Adventures in Online Dating: Tinder

I suppose if there’s any silver lining to my most recent breakup, it’s that it put me back on the online dating scene and gave me more blogging fodder.

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Ah, Tinder! Where do I even begin with you?

I assume that by now, everyone is at least marginally aware of how Tinder works, but just in case: Tinder is an app-based dating platform. In order to create a profile, you need to have Facebook, which Tinder will use to show you mutual friends (either first degree or second degree) you have with the people you encounter on Tinder, much like Coffee Meet Bagel, and mutually liked pages.

As with any site/app, you’re welcome to add as much personal information as you want. Unlike other sites/apps, Tinder does not give you any sort of prompts or suggestions, but rather presents you with a blank box and lets you fill it in with whatever your heart desires, including nothing at all, if you so choose. Tinder will choose photos for your profile as well, but you’re welcome to switch out whichever photos it selects and replace them with ones you like, such as, say, a photo from the CARA banquet where you cropped out your now-ex-boyfriend because you looked bangin’ in that dress and forced him to take a picture with you so you could put it on Facebook and show off to all of your non-friends that you both had a boyfriend and a super amazing little black dress, but then after he drove you home you spent nearly two hours sitting in his car successfully convincing him to delay breaking up with you for a month, and decided, in light of that conversation, that perhaps Facebook would not be the appropriate place for that photo, but held on to it anyway, and then post-breakup decided, oh, eff yes this is going on my Tinder profile. Not that I did that, because I’m not petty, shallow, or predictable.

Anyway.

So, once you’ve done all that, the real fun begins, and you get to swiping. Tinder will use the location services function of your phone (and drain the hell out of your battery, let me tell you) to find you potential suitors within a distance you’ve specified, anywhere from one to 100 miles. It will then present you with people who fit the gender you’ve selected to be shown (men, women, both men and women) and the distance you’ve requested. Upon initial swipe, you will see their photo, their name, their age, and their school and/or job information if they’ve allowed Tinder to share that from their Facebook page. If you want to know more, you can tap on this area, and it will open their full profile, with more schooling/job information if they’ve chosen to share that, their distance from you, any mutual friends/interests, and the ability to scroll through the rest of their photos. If you like them, you can tap the green heart or swipe right. If you don’t like them, you can tap the red x or swipe left. If you really like them, you can tap the blue star, which will “super like” them (I don’t think anyone uses this function, or at least not on purpose). If you swipe right, Tinder will hang onto that person for you, but you can’t find his/her profile again unless he/she swiped right on you in the past or swipes right on you in the future. If you swipe left on someone, they are, allegedly, gone forever, unless you upgrade to Tinder Plus, in which case you get access to an undo function. Or you could just be patient, because I’ve definitely had people I swiped left on show up again later.

If you match with someone, the two of you now have the ability to chat and/or sexually harass each other. Chatting in Tinder is basically identical to texting, so if you hoped to woo someone with your command of the English language, I suggest moving your efforts over to OkCupid or Match.

Now, let’s tackle the number one thing everyone associates with Tinder: hooking up. Can you find a hookup on Tinder? Yes, absolutely. People looking for hookups are fairly easy to identify. If you see someone with no profile information, someone whose profile says, “In *insert city here* until *date not that far in the future*,” or someone who matched with you at an extremely obscure hour of the morning, like 3 a.m. obscure, I’d be willing to bet a very pretty penny that they’re on Tinder with the primary goal of finding a hookup. Now this, of course, doesn’t mean people who have profile information aren’t looking for a hookup, or that only sleaze balls swipe at weird hours, but if you are (or aren’t) looking for a hookup, those above profile indicators are the things I’d pay the most attention to.

I actually spent a couple of weeks on Tinder right when I started talking to my most recent ex-boyfriend. I had been a Tinder holdout for quite some time, but one of my roommates (who met her boyfriend, likely soon-to-be fiancé, of over two years on Tinder) was quite insistent that I at least give it a shot. After a summer of failed OkCupid dates and absolutely no success on Match, I decided I’d start using Tinder on Sept. 1. I caved and downloaded it the weekend before Sept. 1 (so either Aug. 29 or 30). I then met and started talking to my most recent ex-boyfriend on Aug. 31. I had stopped actively Tinder-ing before I actually went out with him, because I was really interested in seeing where things would go with him and wasn’t all that invested in Tinder during the whopping two weeks I tried it last fall. And to be honest, I was pretty disappointed with my experience. I had very, very few matches, despite not being that picky. The few people that I did match with rarely messaged me, and if they did, it never lasted beyond one or two days. I certainly never got asked out, or even asked for my number.

Side note about messaging: I, personally, will never first-message someone on Tinder. I will happily first-message boys  on Match and OkCupid, but never on Tinder, because I don’t trust anyone on Tinder. I’m sure there are guys who swipe right on every single girl who comes up for them, just to see who’s swiped right on them, and quite frankly, I have no interest in getting involved with anyone like that. Therefore, on Tinder, I always wait for someone to message me, because I figure if they message me, they must have some sort of interest. I also apply all my other messaging rules to Tinder, which is to say if all I receive is a, “hey,” “sup,” “hi,” or any other shocking lack of effort that makes me weep for mankind, I do not dignify that with a response.

When I got back on Tinder after my most recent breakup, I expected the same experience. I had no illusions that I’d match with people, no assumptions that I’d receive messages, and absolutely no expectation that I’d be asked out. I wanted a low-effort, low-expectation way to ease myself back into the world of online dating, and Tinder seemed like the best way to do that.

Well! Was I ever wrong. In my first few days on Tinder, I matched with more guys than I ever expected possible (however, after that initial match-fest, the number of times I’d match with someone dropped off dramatically. I’m talking going from matching with  at least a dozen people per day to maybe matching with three people per week, at best. My one theory is that Tinder recognizes fresh blood, and pimps you out accordingly. My other theory is that after matching with so many people, Tinder had run out of other viable guys for me to match with that fit my age and distance criteria). To my great surprise, some of these people messaged me. To my even greater surprise, almost all of them asked me out, and generally pretty quickly. With the exception of one guy, everyone that I matched and then engaged in a conversation with asked me out within less than a week. I had been out of the online dating scene for six months, so maybe a huge cultural shift took place during that time, but this was lightening speed compared to my past experience. Out of everyone I met on a non-Tinder dating site, only one asked me out quickly. Otherwise, it usually took a week at the absolute best, but usually much longer than that–sometimes up to a month–for someone to ask me out. I was blown away by how many people I met on Tinder that asked me out within hours of matching.

I went on a string of Tinder dates with mixed results, so in that department, I’d say the quality of people I met on Tinder is fairly equal to the quality of people I met elsewhere. The one biggest issue I personally ran into, however, was religion. Every other site I’ve used has had a place where you can identify what you believe religiously, if you believe anything at all. Because I’m a Christian, and it’s important to me that the people I date are on the same page as I am in that department, at least in a general sense, I’ve never before paid any sort of attention to anyone who either doesn’t say what they believe on their profile, or says they believe something different than I believe. While I’m not necessarily husband hunting, I do see marriage as the end goal of dating, which, for me, makes it very difficult to even consider dating someone who doesn’t share my religious beliefs, as that’s one of my very few non-negotiables when it comes to what I’m looking for in a partner. Obviously people can change, but, as I think most people know very well, you can’t change someone else, and I think you especially can’t change someone else when it comes to religion. Certainly they could change themselves, but this isn’t like telling someone you don’t like their cologne and want them to wear something else, you know? This is a really big thing, and expecting someone to change in that realm seems like setting yourself up for failure.

All that to say, the whole religion thing has made things sticky for me on Tinder. I’ve gone out with guys that I’ve really liked, only to find out they aren’t religious at all, which has been wildly disappointing and frustrating for me. You certainly can bring up religion in your bio on Tinder if you so choose, but from what I’ve seen, it’s very uncommon to do that – about as uncommon as it is for people to talk about their religious beliefs in their bios on other dating sites (Match and OkCupid, for example, both have basic, fill-in-the-blank forms that allow you to disclose things like religion, height, body type, etc. This is where people usually say what they believe, if they say anything at all. Rarely does someone reinforce this message through their bio.). It’s entirely possible I just read too far into things, but since it is so uncommon, I know when I come across someone who includes their faith on their Tinder bio, I assume that they are a particular type of Christian, and the type of Christian I assume they are is not the type of Christian I am–namely, the type of Christian who advertises, in no uncertain terms, that they are a Christian. While my faith is intensely important to me, it is also intensely personal, and not something I usually/ever bring up apropos of nothing. So it makes Tinder difficult.

Beyond that, Tinder also has a reputation–and I think nearly everyone gets on Tinder knowing this–of not being serious. I’ve never taken Tinder all that seriously, and I would consider myself pretty serious about dating. Tinder is a bar; Match is a singles event. You go into Tinder knowing something could happen, but having very low expectations that anything will happen, and, if it does happen, that it will lead to anything exclusive, serious, or long term. Does it happen? Sure. Does it happen often? I doubt it–or at least less often than on other sites/apps. You go into Match expecting something to happen, namely: a relationship, and quite possibly a long term and/or marriage one. But because Tinder is so casual and so low key, it feels weird to talk about religion. If you met someone at a bar and struck up a conversation with them, are you going to ask them right off the bat what they believe religiously, or expect them to ask you the same question? Probably not. If you were at a singles event, where you intended to walk out with at least one, if not more, potential people to date, would you feel more inclined to ask about religion? I’d imagine so. That’s where things get complicated with Tinder and religion, at least in my eyes, and for a religious person, that can make things really complicated in general.

Tinder to me also feels more like a sprint, whereas I’d consider OkCupid, Match, and even Coffee Meets Bagel to be more of a marathon. I get burnt out on Tinder a lot faster than on any other site, not because of consistent disappointment, but because honestly, there’s only so much you can do. You can stay on OkCupid and Match for hours, searching through literally hundreds of thousands of profiles, tweaking your own profile, answering questions, sending messages to people who’ve never contacted you, etc. On Tinder, you’re much more limited. You can swipe for hours, sure, and exchange messages with people you’ve matched with, but I think it’d be tough to spend hours on Tinder, which is not at all hard to do on Match or OkCupid. Everything on Tinder, in my experience, is rapid-fire. Match, message, exchange numbers, go out, never speak to each other again. Boom. Done. Case closed, all within seven days. Other sites, for me at least, moved much slower. It’d take days, weeks to find someone that wanted to message with you. It’d take weeks, up to a month, for them to ask you out. It would drag on and on, creating a very different sort of environment than Tinder. I don’t know if I’d say one is better than the other, but they are quite different, I think.

I don’t hate Tinder, not at all. Based on the number of people I’ve run into on there that I’ve also known in real life compared to other sites, it certainly seems to be the most popular app to use. It’s easy, it’s simple, it requires very little effort. But remember, it’s a bar, not a matchmaking event. Adjust your expectations accordingly, and you’ll do just fine.

 

Adventures in Online Dating: Match

Yeah, yeah, I realize this was supposed to be a three-part series, and I’ve already finished three posts about online dating sites. However, I wrote the original intro to this series last April. A couple weeks after that post, I went through my first “three date relationship,” as I like to call them (where the first date goes amazing, you set up a second date, during the second date you get that sinking, “…oh,” feeling, you agree to a third date anyway just to be sure, and by the end of the third date you [and usually, in my experience, the person you’re dating as well] realize this is NOT going anywhere, and you mutually agree to “be friends.” By which I mean, “Never speak to each other again.” I had three of these between late April and early July, for those of you keeping score at home.), and, in a fit of lunacy, decided the best way to “mourn” the loss of that “relationship” (so many quotations in this paragraph. I’m the worst.) would be to throw my credit card at the granddaddy of them all: Match.com.

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Because I don’t do anything halfway, I signed up Match’s highest subscription package, which cost the most money up front (a smidge over $100, if I remember correctly. Maybe like $130ish?) but also gave me the most benefits (none of which I remember. Sorry.) and lowest cost per day. This package lasted six months (so, for me: from early May through early November), and I told myself that I would not, under any circumstance, purchase another subscription package in November. If I couldn’t find anyone on Match in six months, I’d be done with it.

I found Match confusing as hell from the get-go. My experience with web-based (as opposed to app-based) online dating consisted exclusively of OkCupid when I signed up for Match, and I expected Match to have the same intuitive design and operation as Match. Not so! Not by a long shot. On OkCupid, everything is fairly straightforward. You can like people. You can message people. You can tweak your profile on a daily basis and/or answer questions on a daily basis to increase your visibility. That’s about it. It’s a pretty easy site to hack, in the “this is how to make the site work for you” sense.

Match? Not so much. To be honest, I never really figured out how to work the system. I had no idea what I needed to do to make my profile more likely to be seen, other than paying to “boost” my profile. I never did this, though one day I had the option of doing it for free for an hour. I tried that, and got probably 20 times more views than normal. Not a single person who viewed my profile indicated any interest, nor did he message me, so as far as I was concerned, that was a pretty useless function.

Like OkCupid, Match features a “match percentage,” that, in theory, tells you how likely you are to get along with another person. Unlike OkCupid, however, where (at least in my experience) it was not all that common to find huge numbers of people that match you at 90% or higher, on Match, it seemed like every single person on the site was a 90% match–if not a 99% match, or a 100% match. What did this mean? I had no idea, but it’s pretty hard to put faith in a system that is allegedly telling you that every person you encounter could be The One.

Match has several different ways of allowing you to indicate interest in another person, none of which I really understood. You could like their photos, a la Facebook. You could wink at them, whatever that meant. Every day, you’re presented with 12 people that Match thinks would be great for you in your Daily Matches (highlights for me: my best friend’s sociopathic ex-roommate, and the brother of a particular Bachelor contestant). You can either say you’re not interested, in which case this person–who I’m convinced must be a completely random guy Match drug up from its list, based on the best-friend’s-sociopathic-ex-roommate situation. I met that guy in real life plenty of times, and I can ASSURE YOU that we in NO WAY should’ve been matched together, regardless of the fact that he’s quite probably a sociopath–has no idea that you were matched with them, or say that you’re interested, in which case Match emails the person to tell them as such, along with sending them a notification within the website, AND gives you the opportunity to flex your creative writing skills right then and there by messaging him/her right off that bat.

In six months on Match, I had four people indicate interest in me via their daily matches (even though in theory, I showed up in someone’s daily matches every day), and I’m pretty sure three of them were neo-Nazis based on their photos. So that was reassuring. (The fourth guy, fortunately, did not give off any neo-Nazi vibes.)

While I would usually get at least one message per week on OkCupid, depending on how active I had been lately, I RARELY got emails on Match, and I don’t mean quality emails (something other than “hey”): I mean emails, period. I’d say my profile views were slightly lower on Match than on OkCupid–though, to be fair, for most of my six months on Match, I didn’t go on all that often–but in terms of profile views:communication, I found OkCupid to be MUCH more productive than Match. In terms of communication:dates, I also found OkCupid to be much more productive. In my experience, nearly every substantial messaging exchange on OkCupid eventually led to at least one date. Granted, I had far fewer substantial email exchanges with guys on Match, but out of the ones I had, only one ever led to a date.

To be honest, I hated Match from the start. Absolutely hated it. Part of my hatred came from not understanding the site–to me, the whole design felt like a relic of late ’00s Internet–but another part of my hatred came from how utterly useless the site felt to me. This is the site people send you to when you’re looking for someone serious, isn’t it?! Why on earth was it only populated by extremely attractive 29 year olds who would never even consider speaking to me, or weirdos from the suburbs who quite possibly have Confederate flags painted on the back windshield of their pickup truck? Because I hated Match, it felt like a chore to use it, so more often than not, I chose to not use it.

Last summer, I read Love in the Time of Algorithms, which I cannot recommend enough to anyone interested in online dating, either as something he or she plans to do, or as just a general topic of research. In that book, I learned that Match is meant to function, essentially, like an online version of printed personal ads, while OkCupid aims more to present you with people it thinks you’ll like. Using Match is like shopping at Macy’s. Using OkCupid is like using StitchFix. In the first instance, you have to sort through thousands and thousands of blouses to find one that works for you. In the second instance, someone does that leg work for you, and send you a blouse they think you’ll like based on what you’ve told them, with varying results. I think if I had known that when I started using Match, I would’ve had a better experience with the site. I was expecting OkCupid for Grownups, and since that is not at all what I got, I became extremely frustrated–frustrated to the point where I didn’t even want to bother logging on at all.

 

As you’ve probably gathered from all of this, Match did not at all live up to my expectations. Maybe it was just me, maybe it was just the people who I found on the site, maybe it was my age, maybe it was my timing, maybe it’s who uses Match in Chicago, maybe it was my previous OkCupid experience and resulting ideas about how online dating work. Whatever it was, Match was not a good match (worst pun ever) for me, and if one of my friends came to me asking which site I’d recommend for online dating, Match would be at the bottom of that list.

Adventures in Online Dating: Coffee Meets Bagel

Ah, it’s been awhile since we’ve had one of these, hasn’t it?

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Back in February, six days before my ex-boyfriend dumped me, I went out to dinner with one of my good friends from my CARA group. Though I wasn’t single at the time, the topic of dating came up, and she told me about this guy she had gone out on a couple of dates with, though things didn’t seem to be going anywhere, especially considering that he had left the country for three weeks. I asked her how she met him, and with great shame, she said, “It’s embarrassing, but I met him online.”

Pfft. Like I, the queen of online dating, would ever judge someone for meeting a romantic interest online.

I then asked her where specifically she met him, and she told me Coffee Meets Bagel. I had vaguely heard of Coffee Meets Bagel in the past, but didn’t know much about it. Since I was in a relationship anyway, I filed that information away in the back of my head and carried on with my life.

Well, six days later, I was no longer in a relationship. I didn’t want to jump right back into the online dating scene the day I got dumped, but a few weeks later after a totally horrific Project Fixup date, I remembered that my friend had mentioned this Coffee Meets Bagel app, and decided to download it for myself.

I would describe Coffee Meets Bagel as a stepping stone between OkCupid and Tinder, or perhaps the online dating skeptic’s Tinder. Coffee Meets Bagel is entirely app-based and requires you to have an active Facebook profile to use it. After downloading the app, it requests permission to access your Facebook profile (but doesn’t post to Facebook or indicate on Facebook that you’re using the app) and then creates a very basic profile for you using your age, religion, high school, college, and photos from Facebook. You’re free to fill in additional profile questions beyond that, but you’re not required to (Coffee Meets Bagel does recommend that you do this, however, and since there are only three questions – come on, people. Put at least an iota of effort into this.).

Every day at noon, you receive one new “bagel,” which is to say, a person who, in theory, should interest you. After checking out your bagel, you can like or pass him/her and explain why you did what you did using a variety of qualities that pop up after you’ve made your decision (“cute,” “smart”, “common interests,” “age,” “too far away,” “not my type,” etc.). If your bagel likes you as well, you’ll have access to a private messaging space where you can communicate within the app (much like Tinder). There are two big caveats here:

#1: You only have 24 hours to like or pass on your bagel. If you don’t check Coffee Meets Bagel within that 24 hour period, you’ll lose your bagel, no matter how much you think you may have liked him/her.
#2: If you both like each other and get your messaging space, that messaging space only remains open for seven days. No languishing away sending messages back and forth here: if you don’t exchange contact info within seven days, you’re outta luck if you want to keep communicating with your bagel.

Doing various activities on Coffee Meets Bagel–creating a profile, referring friends (or having your Facebook friends join, with or without your knowledge), passing or liking your daily bagel, etc.–earns you beans. These beans can be used for a variety of in-app “purchases,” including getting personalized insights on your profile (reasons people have given for liking or passing you, tips on how to improve your profile, etc.) and “taking” additional bagels in one day. Remember, you only get one person for free per 24-hour period (for the most part – occasionally you get “bonus bagels” and receive two people in one day). If you want to see someone else, you can pony up some of your hard-earned beans, and Coffee Meets Bagel will present you with another person to like or pass.

Because you used your Facebook profile to access Coffee Meets Bagel, the app has access to your friend list. If you and your bagel have mutual friends, it’ll tell you, but you’ll have to pay a small bean fee in order to see who your mutual friends are (if you can’t figure it out based on his/her high school, college, or other profile clues). If you have second or third-degree connections with someone on the app, it’ll tell you that as well, and for that information you don’t have to pay. So, for example, if your daily bagel is John, and John is friends with Susie, and Susie is friends with Billy, and YOU’RE friends with Billy, Billy will show up on John’s profile as a second-degree connection. If you’re friends with Susie, however, she’ll show up as a first degree connection, but only after you’ve paid Coffee Meets Bagel to tell you that John also knows Susie. I don’t know this for sure, but I have a theory that Coffee Meets Bagel only shows first, second, and/or third degree connections you have with people if YOUR Facebook friend uses the app as well. The app doesn’t say that that’s the case, but since the mutual friends who showed up for me were always the same people, I began to wonder if it was more than a coincidence (though to be fair, the girl who almost always showed up as second- or third-degree connection for me does have nearly 2,000 friends on Facebook, which would make her second- and third-degree networks enormous).

For awhile, I was quite picky with who I would like or pass on Coffee Meets Bagel, but then I found myself going for weeks on end without a single match. That was discouraging, to say the least, so by the end of my time on Coffee Meets Bagel, I was liking literally every single bagel I got, unless there was some ENORMOUS problem with him (all his photos showed him in various states of drunkenness, we didn’t have the same religious beliefs, or something else equally dramatic/dealbreak-y). You can tell Coffee Meets Bagel what you want in terms of distance, age and religion, so for the most part, the guys I received as bagels were what I was looking for. But as anyone who has ever in any way had romantic feelings knows, just because you like someone doesn’t mean they’ll like you back!

I don’t have an active Coffee Meets Bagel profile at the moment, so I can’t say for sure how many connections I made through the app. I know for sure that in the five months I used the app, I went out with two different guys I met on Coffee Meets Bagel (I, uh, may or may not have liked one of them exclusively because our one mutual friend was my ex-boyfriend, and I wanted to see what would happen. Imagine my surprise when that guy liked me back, asked me out almost immediately, and then turned out to be great! What a conundrum. We only ended up going out twice because of other circumstances, but I’m glad I never had to explain to him that the main reason I liked him was in hopes that it would somehow make my ex jealous *hides in shame*). I exchanged a few messages with maybe a handful of other guys I connected with on the app, but those never led to anything. I’d estimate that MAYBE 10% of the guys I liked liked me back, so for the most part, I didn’t connect with people, anyway.

I think Coffee Meets Bagel is a particularly gentle introduction to online dating. It’s easy to use, FAR less overwhelming than OkCupid or Tinder, and lends itself to arranging in-person dates as quickly as possible. It can be discouraging to go day after day after day without making a connection, but given how many rejections you face on other online dating sites, I’d say the rate of rejection is pretty similar overall. If someone came to me who hadn’t ever done online dating and wanted a way to dip his or her toes into the waters, I’d send them to Coffee Meets Bagel first.