I am a 24-year-old woman living in Brooklyn, working at a startup and writing in my free-time as a side hustle.
And I’m dating, which involves the perilous world of Tinder. I downloaded the app last year after a painful breakup. Initially, I was reluctant to use it, worried Tinder would only lead to hookups and frustration. But I gave it a shot because I wanted to meet someone, and, to be honest, all my single friends were using it.
For a while, Tinder did indeed strike me as a gross hookup app (so many shirtless men). And I’ve had my fair share of frustration along the way (like the guy who seemed great but told me he was still in love with his ex). But after using it for six months now, I think it’s totally possible to find a relationship on Tinder; in fact, I’ve seen it happen for two of my best friends.
But what’s surprised me even more is that Tinder is an awesome tool to discover what you’re really looking for when it comes to love. The app provides you an endless pool of people to date, which gives you an opportunity to explore how you communicate, what kinds of people you are attracted to and what your non-negotiables are.
While I’m still on my journey toward finding a spiritually fulfilling relationship, I’ve found there are certain ground rules for using Tinder that have really worked for me. Here are 12 of them:
1. Recognize that it’s OK to be superficial.
Sure, it’s kind of alienating and weird to swipe right or left on people’s faces — but if you recognize that it’s simply a part of the deal of dating at large, rather than some kind of evil behavior choice, you’ll be starting off on the right foot. Accepting that attraction is a weird, idiosyncratic, kind of mystical thing will help you make dating much easier on yourself.
2. Know your expectations, no matter what they are.
Despite the fact that I think Tinder has the potential to be a “gross hookup app,” it’s totally fine if you want to use it for casual hookups. But know that going into it.
By the same token, if you want something more serious, own that. You are not some crazy, monogamy-obsessed loser if you sign up for Tinder because you want a relationship. But take responsibility for your expectations. It will make the whole process less confusing for everyone.
3. Unmatch anyone the minute they say something weird or gross.
This one is simple. Don’t engage with weirdos. I once had a dude message me, “You look like a lesbian.” Shocked by his homophobia and otherwise inappropriate greeting, I was tempted to berate him. But I didn’t. I simply unmatched him and let it go. It’s just not worth your time or your energy.
4. Make reference to one of your non-negotiables — at the get-go.
OK, this one’s my favorite, because it’s a total game-changer in terms of setting your intentions and being authentic. Before deciding if someone is worth my time, I like to casually mention one of my core values or something I care about right at the get-go.
So, for example, in my Tinder “profile,” I say that I am a feminist. That way, any misogynistic people know that they should swipe left.
In short: drop in a subtle reference to something you care about right at the get go as a litmus test for whether or not you and your Tinder match are “on the same page” ideologically and otherwise.
5. Make jokes, and realize the importance of humor in dating.
I like to make jokes, or assert some element of humor, immediately. Love thrives with laughter. If someone isn’t jiving with my sense of humor, then it’s not going to work. Onto the next!
6. Chat with people long enough to get a vibe for them.
Obvious, but necessary. This fall, I made the mistake of meeting up with someone after exchanging only a few, generic questions. I ended up spending the entire date trying to devise an exit strategy.
Sure, I had chatted long enough with the guy to make sure as best I could that he was safe and normal, and I was pleased that my experience wasn’t dangerous or detrimental. But I ended up feeling discouraged about dating for no reason.
In retrospect, I should have exchanged more messages with this person (instead of just chatting with him for 10 minutes) to get a sense of his interests. Now I won’t meet someone in person unless I have a sense of what they spend a lot of their time doing and thinking about (aside from work) and what they’re looking for on Tinder, at least vaguely.
7. But don’t judge someone solely on their ability to text charmingly.
I used to judge people by their texts 100%. I am a writer, and charmed by people who have a way with words. And while I honor that as something I appreciate, I learned that this cannot be a deal-breaker for me.
Think about the opposite case: what if you met someone who was awesome at being a cute, charming and attentive texter but was a bore IRL? Ew, right? Right. So try to keep an open mind, and honor the in-person dynamic above all else. That’s what matters.
8. Use technology as a resource.
I hate the term “Facebook stalking” because it shouldn’t be pejorative: we all do it, so let’s own up. If someone gives you enough information about themselves for you to look them up online, then do it! Get as much data as you can before the in-person date. Technology is a resource. Use it.
9. Don’t wait too long to meet in person.
It’s a fine balance: get a sense of someone via text/Tinder before meeting, but don’t rely on your text dynamic for too long. Chat with your Tinder match as long as it takes you to feel out what their dating expectations might be, what their interests are, what their conversation style might be like.
In my experience, it usually takes about a half-hour to an hour of texting to see what the person’s about — in terms of how they communicate, what their hobbies and interests are, if they have a sense of humor, and whether or not they’re a creepy weirdo. And then, as soon as you feel comfortable, suggest meeting in person.
10. If/when you feel ready, ask the person out!
Chivalry is dumb, by the way — so don’t sit there waiting for someone who seems great to ask you out. Take charge! This isn’t 1952.
11. And when you decide to meet, make an actual plan.
One of my biggest pet peeves when it comes to dating (online or otherwise) is people say things like “Wanna hang sometime?” or “Let’s meet up soon. I’m free like, all of the next two weeks.”
These kinds of statements are noncommittal and unhelpful when it comes to actually making a plan. That’s obvious. But these behaviors are bizarrely telling of someone’s communication skills, and general abilities to live their lives with mindfulness, intentionality and integrity.
12. Don’t be awkward about the fact that you’re meeting someone on Tinder.
Sure, Tinder is kind of weird. But it’s much weirder if you’re unable to accept that you’re on it, and why you’re on it. So just make a decision now to be self-accepting and chill about being on Tinder. Because it’s no weirder than most other forms of meeting people.
So, while I haven’t met my dream-partner yet, I’ve still been pretty satisfied with my time on Tinder. I’ve met interesting people (including a new friend who I talk to on the regular — platonically).
I’ve learned some of the things that make me tick when it comes to dating — such as the fact that I really care about making concrete plans with people I’m dating. Plus: I’ve even discovered a bunch of cool new bars and restaurants in Brooklyn that I’ve gone to on separate occasions since.
So there, I said it: Tinder is a great educational platform. So use it if you wish to. Namaste.