RE­LA­TION­SHIPS

It can be tough find­ing love the old-fash­ioned way by head­ing out to a bar on a Satur­day night. In to­day’s world it’s more likely to be via dat­ing apps, so here is a sur­vival guide

Mercury (Hobart) - Magazine - - Up Front - WORDS KATE BOW­DEN

Move over Tin­der, a host of new dat­ing apps is muscling in on the swipe and meet move­ment

Isat hap­pily sip­ping a fine wine, sated after shar­ing ta­pas at the cosy bar of a lively lit­tle restau­rant my happn date had sug­gested. So far, so good.

It’s an un­avoid­able truth that you never quite know what you’re go­ing to get when meet­ing some­one in per­son for the first time, after pre­vi­ously only in­ter­act­ing on a dat­ing app. Will they look like their pic­ture? How awk­ward will the con­ver­sa­tion be? Will they re­veal them­selves as a weirdo who asks if your womb is in child-bear­ing con­di­tion (an ac­tual real turn of events for a close friend)?

Still, as a hope­ful sin­gle, you press on be­cause say­ing no means you miss 100 per cent of the shots you don’t take.

When I ar­rived, it turned out the guy wait­ing at the bar was good-look­ing, tall and pro­vided some fairly witty ban­ter — about as much as a girl can wish for. But then out of nowhere… Him: So, what do you think of this place? Do you like it? Me: It’s fan­tas­tic. Re­ally lovely, great food. Con­sider me a new fan. Do you come here of­ten?

Him: You could say that, yes. I ac­tu­ally had my wed­ding re­cep­tion here a year ago.

Cue a fresh white pal­lor on my face and white noise con­quer­ing the restau­rant buzz.

Panic must have been writ­ten over my face, as my “date” looked sur­prised and threw in, “Oh don’t worry, I’m not mar­ried any­more. That was over a few months ago.”

I’m no dat­ing guru but I be­lieve it may pay to avoid haunts to do with ma­jor past re­la­tion­ships on a first date – or maybe just keep your yap shut when it comes to those de­tails.

The world of dat­ing apps is a mine­field. If you’re a sin­gle look­ing for love (or even just some week­end ac­tion), you will know how widespread the use of dat­ing apps is these days. If you’re a smug mar­ried-type, your sin­gle pals may have al­lowed you the fun of a short-lived swipe ses­sion-by-proxy on oc­ca­sion.

But did you know that, by the end of 2015, Aus­tralia was the world’s No. 1 coun­try for Tin­der users per capita? That means more than 15 per cent of us were reg­u­larly swip­ing our fin­gers left and right over po­ten­tial dig­i­tal matches.

That equates to about 3.6 mil­lion Aussies. Yep, it ap­pears we’re that keen on sort­ing through our po­ten­tial mates based on a badly lit bath­room selfie.

This hap­pens to co­in­cide with an­other no­table change in Aus­tralian so­ci­ety: the in­crease of the sin­gle­ton. Since the 1970s, the rate of sin­gle-per­son house­holds has risen sharply, with pre­dic­tors in­di­cat­ing the num­ber will in­crease by about 63 per cent, from 2.1 mil­lion in 2011, to 3.4 mil­lion by 2036.

Two other ma­jor dat­ing apps dom­i­nate the Aus­tralian match­mak­ing scene, Bum­ble and happn. They are lag­ging be­hind Tin­der a lit­tle, but their rapid growth sta­tis­tics are not too shabby. We’re Bum­ble’s fourth-largest mar­ket and happn’s 14th.

Bum­ble was founded to lend more power to sis­ters-in-arms, by re­quir­ing women to make the first move on dig­i­tal suit­ors they find, well, suit­able. Both sides have 24 hours each to make con­tact, oth­er­wise the match dis­ap­pears for­ever.

Bum­ble, as my cob­bled-to­gether fo­cus group of about 50 avid app users for this ar­ti­cle at­tests, gen­er­ally has a rep­u­ta­tion for of­fer­ing a better-qual­ity can­di­date for dat­ing than Tin­der. Its head of op­er­a­tions Caro­line El­lis says Aus­tralia has the high­est num­ber of av­er­age matches per ac­tive users. In other words, we are ac­tively seek­ing con­nec­tions through this app. Tin­der, by con­trast, is more com­monly viewed as a go-to app for a onenight stand. Happn is a prox­im­ity-based app, al­low­ing users pass­ing by each other to con­nect.

What is clear is dat­ing apps are not go­ing away any time soon, with new ones crop­ping up all the time. There’s POF (Plen­ty­off­ish), Cof­fee Meets Bagel (en­cour­ag­ing first dates and chats), Bristlr (con­nect­ing guys with beards with those who find the hir­sute look hot), Farm­ers Only (com­plete with tagline: city folks just don’t get it), Tin­dog (help­ing dog own­ers con­nect), Trek Pas­sions (al­low­ing sci-fi fans to con­nect) and even GlutenFree Sin­gles.

Given the va­ri­ety, and po­ten­tial for con­fu­sion, here’s our guide to sur­viv­ing and thriv­ing in the world of dat­ing apps.

PIC­TURE IT

Tin­der re­cently in­tro­duced a fea­ture called Smart Pho­tos, which con­stantly tests your pro­file im­ages and loads up the one that clocks best re­sults first. My ad­vice: use it.

One would do well not to make a first im­pres­sion with that bath­room mir­ror selfie star­ring their side­kick, the dunny.

Gym self­ies and head­less bare torso shots are the next spot of bother. Women, in par­tic­u­lar, find it off-putting.

As brand ex­ec­u­tive Gabriela, 36, puts it, “I think there’s a big dis­par­ity of re­al­i­sa­tion be­tween what makes men feel at­trac­tive and what women find at­trac­tive about men.” Find an­other way to show us you are pack­ing gym hours. In case the pre­vi­ous point got you won­der­ing, boys, pe­nis pics are in the same cat­e­gory. Keep it un­der the jock strap. Any kind of hunt­ing pic­ture was the No. 1 “no” on most ladies’ lists.

My sis­ters, put away your Snapchat fil­ter pic­tures. This was men’s No. 1 gripe. More specif­i­cally, the flower crown and the puppy one. I know, I know, that fil­ter makes your skin look so damned good. But men sur­veyed agreed that all it com­mu­ni­cates is some­one is a lit­tle in­se­cure.

The clothes maketh the man, sir, and those bad board shorts and/or thongs are a typ­i­cal yet heinous of­fence within the dat­ing land­scape, es­pe­cially those still flog­ging the Aussie flag. Try pop­ping on your Sun­day best, at least for one of your shots.

Say no to group pic­tures. One is the limit. If we flip through four pics and can­not tell which one you are, it’s game over.

TELL ME ABOUT IT, STUD

The lit­tle space at the bot­tom of ev­ery­one’s dat­ing pro­file that barely rates a men­tion – your writ­ten bio – is still an im­por­tant side note.

First and fore­most, what­ever you write, run a quick spell check, cour­tesy of Mr Google.

Avoid a de­tailed de­scrip­tion of what phys­i­cal­ity you find at­trac­tive – this was some­thing both sexes found ar­ro­gant.

On the flip side, a few women have re­ported a trend to­wards men trum­pet­ing “sa­pio­sex­ual” ten­den­cies (an at­trac­tion to intelligence, for those scratch­ing their heads at home). A “no” from the women was list­ing your ed­u­ca­tion as the “school of hard knocks”. This goes for any so­cial me­dia.

An­other hard truth from guys to girls was list­ing your oc­cu­pa­tion as “en­tre­pre­neur”.

All women were unequiv­o­cal that it’s a solid 0/10, with one putting it bluntly: “It’s ba­si­cally code for un­em­ployed”.

And the not-so-star­tling rev­e­la­tion that you “like your sports”? Show me a man who doesn’t love sport. Also, those who let you know they are avid par­tic­i­pants in CrossFit or Tough Mud­der, you come off look­ing like over-vo­cal ve­g­ans of the sport­ing world.

And now we come to the fes­ti­val phe­nom­e­non that is Burn­ing Man and its devo­tees. On dat­ing apps, the gen­eral con­sen­sus is if you’re a starter at this fes­ti­val, you’re a dat­ing douche.

HOT LIT­TLE HANDS

So what are the best times to get trig­ger-happy with swip­ing? El­lis says Sun­day morn­ing in Aus­tralian is the best time for Bum­blers, with 8am on­wards be­ing prime time to get a lit­tle honey. “Can you say, lazy Sun­days in bed?” El­lis says.

Tin­der re­ports daily peak times of 9-10pm, ramp­ing up from 5pm (fin­ish work, think play­time) and a ramp-up to­wards the week­end. This may seem ob­vi­ous, but just in case – Valen­tine’s Day is as crazy for dat­ing app hope­fuls as the line-up out­side an Ap­ple store on iPhone launch day, with a re­ported 60-per-cent in­crease in matches.

LET ME BREAK THE ICE

So you’ve made a match. This is the point where the process can become tricky/te­dious. There are a mil­lion-and-one ways to open a con­ver­sa­tion. The eas­i­est is to scope their pic­tures and/ or pro­file de­scrip­tion for some­thing you can draw at­ten­tion to – love of pizza, pic­nics, the Taj Ma­hal, it doesn’t matter.

Here are easy ideas for those who can’t be both­ered to weave any per­sonal de­tail into the ice­breaker: a re­cent Tin­der study showed con­ver­sa­tions that be­gan with a GIF are 30-per­cent more likely to get a re­sponse.

It also showed the en­su­ing con­ver­sa­tions last twice as long as those sans GIF.

And while it may re­quire a touch more Google ef­fort, men who name-dropped or threw out a line from Shakespeare were 27-per-cent more likely to get a re­sponse.

COOL YOUR JETS

There are many rea­sons a per­son may not mes­sage you back on a dat­ing app — and many will have noth­ing to do with you and ev­ery­thing to do with what is go­ing on in this stranger’s life, so don’t get your knick­ers in a twist about it. Keep your cool and don’t mes­sage them a se­cond time ask­ing if they’re alive. It comes off look­ing des­per­ate and weird.

Melina, 24, a real es­tate agent, had a guy con­tact her when she was out with friends one day. He then mes­saged again 30 min­utes later giv­ing her a clear time frame of two hours to re­spond and let­ting her know he would be delet­ing her as a match oth­er­wise.

Don’t let your in­se­cu­ri­ties be your last­ing im­pres­sion.

DATE LINE

Plan a first meet­ing in a pub­lic place. Even if it’s a late-night de­light you’re after, meet­ing in a bar with peo­ple around is never a bad idea in the first in­stance.

The ini­tial date can be fraught. Per­son­ally, I like to go with what I call the “Po­ten­tial Gotta Skate, Mate”. It goes like this. Him: How does a drink sound Thurs­day, 7pm? Me: Sounds per­fect. I do have to drop by a friend’s birth­day drinks later that night at around 9.30pm, though, so we may have to wind up early … hope that’s cool.

A white lie, sure, but it gives a pre-emp­tive out, should I need one. Of course, there is the old “hav­ing a friend phone at a pre­or­dained time” and you giv­ing a code­word if it’s go­ing badly, at which point they pro­vide you with an emer­gency out.

ARE YOU DE­CENT?

Bad be­hav­iour is com­mon­place. Ghost­ing, or “dis­ap­pear­ing with­out a trace” on a suitor, can hap­pen in the early stages of com­mu­ni­cat­ing or, more alarm­ingly, after a hand­ful of dates.

Bread­crumb­ing, on the other hand, is when one party main­tains just enough con­tact to keep the other on the line, so to speak, but never enough to ini­ti­ate any real con­nec­tion.

It may seem an easy op­tion, but all par­ties sur­veyed, while ad­mit­ting they had com­mit­ted both dat­ing crimes, agreed it would be nice if ev­ery­one could sim­ply let the other per­son know where they’re at, even if it’s bad news.

The po­ten­tial sil­ver lin­ing to this crime is that some UK ther­a­pists re­cently said our new level of ex­po­sure to re­jec­tion may be mak­ing us all more emo­tion­ally re­silient.

Speak­ing of bad be­hav­iour, 30 per cent of Tin­der users on record in a 2015 study said they were al­ready in a re­la­tion­ship and a fur­ther 12 per cent were mar­ried. And you can add to that the 11 per cent of men who have ad­mit­ted to send­ing an un­so­licited photo of their pri­vate parts on a dat­ing ser­vice.

I JUST CAN’T CHOOSE

Ar­guably, there have never been as many op­tions avail­able to us, but swipe men­tal­ity can have down­sides. As one con­sid­ered date said one night, it’s like be­ing in a lolly shop.

“If I gave you one choco­late and you knew that was the only choco­late you were go­ing to have for the next few months, you would love the hell out of that choco­late, wouldn’t you? And put your best ef­fort into mak­ing it last,” he said. “But if you have, say, 16 choco­lates to choose from straight up, well, it only makes sense that you’re go­ing to spread your ef­fort and at­ten­tion thin and it’s just not con­ducive to cre­at­ing any kind of de­cent con­nec­tion with your ‘choco­late’.”

HOT TIPS

Here’s a cou­ple of hints from Tin­der: better re­sults ap­par­ently come to those who post pho­tos wear­ing muted colours; 20 per cent more right swipes go to those fac­ing for­ward in pho­tos; and 14 per cent for those smil­ing in pics.

Al­ways pro­vide more than one pic­ture and try to in­clude a clear face shot and a full-length one.

Load up on couch hours be­fore sug­gest­ing a “Net­flix and chill” ses­sion – millennials are 270 per cent more likely to think it’s hot if you’re binge-watch­ing the same TV shows.

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Above, in­clud­ing bare torso shots is a big no-no for men; and, be­low, puppy fil­ters, such as this snapchat one, are also a no-go.

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