Since Tinder was released in 2012, dating apps have become an undeniable part of our popular culture.
Even if you don’t use them, you’ve probably heard about friends meeting girlfriends or boyfriends on apps like Tinder, Hinge, or OkCupid. And the fact that they would even admit that says something.
But what are these dating apps actually like to use?
My colleague Maya Kosoff reviewed many of the most popular dating apps a few month ago, but when talking about them, we noticed there were some big differences in our experiences. And many of them boiled down to gender. Maya had to deal with things I never did, like being bombarded with gross messages from guys. I had my own set of challenges.
To get a snapshot of what the dating app scene is like for guys, I compared the free tiers of six popular dating apps: Tinder, Hinge, Bumble, OkCupid, The League, and Coffee Meets Bagel.
Here is what I found:
First we’ll look at Tinder, which kickstarted the dating app craze and has had its “swipe right/left” interface copied by most of its competitors. The first thing you should do on Tinder is set your preference for distance, gender, and age range.
Next up is your profile. Tinder recently changed its interface to more prominently feature your job and education, which are pulled from Facebook. You can stop the app from displaying these snippets, but you can’t alter them without changing your Facebook. Tinder CEO Sean Rad told me his team added these elements because they rounded out the few basic factors people use in deciding whether to go on a first date with someone. You probably don’t want to choose a picture of you and a dog (like me) because my friends say it has become a bit of a cliche.
If you match with someone, Tinder sends you both a match notification. As a guy, I’ve found matches are easier to get on Tinder than other apps, maybe because some people basically use Tinder as a cell phone game to pass the time. But I’ve also found it’s less easy to get people to respond. You have to be creative (or play the numbers game, which can be exhausting and feel lame).
This is what the Tinder matches screen looks like. You can scroll through your matches on the top, while people you have messaged appear in a list. If you matched with someone after you “super liked” them, their name will have a little blue star next to it. The new Tinder interface is a lot clunkier for searching through matches you haven’t texted yet, but you can still use the search bar pretty easily.
If you’re a guy, most of the time you’ll have to be the one to initiate the conversation if you want it to go anywhere. And when women do message you, it’s often just a simple “hey.” My friends and colleagues have pointed out that many guys start with aggressive and obnoxious opening lines, so don’t do that. A “hey” probably won’t get a response, but that doesn’t mean you have to go crazy. Just keep it classy.
Guys being jerks on Tinder is such a big problem it actually led to the creation of different dating app, Bumble, which is next on my list. Bumble is similar to Tinder, except the woman has to be the one to start the conversation. Lots of my friends, especially women, swear by this app. The settings are pretty much exactly the same as Tinder.
When you get to the swiping screen, you see someone’s age and education. Bumble doesn’t have a limit to how much you swipe, so swipe to your heart’s content. As a guy, if you want to get as many conversations started as on Tinder, you’re going to have to view more people. In my experience, the women on Bumble tend to be more of the “sorority” type than on Tinder. Tinder seems to be more representative of the place you live.
If you both say “yes,” you get a notification screen like this. But unlike Tinder, you’re just going to have to wait and see whether the woman wants to talk to you. This match never texted me. How sad.
Matches only have 24 hours to chat with you. If not, the match disappears and there is nothing you can do about it (please do not hunt her down on social media). If you want to make some sort of effort to make yourself feel marginally more proactive, you can “extend” the match so she has 48 hours to respond. This hasn’t worked that well for me.
And you only get to extend one match per day, which can feel like a waste when she still doesn’t give you a chance. Such is life.
Like Tinder, if you’re a guy, your messages from women will likely be mostly of the “hey” variety. I chalk this up to many women wanting to get something on the record before the match expires. And as I’ve written about previously, I think we should all give each other a break on how great our opening lines on dating apps have to be. It’s an awkward thing!
Now let’s move on to Hinge, which is also similar to Tinder except it uses your Facebook network to connect you to potential matches. The promise of Hinge is that your matches will be more relevant because they will be from your wider social network (think friends of friends). In my experience, this did seem to be the case. My matches on Hinge tended to be the types of people I went to school with or work with. If that’s what you’re looking for, Hinge can be great.
Hinge lets you select a few more factors in your profile than Tinder or Bumble, like your religion, ethnicity, or tags that represent you. These are all optional.
The swiping interface is similar to Tinder, but Hinge only shows you a handful of matches every day. After that, you are out of luck. And once you match, you only have 24 hours to start chatting, which can be annoying if you are busy or just aren’t in the mood to flirt. In fact, anecdotally I’ve found that since Hinge changed its policy on how long matches last before chatting (it used to be forever), I’ve gotten fewer matches in general. I feel like Hinge has forgotten that part of a dating app is being a fun game you can use to kill time, and then come back to later when you are ready to actually go on a date.
But enough of these Tinder clones. Let’s look at an app that is completely different. Coffee Meets Bagel is an app founded on the idea of giving you only one potential match every day. You have 24 hours to say “yes” or “no” otherwise the potential match disappears.
Every time you pass on someone (or like them), the app asks you why. This would be annoying with an app like Tinder, but with one match per day, I felt like I was making the robot better at giving me good matches.
One thing Coffee Meets Bagel does well is trying to minimize the awkwardness of having to start a conversation without knowing anything about someone. You can fill out a detailed profile filled with talking points your match can use as a cheat sheet.
The app even suggests topics you might break the ice with. This is a genius idea that apps like Tinder could stand to copy. The chat window on Coffee Meets Bagel only stays open for a week, so you have to make plans to meet up pretty quickly (or at least get their number).