I wrote a post in 2014 about how I'd only ever been on one Tinder date. I remember writing that post and feeling really insecure about hitting the "publish" button. I was afraid to admit to the world that I didn't want to be single, that I was taking matters into my own hands to try and meet someone. But the coolest thing happened after I made a heralding battle cry in defense of Tinder dates. More and more people began approaching me and asking me about online dating. That one blog post sparked dozens of conversations. I started getting all these emails from my readers detailing their Tinder date recaps from start to finish.
I soon realized that people want to talk about online dating and whether or not it works because people want to talk about meeting someone in general. It's something most of us can agree upon: we would like to meet someone to text in the morning and watch Netflix with at night.
While dating is much more than texts and Dexter marathons, the scope of dating and how we date has changed in the last few years. It's harder to meet someone. You don't marry the neighbor across the street as frequently anymore. People move away for college. People move away for jobs. It's much harder to walk into a coffee shop, sit down, and strike up a conversation with espresso man beside you. That, in my opinion, is why online dating helps.
A brief note: I'm talking about online dating here. Emphasis on the word "dating," meaning "the people who use dating applications and websites to go on actual dates and forge their way through awkward conversation with strangers." I am not talking about using dating apps for hook-ups.
Date for the right reasons.
First things first, do your best to date for the right reasons. This advice is coming from a girl who dated guys for a long time because she was trying to fill her life with substance. I wanted to feel wanted and beautiful. I thought multiple dates with multiple guys could fix that. I would be untruthful if I claimed I never had an unhealthy perception of online dating.
The thing about online dating, especially apps like Tinder and Bumble, is that you get a lot of options. You should determine before you start conversations with people what your goal is. Do you want to go on a lot of dates? Are you looking to break out of your comfort zone? Do you want to meet someone? Are you serious about that?
If you don't have a goal or motive for dating online then it is possible you will fall in love with the options instead of the people behind the screen. Online dating can do its damage with making people feel wanted and seen. Approach online dating the way you would approach the grocery store: you're going into it for a reason but you can't take everything with you off the shelves.
You've got options.
There are a ton of dating applications out there. A million. And not a soul can tell you which one to choose. A few notes: don't download every single application out there. Try out or two and see how you like the experience. I can't account for every dating application out there but I can tell you about the following:
Match or eHarmony: these are the big men on campus. They're like the class presidents of online dating. They started the online dating boom years ago. They're good, traditional sites but you do have to pay for your profiles and user experience.
Coffee Meets Bagel: Everyday at noon, without fail, a bagel is delivered to you. This bagel is actually a human who you might end up making decisions and babies with if the sparks fly. You get one bagel a day. After you receive your human at noon, you must exercise patience as you wait a full 24 hours for another bagel to arrive. When delivered, you either take the bagel or you pass it on. If you pass it on to someone you know then you rack up “coffee beans” and coffee beans will get you more bagels. It’s basically a game where feelings, carbs, and people’s insecurities of never meeting someone are involved. I still don’t know where the coffee comes in to the equation. I only ever met bagels, no coffee.
Hinge: Lane and I met on this site. This app is great if you're more comfortable meeting someone through friends. Bustle writes, "Your potential matches will only be friends of (Facebook) friends or third-degree connections." Mind you, Lane and I's mutual friend was a guy we don't speak to. I debate daily on whether I should invite him to the wedding with a note that says, "We have you to thank for this marriage."
Bumble: Girls run the show on this app. I believe it was created to help minimize the creepy messages sent to girls by guys who act like they're in the 5th grade. They are the only ones who can initiate a conversation and they only have 24 hours to do so... The clock is ticking, ladies.
Sizzl: This is an app exclusively for bacon lovers. I'm not even kidding. This is a real thing. Some folks are very particular about whether or not the bacon comes out crispy or juicy.
Make a genuine move.
I've heard of people sending generic messages to individuals on the other side of the screen just to see what kinds of messages they get back. My best advice: be serious about your prospects and skip the generic messages. You don't have to send a message to every match. You don't even have to send any messages if you would rather the men/women come to you. It's your call.
My personal experience with dating apps was that I would always wait for a guy to reach out to me. It felt chivalrous and right. But there was a common pattern that emerged from me waiting in the bleachers like a preteen at her middle school social: I never went after what I wanted. I only conversed with guys who took an interest in me and my own interest tended to fizzle out quickly.
When it came to Lane, I made the first move. I saw he was my match. I thought to myself, "this Macklemore-esque character is too impossibly cute." I made the first move and reached out with a pretty tragic icebreaker: What is your biography in 5 emojis. Yes, friends, I said that. That's how I seduced my husband-to-be. He's marrying me now. If I can survive whipping out an icebreaker like that one then you can totally say "hi, how are you?" to a cute stranger.
Put your values out there.
There is no shame in the game of letting guys and girls know what you stand for. Faith is a huge element to me. I reached the point in my dating life where I no longer wanted to place that attribute on the back-burner. I wanted a guy who loved God more than me.
In past dating profiles I never made my love for God clear. I wouldn't add any notes about it and fed on the hope that I would stumble into someone who valued God a ton too. That equation rarely ever worked for me. If you don't value it enough to talk about it then you probably don't value it as much as you think.
When I got on the app Hinge I made my profile pretty bold. My first line was, "God is everything." I want to believe that isn't too invasive and raw. It's simple and straight-forward. There's no threat to follow like, "God is everything and if you don't think so then move along." No thanks. I didn't run around force-feeding anyone Isaiah before they could swipe right on my profile. You want to have a conversation with someone, not scare them.
Lead with your values if they matter that much to you. Be true to yourself. The goal is that the person behind the screen would eventually meet the real you, not an edited version you created so they would like you more. Dating isn't built on faking it- it's built on an honesty that needs to begin on day one.
Do not put up with children.
I'll keep this one short. The internet has a lot of people roaming around in its corridors. Some of those people should go sit in holes with no technology before they be allowed to join a dating site (just my personal opinion). You have every right to block people who disrespect you. You have every right to ignore individuals who say crude things to you. Do not let the words of one person set the example for who you are going to meet by trying out online dating.
This is especially for the ladies out there: if the man cannot respect you when there is a screen placed between the two of you then I would caution the two of you meeting up. Respect is the biggest priority in dating. Don't date children dressed like adults because they have cute profile pictures. Let them grow up and allow them to do that far, far away from you. Stay hopeful-- there are good ones out there.
Try two dates.
I always tell people, "Say yes to the second date." If the date isn't a train wreck, you've managed to laugh a few times, and you have a few things in common then there is no reason not to say "yes" to a second date. People are lying when they tell you there MUST be fireworks blowing up in your heart after two hours with a person.
People are naturally awkward and not really themselves a first date setting. Give them grace and say "yes" to a second time if you think you could enjoy their company once more and it wouldn't be the most painful thing in the world. However, if the date reminds you of the time you got your wisdom teeth pulled out of your head then maybe say "no" and move on with tact and poise.
Remember: It's one date.
You shouldn't cancel a date with someone because you're nervous enough to blow chunks in the bathroom sink. Both guys and girls are guilty of this. We talk with someone. We like the conversation. We exchange numbers. We set a date and then someone decides to cancel because they're too nervous. Everyone is nervous before a first date. It's a little strange when you're not nervous before a first date. Go with the nerves. The best stuff in life usually begins with the feeling of your heart falling into your stomach.
You don't have to go out ever again if you don't want to. You don't have to give him babies. You can stay home forever if you so please. You can have dates come to you offering gifts of sushi and pizza (not sure if that would work but you can totally try it and let me know the results). Don't stay home because something is out of your comfort zone. You might miss out on an opportunity, the greatest love of your life, or a new friend. You don't know who will be waiting for you across the table until you say "yes."
Dating is meant to be a fun thing. I get that sometimes dating feels like the most un-fun thing in the world. I felt that. I ended up taking a break from online dating when I realized I was using the apps to keep me from becoming lonely. I came back on the dating scene a year later with a much healthier attitude. My first and last online match with this new and improved attitude was Lane. It took one date and one pep talk to myself: girl, chill out and just enjoy yourself. It's one date. You can do this. Laugh. Loosen up a little.
Get out there and be yourself. Buy a new top for the occasion. Start slow, with a coffee date, if you are too nervous to eat your food in front of someone. Be real. No need to marry the person in your mind before the first date. Just go into it optimistic and ready for an adventure. Swipe right once in a while.