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
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.
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.
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’.”
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.
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.