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Am I Way Too Picky on Dating Apps?

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Dear Randa,

I’ve been on the apps for a couple of years now and have started to notice how much I allow my own little dating-app heuristics to determine my love life. I’ve developed rules to avoid people. I’ll swipe past certain jobs (I assume bartenders have odd schedules and finance workers are, well, soulless). I’ll skip the overly sincere (You’re seeking someone “passionate”?! Okay) and people posing with exotic sedated animals (That’s just weird). 

Some of these feel like obvious filters to weed out people I’m genuinely incompatible with, but I can’t kick the feeling that I’m swiping left on people I would otherwise like IRL. What’s the ideal balance between approaching dating apps more generously (and risking burnout) and really focusing on the perfect match?


Swiped Out

Dear Swiped Out,

I love my friends, but I still mute some of them on Twitter. What does this have to do with your question? It’s totally possible to like someone IRL and dislike them online. We render different versions of ourselves for each online platform, but none of them can fully capture what we’re like in person. You should treat dating-app profiles accordingly and avoid drawing conclusions based on limited information.

Even though the apps would like you to think they’re offering you a holistic representation of a person, that is an illusion, and we’re still mostly swiping based on attractiveness. Hinge (and probably Tinder) use algorithms that clusters you based on who you’re likely to like and who’s likely to like you back. But it’s not, like, Oh you like people who value altruism and family. The algorithm is more superficial than that, because try as we might, we are pretty superficial when swiping through photos of potential mates. In short: if you tend to swipe right on white guys with mustaches, odds are that you’re going to see more white guys with mustaches — especially if white guys with mustaches are swiping on you.

Of course, it would be cool if we were clustered based on our values or personality traits instead of how we look, but the algorithm just isn’t that smart. It’s not doing any intensive, principle-based matchmaking — it’s just serving us profiles similar to other profiles we liked.

Since you are being presented with a wealth of options, you have the luxury of filtering those into oblivion. My advice: Don’t filter! Just swipe right on the people you find attractive. If there are too many of them, simply swipe less.

And keep in mind that the bartender might have an odd schedule now, but maybe they’re about to quit and go to grad school. The finance worker might have to support their family, so they’re doing the job for money until they can figure something else out. The overly sincere person might be new to dating apps and not understand that being sincere makes you seem lame. I won’t make an excuse for the exotic-sedated-animal guy, but you get the idea. The point, Swiped Out, is that you’re right: Filtering profiles based on these qualities is probably making you miss people you might like IRL.

Instead of considering the merits and faults of each profile, just go full smooth brain and like people based on whether you would kiss them. If I were you, this is how I would message my matches:

1. Look at someone’s profile and message them the first thought or question that pops into your head. Make it original. People who start conversations with “Hey, how was your weekend?” should not be allowed on dating apps (or at least be sent to an app for people with terrible banter). Ideally, your message is funny and personalized, but it doesn’t have to be deep. I recently started a convo by replying to a photo of a guy playing guitar with “boom bap boopity clack clock zzzz dingaling dong shhhh.” You may not like this, but it led to a date.

2. If the other person messages first with something awful, like, “Hey, how was your weekend?” I usually say something weird back, like, “Oh, she didn’t tell you? I was hanging out with your mom. She said you’re really excited about me.”

3. If the initial banter is looking good, message back and forth until plans for a date IRL are set. If you get bored, ghost and don’t force it. Whatever you do, don’t let things drag on and on in the DMs. (Tip: Do steps one through three in about 20 minutes to keep the momentum going.)

Again, this is just my strategy, and you can take it with a grain of salt. Having silly conversations with people is how I make the apps fun. Maybe you prefer debating philosophy or exchanging playlists. Do whatever feels genuine to you, and most of all, don’t take it too seriously.

That goes for swiping too. Just match with people you think are hot or interesting and let it play out IRL; if you think too hard about it, you will get burned out. True matches are made by spending time with someone — not by swiping right on them.

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Am I Way Too Picky on Dating Apps?