Modern Dating/Online Matching 101, please?
March 11, 2015 11:37 AM   Subscribe

For a fiction project, I need to come to a better understanding about how modern dating works, particularly with regard to Tinder. From my perspective (I'm older, I've been married a long time and I have absolutely no experience with the modern dating scene), I wonder why women might be using Tinder. Is it just for hooking up? Or do woman (or men) look to Tinder to try to meet someone for actual dating and long-term relationship?

Is there a hierarchy of online dating tools with regard to people seeking long-term relationships and/or marriage, and just hooking up?

Is there a stigma attached to online matching anymore? How about a stigma attached to various services? If I'm a 30-year-old woman looking for an actual relationship, am I looking for a man who is specifically not using a particular service, because I know that's for hook-ups only?

Does it make a difference if the user is 25, 30 or 35?

For the purposes of my research, I am interested in heterosexual relationships around age 30.

Is there smart writing about these things, particularly Tinder, that I should be reading? Are there signs about what's next in the dating scene? What'll be the next big app?

posted by BlahLaLa to Human Relations (23 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Also, this fiction piece takes place in NYC, in case that comes into play here.
posted by BlahLaLa at 11:44 AM on March 11, 2015

In my social circles (urban East Coast but not NYC, professional women in their late 20s through mid-30s looking to date men), the perception is that:

- There is very little shame about online dating. Most women have had their profile on a dating website. Everyone has been to at least a couple weddings where somebody from work/school is now marrying someone they met online.

- eHarmony is what you use when you want a serious, long-term relationship. Depending on your background, some people of the appropriate background use jDate or ChristianMingle, which are also considered "serious."

- is slightly sleazier and more hookup oriented, as is plentyoffish. OkCupid is for people who are kinda nerdy or granola or not-mainstream -- or at least like to think of themselves that way. Nobody I know offline will fess up to using FetLife, much less Ashley Madison.

- Tinder is where you go to get laid, though I think if you're on the younger end of things, there is more of a tendency to use it for something besides finding a hook up partner quickly.
posted by joyceanmachine at 11:51 AM on March 11, 2015 [4 favorites]

I am single, female, 35 and in NYC. I have used Tinder an met men on there, some are looking to hook up and some are looking for a serious relationship. I gave up on Tinder because there wasn't enough info - I felt like I might be turning down guys I would end up liking if I knew more about them.

I really like OKCupid because there is a ton of info. Most people have detailed profiles and answer a lot of questions. I am looking more for casual relationships now and I meet a ton of people who are interested in the same. I think there is an equal amount of people looking for serious relationships.

There are so many people on OKC in NYC that I could go on a date every night of the year and not have a repeat. I think it gives people here a little bit of option paralysis - there are so many choices that we all think there is something better right around the corner so no one wants to settle down. This can be a bad thing.

I work in an office full of single women between 24 and 35. Everyone is on some kind of dating site. In NYC it seems to be the primary way to meet people. There are always new apps, but so many people use multiple sites you can run into the same people in several places.
posted by elvissa at 11:59 AM on March 11, 2015 [2 favorites]

I'm in NYC, 27, female, and use online dating!

Is it just for hooking up? Or do woman (or men) look to Tinder to try to meet someone for actual dating and long-term relationship?

Both. I don't have a Tinder account, but I know lots of people who use it, and generally the idea is "it's amusing to use, I might meet someone fun, and maybe that could evolve into something more but if not, who cares?" There's no bright line between 'hooking up' and 'dating,' really. One is just the other but it keeps happening because you like each other, right?

eHarmony will reject you if you are gay or not religious. In my circles, it's Match that is the "I'm ready to settle down now" site - I don't know a single person who would pay money for a hookup app. I've been to a wedding where the brides met on Match.

No one I know uses PlentyOfFish.

Basically EVERYONE I know, however, uses OKCupid. It's not just for alt-types anymore. And no, there's no stigma to it here. In a city where you might use three apps just to plan a subway trip, using an app to find a date just seems like logic.

(And FetLife is not a dating site, it's a social networking site. CollarMe is the BDSM dating site, but it sucks, as you might expect. Lots of kinky types use OKCupid.)

If I'm a 30-year-old woman looking for an actual relationship, am I looking for a man who is specifically not using a particular service, because I know that's for hook-ups only?

SeekingArrangement. But that's an extreme example.


There are so many people on OKC in NYC that I could go on a date every night of the year and not have a repeat. I think it gives people here a little bit of option paralysis - there are so many choices that we all think there is something better right around the corner so no one wants to settle down. This can be a bad thing.

This is so fucking true and the bane of my existence.
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:01 PM on March 11, 2015 [9 favorites]

My sample is my thirtysomething straight(ish) female single friends in London, UK. Those looking for hookups use OKCupid, Tinder and AdultFriendFinder, those looking for relationships mostly use OKCupid but also sometimes Tinder. No one uses eharmony. My sixtysomething mum uses plentyoffish and has had relationships from that, but I don't know anyone in my age range that does.
posted by corvine at 12:04 PM on March 11, 2015

I've been using online dating off and on since I finished college in 2007, I'm female, hetero, almost 30. My experience is west coast/south.

OK Cupid was pretty good a few years ago when I was younger, in a different city. My subjective impression is that the quality of the user pool has deteriorated; I'm not sure if this is something that happened over time to the entire site as alternatives proliferated and certain users got into LTRs, got burned out or bailed for Tinder, or if this is a cohort effect and it gets worse for all women as they age because your "value" in the dating market decreases with advancing age. Most male users in my cohort state age cutoffs of 24-32, some with a max age set at or below their own age! This is shockingly common. If you just wanted to hook up, OKCupid is maybe a little too much trouble and most people are looking to date in my experience but there are definitely users seeking hookups. You can filter them out if you choose.

Tinder is for hookups but not everyone uses it that way exclusively - it's whatever you want it to be. I've gone on normal dates with people I met on Tinder, so have my friends. Tinder is exhausting after a certain point because the signal to noise ratio is so, so low and the site does very little to let you increase it, but if you adopt a very open mind, or very low expectations it works.

Tinder/OKC accounts for probably over 90% of online dating use I've talked about with friends; a handful are sometimes trying new things like Hinge which bills itself as anti-Tinder and is attracting the kind of people looking for relationships who made up most of the OKC pool a few years back., eHarmony et al are a joke as far as my social circles are concerned.
posted by slow graffiti at 12:06 PM on March 11, 2015 [3 favorites]

Oh, also: If I'm a 30-year-old woman looking for an actual relationship, am I looking for a man who is specifically not using a particular service, because I know that's for hook-ups only?

On OKCupid, you have to specify what type of relationship it is you're looking for. If a guy was on OKC and only had the 'casual sex' box checked, it would be a turnoff.
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:07 PM on March 11, 2015

As for 'what's next'... well, I'm honestly furious I didn't think of this first.
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:13 PM on March 11, 2015

31 year old currently on the online dating scene. Most of my previous SOs were through online dating, and I've tried eHarmony (before I realized how bigoted it was), Match, OKC, and a handful of minor sites. Among my friends, OKC is the only actual dating site. eHarmony and Match both cost money, and even if you're willing to pay, there is a sense that the sort of people you'd want to meet aren't on those sites. I'm a big old liberal, and I have no interest in dating someone who owns boat shoes, would wear a sweater over their shoulders, or starts their profile with a paean to either Jesus or Ayn Rand. So if I want to find someone that I am actually interested in, it's basically OKC or nothing. Those other sites, beyond costing money to become remotely workable (and in my personal opinion even then they are terrible), are full of boring people. Boring people who might be more focused on finding a relationship leading to marriage.

I recently did some searching to see what sites existed besides the big three, and the answer is basically nothing. There is Plenty of Fish, but in my area at least it's a horrorshow. Nerd specific sites (Geek2Geek and knockoffs) appear to be completely abandoned. There are some apps, like Badoo, that are likewise jokes.

Then there is Tinder, which after a recent redesign went from being actively awful to downright terrible. I can't really tell you how it is used by people in very different age brackets than me, but it's a hookup site where the first line out of everyone's mouth is that they're not looking for a hookup. I will not swipe right (accept) a person that doesn't have a profile, and I know that I'm using it wrong.

There's a niche thing called Coffee Meets Bagel, I have no idea how widespread it is. It's like a once-a-day Tinder, with the rougher edges rubbed off.
posted by X-Himy at 12:20 PM on March 11, 2015 [3 favorites]

I'm 28 and dating in San Francisco. In my group of friends, Tinder is just as likely to result in a date as OKCupid. You can use it for hookups if you are so inclined, but I think a lot of guys on there like that it's an easy way to meet people. For what it's worth, I am on Hinge, OKC, and Tinder and I've tried but rejected Coffee Meets Bagel and Match. I have often run into the same people across all three platforms I am actively using.

I think the generally mentality, here at least, is meet up with someone with no specific expectations. If you like them, you see them again and probably sleep with them in the near-ish future. If you are lucky, you keep doing that til you have the Define the Relationship Talk. If you are not lucky, they silently disappear. (That's not just me, right?) I do think paralysis of choice is a very real thing in this dating environment.

Feel free to memail me if you want lurid stories, more details, or screen shots from a million dating sites!
posted by chatongriffes at 12:36 PM on March 11, 2015 [3 favorites]

In my quite limited experience, Tinder is more hookup-y. As a result, the people on there seem to be better looking, on average, than on OKC.

The advantage of Tinder as compared to OKC is that there has to be expressed mutual attraction to begin a conversation. A lot of what can make OKC a drag is 1) having to deal with the advances of people you're not attracted to, 2) spending time and effort sending messages to people and getting crickets. With Tinder you can't message each other at all unless both of you have effectively said "yes, I would consider boning this person". This does not entirely eliminate the crickets problem, but the response rate seems to be better. It doesn't entirely eliminate the douchebag problem, either, but I personally find that if you're selective about swiping right it's not as bad as OKC in that way. E.g., I tend to only do so if something in the profile/photos suggests to me "this person is sane and/or has a sense of humor."
posted by maggiepolitt at 12:40 PM on March 11, 2015 [2 favorites]

This piece involving Tinder really aligns with my feelings about it.
posted by sallybrown at 12:55 PM on March 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

Most of the 30-somethings I know well who are in LTRs are perfectly willing to tell their parents and everyone else that they met online. I even know straight married couples who met on plentyoffish,, and craigslist personals. They are a little slower to mention the specific website compared to the eHarmony and Match people, but their marriages are equally valid, so who cares.

But only their close friends will know that it started out as a hookup and/or because they were seeking someone who was into a particular fetish. There is still some stigma attached to those aspects of it.
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 1:36 PM on March 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

Which dating services are used for what kind of relationships is fairly regional (in one place, X is used mostly for hookups and Y is for serious, then you move somewhere else and it can be the other way around), and these things can also change over time, social/economic status, etc.

So your fictional piece can have some latitude and remain realistic unless you're setting it in a concrete real-world place and non-future time.

If I'm a 30-year-old woman looking for an actual relationship, am I looking for a man who is specifically not using a particular service, because I know that's for hook-ups only?

Much like Vegas gamblers and their "systems", everyone in online dating has their magic formula and One Weird Trick that they think helps find/filter people of a certain type. I can guarantee you that "does not have a profile on XYZ" will be something that some real-world people swear by, and that there are probably social circles in which that idea is received wisdom shared by all, and others in which it would be a curious silly thing to think.
So, that's not really answering your question, just suggesting again that you don't need to get it exactly right because it's fuzzy and it varies. What you suggested is completely believable, as is the woman not doing that.
posted by anonymisc at 1:54 PM on March 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

What's next?

My friends who are most into online dating went from okcupid [hooking up+dates]
-->Tinder [hooking up] okcupid [dates]--> Tinder [hooking up + dates]. There are a couple of possible Tinder replacements on the horizon but the one that seems like it has the most buzz to me is Happn, which as far as I can tell is basically indistinguishable from the gay hookup app Grindr, which started it all.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 2:55 PM on March 11, 2015

Tinder- my 22 year old office coworker used this to get over her bad break up with a dude in her band. I met the guy once, she'd been hooking up with him for a couple months, she introduced him by first name. He wanted them to be a couple, she said "I don't want a boyfriend, it's nothing serious." I know no one else on Tindr. Seems to skew towards hot sort of jockish/party types, definitely young.

Okcupid- huge share of the market amongst people my age (27) - most of them are grad students or techies or nerds. Anyone wearing a fedora is going to be on okcupid. People use it for casual sex on up to finding a lifemate, but the younger user base makes openly admitting you're looking for marriage pretty uncool and desperate sounding. However I'd say the default is looking for a committed mid to late 20s relationship. Met tons of peeps on here, friends, and kind of my current boyfriend though we actually met in real life first. 30+ Christian people who want to get married. Lots of divorcees looking for second round. My dad met my stepmom on Match. Match is in between Eharmony and okcupid in terms of youth/liberalism.

EHarmony, JDate- religious conservative people who want to get married, period.

Craigslist- friends, casual sex, and the very occasional accidental actual relationship.
posted by quincunx at 4:17 PM on March 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

Women use it for different reasons. I know women who met their boyfriends on Tinder and didn't use it as a hook up app. Don't just assume every person is using it for that reason.
posted by discopolo at 6:10 PM on March 11, 2015

I'm a 32 year old single heterosexual woman not interested in hook up and looking for a serious relationship and I'm on tinder.

It took a lot of convincing to get me on it, but I'm glad I did and now most people I know who do online dating are on it. Ok Cupid is quickly becoming the facebook to tinder's Instagram.

I know multiple people my age that have met their current boyfriends and girlfriends on tinder. Some may have used it as a hookup thing at certain times, but no more than ok Cupid.

I'm also on ok Cupid. I seriously get fewer creepy messages on tinder than ok Cupid. Significantly fewer.

I think tinder was trying to be the straight grinder (although I know people who are gay that use it for dating), but that didn't take and it evolved into a more free form dating app.

It may be just because it's the new thing and more people are on it, but I've been really pleasantly surprised by the guys I've met on tinder. It may also help that you don't get bogged down with all the "box checking" of other online dating sites. I'm not sure, but yeah on my first couple tinder dates I was actually pretty apprehensive that despite chatting with the guys first there was some sort of expectation of hooking up since it was tinder, but with the exception of one super bizarre date that I really can't blame on tinder at all, that hasn't happened. The worst I've gotten is a few messages from pretty friendly swingers.
posted by whoaali at 8:29 PM on March 11, 2015 [4 favorites]

I've started looking at Tinder because all the decent looking men seem to be on there now instead of on match. I've spoken to a few men so far but nothing has come of it. I'm not on for a hook up. I'm a romantic. The man for me is out there and I want him to be able to find me so I use whatever resources are available to me. Tinder is a resource. I really like that I can't be matched with someone who isn't a little interested in me. It saves me so much time.
posted by myselfasme at 6:10 AM on March 12, 2015

Late 20s urban professional here. OKC, Hinge, Coffee Meets Bagel, and JDate if looking for real relationships. Tinder maybe as a game or for fun -- or for hookups, "just grab a drink."

There is no longer any stigma at all to meeting online. If I know someone is looking for a serious relationship and they AREN'T on OKCupid, I think they are kind of foolish and wasting time. Get that profile up!
posted by amaire at 11:33 AM on March 12, 2015

If I know someone is looking for a serious relationship and they AREN'T on OKCupid, I think they are kind of foolish and wasting time. Get that profile up!

This. I met my current boyfriend on Tinder (33, female, NYC). We were both using it with the attitude of "maybe I'll meet someone interesting, who knows"? I've also used, off and on (depending single-ness) for nearly 10 years, eHarmony, OKC, and Coffee Meets Bagel.
posted by loolie at 2:03 PM on March 12, 2015

Is there a stigma attached to online matching anymore?

Consider that your sample of answers here is taken from people who are interested enough in interacting with strangers online that they paid five dollars to do so.

You might want to survey a broader population.

I had a acquaintance who became very uncomfortable around me after, due to odd circumstance, I was the only one who knew the deep not-so dark secret of how the happy couple had met on a dating site that I won't name. If a close friend, instead of one of perhaps thousands of unspecified acquaintances, had told me such a thing was so secret to them I certainly would not mention it here, even though I myself do not feel there is a stigma and know many people who do not stigmatize such things.

People don't have examples like this because only couples comfortable with saying they met online are telling people about it. Examples of people being happy to announce how they met to others, or being accepted by others, do not mean there aren't those out there who experience a lot of internal stigma and keep it a secret even if everyone in their life would feel no differently.
posted by yohko at 2:13 PM on March 14, 2015 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks very much. These are all helpful.
posted by BlahLaLa at 9:02 PM on April 10, 2015

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