Most of us have a common desire to find a “best” way to date.
We want to maximize our time and results with our experiences—which includes finding the most optimal dating site.
As much as I relate to that, my own hard-won, personal experience is that there is no magic site where all the attractive, relationship-ready partners are (not even a matchmaker, but that’s another story).
I have been actively dating for about 17 years now: my current age, minus the age of 17 (when I started), less the years I have been in a relationship. I have easily gone on 1,000 first dates in my nearly two decades of singledom, spanning from the years of my life that started first with a two, then flipped to a three, and now include a four.
I have been online dating since 2003, when Lavalife was one of the only games in town. I left behind me a seemingly endless set of dating sites, which I abandoned when they “didn’t work,” ranging from specialty niche hobby sites to major generalist sites.
Success isn’t tied to a single platform or to how much we pay for it. It has nothing to do with our age, how many dates we’ve been on, or even how long we’ve been single.
If we want to maximize our experience, here are some specific tips about online dating that I have garnered in my nearly two decades online:
1. Be present.
Finding a partner is more about our personal readiness to do so than about who’s available on the apps.
Jumping from site to site hoping to find “better” partners doesn’t help us find a match or work on our own readiness. It is more like an escape hatch, from which we are ready to flee at any moment for something better, more exciting, or trendier.
And who wants that quality in a partner?
Staying on one site means accepting the experience and staying put through the good, the bad, and the ugly—and there will be ugly.
Try committing to what we’ve chosen for a period of time that’s selected in advance (two months, for example). Then we can move on if it’s genuinely not enjoyable or successful.
2. Become familiar with the interface and how it works.
I personally swiped left anytime someone wrote things like, “I have no idea what I’m doing here” in their profile. That was not a partner for me, as it indicated a closed mind, or at least, an ashamed or embarrassed one.
There’s nothing wrong with being new—we’ve all been new. We’ve also all had the experience of learning to do things by doing them. There’s no substitute for hard-won experience.
We don’t need to ask friends or professionals to write our profile. But we do need to have the patience and confidence to jump on and engage.
Log some hours to familiarize ourselves with the cultural nuances of the particular platform we’ve chosen. Ask yourself, “What specifically in our profiles are others responding to most often? What photos are striking other people’s eyes most frequently? What conversations are being generated from our tidbits and/or photos? What is garnering our attention when we see it in other people’s profiles, and who/what are we ditching in mere seconds without engaging further? What sorts of first messages are we sending that get responded to most often? What messages are we receiving that we enjoy and respond to? Are we generating enough matches? Too many? Too few?”
The more we use the site we have selected, the more comfortable we get with how we can put it to work for us.
3. Engage with the other humans, rather than waiting for them to engage with us.
Yes—that means swiping or looking through profiles, but it also means sending first messages. Ladies, this especially means us—don’t wait for the men to “initiate.”
Female Tinder users are much more likely to message after they have a match, with 21 percent sending messages versus just 7 percent of men.
While many women speak of wanting men to “pursue” them, we might also want to be aware that while we are sitting around waiting, 21 percent of us are sending first messages to our matches and making things happen. And a scant 7 percent of the guys are—which means we need to match with way more men than we could even dream possible in order to get a “How’s your day?”
No matter what our gender is, there is no dating site that is going to do the work for us. “Swipe and write” is our new mantra.
4. The top three sites have most of the daters—join one of them.
Tinder (almost eight million), Bumble (five million), and Plenty of Fish (4.5 million) collectively have 17 million profiles in the United States.
After those three, the other sites have far, far fewer users (including Match, which logs in at just a million profiles).
If we are serious about online dating, it’s a good idea to go where there is volume and try Tinder.
Why do we need volume? Research shows that women tend to swipe only on men they are attracted to in order to generate a match. Men tend to swipe on everyone and select after there’s a match. We only need one successful match, but if we’ve exhausted our age group in our city or region, we have nobody to meet.
Giving ourselves some options is key, so I personally favoritize these big, workhorse apps.
I used small specialty sites and found they were either so niched that all we had to talk about was our commonality (which didn’t mean we had much in common beyond that), or I simply ran out of matches.
For this reason, I personally skewed toward options and variety. Consider the value of volume.
Dating sites are personal marketing platforms. It’s literally free market research to change our words or photos to see what generates matches or messages. No advertiser or marketing firm has this kind of generous offer available.
We can change our profiles as often as once a day—or even more—or leave it as is for months.
Harness the power of being able to change your personal marketing at your fingertips in an instant if it’s not working for you.
6. There are no sites or special locations where the more “serious” people are.
Marketing experts brand certain sites as more relationship-oriented, but my dating experiences have shown me that I play a much larger role in the experience than the cost of the services or the marketing of the brand.
Every format has serious contenders. Across all sites and ages, 38.4 percent of men want serious relationships and 43 percent of women do. No matter what gender stereotypes may have us believe, that’s nearly an equal number of men and women at any given time, and we are looking for each other.
An ability to unwaveringly set standards—not deviate from them—and then personally display the words, actions, and behaviors that are consistent with this standard will give us the experience we are looking for more quickly than endlessly researching to find “the site where the commitment-ready people” are. There is no such place anywhere on this planet, anyway.
Yes, online dating takes a lot of time, but there’s no magic solution that is going to help us avoid texting, engaging with, and coming to dead ends with some of the people we match with.
What about the people outside of the 40-ish percent who want relationships? Sometimes, you just have to wade through those waters. Cut off the ones who aren’t those people, rather than cutting off the site or complaining on Facebook groups.
Here’s what to do instead: be clear about what we want, cease continuing engagement when it’s obvious that it isn’t a match, and stay focused on the positive experiences rather than the negative ones.
We need to have personal sticking power for the process in order to find the kind of matches we are looking for, which includes keeping our eyes on the long game.
There are commitment-ready individuals on every site. Almost four in 10 profiles we are shown are ready to get serious.
Generally, what I have personally learned is that the key to successfully navigating and selecting a site comes down to picking one and using it. Online dating is realistically about being active, enthusiastic, and engaged in the process.
If we have FOMO about a site we aren’t on and spend our entire time wondering if the “best” people are on a different one, we reduce our chances of success. We are going to respond to others who are responsive, and so will the opposite gender.
Online dating is not easy. When we look for the magic site with the “best” options, we can lose sight of ourselves.
Be prepared for a process. Like many great things in life, most of us need to invest time, effort, and consistency in order to net the results we are looking for.