While most smartphone apps make our lives easier, it’s the dating apps that seem to go against that current: Here, in your hand, are hundreds (if not thousands) of other singles, all vying for the attention and affection of every eligible person in a ten-mile radius. While this increases the chances of “meeting” someone you’d otherwise never encounter, it also means you’re competing for their attention with Darwinian odds: Be the best, or be forgotten. So, how do you navigate this dating game — from profile creation to witty banter, from arranging a date to keeping him or her enraptured on the date itself?
We asked five active daters — two straight men, two gay men, and a straight woman — for the secrets to their own prolific success on Tinder and other swipe-based dating apps. And what exactly makes someone successful here? It’s when someone can turn a match into a conversation, and can convert that dialogue into a date. These aren’t people who have necessarily found the lasting love of their lives — yet — but they know exactly how to create that opportunity.
1. Diversify Your Photos, But Stay Grounded
Straight man: Your lead photo has to look like you at your best, but it still has to look like you do in real life, and it shouldn’t feature anyone else. No one's got time for uncertainty. My ideal match would convey a sense of self through their photos. Be interesting enough to capture attention but not too interesting to distract or imply superiority.
Straight woman: I want to get an idea of how someone lives. I like to imagine myself in that person's life, to see if it feels like a natural fit. It's hard to do that if they're all selfies, which is also super vain. I want to see a variety of images that are flattering, like maybe a friend took a really nice picture of you at an event, maybe one is with you and friends, another is you engaged in a hobby you love.
2. Seal The Deal With A Witty Description
Gay man: If I'm on the fence, you may win or lose me based on what you write. Either way, keep it short and simple. Long novels are boring and most of those are extremely opinionated; I’ll be bored by the high sense you have of your own opinion.
I try to write something on my own profile that gives leverage for conversation and isn't typical banter. I'm almost guaranteed to write back if your first line directly relates to what I wrote or the context of a picture.
RELATED: How To Write An Online Dating Profile Like A Pro
Straight woman: Physical attraction isn’t the only important thing. Just because you aren’t the hottest guy doesn’t mean I’ll ignore you. A thoughtful line makes me think twice about someone who I’m not 100% attracted to initially. It helps me see that there might be something else there; it adds dimensions.
3. Only List Important Physical and Professional Information
Gay man: Your photos should convey your physical stats to some extent. Being 6'5", I don't list my stats, as it turns into an annoying point of conversation. If we start chatting, I typically bring it up at some point so they're not totally surprised when I walk into the restaurant, but I'm bored with talking about it. Plus, don’t you see me standing a few inches higher than everyone else in my photos?
My profession is listed to let people know I have a "career job." Career aspirations are important to me, and I think it shows I'm on a certain path with my life. This wasn't always the case, and it's not a bad thing to be figuring that out, or even waiting tables. I think this goes with age, namely, and while there's not a certain number for that change to take place, profession linked to an age can tell you a lot about a person. But maybe that’s just me… however, if someone else thinks this way, then there’s a better chance we’ll match.
4. Be Inventive With Your First Line
Straight man: Cater your opener to that person. You can have cookie cutter conversations with anyone, but I thought the idea of dating was to find someone that is interesting beyond the basics?
Straight woman: Women get lots of matches. It's just the odds of online dating so you're never going to stand out with a "Hey" or "How are you?" Take a minute to write something thoughtful and you'll be noticed.
5. If You Matched, Send A Damn Message!
Gay man: If they ask, great. If I find an opportunity to do so, great as well. Rules about who does what, and when…those are tired and outdated. I just try to get there quickly.
Straight man: I only match with women I want to learn more about. But that doesn’t mean I want to go on a date yet. It means I want to talk with her. So if the match is made when I’m swiping, then I message right away. I wish more women would be aggressive and do the same, but I think a lot are old fashioned. So, I use the same principle: We matched, and I want to be sincere about my intentions to learn more about you, and to give you that same chance with me.
Once chatting, momentum is a powerful thing. Ask her out if you like her. But make time to go on a date with that person within the week. Don’t postpone it. It can be a simple coffee date, or a happy hour. Nobody will be offended if you only have 90 minutes to spare between work and dinner. Sometimes it’s nice to have a fast first date, too. It reveals whether or not you’re attracted to each other, which is the main objective. You can always cancel your dinner plans if you want it to last longer.
6. As For Humor, Gauge Your Audience, And Be Respectful
Straight man: This isn't different than how you'd interact with anyone else. Read the room, y'all.
Straight woman: Avoid any humor that is misogynist or overtly sexual. We get it, you want to have sex, and so do we. Feel free to walk the sexy flirtation line, but the minute we assume you're just looking for sex, then we lose interest.
7. Ask for A Number Once You’ve Both Agreed To A Date
Straight man: I believe the app should be the conduit to the number, and the number should be the conduit to the date. You're not really going to try to send a message through the app if you need to change the date’s details on the fly, are you?
RELATED: Read The AskMen First-Date Guide Before You Take The Plunge
8. Once The Date Is Set Up, Try To Refrain From Texting
Straight man: Emotional intelligence should dictate frequency and type of communication. Read the situation. But don’t worry about communicating prior to the date, except maybe the day of, to confirm the time and place.
Gay man: I have no problem with someone texting before a date, but the downfall here is it often turns into the Q&A that should be taking place in person. If I have to start telling you about my siblings and where I grew up over text, what's the point of the first date? Plus, you miss all the chances to dive deep into those topics, and to really let the chemistry blossom.
9. Ask Lots of Questions
Straight man: People love talking about themselves. When you’re on the date, you’ll always get good dialogue if you ask questions. Interject when appropriate with more questions — this is how people learn about one another. They ask, listen, and react with interest. Hopefully they’ll ask you questions, too. If not, then it’s not a fit.
10. If You Had a Good Time, Tell Them
Straight man: If it's a first date that went well, follow up with that affirmation. If it's a first date that didn't go perfectly — but you still want to see him or her again — it’s still OK to tell that person it was nice to meet, and that you’d like to do it again. The worst that can happen is they say “no,” which means you can make way for someone who whole-heartedly says “yes.”