bumble making their experiences more user-friendly, we’ve asked for advice from users and experts to beat that online dating fatigue

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Want to game the apps? With both Hinge and Bumble making their experiences more user-friendly, we’ve asked for advice from users and experts to beat that online dating fatigue

By Darshita Goyal08 May 2024
4 mins read time
4 mins read time

We don’t have to tell you that dating apps are in their flop era. If you’re looking to date, have a friend who’s single or pay attention to social media, you know that the apps are failing us. From people who steal your Tabis and swindle you out of money to ghosters, breadcrumbers and cheaters galore, the horror stories are hard to avoid. Even if you’re a hardpressed optimist and believe that “even a bad date makes for a good story”, it’s increasingly difficult to find someone on an app whom you like enough to actually arrange a meet. No wonder Gen Z is abandoning online dating.

Before you tune out, we’re not here to harp on about how much dating apps suck right now. We know, you know, the woman on TikTok who went viral for the “last chopper out of ‘Nam” joke knows. In fact, dating apps have gotten the hint as well. As the apps with the most skin in the game, both Hinge and Bumble have been making strides to better their dating experience for users. At the tail end of April, Hinge launched Hidden Words, a feature that allows daters to filter words, phrases and emojis that they’re not interested in engaging with.

So for instance, if you’re someone who has no interest in dating a person who talks about your butt or boobs on the first go, you can add them to your ‘hidden words’ list and no profiles that use these words in their comments will be able to send you likes. The idea is to create a safer space for diverse dating journeys and to allow people to spend their time on worthwhile interactions. The feature is too new for substantial feedback but hopefully attempts like this can help queer and POC daters feel more at ease (while also helping to filter out yawn-inducing messages that bang on about Sunday roasts and their desire to visit Japan).

Bumble, meanwhile, has introduced Opening Moves, a feature that hopes to lessen the pressure on women to send the first text on the app. As per the app’s studies, 46 per cent of the female users shared they would prefer to have a conversation starter to better facilitate their dating experience. Opening Moves allows women to add a question to their profiles which people whom they match with will have the opportunity to answer. While these prompts could possibly help people move beyond the awkward and unrewarding small talk stage, dating apps have a lot more work to do to better users’ matches and increase safety than a shiny new feature, but hey, it’s a start?!

Until more changes, we’re here to offer some answers, and maybe even solutions on how to improve your online dating experience (because, let’s be honest, meeting people IRL is hard!) As absolute, hopeless romantics, woo sought out dating experts, relationship psychologists and people who use the apps effectively for advice on finding love online and we’re here to share.

Eloise Skinner, psychologist and author

How can daters use the apps better?

I think the first step is to know which dating app(s) you want to be on, and why. One of the great things about modern online dating is that we have so many options when it comes to choosing somewhere to meet people. Some apps might be more for casual dating, and others might advertise themselves as supporting longer-term connections. Making an intentional choice about where you want your dating profile to appear can be a great first step.

Try not to write people off immediately, especially if you're basing your initial judgement on a one-line bio or a single photo. Of course, we’re all guilty of making quick verdicts about whether or not we feel we like someone, but try not to fall into a pattern of quickly swiping through options without taking a moment to reflect on potential matches. It's incredibly difficult to sum up your personality, habits, preferences and appearance within the boundaries of an online template. So, if you think there's potential, give people enough space to show you who they are (or at least, as much as you can tell from your initial discussions).

Once you start to build a connection with someone, try to move it into real life at an early opportunity. It can be easy to start to see online dating as a game, and forget that there are real people behind the profiles you swipe through. If you like someone, try to anchor the connection in reality by meeting up – you'll benefit from getting to know them on a much more personal level, and potentially save yourself a lot of time.

As more people say dating sucks, it’s hard to believe in the process. How do you move past the fatigue?

I think being intentional about dating can be really helpful. Before you start swiping, meeting or connecting with people, try to figure out what you want out of the process. Practices like journaling or goal-setting can help you process your feelings. If you know you don't want a relationship, that's great too – it just helps you figure out whom to spend time with, and how to be honest with others so that you don't inadvertently waste their time. And if you're not sure what you want, that's OK – it just helps to keep returning to these questions of intention and purpose as you continue to meet and date.

Aside from being intentional, taking it slow can help. Try focusing on just one app at a time, or limiting the number of matches you're speaking to or dates you're going on. Remember that everyone in the process is human, even if it feels like they're just a profile photo! And finally, remember that it's OK to take breaks – even if you do have the intention of getting into a relationship, you don't have to rush. Taking care of yourself physically, mentally and emotionally should be your top priority, and that will also give you a stronger sense of energy and enjoyment when you re-enter the process.

Abby Wood, Hinge user

Tell me a little about your experience on the apps.

I’ve been on and off the apps for about 18 months. I go through definite phases where I go on more dates, and dry spells where it is all just too much effort. I always joke that Hinge is the darkest corner of the internet and the 'most compatible' feature is the most humbling experience. But in saying that, some of the funnest dates I have been on have come from Hinge. It does take some digging, but there are gems around.

If you’ve made it to the talking stage, it’s likely you’ve already found common ground with this person, so once you’ve established there’s an initial spark – take it offline. Propose a date with a clear plan – time, place, and activity.
Emma Hathorn

What hacks have you discovered on the app?

Okay so the top two hacks from me are:

  1. This is a one-time wonder, so use it carefully! There is an option to delete your account, and when you select ‘delete’ it asks for your reason. If you select “I am not happy with my experience" it refreshes your matches and gives you much better profiles and many more likes.

  2. There is a 'standout' option, where Hinge selects ten profiles for you and these are always the best. Ordinarily to match with them you have to send a rose which is a bit of an ick. Instead you should reject these matches from your standouts each day to trick the algorithm into thinking you are not interested in them, then these much better matches will appear in your normal feed and you can talk to them without sending a rose.

Emma Hathorn, dating and relationships expert

How can daters use the apps better?

Your dating profile is a powerful tool. Use it to be upfront about your needs, wants and expectations and this will help weed out individuals who might waste your time, ensuring a better quality of dates and a higher chance of compatibility. Being open to dating outside of your type is also important, particularly if past relationships have not served you well.

Do you have any advice, hacks or tips?

Focus on dating people whose qualities complement yours and contribute to your personal growth, rather than seeking someone to ‘complete’ you. A happy and harmonious relationship is one where you are able to elevate one another’s lifestyles, upskilling each other's strengths and weaknesses. Date people who can culturally enrich your life; introducing you to new places, ways of thought, hobbies and interests.

Do you have specific advice on how to move past the talking stage?

If you’ve made it to the talking stage, it’s likely you’ve already found common ground with this person, so once you’ve established there’s an initial spark – take it offline. Propose a date with a clear plan – time, place, and activity. If they're hesitant or decline without offering an alternative, it's a signal that maybe they're not feeling the same connection. Face-to-face meetups are the bare minimum commitment when dating, so if someone isn't eager to make that happen, it's a sign to gracefully park the conversation.