How can I make online dating suck less?
April 5, 2019 7:21 AM   Subscribe

I’m probably going to try dating again soonish, but I’m dreading the app process. I don’t mind the actual going on dates part (even when they’re not great dates). The things I hate most: the deluge of people who are unsuitable (zero commonalities) and the huge amount of time it seems to take to convert prospects into actual dates. What can I do to reduce those things? My details inside.

I’m a 34 yo woman interested in dating both men and women. I live on Long Island in New York, and for at least the next year won’t really be close enough to the city to date there. (I’ll be in Suffolk County.)

I’m thinking I’ll download both Hinge and Her.
posted by ocherdraco to Human Relations (23 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
 
Regarding the "deluge": the nice (I guess) thing about swiping apps is that people you haven't swiped on can't contact you. So, be selective on who you swipe on. I guess Hinge is a little different, but if you really want to control the deluge you can try Bumble or Tinder too, where you can control who can message you.

Then you can set a time limit for messages- one week, two? If there's no agreed meet up after that time period (which you may need to initiate) then un-match with the contact. Start suggesting meet-ups early on, if you want to meet with the person. IMO, getting into a texting thing without meeting for longer than 2 weeks is pointless (unless maybe there is a very specific reason for it).
posted by bearette at 7:46 AM on April 5 [2 favorites]


I'm around your age in a fairly nearby part of the world. I found Hinge less than useful without connecting Facebook, which, no, I will never do that. I got very few matches on it and they weren't very high-quality. I found Bumble super annoying because I'm busy and don't always have time to say something to someone within 24 hours of matching, and I didn't get a lot of matches on there, either. I got rid of both of them recently. I haven't tried Her.

Tinder, on the other hand, is a fire hose. I believe you can write stuff on your profile that reduces that aspect of it (e.g., specifying you're not looking for hookups), but I haven't explored that very much yet because I don't mind the fire-hose nature of it. Tinder Gold gives me a backlog of matches to go back through, which I can pretty efficiently swipe through a whole swath of at once. OKCupid is also very good for an improved signal-to-noise ratio, because its algorithm gives you a percentage match with people, and the fact that it foregrounds actual writing in one's profile tends to make it easier to weed out wholly unsuitable matches (or, again, specify what you're looking for such that people self-select accordingly). OKCupid's search options are excellent as well, because you can search by profiles that mention specific keywords. I've found the paid versions of OKCupid and Tinder to both be highly worthwhile.

Personally, I never unmatch with people I haven't managed to connect with in a certain period of time, or other arbitrary rules, because there are often reasons why someone might not be present for a while. I unmatch if it becomes clear that someone is a jerk or there's no connection. Connections on these apps do seem to have a narrative arc, though, and can be so brittle and fleeting, so taking time to go with the momentum when you are connecting with someone is also worthwhile. Then you see if it goes anywhere. If one of you doesn't keep up the volley of light conversation while you're still in-app, then no big deal, not much time spent.

I'm not an expert, but I have gone on some dates via Tinder and OKCupid.
posted by o_O at 8:20 AM on April 5 [6 favorites]


How can I make online dating suck less?

By not putting all your eggs in the online dating basket, so to speak. Participating in Meetups, getting out of the house with friends, and pursuing interests whether or not a date is the result are some practical things that have made the online dating thing a little more palatable for me. Good luck.
posted by strelitzia at 8:26 AM on April 5 [1 favorite]


I'd suggest joining Meetup.com (membership is free, or it was), and finding groups of people who are meeting who share your interests and going to those events and seeing who you encounter there and drawing connections that way. It's not online dating, but it does involve being online, but you'd be surprised at the diversity and even the specificity of the groups who might be in your area. Plus, you'd be being social within your interest areas, so even if you don't quickly find your person, you'd be finding lots of people.
posted by hippybear at 9:11 AM on April 5


I don't have great advice, but one way I reduce the deluge is to include in my profile, "In your first message, tell me [x]." Most people don't, which means they either didn't look at my profile except for my photo or they aren't willing to do what I ask, so I can delete them. (When I'm looking for hookups rather than relationships, I'm okay with them just swiping, but not if I'm looking for someone interested in investing time in me.)

I don't usually have trouble getting men to meet up fairly expediently. Women sometimes take longer. Do you ask them out for a specific day fairly early on and they demur, or are you waiting for an opening?

In my area, Tinder is the only useful option because that's unfortunately where everyone is, but you're in a more populous area so may have better luck with the alternatives. (How I long for the OKCupid of 2012!)
posted by metasarah at 9:14 AM on April 5 [22 favorites]


In OKCupid, you can set your preferences to exclude straight men. This helps cut down immensely on contact from jerks who seem to think that if they spam enough women, one will fall in love with them.

There's an obvious downside, but it's been worth it to avoid the endless string of contact attempts by guys with a match rate of 30%, who have blank profiles and have answered maybe five questions.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 9:54 AM on April 5 [2 favorites]


Shave your head and use a picture of your bald ass self in your profile. This excludes a very large percentage of men who suck.

This advice may not work for every person.

But in general, I have found it works very much in my favor to make myself LESS universally appealing on dating apps. I do not like to live, laugh, and love. I do not like to go out with friends on a Friday night. I do not enjoy travel or putting effort into looking broadly attractive. I will talk about always sleeping in socks and scowling at men who try to talk to me on transit.

These all achieve my goal of reducing the tide of men who might want to talk to me. It's great.
posted by phunniemee at 10:42 AM on April 5 [32 favorites]


I've found hinge good - initially they were poor matches but it seems to learn fairly quickly your preferences without all the writing and questions of Okcupid. The user base is a bit more mainstream too.

I read in a book (maybe aziz ansari's modern romance, which is good, even if he is now cancelled) that you should try to get to No quickly - so I only have photos of me doing the activities I'm looking for someone else to enjoy and in profiles and chatting I try to focus on specifics (when did you do X recently, what are you doing next?).

Other than inaccurate profiles and messages my other hate is flakiness so I'm strict in not giving 2nd chances for a late cancel, 15 min cutoffs for lateness etc.

Don't let dating take over your life, keep busy so you aren't spending much time each day swiping and messaging. I've also found if I go on more than a couple of dates a week I soon get fatigue and am no longer that interested in or interesting to other people. Good luck!
posted by JonB at 11:31 AM on April 5 [3 favorites]


For clarification: I’m only seeking suggestions about actual online dating because I’m about to graduate from medical school and start residency and won’t have time for things like meetup groups, etc.

Thanks!
posted by ocherdraco at 11:38 AM on April 5


Focus on keeping the messaging brief.

Based on their profile and a few messages you should have an idea of whether you want to meet someone or not. If they haven't done so ask if they want to meet for coffee or a drink, and that's that.

Depending on what your intentions are you may want to avoid meeting that day.

As an aside, a burner phone number app for messaging is probably a good idea.
posted by bdk3clash at 11:49 AM on April 5


Shave your head and use a picture of your bald ass self in your profile.

Can confirm that this is an excellent and very viable strategy. Other options include talking about feminism in your first paragraph / "About" section and photos of you in some overtly feminist context/apparel. Being kind of prickly in your profile is generally helpful at weeding out d-bags.

The last time I dated was by far the least unpleasant time, and that was mostly because I did a few things:
  • Proposed a coffee date within 1-2 messages of first contact with anyone who seemed reasonably interesting.
  • Refused to trade more than, say, 5 messages without meeting up (with some leeway for negotiating time & place).
  • Invested literally zero emotional energy in a first date with any given person.
  • Went on many casual first dates (including dates with different people on back-to-back days or even the same day).
  • Only dated women.
I was using OKC and definitely used the match score heavily to filter through people. I had a good number of interesting/fun first dates and didn't have a terribly difficult time getting people to meet up once I proposed coffee. I found that it was helpful to put some boundaries around the specific ask: not "want to grab coffee sometime?" but "would you be free on Saturday morning for coffee?" That usually prompts the other person to at least make a counterproposal if your initial time suggestion doesn't work.
posted by athenasbanquet at 11:52 AM on April 5 [9 favorites]


For weeding out unsuitable people: let your profile do the work. Specific strategies have been suggested above, but really, all it takes is mentioning something specific. "I am looking for X only, I am not interested in Y." You'll still get messaged by people who don't pay attention or are looking to be an exception to your rule, but that makes it easy to toss them. (My criteria of "Please actually be single" and "I am only looking for someone local, really really and for real" worked fairly well at weeding.) Be positive, but set firm boundaries.

As for the amount of time it takes to convert chats to dates, you can either set some number of exchanges in your head, or set it out in the profile. "I am here looking for dates with a view to moving on to something substantial. I do not need a chatting partner -- I have my cat for that." Or, in your case with residency, something like "I am super-busy and my time is at a premium, so no time for dilly-dallying -- let's do this!" Don't be afraid to take the lead yourself and put out a date suggestion early.

A good profile (positive but firm), while not perfect, should do most of the work for you.

Above all, remember to trust your gut, and that you don't owe anyone anything. Good luck.
posted by Capt. Renault at 12:32 PM on April 5 [2 favorites]


The deluge of people who are unsuitable (zero commonalities)
I'm not saying this is great, necessarily, but it did make things more streamlined: I got very comfortable making snap judgments about people based on one photo, and quickly developed "rules" about who I would pass on right away (women with snapchat filters, only selfies, etc). When I matched with someone, then I would look at their profile and get a sense of whether or not we would jibe (I also included my -isms in my profile: the things that were important to me and told people something about my worldview).

The huge amount of time it seems to take to convert prospects into actual dates
I feel like there's two ways that people go about this:
1. Message a lot first, then propose a date
2. Propose a date within the first two messages
Depends on which way you'd like to invest more time: at home or out on dates. I'm a fan of option 2, and at first went on a lot of first dates with people. As I honed my selectiveness re: who I'd swipe right on, the compatibility of my dates went up.

Have fun out there! It took a year, but I met someone on Tinder and we're very much in love.
posted by sugarbomb at 12:40 PM on April 5


Have you tried Bumble? It's true that you need to message someone within 24 hours of matching, so you'll want to make sure you are swiping when you can probably message folks pretty soon if you match. There are some nice new filters - level of education, religion, what people want, alcohol consumption, if they have kids, etc. I find them useful for matching with men. It also has fewer folks than Tinder, and that means I might be missing people, but a smaller pool can be nice, too. Less overwhelming.

I think it's good to use these filters (on the free version of Bumble, you can filter by two out of ten things) for the things that are the most important. And, I agree that meeting sooner rather than later, and without extensive messaging, is the best way to determine chemistry.
posted by bluedaisy at 1:29 PM on April 5 [1 favorite]


Well...I'm not familiar with the apps you've mentioned as I'm married now for almost 9 years. But I can say a few things...I met my wife via online dating. This was before a lot of the swipe apps got popular. I used sites like match or plentioffish. I totally feel your pain. At the very least, online dating is work. It's almost like looking for a job online, lol. But the biggest form of advice I can say is that I highly recommend keeping the communication via email, text, or even phone to a minimum. Make a connection, have one or two quick interactions and if you feel like there's potential go for the meet up. Coffee, icecream, a drink. Keep it simple, keep it in a public place for safety. But you will never ever truly know what someone is like until you meet them in person. So I say meet as many people as you can in person sooner then later. Avoid spending weeks or worse months communicating online before meeting. You're just creating a false sense of who someone is. And if I may...be open to meeting up with people you may not feel you'll click with. I'm not saying to meet up with someone who appears to be absolutely nothing like your type...but if it's somewhat wishy washy...but maybe...I say go for it. It's a numbers game...I hate to say that but that's what online dating is. So play the numbers. Think of each meetup/date as an opportunity to socialize with the potential of meeting that special someone. And if not...maybe you lose an hour or two at starbucks, etc. Best of luck to you. It's tough but it's worth it.
posted by ljs30 at 3:12 PM on April 5 [1 favorite]


Only swipe right on people you ACTUALLY want to talk to/go out with. No "maybe" swipes (this can be hard)
Give yourself a day or two to chat and make sure the person seems normal, then ask to meet up for a drink. Do this asap.
Don't store their name in your phone until date 2 at the earliest.
Take it with a HUGE grain of salt. People can be very flaky on these things. Do not take it personally (easier said than done sometimes). If you assume they will probably flake you will be ready for it. But also be ready for nice people! Aka, protect yourself, but not too much.
Take breaks if you need to recharge mentally. Online dating is exhausting, but can work out well! It's a luck/numbers game.
posted by christiehawk at 3:48 PM on April 5


In terms of limiting the back and forth chatting and meeting people IRL, see the first comment from this post.
posted by foxjacket at 4:12 PM on April 5 [1 favorite]


I am a woman in my 30s and I met my now husband via Tinder. I had hit or miss (mostly miss, including some god awful experiences) with online dating. I had hit rock bottom in terms of hopelessness and thought “I’ll just be a cat lady alone forever.”

Before giving up completely I made some decisions. 1. Be ruthless. No more trying to see the best in people, giving them the benefit of the doubt. I went from “open minded” to extra high standards. And as soon as someone acted shady, they were out. 2. I changed my profile text from trying to come across as cute, cool and attractive to everyone to something more along the lines of ‘This is who I am, I am only looking for something serious. NOT looking for hookups, move right along.’ Within weeks I met the man who would be my husband - he loved my profile and my no nonsense attitude about exactly what I wanted, he wanted the same and we are blissfully happy with one toddler and a baby on the way.

It’s tough out there. Be ruthless, have high standards and know what you want. Most men will be intimidated but not the right one. Good luck.
posted by curtains at 5:51 PM on April 5 [9 favorites]


As a high-kinsey queer, I am much more likely to respond to bi women (uh, on apps) if they specifically say in their profile that they are actually looking for women, because I've encountered quite a few who really aren't comfortable with that and have profiles that are definitely written toward cis men. I don't mean to come off sharp here, but to offer a perspective from someone who has run across this a lot in lesbian spaces.
posted by bile and syntax at 7:21 PM on April 5 [3 favorites]


Don't know how helpful this is, but I never would have met my current SO on the dating apps we were both on when we met, because my age ranges were slightly too narrow (5 years, and our age gap is 6), and our percentage match on OKC was below 80. Which isn't advice really except to warn against too much rigidity. But I'd echo the two essential pieces of advice upthread:
(1) be clear about your needs, dealbreakers, and personal politics in your profile up front, but try not to make broad exclusions as to the personality of the person you'd like to date (values yes, personality no)
(2) rely as much as you can on in-person chemistry
And I'll add a (3) be upfront about who you are, what you do, and what kind of person you are as quickly as possible and preferably date 1. It ends up saving time and energy in the long run.
posted by likeatoaster at 7:34 PM on April 5


But in general, I have found it works very much in my favor to make myself LESS universally appealing on dating apps. I do not like to live, laugh, and love. I do not like to go out with friends on a Friday night. I do not enjoy travel or putting effort into looking broadly attractive. I will talk about always sleeping in socks and scowling at men who try to talk to me on transit.

This is what I was looking for as a successful straight male swipe dater: women who were presenting themselves as About Something and Taking Up Space rather than being blandly, effortlessly, beautifully, inoffensive.

I don't have great advice, but one way I reduce the deluge is to include in my profile, "In your first message, tell me [x]." Most people don't, which means they either didn't look at my profile except for my photo or they aren't willing to do what I ask, so I can delete them. (When I'm looking for hookups rather than relationships, I'm okay with them just swiping, but not if I'm looking for someone interested in investing time in me.)

I saw this kind of thing sometimes and it was less exciting. It assumes that I'm not going to try unless I'm herded. It's a little cynical. However: I'm going to try. I know what to do. So I think that space is better spent on making sure that the real you is shining through as clearly and brilliantly as possible.
posted by Kwine at 8:47 PM on April 5 [2 favorites]


Avoid spending weeks or worse months communicating online before meeting. You're just creating a false sense of who someone is.

THIS.

People can make a dating career out of being charming and witty and attractive over chat/email/phone, but only in person can you see the truth. Surprise! They are actually manipulative, predatory players who get their jollies stringing you along.

The tipping point can be hard to spot sometimes though. I put (probably) too much importance in how someone writes, so I had to see something of value in those early-stage communications or I was out. So I spent (again, probably) too much time dealing with words on screens.

I was fooled by clever assholes more than I would have liked. It sucks to have invested even a little hope and emotional energy in those assholes, only to see it crushed. It's difficult, I won't lie.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 3:56 AM on April 6 [2 favorites]


Thanks, everyone!
posted by ocherdraco at 1:16 PM on April 6


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