how does one online date these days?
January 7, 2017 12:02 PM   Subscribe

It's been about six months since I got out of my last relationship and I would like to very tentatively start dipping my toes in the dating pool again. The last time I did online dating was nearly a decade ago. What has changed? What do I need to know now? Best practices?

The last time I did online dating in any way was about ten years ago, on OkCupid. I ended up meeting my (now ex) boyfriend at work not too long after I set up my profile so didn't really get a chance to experience how the whole OkC thing works aside from the hilariously copious amount of dick pics I received right off the bat.

Do people still use OkC these days? Friends of mine are telling me that Tinder is where all of the local singles are now, and that kind of freaks me out. I liked the amount of information OkC asks one to provide and look through, it made me feel less like I was shooting in the dark, but maybe that's old fashioned of me? Should I be on Tinder instead? Should I do OkC and Tinder simultaneiously, or is that really bad form?

(God, how does Tinder even work, anyway? It's linked to my Facebook, right? I don't know if I like that...)

Last question: I'm a 31 year old WOC (almost 32). I know in general early 30s doesn't mean that I am an unappealing geriatric, but I've been out of the dating scene for a long time and I keep hearing stories of women in their 30s having trouble with online dating because in the online dating world we might as well have one foot in the grave. Is this just hyperbole or should this be something I need to mentally prepare for in order to not let my self esteem get destroyed?

I am a pretty evolved, fulfilled person in general, I have hobbies and friends and I have work that interests me and I'm back in school for a pre-professional program that is really exciting to me and I'm in a local band that plays lots of silly covers and it's all good fun. I struggle with social anxiety and I have bipolar depression (that is controlled very well with medication) and I'd like to be about 25 pounds thinner but other than that I think I'm a pretty neat person. I'm just nervous about putting myself back out there even in a low-stakes way and would love to get input from you all about how to do it in a way that won't be soul-sucking.

posted by thereemix to Human Relations (14 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Hi there thereemix!
I was online dating last year (im white, female, 28), and honestly I wanted to like Tinder but I really couldn't do it. I guess im more reserved than most, but I couldn't form an attraction to someone without knowing anything about their inner world.
I used Okcupid and I find it works fine. Im in my second relationship with someone I met on OkC. (both have lasted over a year). Its pretty great and the guy i've been with for the past year is actually amazing. he's pretty shy and introverted, so im guessing that was why he was online dating (same story for me and I think for many on OkC)
In general I think OkC is populated by people who like to write, who have thoughts in their heads, and interesting hobbies and nerdy interests that they would like to share with you. Ive gone on about 10 dates from that website over the course of dating, and while sometimes there was no chemistry, I never had a 'bad experience'. I'm a relationship person (not a casual person) and I found there were quite a lot of those types on there. I 've never recieved any dick pics because I don't look at the messages that end up in the 'filtered' file. I only read messages from people with a high match %

The trick is to answer a lot of those multiple choice questions. Thats what has worked for me, anyway. Also, use the filters to filter out anyone with less than 85 or so percent match, and be picky as hell about who you meet up with. It might take a bit of time to find someone worth meeting, so don't rush it (unless you're just looking for a casual thing).
I guess I would say: there's less pressure to have sex right away on OkC.
I know people over 30 who have used it but I dont know their experiences so I cant provide info on that front.

There's also a site called Bumble in which the woman has to write the first message. I tried it for a while but I found no one responded to me. (i didnt give it a very long chance though).

You sound like an amazing person and I hope you'll have a good time in online dating world. I find if you project positivity, it will come back to you and it seems like you're already doing that (i can feel it from here).
posted by winterportage at 12:19 PM on January 7, 2017 [2 favorites]

OkCupid is better for the reasons you expect (you get to see more about each other upfront), but in my area it doesn't have the numbers it used to because so many people defected to Tinder. I recommend trying out OkCupid for a few months and if you don't see anyone promising, hold your nose and check out Tinder. Tinder's interface is frustrating and absolutely terrible for finding people for more than just casual sex, but it has a larger pool.
posted by metasarah at 12:28 PM on January 7, 2017 [2 favorites]

I'm an Old (cis white female bisexual flavor) and I'm going on another first date tomorrow courtesy of OK Cupid. I fired it up recently after a long hiatus and this will be my fifth first date in a couple of months. One of my dates I've stayed in contact with but I got sick, then he got sick so we're just waiting for everyone to be healthy for a second date. Nthing the filtering advice above. I've had really good luck with OK Cupid over the years. I hope you do too.
posted by Bella Donna at 1:10 PM on January 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm 38 and met my boyfriend on tinder. Tinder can be a bit overwhelming but I ended up preferring it to other dating sites I've tried- mainly because there are way more people on it. I had previously tried eHarmony but didn't like it at all- all of the men I matched with were like 10 years older than me and clearly wife shopping, where I just wanted to meet other single people in my area.
It's pretty easy to filter out the people solely looking for hookups (if the first message is "hey" or "what are you on here for?/looking for?") and you can always do a coffee for a low pressure first date. I ended up meeting a few nice, normal guys in my age range. I'd say it's worth a shot. I haven't used OkCupid in almost a decade so can't speak to that. There's nothing wrong with using both but it would probably end up being too time comsuming- might as well try one for a couple of weeks then swap over if it isn't working for you.
posted by emd3737 at 1:14 PM on January 7, 2017

Hi! I'm 35. I have accounts on both Tinder and OKCupid. In my experience, the idea that you'll be a geriatric on these sites in your 30s has not remotely been born out - maybe it's just because I'm more adept at self-presentation & figuring out how to weed out who I don't want and attract who I do, I find them much richer and more interesting than I did the last time I tried to online date, in my mid-late twenties.

The benefits of Tinder are: there are more people, and you won't get inundated with garbage messages from randos because people can't contact you unless you swipe right on them first. The downside is that you can get sucked into a kind of frantic, swipe-swipe-swipe mentality that feels kind of gross. There's also something about the demographics of Tinder in my area that is kind of depressing - you have to swipe through evvvverybody to look for the people who are right for you, and for me that means cycling through a ton of pictures of guys taking selfies in their cars and holding up fish and listing their profession as 'Owner' (OWNER OF WHAT OMG THAT'S NOT A JOB) and, mehhhhhhh, after a while I start getting misanthropic, and then the first guy I see who looks reasonably interesting seems like a total catch by comparison, so I swipe right on him and then he messages me and says, 'hey whats up lol' and I want to throw my phone across the room. My friend for whom Tinder works the best is a very selective swiper, but whenever she gets a match, she always messages first, and the first message is always only, "Drinks?" I think that's a good strategy that I keep intending to try.

On OkCupid, meanwhile, the program does that first initial sort for you, so you're not spending as much time looking at people who aren't right for you. Your message inbox will probably be a hot garbage fire, but if you ignore it entirely and instead craft thoughtful, personalized messages and aim them at men you're interested in, it shouldn't be too hard to turn them into dates.

So yeah, I'd say, try both and see what works for you.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 2:45 PM on January 7, 2017 [10 favorites]

These are my rules/principles:

You get to set the pace. Everyone wants something different, so don't assume and feel free to be clear about it. This includes whether you want a relationship, the pace at which you want to explore it (eg friends first), whether you want to meet up quicker rather than later, etc.

Definitely go on as many platforms as you want to. You're there to date. It's not weird.

Tropes some guys are apparently sick of are "partner in crime" "love to travel" and "like to have fun." But if you do want/love those things, just put them because I see the same tropes on many guys' profiles, and guys who aren't jaded probably won't care.

It's normal to feel how you feel about the process. If you get tired and want to take a break, take a break. If the consumery feel gets to you, change how you use the app or, again, take a break.

Since the focus is explicitly on dating you can be clear about it if you don't see the relationship going anywhere. It's polite to send a message if you want to back off, but also I've been out with several guys where neither of us wrote back after the first date and that felt fine. Just be polite and treat people well, and don't hang out with people who aren't polite or who don't treat you well.

Aziz Ansari and Amy Webb are two great people with online dating talks / books that ring true to my experience and those of friends.


There are so many options for platforms now. My quick assessment:

OKCupid lets you analyze and search and get info up front, and control the entire experience. Downside: You might spend time chatting or browsing, then meet and realize you don't have chemistry.

Hinge: Only for iOS right now, it's supposed to be like Tinder but for people seeking relationships; it used to hook you up only with people in your Facebook network (but not your friends). Not sure whether that's still part of it

Bumble: Like Tinder but the woman has to message first after you match, and you only have 24 hours to do it; he then has 24 hours to respond. You can swipe as much as you want. In my area it tends to have more professional guys and more white guys. Includes a bio, college, and employer taken from Facebook. I think it tries to optimize for your "type" as you swipe

Tinder: Never used it but sounds like it's getting more use by people who want something other than a hookup

Coffee Meets Bagel: Connects with Facebook and shows you a limited number of guys each day who already "like" you. This is nice for avoiding the swipe-swipe-swipe gamification feel. You can pay a bit of money or perform tasks to get "coffee beans" to use to connect with other guys who aren't in your daily allotment. You get more bio info than on Bumble. Then you start to chat, prompted by a few actually not-that-bad conversation starters. It's like a mix of Tinder and eHarmony

eHarmony, Match: Paid platforms that control the experience a little more

Others I'm aware of: Plenty of Fish, It's Just Lunch (actual in-person matchmakers)

Good luck!
posted by ramenopres at 4:57 PM on January 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

I met my last 2 boyfriends on tinder. They're both very much people who would have been "OK Cupid" guys back in the day (introverted, clever, thoughtful). I am also a stereotypical OKCupid hipster-nerd but I've had way more luck with tinder to my surprise. In my area (I'm not in the US) there seems to be a much bigger pool on Tinder many of whom are treating it as a way of meeting new people for relationships not just for a hookup. Tinder can be a bit of a slog as mentioned above but it can work to open up a broader pool of matches. Five or so photos can reveal a bit about someone (e.g. photo doing a hobby, photo of a big smile, photo travelling to your favourite place in the world) so it's not quite as hard as it may seem to find interesting people.

The age old online dating advice still stands: once you've gotten a decent idea of someone, meet up pretty quickly. I keep not doing this and drawing out chatting too long which only serves to up the awkwardness/stakes on a first date.

Best of luck! Online dating is really fun sometimes :)
posted by hotcoroner at 5:19 PM on January 7, 2017 [2 favorites]

My friend for whom Tinder works the best is a very selective swiper, but whenever she gets a match, she always messages first, and the first message is always only, "Drinks?" I think that's a good strategy that I keep intending to try.

I'm a dude the same age as OP and can confirm I have been on the receiving end of this strategy and it works. Very few women message first, and when it's someone who you obviously have things in common with, it stands out quite a bit.
posted by bradbane at 5:22 PM on January 7, 2017 [2 favorites]

The age of old on okc is 40. For women. Because eww, how could a mature 50 year old guy date someone as decrepit as a 40 year old woman. Fucking patriarchy. (Still met my husband on OKC at 43.)
posted by The Noble Goofy Elk at 6:32 PM on January 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

I (f, late 20s) asked about dating/online dating recently and have been trying out Tinder again. I don't think you should have any issues finding men on there who are around your age. People definitely have less text on their profiles, but this can work more in your favour anyway. Someone posted a Ted talk on my question which explains that a little.
posted by kinddieserzeit at 4:41 AM on January 8, 2017

I keep hearing stories of women in their 30s having trouble with online dating because in the online dating world we might as well have one foot in the grave.

I'm 41 and I've had more luck on Tinder in the last two years than I did on OKC in my 30s -- just as a data point (I am just out of an eight month relationship with a totally nice normal smart dude I met on Tinder, in fact), so I wouldn't worry too much about your age! In my experience, in LA anyway, Tinder just has A LOT more people on it than OKC did. (Caveat: this is as a straight women; the gay men I am friends with are doing a lot of OKC dating right now.)

Online dating can be fun and if you start to get sick of it, you're always allowed to take a break. Try a bunch of services out and see which one feels right. Good luck!
posted by Countess Sandwich at 10:59 AM on January 8, 2017

I'm late 40s and have been dipping my toes in the online dating pool recently. I dated someone in the past year from OKC, but that came to an end, and OKC has seemed kind of uninspired. I've been disinclined to Tinder due to its rep as a hookup app, but thanks to this thread I downloaded it during yesterday's snowstorm, and it's not nearly as meat-markety as I feared, at least in my demographic. Matter of fact, I just got back from a very nice coffee date with someone I chatted with yesterday. Win!
posted by Sublimity at 3:48 PM on January 8, 2017 [3 favorites]

Thanks for the input you guys!

A follow up question: I ressurrected my OKCupid profile and updated it. Ended up matching 90% with someone in town I know pretty well. He's cute and I would've considered dating him if it had come up before. What do I do now that I've found him this way? Seems awkward.
posted by thereemix at 2:30 AM on January 9, 2017

Either flirt with him the next time you see him to assess interest, or send him a message via OKC saying "hey I didn't know you were looking" and ask him out.
posted by metasarah at 10:33 AM on January 9, 2017

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