Dating apps: do’s and don’ts

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Illustration by Lauren Chapluk

Online dating has created a nuanced social environment, and each site or app can have its own subculture. Handling a conversation can depend on a specific app, sexual preference, age range or location.

However, there is a universal rule that applies to every app: Keep your genitals to yourself.

This article covers the do’s and don’ts of starting a conversation and going out on dates using popular dating apps. (If you want to see an example of some spectacular failures, check out the Instagram account @Tindernightmares.)

Do: Use dating apps when looking for romantic relationships. Tinder, Bumble, PlentyOfFish, and OKCupid are among the most popular free online dating arenas.

Don’t: Message-blast attractive people at random on Facebook or LinkedIn with things like “Hey, beautiful.” In fact, strike that line from your list of potential openers across all formats.

Do: Remain open to the idea of going out on a real date and interacting with people offline. Picking a venue that is comfortable and familiar is a great way to get over the anxiety that comes with meeting a stranger for a date.

Do: Read through the profile or about me section of the user you would like to contact. Keep in mind there is another human being on the other side of the message. Composing something polite and congenial that is open enough to elicit a response will yield much better results. Establish a connection and ask someone out on a date.

Don’t: Send copied and pasted pick-up lines, brief “Hey,” “Hi,” “Hello” messages or random statements that do not welcome conversation. Also, do not pursue a pointless conversation after establishing the other person’s intentions. If conversation is all you both express interest in, then carry on. If there is a denial or rejection in the conversation, then move on. There is someone else out there.

Do: Keep the conversation light. Choose topics that make conversation comfortable, fun and interesting. Ask questions, be a good listener, stay polite and steer away from anything taboo. Most importantly, write accurately and effectively. Keep it short, upbeat and open.

Don’t: Bring up any major conversational land mines. No religion, politics or negativity. Avoid making a lot of statements that start with “I” when setting the tone for messages. Do not send jumbled nonsense full of made-up spellings and errors. Making a first impression relies on how well your message is written.

Do: Create a profile that showcases who is really on the other side of the screen. Pictures should be fun, flattering and varied. The about me or biographical section of the profile should be accurate, positive, informative and fun to read. To use a personal example: On Tinder, my profile was a choose-your-own-adventure. Anyone interested in speaking to me needed to choose a number from the listed options, and I would respond accordingly. I gave matches the opportunity to dictate how the conversation would go right out of the gate.

Don’t: Post one photo, several bad photos or six group photos with multiple common people in each photo. Try to exclude bad habits from photos as well. If every single photo has a cigarette, beer bottle, shot glass, bong or gun in it, then expect to turn some people off. Blank profiles are also a non-starter. Avoid a poorly written profile, lots of negativity or lying. It is hard to message someone with a weak profile, and most folks will not put in the effort.

There are many subtle elements in each online dating app that require experience to pick up. The key to a successful start is in the tips posted above.

Online dating is just a means to meet people outside the usual haunts of work or school; it is not a totally separate world. It is designed to supplement a social life by connecting people for romantic relationships. It is not a replacement, and it is not a place to premiere your latest shirtless bathroom selfie or bikini-beach-butt photo.

Be polite, be a good listener, be honest and do not show anyone your penis if they have not asked to see it.

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