Speaking from experience: The dos and don’ts of dating apps

Love them or hate them, dating apps have proven to be the best places to connect with other singles. But, for the unexperienced, they can be difficult to navigate. Dee Laffan has compiled the categorical list of what to do to help make it less daunting.

Dating

Who’s been here: Single, bored of not having a plus one for weddings and holidays, looking for the love of your life, maybe just hoping for a situationship (or even just a one-hour relationship, as my good friend calls them) but can’t meet anyone, don’t get asked out on dates, and unfortunately find someone asking for your number in a bar creepy?

I’ve been there, bought the T-shirt and could write the book on it. But, instead, I’ve popped what I know from experience – the good and the bad – into this handy list for you, to help steer you, hopefully, in the direction of what you’re looking for.

Do know what you’re looking for 

This seems like a simple one, but it’s often overlooked and is so important before you even download an app to your phone. Do you know what you want? What kind of relationship, what type of person, or are you just looking for fun? If you don’t have these answers, or at least some of them, you can waste a lot of time.

Are you searching for casual sex or your soulmate? Sometimes, one can lead to the other, but it’s good to have a plan. Have a conversation with yourself, and be honest, because the old saying of ‘be careful what you wish for’ could not be more true when it comes to dating via apps. It’s all good if you’re looking to join a couple in an open relationship for a bit of fun, but when you’re suddenly receiving messages from a lot of people, it can be overwhelming. You may realise you actually don’t want what you’re putting out into the dating world.

If there’s a particular physical demeanour that turns you on, there’s no harm in being straight up in your profile about your wants and desires. I found myself that some men I dated were not attracted to me because of my height. I could literally see their faces drop when I stood up to greet them on a first date. It might seem shallow, but physical attraction is the initial basis of our sexual desire and relationships, so let people know your preferences and avoid any first meeting shocks.

Do research which dating app to try

Luckily, there are lots of dating apps and it’s an exciting experience first signing up to one and creating your profile. I highly recommend reading the information provided for each app and reviews to find out the flavour of each one.

Tinder, Plenty Of Fish (POF), Bumble, Her, Hinge, Grindr and Scruff are all popular in Ireland and each have their own vibe and target demographic. It’s good to know which one will best suit what you’re looking for, especially before you download it or, more importantly, sign up to pay a subscription.

Don’t use multiple apps at the same time

I was once signed up to POF, Tinder and Bumble, all at the same time. It goes without saying that Ireland is a small island and, with this tactic, you’re just causing more work for yourself. I found I was getting the same profiles delivered across all three platforms, but I had done the extra work of setting up three profiles and checking my notifications from all of them regularly. It was frustrating! A lesson learned and one I am happy to pass on. Stick to one app. If it’s not working, delete it and move on to the next.

Do put thought and effort into your profile

Your profile is so important, and an honest bio with a few good photos is all you need.

For your bio, don’t write the description so it sounds like an ad for a car dealership including your measurements, make and model. A one-liner with a few likes and dislikes is sufficient.

If you don’t include a profile photo, you are not being fair to others or yourself. This is no time to be shy. However, there are some major don’ts when it comes to profile photos: no group photos, naked pics, photos with drugged tigers, photos in front of your house or car with the numbers clearly visible and, especially, no photos from your previous wedding – come on now!

Don’t get creepy

It’s fair to say that people who use dating apps, regardless of age or circumstance, can feel vulnerable putting themselves out there. We want to have positive experiences, and so many do. Don’t be one of the ones who makes the experience weird or hurtful for someone else.

Of course, it’s OK to ask personal questions when getting to know someone, but save any sensitive questions for when you’re face to face. Don’t ask ‘what are you wearing?’ or ‘what bus do you get to work?’ even if innocently meant.

You might look your matches up on social media, as one of the many checks to see that you aren’t being catfished, but don’t try to connect with them before you’ve met in person and maybe even ask if that’s OK.

Don’t message someone when drunk or late at night, especially in the early days of contact.

Don’t forget that sending unsolicited sexual material is sexual harassment, and tread very carefully if you want to suggest a consensual image-sharing tit-for-tat. If you’ve misread the situation, it could be a sour end to your interaction.

And, finally, don’t ghost someone if you can help it. Be a human and just tell them you’re not interested.

Don’t go for dinner on the first date

Think of your first meet-up offline as a speed date. A few times, I have genuinely known within five minutes that I wasn’t attracted to the person sitting in front of me. Now, imagine that you know this and you’ve just sat down to dinner.

You don’t want to commit to a first date that potentially locks you into an activity for longer than 30 minutes in case you really don’t like the person, or vice versa. My ideal first date is either going for a coffee or a drink, maybe a walk.

Don’t get sucked into it

Dating apps are a great way to connect with and meet new people. However, like any app, they can be addictive.

My advice is to turn off notifications on your dating app and set a day and/or time that you check in to see what matches and messages you have. If someone is worth it, they’ll wait for you to get back to them.

Digital dating does come with a lot of strings – emotional ones – even if you’re not looking for them. So do yourself a favour and stay in control of it by not getting too sucked into the process and if you feel you are, take a break.

Dee Laffan
Dee is a freelance journalist and editor with over 15 years’ experience. Her passion for Irish food has led her to many roles in the industry, and many festivals around the country. In 2022, she co-founded her own bi-annual food journal called Scoop.

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