Nine days ago, with Valentine’s Day in the air and rom-coms in my head, I made a decision: I was going to download dating apps for one week and write an article about my experiences. Prior to this experiment, I’d never used a single app. I’m a senior in college, and I’ll be honest – I was single and curious. So, in the spirit of “You’ve Got Mail,” “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days,” and “27 Dresses,” I became a journalist from a rom-com.
Below, I’ve summarized my experiences on each app and given details about the functionality, fish in the sea level (number of users) and the purpose. After the apps, I’ve given my do’s, don’ts and overall takeaways. Keep in mind, this is written in the perspective of a woman seeking a man in Omaha, no catfishing allowed. Here’s how it went.
Tinder: Enter at your own risk
The things I’ve seen, the bios I’ve read, the people I have met … what an app. Tinder, named for the dry, flammable material that just needs a spark to start a fire, is probably the most popular dating app for college kids. On the app, profiles (based on proximity) appear on your screen. You then swipe left if you don’t want to match or right if you do. If both users swipe right, you match and start chatting. It sounds simple, and it is. But nothing can prepare you for the rollercoaster ride that is Tinder. That being said, I had the most fun messaging on Tinder and some of the profiles are genuinely hilarious. I don’t think I met my soulmate.
Functionality: 4/5, this app is super easy to use, but you have to click to see their full profile and swipe through their pictures, making it easy to accidentally swipe right. My favorite feature is that you can link your Spotify. (Music is huge for me, so this was awesome.)
Fish in the sea level: Too many fish, too little sea. In every other app, I eventually “ran out” of new people to see. That could never happen here – there are simply too many users, including some super sweet boys who belong elsewhere, all your classmates, a lot of sports fans, people who feel passionately about pineapple on pizza – and many, many, many users with bios that I wouldn’t want my mom to read.
Purpose: Something casual. There are exceptions to every rule, but Tinder just isn’t the place for a soul connection, if you know what I mean.
Bumble: Looking for something casual … unless?
This app’s name comes from the bee community, where the queen makes the rules. Bumble is structured almost identically to Tinder. There are two distinct differences, however: 1) Women must message first, and 2) If you don’t message, matches disappear after 24 hours. If you don’t get a reply, the match also disappears after 24 hours. Bumble is like Tinder’s little brother – it’s almost the same, but a little nicer and quieter. I chatted with a few guys, but I didn’t meet anyone I was interested in. Also, guys on Bumble replied less than on Tinder – but it could’ve been because I usually messaged first like a lunatic, rather than going for a “hey,” “hi” or “what’s up?” and I didn’t usually message right after we matched. (More details on that later.)
Functionality: 5/5, this app was my favorite to use, but I didn’t love that I had to send a message first every time. It also had the Spotify feature.
Fish in the sea level: Good. Although I sometimes got the “that’s everyone!” message, suggesting I change my preferences, (mine were specified for height and religion), generally there were many fish.
Purpose: Casual dating. Again, this is just my experience, but I think it’s semi-likely (like a 50% chance) you could meet someone who you want to get to know on Bumble, maybe even a boyfriend. One of my best friends had great success on this app!
Hinge: Lots of work, little return
I was super biased heading into this experiment because a lot of my gal pals have Hinge and have been on dates with the guys they met. Also, Hinge’s CEO is featured in The New York Times “Modern Love” column, and the app’s tagline “designed to be deleted” is excellent copywriting – two things I value greatly. That being said: I am not crazy about Hinge. This app shows you one profile at a time, then you either like or comment on a photo or prompt. You see if other users like or comment on your prompts, and then someone can invite the other to start the chat. So, you don’t just match with someone based on the overall profile – you have to like something specific and let ‘em know. This could be taken as more genuine, I suppose, but I found it to be kind of awkward. It had the same energy as writing on someone’s Facebook wall or accidentally liking a picture 52 weeks old on Instagram. You also only get four likes per day on the free version. (I think I sent out 10 likes total throughout this experiment, and I only matched with two of my real-life friends because it was funny. My prince is not on Hinge.)
Functionality: 3/5, I just don’t like it.
Fish in the sea level: A little low. Hinge has less users than Bumble or Tinder, and if you run out of new people, it brings back profiles you’ve already passed on.
Purpose: Dating. This app requires meaningful effort, and the profiles I saw all seemed like people looking for a little more than casual dating. Also, my friends who use it are all seeking serious boyfriends.
Match: Meet me today, marry me tomorrow
Match is home to many, many nice and well-meaning men over the age of 27 who are looking for a wife. Honestly, I am not going to explain how it works because, really, I don’t think college kids belong on Match. Also, this app consistently told me “You have high standards!” meaning that it wanted me to broaden my preferences (guys aged 22-26) to match with more people, and when I didn’t listen it insisted on showing me 30 year-olds anyway. Even though I truly dislike this app, I have to be honest with you all: I paid for one month of premium on Match. I’m embarrassed, but there is one (and only one) guy I am legitimately interested in, and you can’t see who likes you back with the free version. (He goes to my church, so I’m interested in real life, and I’ve never found a way to introduce myself.) If it works out I will sing Match’s praises. For now, however, I wouldn’t bother.
Functionality: 4/5, It’s fine!
Fish in the sea level: Endangered. I’m not kidding when I say there are about 15 people on Match in my area.
Purpose: Marriage. Do not download Match if you aren’t ready to settle down.
Dishonorable Mentions: Christian Mingle, Upward, OkCupid, Facebook Dating and Coffee Meets Bagel
I do not recommend these apps. They don’t warrant a description. I deleted Facebook Dating after eight minutes – it was terrifying.
My Do’s and Don’ts:
- Be funny in your bio – After a few days, I changed mine to “Swiping left?? In this economy??” and got more matches and a few messages saying it was funny.
- Message first – Most of the guys I matched with didn’t message at all, and neither did I. But, when I did message first many replied. (Also, the apps all told me statistics saying women are in more fulfilling relationships when they message first, so take that as you will.)
- Proceed with caution – These are strangers you are meeting on the internet. Act like it. Don’t include too much personal information, and make sure both parties’ intentions are clear before giving someone your phone number or Snapchat.
- Be open to surprises – Some of the guys I wrote off turned out to be hilarious and respectful. Other guys I would’ve labeled as “nice guys” were … uh … less than nice.
- Message first saying, “Have you seen the 2011 blockbuster hit ‘Monte Carlo’ starring Selena Gomez?”
- Message first saying, “You sound like a boss babe! Wanna start earning money by working from home? Let’s link up!”
- Message an actuary saying, “So … big math guy?”
- Message, in general, like a lunatic.
- Take yourself so seriously – at the end of the day, you may never see these people in real life. Lighten up, and have fun.
Honestly, dating apps are not for me. I’m a hopeless romantic at heart, and swiping just didn’t feel a Taylor Swift song, ya know? But, that being said, I think dating apps are a good way to meet people – especially when it’s so hard to get to know anyone new right now. Also, it provided an opportunity to “formally meet” someone who was on my radar in real life but hadn’t actually met. Finally, I matched with enough goofy, plaid-shirt-wearing, guitar-holding, latte-drinking guys to figure out what my type is. If you aren’t sure what you’re looking for, dating apps will make it clear.
I gained massive respect for people who regularly use dating apps – it’s so much harder than it looks! And, honestly, if you’re even a little bit curious, I would suggest giving it a go.
I didn’t write my own love story, but you might.