29 Online Dating Tips For Successfully Finding A Relationship
Online dating—aka meeting people through dating apps and websites—can feel like an overwhelming, chaotic mess when you jump in for the first time, and it can be disappointing when you don't connect with anyone right away. But trust the process: Committed couples are meeting each other online all the time these days, and as many as a third of U.S. marriages start online now. So it's worth giving it the ol' college try.
If you're new to dating apps or just looking for advice on how to increase your chances of meeting someone online, here are a few online dating tips, rules to keep in mind, and other helpful information for successful online dating.
The best dating sites and apps to try in 2023
The first key to successful online dating is picking the best dating app or dating site that’s most suited to what you’re looking for. Different dating apps cater to different kinds of people. One major mistake people make is trying to join too many dating sites all at the same time, which can quickly become overwhelming and make it harder to engage fully on any of them—which will likely lower your success rate. So, pick one dating app and stick to it for a good amount of time before moving on to others if desired.
We’ve got a whole guide to the best dating apps on the market right now, but here are a few quick recommendations:
- For newbies, try Hinge. Hinge has grown massively in popularity in recent years, even rivaling Tinder in some locations. But as opposed to Tinder, Hinge has a reputation for higher-quality interactions, with more people looking for more serious relationships than casual dating. (Here’s our full Hinge review.)
- For serious relationships, try eharmony. The OG dating site, eharmony has a strong track record of creating not just serious relationships but marriages. You have to pay to use it, but the fee means that everyone on this app is actually serious about dating. (We’ve got a full eharmony review if you want to learn more.)
- For casual dating, try Tinder. Tinder is arguably the most popular dating app today, with millions of active users. If you’re having trouble on other apps finding enough people to swipe on, Tinder is probably an app to check out. It’s a great option for casual dating, but lots of people have met their serious partners there, too.
- For women, try OkCupid. OkCupid’s hyper-detailed profile allows users to share a ton of information about themselves upfront, which many women might appreciate seeing about their possible matches. There are hundreds of questions you can answer to help the algorithm serve you up solid matches, and the app displays a compatibility score on every potential match’s profile based on how well their answers match to yours.
- For men seeking women, try Bumble. Although Bumble is designed by and for women, many men seeking women actually enjoy this dating app because it prompts the woman to send the first message when she matches with a guy. Compared to most other dating apps where men are typically expected to make the first move if they’re matching with women, Bumble allows you to have messages coming right into your inbox.
- For something different, try LaVette. LaVette is a newer dating site that’s still in its early stages, but it’s so innovative that it’s worth checking out. It’s video-based dating site that bills itself as a “virtual social club,” where you can go to live virtual events to meet fellow singles in a semi-natural way. That’s right—there’s no swiping on this app. (Check out our full LaVette review here.)
11 tips for successful online dating
Know what you want.
Online dating works best when you actually know what you're looking for. Are you interested in finding a committed relationship? Or are you more interested in casual dating and sex? Or maybe you're just looking to meet interesting new people?
Set a clear intention for what you're looking for. It may even be helpful to sit down beforehand and journal a little bit about what kind of relationship you want and who would be the ideal person to do that with. That way, you can be thoughtful as you evaluate people's profiles and decide whether to swipe right (connect) or swipe left (pass) on someone. Focus on matching with people who actually align with your dating goals.
Write a profile that mirrors what you want.
Put some thought into your profile! If you're mostly looking for fun and laughs, a short and witty profile might be perfect. If you're looking for a deeper connection with someone, write a longer and more thoughtful profile that showcases who you are, what you like to do and think about, and what kind of person you want to invite into your life.
Use clear photos of your face, ideally smiling.
It's good to have a variety of photos of yourself on your dating profile. Make sure your face is clearly visible, and don't make the first photo a group shot where it's not clear which person is you. Smiling photos tend to appeal to most people—it makes you seem approachable and fun. If possible, showcase some of your personality in the photos too: a shot of you laughing, a shot of you outdoors if you love nature, or a shot of you in PJs with a decaf coffee if that's your ideal Friday night.
"Make sure that your photos are current and realistic," Milrad adds.
Send messages freely.
People can sometimes be shy when they first start online dating, not wanting to send any messages out or respond to any of the messages that come in. But you're not going to meet anyone until you actually engage. Sending someone a message does not mean you automatically want to date them; think of it more like starting a conversation with the stranger sitting next to you at the coffee shop.
So message anyone that tickles your fancy, and do respond to any messages that are interesting to you or from someone that intrigues you. (Some dating apps will only let you message people when you've already matched or indicated interest in each other, which is all the more reason to reach out once that happens! You already know there's mutual interest.)
Write an interesting opener.
When you message someone for the first time, don't just say, "Hi" or, "Hey, what's up?" Make it engaging! Show that you've read their profile by commenting on something they've written or about a specific photo of theirs, or better yet, ask a question based on it. You can also ask something specific about shared collective experiences—an upcoming holiday, the unpredictability of the pandemic, or something specific to your city.
Don't bother with people who aren't interested in you.
If someone doesn't respond to your first message or two, leave them alone. They probably haven't checked the app and will see your messages when they get back on, or they've seen your messages and simply aren't interested. Respect their time and accept their rejection.
Don't bite off more than you can chew.
Some people struggle to turn people down and end up getting lost in endless conversations with a bunch of people, all of whom they feel lukewarm about. This isn't productive either—it can lead to what Milrad calls dating app burnout, where you're sinking a ton of time and energy into the process, talking to a million people at once, and not really deeply connecting with a single one of them.
"Set a limit for how many people you will be dating at once. It is difficult and time-consuming to manage the dating process with multiple people," Milrad says. "If you start to feel consumed, exhausted, or discouraged, take a break. Delete all your apps and cleanse for at least 30 days. It's OK to take a break every once in a while. It doesn't mean you've given up completely. You're just giving yourself a chance to reset."
Be honest and transparent.
Let people get to know you! Get into real conversations with people, ask them about their lives, and tell them about yours. Authenticity and vulnerability are what will help you form real relationships.
Be sure to also talk about what you want from dating and what kind of potential relationship you'd be interested in having. It's important to be transparent: If someone says they're interested in getting married in the next year when that's nowhere on your radar, tell them that. If someone says they're just looking for something casual, don't play along hoping to trick them into a relationship—you're just going to get yourself hurt or cause unnecessary drama for the other person.
Meet up as soon as you feel comfortable.
People can get trapped in an endless text conversation that goes on and on for weeks, never moving it into real life or waiting so long to go on the date that it puts unnecessary pressure on it to go perfectly. It's also easy to sink weeks into texting and messaging someone regularly only to realize there's no chemistry in person when you finally go on the date.
"You want to be face-to-face with someone as quickly as possible. That's how you figure out physical attraction and body language," former eHarmony CEO Grant Langston once told mbg. "You're not here for a pen pal. Once you've figured that out, just go and have that cup of coffee or go on that walk."
A first date doesn't have to be a big thing, by the way—it can just be a short walk or even a video date.
Define the relationship.
Once you've been going on dates and talking to someone for a while, start having conversations to define the relationship. That doesn't mean you need to immediately jump into an exclusive commitment; it just means talking openly about why you're spending time together and how you each see the relationship progressing.
Here's some questions and inspo for what to say:
- Are you looking for a long-term, committed relationship right now?
- How do you see us and what we're doing right now?
- Right now I'm enjoying getting to know you, and I'm liking what we're doing so far. I'm not quite ready to label it yet, but I could see this turning into a relationship if things keep going well. What do you think?
- Are you cool if we keep things casual? I love hanging out with you, but I'm not looking for a commitment and want to make sure you're on the same page.
- Are you seeing other people right now?
This can certainly be scary, but it'll save you from sinking time into something that you see as a potential relationship when the other person is not on the same page (or vice versa). In general, dating tends to be more successful when people are willing to be vulnerable, says sexologist and sex coach Gigi Engle.
"You can't have real relationships and meaningful connections without vulnerability," she writes. "At the end of the day, it's about allowing yourself to take an emotional leap of faith and risk getting hurt in the name of finding real love."
These things take time. You might not meet someone for your first couple months of online dating, and that's OK. There's a whole culture around dating apps that might take some time for you to adjust to, and if you haven't dated in a while, dating itself is a process that takes some time to warm and ease into. Be patient, keep engaging, and stay positive. If you need to take a break for some time, do that and come back when you're ready to dive in again.
And don't forget to have fun! That's what dating's all about.
Is online dating safe?
Yes, it’s absolutely possible to online date safely and meet up with someone you met on a dating site as long as you take reasonable safety precautions. Safety precautions include always meeting for dates in a public place, letting a friend know where and when you’re meeting, protecting your personal and financial information, and generally screening your matches carefully before choosing to meet up.
At the same time, meeting up with a potential match early on is usually the fastest way to know if you’re dealing with a fraudulent profile (because fake accounts and scammers will always make excuses to avoid meeting up in person while still trying to get close enough to you to get you to send them money).
While that all might sound a little unnerving, know that online dating has becoming incredibly mainstream today. A 2023 report from the Pew Research Center found 30% of all U.S. adults have used a dating site or app before, with that number jumping up to 53% among those ages 18-29 and 37% among those ages 30-49. One in 10 adults who are currently married or in a serious relationship met their partner on a dating site or app. Among those under age 30, that number jumped to one in five.
All to say: While it's important to practice online dating safety, plenty of people have had success finding real relationships on a dating site.
9 red flags to look out for when online dating
Below are a few behaviors that may signal that the person you’re talking with online may be a scammer or otherwise not have your best interests at heart. Be wary of someone you meet online who does any of the following:
- Asking you to send them money
- Asking for personal information such as banking info, credit card number, a work or home address, or your last name
- Consistently making excuses to avoid meeting up in person
- Refusing to get on live video calls to verify identity
- Answering questions vaguely or in ways that don’t quite make sense for what you asked
- Having profiles on various dating sites under different names
- Inconsistent information in their profile and messages
- Becoming very affection very early on, even before meeting you
- Messaging you constantly and demanding immediate answers
How to start a conversation online
The best way to start a conversation on a dating app or site is to read the person’s profile and then send them a message commenting on something specific in their profile, whether it’s compliment on something specific in one of their photos, making a joke about a goofy interest they listed, or asking an open-ended question to glean more information.
Personalized messages are much more likely to get a response than short one-liners. "Don't just write 'hi' or 'hey!'" licensed therapist Jaime Bronstein, LCSW, previously told mbg. "You want the person to know that you're interested, and writing one or two words will be perceived as if you don't care and have zero investment in actually making a connection. If you want a response, you need to put some effort into your opening line."
How can I increase my chances of meeting someone online?
You can typically increase your chances of online dating success by paying for a dating app’s premium upgrade, which usually allows you to boost the visibility of your profile, connect with more people, and other helpful features. eharmony and Match are examples of popular paid dating sites, but most of the best dating apps for serious relationships have helpful premium features.
How do you start a conversation on a dating site?
Ask an open-ended question that catches attention and sparks some curiosity. Bonus points if the message is related to something mentioned in their profile, which shows that you’re paying attention and are specifically interested in them—not just sending the same message over and over to multiple people.
The real trick to online dating is creating a high-quality dating profile that’s an authentic representation of who you are (good photos, detailed information about your life and interests, and what someone can expect dating you) and then showing up to the app consistently.
Send out thoughtful, personalized messages to the people you’re interested in (not copy-pasted one-liners), and be warm and engaging.
From there, be patient and let the right person find you. Release your expectations, don’t expect results right away, and enjoy the process.
Kelly Gonsalves is a multi-certified sex educator and relationship coach helping people figure out how to create dating and sex lives that actually feel good — more open, more optimistic, and more pleasurable. In addition to working with individuals in her private practice, Kelly serves as the Sex & Relationships Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a degree in journalism from Northwestern University, and she’s been trained and certified by leading sex and relationship institutions such as The Gottman Institute and Everyone Deserves Sex Ed, among others. Her work has been featured at The Cut, Vice, Teen Vogue, Cosmopolitan, and elsewhere.
With her warm, playful approach to coaching and facilitation, Kelly creates refreshingly candid spaces for processing and healing challenges around dating, sexuality, identity, body image, and relationships. She’s particularly enthusiastic about helping softhearted women get re-energized around the dating experience and find joy in the process of connecting with others. She believes relationships should be easy—and that, with room for self-reflection and the right toolkit, they can be.
You can stay in the loop about her latest programs, gatherings, and other projects through her newsletter: kellygonsalves.com/newsletter