21 Things to Stop Doing on Dating Apps in 2021
Competition on dating apps is going to be stiff in 2021, so you're going to have be on your best behavior
Congratulations are in order to dating apps, which, like Jeff Bezos, are among an infinitesimally small circle of entities and individuals for whom the events of 2020 proved a blessing. As the COVID-19 pandemic drove singles out of the bars, clubs, workplaces and college campuses that formerly served as mating grounds for those who preferred a more organic approach to finding love, dating apps quickly became the only option for those seeking to keep some semblance of a dating life alive amid the pandemic. In 2020, all dating became online dating.
With the prospect of bumping into your soulmate at a friend of a friend’s party, striking up a workplace romance or going home with a stranger you met at the bar all off the table for much of the past year, the pandemic has proven boom times for online dating, with dating apps like Tinder and Hinge reporting a major surge in activity as we’ve all been forced to take our amorous pursuits online or abandon them altogether. This has been good, gloat-worthy news for those of us who have spent the vast majority of our adult dating lives trying to convert the rest of you dating-app skeptics to the wonderful world of internet romance. However, it also means there’s a lot more competition in the online dating space, and with the pandemic still an active threat and most offline opportunities for meeting a romantic prospect on hold for the time being, the online dating boom seems unlikely to die down at all in 2021.
All this to say, you’d better be in your best dating-app shape this year. With many singles desperate not to get quarantined alone in the event of another lockdown, cuffing season 2020-21 has been called a bloodbath and likened to the Hunger Games of dating. But even if you’re not looking to nail down a long-term partner, standing out on a dating app — especially as a guy — is likely to be a lot harder this year than it was in the distant, pre-pandemic age.
In short, you’re going to have to be on your best behavior, and when it comes to success on dating apps, what you don’t do is just as important as what you do. By now you should know that no one wants to see you holding a fish (unless you can figure out how to hold it with the right veil of irony) and that you shouldn’t catfish people. But take it from me, a person who has spent literally the entirety of my adult life on dating apps, there are many, many more ways you can go wrong. For your edification, I’ve graciously compiled this list of 21 things you should stop doing on dating apps in 2021. Maybe by the end of this year, those of you who prefer to hunt for romantic prospects in the wild will be able to return to preying on strangers in crowded clubs or hitting on your coworkers in the breakroom. In the meantime, ditching these 21 habits will make the increasingly crowded online dating landscape a little more successful for you, and a little more habitable for the rest of us.
1. Trying to talk people into breaking their pandemic safety boundaries
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the internet has been awash with rumors of dating-app users trying to convince their matches to violate CDC guidelines and/or their own personal COVID comfort zones in order to meet up for a date. Everyone has their own boundaries and ideas of safety when it comes to navigating a social and/or sex life amid the pandemic, and defining that comfort zone is ultimately a personal decision. While it may be frustrating if a match you think you’re really hitting it off with only wants to do virtual dates while you’d prefer an in-person meeting, there’s really nothing to be gained from trying to talk them into breaking those boundaries. Best-case scenario, they give in and you end up on a date with someone who is deeply uncomfortable with being in your presence and regrets ever agreeing to it in the first place. As in other areas of dating, no means no, and respecting someone’s boundaries is not optional.
Fortunately, some dating apps actually allow users to outline their current COVID dating preferences in their profiles, noting whether they prefer video dates, socially distanced dates, dates with masks, etc. This makes it very easy to determine whether you and a prospective date are on the same page, meaning there’s no reason to peer pressure someone into going on a date they aren’t comfortable with when you can just dive back into the massive pool of prospective matches and find someone who is interested in coming within six feet of you.
2. Pretending to be very over/ambivalent about/too good for dating apps
This includes any mention of the following:
“Not really into dating apps just trying this out”
“We can tell our families we met at *blank*”
Answering the Hinge prompt: “Worst idea I’ve ever had” with “Hinge” or “dating apps”
Answering the Hinge prompt: “Change my mind about” with “Hinge” or “dating apps”
Aside from being boring and cliche, this also reinforces very dated attitudes toward dating apps. It’s not 2013. There’s nothing shameful or weird about dating apps. Also not shameful or weird? Not using dating apps! So if you don’t like them, don’t use them! Yes, there are fewer offline dating options in 2021, but no one’s holding a gun to your head and forcing you to make a Hinge profile. If you really don’t want to use dating apps, a much easier way to convey that than complaining about it in your dating app profile would be to simply not make a dating app profile in the first place! Problem solved.
3. Asking for someone’s Snapchat before their phone number
The bigger issue at hand here is that if you’re over the age of 20 and Snapchat is still your primary form of communication, you shouldn’t be allowed to date at all. If Snapchat is the first place you want to take our conversation when we’re ready to move off the app, I assume you are either: 1. A teen 2. Looking for nudes or 3. Married. Yes, I understand that some people aren’t comfortable exchanging phone numbers with a stranger they met on the internet. Totally reasonable! Might I suggest using another secure messaging app, such as WhatsApp (might still think you’re married but really that’s none of my business), or perhaps just continuing to chat on the dating app, which has a chat feature for this very reason. Which brings us to…
4. Exchanging numbers too early
There are no hard and fast rules dictating when and how to take a conversation off an app, but attempting to do so too early can work to your disadvantage. No, you don’t want to get stuck in an endless back and forth on the app where your chat will eventually get lost in between all your other matches, but weary swipers may be reluctant to add yet another “Matt Tinder” or “Maybe: Matt” to their phone. In my own expert opinion, numbers should be exchanged when you are ready to make plans to meet in person — which may very well (and I’d argue, probably should) happen relatively shortly after matching. The key is not to just ask for someone’s number only to then continue the same back and forth on a different platform. If that’s all you’re interested in, the in-app chat feature will do just fine; it’s not actually “so hard to text on here.”
5. Starting conversations with “hey”
This isn’t going to get you anywhere. Period. It’s 2021, we’re all tired. Just delete your account if that’s all you got.
6. Starting a conversation with one of the app’s pre-written conversation starters
The person you send it to is obviously also on that app and has also seen all those same conversation starters. But unlike you, that person looked through those conversation starters and thought, “Lol who would use these?” And unfortunately, now they know. Frankly, you’re better off with “Hey.”
7. Overusing someone’s name
Once upon a time, some social psychologist or other told some sex and relationships writer or other that using someone’s name in a text can help establish intimacy. Unfortunately, all it really establishes is creepiness — especially if this is a person you’ve never even met. Yes, great, you know my name because you read it in my profile. You have established basic literacy. There is no need to use someone’s name on a dating app. If you message me, I already know you are talking to me. There is no one else you could possibly be addressing in our private chat thread. If you like unnecessarily saying my name, I encourage you to save it for when we’re in bed.
Attention all men: Exactly 175 percent of you are absolutely terrible at taking selfies. I’m not sure why or how this happened, but you really can’t seem to do it well and I suggest you stop trying. Besides looking bad, an overabundance of selfies makes it look like you don’t go anywhere or have anyone willing to take pictures of you. The real way to prove you’re not a weird loner isn’t to use a bunch of group pics, it’s to use non-selfies. One to two mirror selfies are permissible (you seem to fare better with those) and maybe one well-taken selfie of you and some friends. But that’s it — and please ask a trusted woman to verify whether or not that selfie is actually good.
9. Too many group pics
As someone with very few friends, I understand the impulse to prove that you do, in fact, have them. That said, having all or mostly group photos is a quick way to get left-swiped. We don’t have time to play guess who with your profile. Your first pic should absolutely be a picture of just you. A couple subsequent group pics where you are easy to identify is fine. Please keep any pics of you and 25 of your closest shirtless bros to a minimum.
10. Having fewer than three photos
Two pictures is not enough for us to make an informed decision about what you actually look like. It also makes it seem like you’re either extremely lazy and/or not a real account. Three is an absolute minimum. The more the merrier.
11. Photos that aren’t you
Cool landscape/skyline/beach etc., but that’s not what I’m here for. You can have one non-you photo if it is truly impressive and related to you, like an award you won or a piece of art you’ve created. But no one wants to see your vacation pics.
12. Using photos of yourself at the Women’s March
Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad you went to the Women’s March and you should feel good about it. But using pictures of yourself at the Women’s March on your dating profile makes it seem like you’re using feminism to attract women — because whether or not that’s your intent, that is in fact what you’re doing. It’s a dating app, and if you are a straight cis guy on a dating app, everything you do on that app is, inevitably, done in an attempt to attract women — that’s its only purpose. If you really are the great Women’s Marching male feminist you want your prospective romantic partners to think you are, I promise it will come through anyway. It’s also still great and fine to post your Women’s March pics to Instagram, which most apps will let you link to your profile, so you can flaunt your feminism in a more subtle way that doesn’t make it look like you’re trying to cash in woke points for ass.
13. Calling yourself an “entrepreneur”
Some people might be entrepreneurs, but there is very little overlap between them and people on dating apps who call themselves entrepreneurs. As my friend put it, “The guy on Tinder who is an ‘entrepreneur’ and the girl from high school in a pyramid scheme on Facebook who is an ‘entrepreneur’ are two different breeds of equally fake entrepreneurs.” If your job sucks, just don’t put down your job.
14. Lying about your age
This seems to be most common among men around certain milestone ages. I’ve been on a few dates with presumed 38-year-olds, only to find out (much to my preference) that they are actually 42-year-olds who were concerned that too many women cut off their age preferences after 40. Guess what? A woman who doesn’t want to date someone over 40 also doesn’t want to date someone over 40 who is a liar. I promise, there are plenty of people out there who genuinely want to date people in your age range, whatever that age range might be. The beauty of dating apps is they can filter everyone else out for you so you only see people who may have a mutual interest in you. It’s a win-win, and no one has to lie.
15. Listing very specific height/weight/body type requirements
This isn’t about being shallow or superficial. We all have preferences about physical appearance and those preferences aren’t inherently bad or shameful or less important. This is about not being a huge jerk. Matters of physical appearance, especially weight and body type, can be extremely fraught and emotionally charged topics for people. It is completely unnecessary to go around stating your physical demands in your dating app bio (and yes, this goes for women who establish “deal-breakers” about men’s height too). Many dating apps allow you to privately filter based on height anyway, and a few allow you to filter based on body type as well. Again, it’s completely fine to have and act on these preferences, but there’s literally nothing to be gained from mentioning them in your profile. If you don’t have anything nice to say, just only match with people who suit your fancy and leave everyone else alone.
16. Really long bios
TL;DR. Keep it short and sweet. We don’t need your life story and the fact that you enjoy long walks on the beach. Many dating apps, like Bumble, Hinge and Facebook Dating, include other places for you to lay out the fundamentals in your profile anyway — like whether or not you want kids, drinking/smoking preferences, religion, etc. Since the basics are already covered, you can save your bio for something chill and hopefully funny and/or clever. (Note, a quote from The Office is neither.)
17. Making your entire profile about dogs
Liking dogs may very well be a personality, it’s just a really boring one. Yes, dogs may be important to you, and many people like them, which makes it a great place to establish common ground. But the whole “only here for cute dog pics” / “probably will like your dog more than I’ll like you” / “probably like my dog more than I’ll like you” / “Fido comes first” etc. is played out and boring as hell. Yes, we all love our dogs. It’s very endearing and not at all unique or interesting.
18. “Swipe left if you are/are not *arbitrary thing I like/dislike*”
Again, no one needs to see a list of demands that you’ve decided make for the perfect romantic partner. It’s presumptive, makes you seem closed-minded, and it also suggests you assume that you have the ideal qualities everyone must be seeking in a mate and the onus is on the rest of the world to evaluate themselves for you rather than the other way around.
19. Messaging matches you’ve never met in real life because you happened to actually spot them out in the wild and recognized them from the app
One time I was walking out of the CVS in my neighborhood and looked down and saw a Tinder message from a match I’d never met in real life and had barely spoken to on the app that said, “Hey did you just walk into CVS?” This was absolutely terrifying. Please don’t do this. In very densely populated cities like New York or Los Angeles, it’s entirely possible that you might bump into someone in real life who you recognize from an app. Do not acknowledge it! This is not fate, it’s not your in, it’s not a fun conversation starter. It’s terrifying and a really quick way to get blocked and/or reported.
20. Rapid-fire right swiping on every single prospective match
I’d heard rumors that men would just open up Tinder or Bumble and swipe right on every single profile in the hopes of racking up some matches, but I didn’t believe it until one day at the gym when I watched in horror from my perch atop a stair climber while a guy pedaling along on a stationary bike did exactly that. Don’t do this. Best case scenario, you clutter up your match queue with a bunch of people you aren’t actually interested in. Otherwise, you’ll just end up feeling disappointed when, after all that swiping, you still only come up with one match. It’s a quick path to swipe fatigue and/or carpal tunnel. Slow down and swipe with intent.
21. Getting unduly upset about ghosting
The advent of dating apps gave birth to a decade of ghosting outrage. Let’s leave that behind in 2021. Yes, it’s rude to just disappear on a person you’ve been seeing, but times have changed, and ghosting isn’t the egregious moral ill it once was. In fact, there are many situations in which ghosting is not only permissible, but in fact preferable. If you’ve been on a few dates with a person, yes, you should probably let them know if you’re no longer interested in continuing to see them. But if you never even took things off the app, no one owes you an explanation. In fact, no one owes you anything. Ghost and let ghost.
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