The Biggest Mistakes Older Men Make on Dating Apps

If you're an older guy on dating apps, congrats, but chances are you're committing a few online dating faux pas without realizing it

February 25, 2021 7:08 am
older man using dating app
How to not be the worst on dating apps.
Kriangkrai Thitimakorn/Getty Images

If you’re a man of a certain age on a dating app, chances are it isn’t your most natural environment. Unlike those of us who came of age in the 2010s and have spent the vast majority of our dating lives swiping for love, lust or something in between, you probably remember a time when people dated without WiFi. Maybe you used to date people you met at work or through friends, or maybe you simply hit on strangers in the street — I’m honestly not really sure what dating was like before smart phones, but based on what I’ve gathered from my steady diet of Sex and the City re-reruns, bumping into your soulmate in the middle of the street seems like something that happened fairly regularly in the ’90s and early 2000s. 

Regardless, times have changed, and while dating apps may not exactly be within your comfort zone, I commend you for being on them. That said, as a non-dating-app native, it’s possible you’ve made a misstep or two along the way. Don’t worry, younger guys have their own unique app dating faux pas, while dating app users of all genders and ages are prone to many bad habits that have simply become an inevitable part of dating app culture. 

In fact, as an older guy who may have missed the mainstream onset of the online dating age, you’re actually in a pretty good spot. Not only are you not to blame for the Millennial-made mess that is dating app culture today, but you also can’t reasonably be expected to know all the rules. As someone who entered adulthood just as dating apps were hitting their mid-2010s peak, however, I flatter myself someone who has not only memorized the rules, but even makes a few of them. Having spent the past few years of my online dating career swiping largely on men in their 40s, 50s and up, I like to think I have a bit of wisdom to share with the older gents, DILFs and silver foxes of the online dating pool. For your edification, behold: the most common mistakes I see among older guys on dating apps. 

Lying about your age

As a woman living in a highly ageist, misogynistic society — one that is often ageist specifically in misogynistic ways — I can certainly understand the impulse to lie about your age. But as a man, you’re on the side that benefits from all that sexist ageism. Some may say check your privilege, I say you might as well use it. I’ll admit that men aren’t immune from ageism forever — it comes for us all eventually, unless of course you happen to be running for President of the United States of America, in which case being on death’s doorstep seems to be a job requirement. But suffice to say, society treats middle-aged men much better than it does middle-aged women, particularly when it comes to assessments of sexual market value. In fact, many might consider you, middle-aged man, to be in you prime. 

All this to say that there’s no need to lie about your age on a dating app. Beyond society’s more lenient attitudes toward male aging, there’s another, more logistical reason you need never lie about your age on a dating app: dating apps come with age filters, which means that anyone who’s seeing your profile is seeing your profile specifically because they are interested in men your age. While I’ve noticed men around certain milestone ages — say 40, 50, 60 — tend to age themselves down a year or two so as to not get cut off by women who draw line at a certain decade, here’s the thing: a woman who doesn’t want to date a man over a certain age definitely doesn’t want to date a man over a certain age who is also a liar. I promise you there are plenty of women on the internet who do want to date someone your age, so just focus on them.

Your selfies

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: selfies should not be on dating apps. It’s a bad look regardless of age or gender, but older men, specifically, are notoriously bad at taking them. 

Even if you are one of the few men in the world who can take a decent selfie, it’s still not your best bet. Selfies make it look like you’re a weird loner who doesn’t know anyone in the world willing to take a simple photo of them. Maybe that’s true — which is fine, I am sympathetic to the plight of the weird loner. But even if that’s the case, just hire a photographer to take a few pics. With weddings few and far between these days, most photographers could use the extra work, and maybe you’ll even get a new LinkedIn headshot out of the deal. 

Using weird pet names 

I’m sure various men of all ages are probably guilty of this one, but I’ve noticed older guys, in particular, are prone to open with: “Hey gorgeous,” “Hey beautiful,” or, worse yet, “Hey baby.” This may come off as flattery to you, but to us it reads as creepy. You don’t know me, I don’t know you, it’s far too early for you to be addressing me with terms of endearment. While I commend you for venturing — however slightly — beyond a simple “Hey,” this particular form of flattery probably isn’t getting you as far as you think. For many women, in fact, it’s probably an immediate red flag.

Not having enough photos

If you’re an older guy, particularly one who isn’t on Instagram, chances are you may not have a ton of photos of yourself at your disposal. Honestly, this is probably healthy. While members of later generations are doomed to walk around with iPhones full of photographic evidence of ourselves in various states of humiliation constantly at our fingertips, most photographic evidence of your life is probably tucked away in photo albums and canisters of undeveloped film, only to be revisited when and if you so choose. 

While this is probably good for your mental well-being, it’s not necessarily great for when you’re trying to assemble a dating app profile. Your profile should have, at absolute minimum, three photos. Any less than that simply isn’t enough for prospective matches to make an informed decision about what you actually look like, and is probably going to earn you an immediate left swipe from a large portion of your prospective matches. Moreover, having too few photos is also a red flag for catfishing. At least four to six photos, showing you at various angles and in different contexts, is ideal. And remember, keep the selfies to a minimum.

Dissing Astrology

Like it or not, astrology is in right now, especially among younger generations. Many dating apps even allow users to filter by astrological sign. You don’t have to believe in it or even like it, but openly disparaging astrology and those who like it in your profile or in conversation with your matches probably isn’t doing you any favors. Negativity, in general, tends not to be a winning strategy on dating apps, and negativity toward astrology, specifically, can actually carry misogynistic undertones that may come as a red flag to prospective matches. You don’t have to pretend to be into astrology or include your sign in your bio, but being openly negative about it, especially if you’re a man interested in dating younger women, is probably only to your detriment.


Emojis have a tendency to go in and out of style — or to pick up additional, often irreverent, meanings — at a rate with which you, frankly, are probably incapable of keeping up. Even millennials, the generation responsible for bringing emojis into the lexicon, have recently encountered the harsh truth that their beloved cry-laugh emoji is no longer en vogue

Through no real fault of your own, most older guys have no idea how to use emojis, and there are certain ones to which you seem to gravitate that stick out like a sore, aging thumb.

While you may think sprinkling some emojis into your dating-app bio or chats makes you seem younger or more approachable, there’s a good chance it’s only aging you. One way you can’t go wrong? No emojis at all, which is actually something I’d suggest to everyone of all ages and any gender.

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