What is the state of online dating in 2019?
January 4, 2019 6:00 PM   Subscribe

I would like to date. Well actually no I wouldn't, what I would like is to be happily partnered. However, dating would seem to be a prerequisite. How do I do it?

It's been years since I've actively dated. I've been on a few dates that just sort of happened in that time, but I have definitely not been actually looking to go on dates. However, my life is now in a place where I would like to begin actively searching for a partner. How do I, a cisgender heterosexual 34-year-old US male, go about this?

I live somewhere fairly rural where most of the people around me are families and older folks, so I don't have an obvious local dating pool. Therefore, I feel like online dating is probably my best option. Last time I was actively dating, OKCupid was the main thing that people seemed to be doing. Is that still how it is? I've heard Tinder is big now, but I don't really know how it works except that I think it is linked to Facebook, and I don't have (or want) a Facebook. Also Bumble? Is Bumble a thing? You see how ignorant I have become.

I'm looking for a long-term partnership here, so I want to connect with women who are also after something long-term. I'm not interested in anything long distance.

What are people who are looking for partners doing, these days? What have you had success with? Where should I start? Do you have any specific tips for how to interact with a particular dating service?

Your advice is, as always, very much appreciated.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The to Human Relations (14 answers total) 40 users marked this as a favorite
This question is delightfully eponysterical.

I can't speak to whether any of the newer dating networks will have many users near you. I can tell you that my impression of Bumble, at least for straight people, is that it skews more toward people looking for long-term relationships. For example, it is how my brother met his fiance.

My overall advice is to focus very heavily on taking, or even better getting someone else to take, some very flattering pictures to post. Online dating now is more visual than in the classic OKC days, and people tend to make very quick evaluations.

This does not mean you need to look like a movie star. But having a picture where you are not wearing a hat and your face is fully visible, the photo is well lit and in focus with no weird shadows, and you are smiling normally will go a long way to getting the attention of potential dates. I think taking photos outside is best.
posted by mai at 6:27 PM on January 4, 2019 [15 favorites]

You can use Tinder with a phone number and no Facebook. Bumble is a thing, sort of. It's always been a lot more... lukewarm? for me -- conversations seem a lot more boring there.

Coffee Meets Bagel wasn't terrible when I tried it briefly, recently. It was a lot more like the old days of OkCupid somehow (Lord, I've been on and off online dating sites for at least 10 years now). It's a "slower" and more contained approach to online dating; it only gives you a handful of profiles to scan each day, and you have to mutually match to talk.

Photos matter. Fill out your profile, but don't write essays -- put in a few hooks (I like to write "Three things I couldn't live without" to give people some things in my profile to ask about). Ask questions when you chat with people. Don't wait too long to meet.

Good luck!
posted by sockermom at 6:44 PM on January 4, 2019 [2 favorites]

Since you are living in a rural area I suggest getting on all the apps. Cast your net as wide as possible. In addition to OkCupid, Tinder, Bumble, and Coffee Meet Bagel, also set up profiles on eHarmony and Match.com. You can use the same photos for all of them, just make sure they are the best photos you can get: show your face, a whole body shot, and a few of you out doing fun things alone and with friends. I have heard that eHarmony and Match are more populated by people looking for long-term relationships than the other ones, but obviously YMMV.

You'll have to put in the time here to seek out and contact folks, as especially on OkCupid most women are expecting men to make the first move and message them. Ask questions from the very first message and mention something specific you noticed about her profile or reference something in one of her photos -- lots of women won't even open messages that just say 'hi' or something similarly generic. Check your messages daily and keep up with swiping on people so you aren't missing potential matches.

Also let your friends know you are looking -- not just friends your own age, but also those families and older folks you live near. They may have a niece, cousin, or family friend they can set you up with. You never know!

Best of luck!
posted by ananci at 6:58 PM on January 4, 2019 [9 favorites]

Others probably have a better handle on the online dating, but I want to put in a quick plug for meeting people in person.

Older people have children! And younger friends! You can literally say to 75 year old grandparents in the basement of a church, "My life is now in a place where I would like to begin actively searching for a partner" (though maybe not in quite so formal a register). They're 75 and have grandchildren: they are likely to find your desires familiar and morally palatable.

Similarly, regular attendance at some hobbyist group, charitable work, church, etc. Pick something you would attend anyway, and worst case scenario you get to practice your cooking on someone else's groceries (mutatis mutandis for your interests).
posted by meaty shoe puppet at 8:26 PM on January 4, 2019 [13 favorites]

I've had good Boston area dates with Bumble, Hinge, and OkCupid. When I was up in Manchester over Christmas, I was getting matches on Bumble from as far south as Nashua. I haven't tried tindr, and I was underwhelmed by Coffee Meets Bagel.

Good luck!
posted by ChuraChura at 8:44 PM on January 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

My friend recently recommended Bumble. I'm newly single myself, so I haven't tried it but she had some good dates through that service.
posted by mmmbacon at 9:11 PM on January 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

As someone who finally met someone at the 11th hour (literally the day after I decided to nuke my profile from the water and quit online dating for good after 2+ years)... I can only offer my own perspective and what "worked" for me.

I had a terrible time because the person I wanted to meet just seemed to not exist. At least not among the pool of people that swim in online dating sites. Men who cared more about posing with fish, wearing sunglasses, standing on mountaintops, giving Blue Steel posed at the wheel of their expensive car, etc etc etc....

Meanwhile, I looked for men who could read, who could write, who could have conversations, who wanted to connect, who understood that the brain was truly the most important sexual organ. My profile was LOOONG. I maxed out the word count. I included lots of pictures of me doing my favorite hobby activity, since awareness of (and interest in) that was also important to find in a partner.

Again- I wrote lots. of. words. And I waited, knowing that it was a shot in the dark. I wrote for the person I was looking for, because I knew that *he* was looking for someone who would have a long, interesting profile. I didn't try to appeal to lots of men, I only tried to appeal to one- the one I hoped was out there, looking for someone like me.

And I met people and went out with them, with varying degrees of disappointment, sadness, despair and hope. And by whatever stroke of cosmic karma I can credit, it managed to finally happen after over 2 years of disappointment. (And I will add that he's someone I contacted first, and someone outside my pre-defined "ideal match" profile filter settings. I took a chance outside that cliched comfort zone. But he had a wonderful smile and looked like someone I would like to meet.)

This was ~10 months ago, and it's still going strong. And I know I would never had met this person any other way. It's so unlikely it's ridiculous. So I have to (unwillingly and ironically) end up crediting a dating site for this fantastic relationship.

If that had not happened, I was prepared to just live life and see what happened while putting myself out into the world. I was comfortable with that, by then. Perhaps that had some serendipitous effect on my chances, who knows.

Anyway... that's my 2 cents. Best of luck to you!!
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 4:09 AM on January 5, 2019 [30 favorites]

If you're going to use Tindr for dating, not just hooking up (and I have a number of friends who've been having more dating luck on Tindr than elsewhere lately), make sure you have a real profile. Tindr won't let you get as wordy as other services, but if you're just a picture, people also looking for dating and partnership don't have anything to go on, and they're much less likely to swipe right.
posted by joycehealy at 6:05 AM on January 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

I'm a cis woman in her 30's who is currently in a relationship with a man I met on Bumble last year. I think I matched/texted with maybe 30 men total, and ended up deciding to meet only 3 people in person, so admittedly, I lucked out with my guy. What's genuinely neat is that I am pretty sure I never would have met him had I not used a dating app.

The advice I have and perspective I offer applies just to the initial stage(s) of sorting through potential people through Bumble, before you actually get to the dating bit.

Bumble appealed to me because as a woman, I could decide which men I wanted to open a line of communication with. The swiping was a double-edged sword -- it does feel dehumanizing because you're deciding off a maximum of 6 photos and less than 100 words whether or not you want to talk to this person or disappear their profile forever (I mean, if you're on the app long enough, their profile comes back at some point, but there's no rhyme or reason to it). And you have to decide! right now!!! before you can see the next person in line!!! But at the same time, it made me stick to a no bullshit, decisive approach to picking who I wanted to talk to, and thus the whole process felt slightly less overwhelming. (I would never have survived on OKCupid.)

- Make sure to have 2+ photos where your face is clearly seen, and where there's no doubt to which person you are if it's a group photo. There should be some element/s in the photo that's a conversation starter. The more photos the better.

- The profile space is severely limited but crucial. Put some genuine thought into it. Note that "I like hiking, beer, and tacos. Ask me anything, I'm an open book" DOES NOT COUNT. I want to start a conversation with you; the more stuff you give me off the bat, the more likely I am to contact you. Also, I really liked it when practicalities were included in the profile (perhaps at the end?): looking for long term, no long-distance, etc etc.

- If you're interested in doing so, ask to meet sooner rather than later. Decide within a week, or a certain # of text exchanges. But if you're not feeling it, it's fine to just say so, and unmatch the person, and move on, no regrets.

- I never gave my phone number out until after the 1st in-person date; I felt most comfortable just using the Bumble app to communicate up until then. I have heard of app snafus where messages didn't go through on the app for some reason, but I never experienced this.

- Take "no" at face value, and move on from there. Applicable to all sorts of situations, and saves you a lot of beanplating and time.

- When I matched with a certain # of men, I hid my profile. That helped with making the whole process feel less overwhelming to me; having 3-4 relatively shallow get-to-know-you conversations at once with strangers was taxing already!

- Check the app 1, mayyyyyybe 2 times per day, at a set time; schedule it in your calendar if you have to. No more, or it'll drive you crazy. Avoid automatic notifications throughout the day, for the same reason.

- I didn't do social media hunts on people I matched with unless I had gotten to the point where we had met for 1 date, because I felt it would be a timesuck. YMMV.

- Before I started, I made a little list of deal-breakers to remember and stick to. If a guy mansplained or came across dickish in our first text conversation, I gave myself permission to ditch him, no regrets. Again, it may all seem very cutthroat, but for me, this was the only way I could do dating app dating without driving myself crazy.

The people I automatically skipped without contacting: Nothing/essentially nothing written in profile, less than 2 photos, photos where I couldn't see the man's face (sunglasses, blurriness, etc), photos that were all selfies against a blank wall or in a mirror. This immediately eliminated about 50-60% of men on Bumble.

The people I dropped, after texting, for reasons other than just legitimate lack of compatibility: Flakes, people that seemed to want to text forever without meeting in person, if I ever felt I was being strung along/played with. Again, YMMV.

TL;DR: I found it helpful and much more manageable to set general parameters/conditions for myself early on re: what I would and wouldn't tolerate in these very early interactions and tried to stick to them. In a way, I had to distance myself from the process a bit, and accept that it was a bit of an assembly line at this stage and mentally be okay with that.
posted by phonebia at 6:06 PM on January 5, 2019 [10 favorites]

Looked at your insta and your photography is stunning! If we were in the same area I'd go out with you in a heartbeat (if you wanted to :)

Seconding that you shouldn't rule out meeting people in person. Get involved with your community, and while the people you meet might not be suitable dating candidates, they might know people who are.

In terms of using dating apps, the fact that you're in a rural area may mean there won't be a lot of people on the app you're using. Big caveat: I haven't used OKCupid since 2017 (and it's gone through a lot of changes since), and I've never been on another dating app. However, I do read up on this stuff for if I ever hop back on and this is what I've gleaned:

-as a guy, you may not get a lot of messages
-polyamorous people tend to gravitate to OKC; Tinder is more for hookups (can still be used to find something serious); on Bumble there tend to be people who want more serious relationships. Only women can message first on Bumble and they have 24 hours to respond if there's a match. Apparently for the first little while on Bumble you'll be swiping through drop dead gorgeous people that'll make you doubt they're real.
-you don't need Facebook for Tinder, Bumble, OKC.
-be aware of bots and scammers (seems more common on Tinder?)

In terms of your profile:
-these apps focus a lot on your appearance and photos. You don't have to look like a movie star, just have really great pictures that show your best features, and that give off a good vibe. Use all the available photo slots on the app. Have some group shots to show that you have friends and are social. (FWIW, I liked the photo of you on your insta where you're holding the giant millipede. It's a clear shot of you, it shows your interests, and you're giving off a good energy. Note that I'm into creepy-crawlies, so the millipede doesn't scare me (the opposite, in fact!), but some people might not like it?)
-use your profile to tell stories about yourself. You like animals, hiking and photography? So do the majority of people on the app. Tell a story about how you came across a rattlesnake while hiking the Grand Canyon that scared the bejesus out of you, but somehow, you still managed to get an amazing shot that you turned into a birthday card for a friend. That sort of thing.
-be clear about what you're looking for, e.g. you're looking for an LTR/serious partner to grow old with/travel the world with/get married and have kids with or whatever.
-don't be afraid to post to Ask Mefi for feedback on your profile :) (you may have to screenshot it and upload to Imgur so that people without accounts can view it)

I've recommended these before: Captain Awkward has some great advice re: a profile (the question doesn't really pertain to you, so feel free to skip), and check out this TED Talk by Amy Webb. She has a really math-y approach, but bottom line is: be clear with yourself about what you want. She also has a book I haven't read yet.

As for messaging, see the first comment on this post. Absolute gold. (Again, the OP doesn't pertain to you, so feel free to skip.)

Finally, dating is hard. Don't get discouraged, take breaks (like 1-2 months) if you need to. There will likely be ghosting and flaking, and don't take it personally. You seem awesome, and if someone doesn't see that, then they weren't right for you. Or it's totally possible that you'll meet someone great within the first few weeks, or even with the first person that you exchange messages with. I hope so!
posted by foxjacket at 6:46 PM on January 5, 2019 [4 favorites]

On any dating site you can be up front about wanting a long-term relationship. I've only used OkCupid, Tinder, and Bumble and I see people wanting hook-ups, LTRs, and anything in between. Since I was first on OkCupid ~10 years ago the profiles have gotten shorter, but some people still put in a couple of paragraphs. Like others have said, having a couple of good pictures of yourself will go a long way. Always make sure you have a clear first picture, it can be interesting but make sure that your face is visible. It always puts me off when someone has all gym selfies or every one of their photos is a group picture. I always try to have a mix of selfies and photos that were clearly taken by other people or with other people in my profile so that it looks like I have friends.
Since many people don't put a lot in their profile I'd suggest casting a wide net with matching if you are on a Tinder-style app, and just message lots of people to get things started. I've found people I get along with are understanding if I don't respond to things within minutes, but you can get updates on your phone and basically text through the apps. Some people expect matches to be very responsive which is a good weed-out for me.
posted by arachnidette at 7:17 PM on January 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

Online dating is a huge timesuck. For me, at least (30s, female) it wasn't something I could just kind of casually do. I put a certain amount of time everyday into it (I was most recently on Coffee Meets Bagel), swiping and liking and sending thoughtful but short messages. You can't kind of... sit there and hope someone good's going to message you. I'm sure it happens but it has never happened to me. (There is a preconception that women are flooded in messages, but as a woman, I can say that this has never been my experience.) You need to commit some time to it.

I also wanted to say that after a period it can start to feel very transactional and artificial, and that's not you getting it wrong, that's just the way it can feel sometimes. (This is why I am taking a break from the whole thing for now.)

I found Coffee Meets Bagel the least obnoxious of the apps because it narrowed down its offering to me, a heterosexual female, to people who had already 'liked' my profile so I knew there was already interest there. On OKCupid I had thousands of 'likes' but it doesn't show you who liked you unless you pay for your account, so that was useless to me.
posted by unicorn chaser at 9:01 PM on January 5, 2019 [3 favorites]

Ask me anything, I'm an open book" DOES NOT COUNT.

OMG. This. It's the most passive-aggressive way to push all the burden (and let's face it, it IS a burden) of establishing initial contact onto the other person (eg the woman) and it SUCKS.

Not that you would ever do it, but jfc, just wanted to nth that statement to the max.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 3:37 AM on January 6, 2019 [2 favorites]

Despite all its changes to be more tinder-like, OKC is still the winner in my book for those of us who want to know a little more about someone before we reach out. In my experience, the longer profiles on OKC and the tons of questions and answers allowed me to get a pretty good sense of who might be a successful match -- WAY moreso than a 3 line "bio" full of acronyms and emoticons on Tinder or Bumble.

I worked really hard on my OKC profile, continually refining it and also answering lots of their questions, and found that, though not perfect, the OKC match algorithms did a pretty good job of filtering. Not to say that EVERY 98% match is your OMGsoulmate, but if the algorithm didn't think we were super compatible percentage-wise, there was usually a pretty good reason for that. The Captain Awkward link above re: online dating profiles is A++++, cannot recommend highly enough.

Bumble was ok-ish, but there was so little to go on in the profiles that I always felt like it was a crapshoot and my results kinda reflected that. Tinder seemed to skew younger and more hookup-y in my area. I tried but never wrapped my brain around CMB (where is everyone? am I the coffee or the bagel?).

This is all as of early 2018, mind you, because OKC worked out really well for me.
posted by somanyamys at 6:58 AM on January 7, 2019

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