I’m what you might call a “long-term, repeat user” of digital dating. Back in 2012, I would write about my exploits with online dating and offer advice. Here I am doing it again. Since 2019, I’ve been using a variety of dating apps to chat and meet people, and escape reality. When I left the dating pool, apps were starting to really take-off; when I came back, they were an accepted practice and kind of the norm. People rarely met at random in the grocery line or through mutual friends. Now, instead, they were matches who became more.
The apps were also more. With greater aesthetics, ease of use, and fun add-ons, they were meant to showcase your personality in a better light. This does and doesn’t always work depending on how much effort the person puts in, but the options are there. Additionally, many apps created a tiered access for members where, through payment, they could unlock other features. And, in their own ways, each of the apps have tried to market themselves as unique even though, in the end, they’re all about the same thing—human connection.
I’ve tried a handful, and I’ve come away with thoughts on each of them. Some worked for me and some didn’t, but that doesn’t mean they couldn’t work for you. Each of the apps has pros and cons, but don’t we all?
Launched in 2019, this is one of the more recent additions to the digital dating pantheon, and it only makes sense for Facebook to add this to its wheelhouse. The format is rather similar to other dating apps, and it’s easy as it gives you the option the just add photos from your connected Facebook profile or upload your own. There are questions to answer and it sets a radius to your location. In some ways, this should match with Hinge’s original intention of matching you with people you may have mutual friends with. However, like with so many other dating apps, it heavily depends on your location and the users. When I signed on—because why not?—there was an extremely limited amount of options and I ran out of people to match with very quickly. I had one decent conversation with someone forty minutes away, but nothing really came of it. While it’s a nice idea to have a dating app hooked up to an already existing app, this one doesn’t really provide anything new and is limited.
I was excited to use Bumble since women make the first move and it seemed geared toward positive interactions due to that. I usually have trouble being forward but this app literally forces you to. The profiles are easy to navigate and aesthetically pleasing. The question portions usually make it easy to start conversations, which is great when you have trouble doing that. However, there’s a timer—which feels more like a detonator—on those conversations. When you match with a person, you have a certain amount of time to send the first message; then they have a certain amount of time to respond. If neither of those things matches up, you’re unmatched. Otherwise the conversation continues. It’s an annoying feature, especially if you’re a busy or anxious person. There are also a lot of features behind the paywall which, in the end along with the timer, is the reason I stopped using Bumble.
Like a safety school or Old Faithful, I knew OkCupid would be there when I needed a dating app. I had moderate success with its online version in 2012 and 2013 but, since then, they’ve branched out and made adaptations to compete with phone apps. This includes a ‘right’ or ‘left’ swipe similar to Tinder and privacy functions similar to Bumble—along with paywalls. However, all the old functions are there too. You can learn a lot more about a person via this app (if they fill out their profile and answer questions) than a short paragraph and info on other dating apps. My profile felt like a short essay and, since I hadn’t deleted my old profile but archived it, there were over 500 questions answered on topics like romance, education, politics, etc. OkCupid is also very inclusive in how users can label their sexualities or relationships, including labels that many other dating apps don’t. I did have a few excellent conversations and was able to make a nice connection with someone via this app. However, that paywall is annoying and I did pay for A-List for some premium features.
I’d heard a lot of good things about Hinge, especially on social media. It is supposed to be the ‘classier’ dating app. It is, after all, marketed as “designed to be deleted.” So, rather than hook-ups or FWB, this is more so for those looking for relationships or long-term commitments. However, I found many of the same people as on other dating apps so, while it may be marketed that way, that doesn’t mean it’s being used for that purpose 100%—especially by cis males. It does have one of the cleaner profile layouts, easy to scroll through with just the right amount of information, and I actually found it was easier on Hinge to send the first message than on Bumble. Maybe the questions were just better. The matches I did make were decent conversationalists, but I didn’t end up deleting it for the app’s purpose. I imagine if I’d paid for some of the premium features I might have gotten more out of Hinge, but it was entertaining enough for a while.
Ah, ye old Tinder, a classic. While it may have a reputation as a “hookup app”, the sheer number of users worldwide, its ease of use, and recognition make it one of the better dating apps. Not everyone on the app is looking for something casual, and users run the full gamut of personalities, looks, and interests. You’re also able to use a fair amount of the app without paying for it. However, paying for Tinder Plus or Tinder Gold does unlock a lot of other features, such as Passport, which makes it that much easier to chat, match, and date. I’ve had some truly interesting conversations with people I’ve matched with, and have made at least one great connection. It is one of the apps where you truly get what you put into it, and, yes, good looks and confidence do help. From the male side, there are frequent complaints about bots and sex workers. From the female side, you can usually expect some level of harassment. While it does have a wide network of users, however, certain areas may be more limited than others; if you’re having trouble matching, it may be your location, not you.
All of these dating apps have certain things in common: mixed modalities like visuals, words, and occasional audio; paywalls; and the usual scourges of dating in the digital era (ghosting, breadcrumbing, situationship, etc.). You will inevitably see at least one picture of a man with a fish. Someone with their pet, usually a dog. A group of friends. “Here for a good time not for a long time.” Whatever dating app you choose, whether you try just one or many, the important thing is to have fun and not take it too seriously. Connect with people, have the same small talk over and over, and maybe you’ll meet someone who will make you want to delete them all.