Online Dating 101
I’ll never forget when I decided I was ready to try online dating back in 2016. I had recently gotten out of a two-year relationship, and to be honest, I had gotten over the break up pretty quickly. A story for another time, but that relationship had already expired months before. Feeling this new rush of energy being single for the first time in while, I created a Tinder account and started swiping. I was brand new to the online dating world and was figuring out what this swipe right, swipe left business was all about. It sounds dorky to say now, but the first time I matched with someone, I was like… WOAH! It was the craziest feeling. It was exciting but I also felt oddly exposed, if that makes sense. This whole new world had opened up to me with a few taps and the download of an app.
I actually met my boyfriend (well, now he’s my ex) on Tinder. So, even though that relationship ultimately failed, I’m telling ya folks, there are good, well intentioned, funny, nice, dateable guys (and gals!) out there. There is hope. It just takes some effort, a hell of a lot of patience, and some bravery knowing that your heart is on the line.
Close to three years and one relationship later, I’m certainly no expert in online dating, but I’ve had my fair share of it. I’ve been single since the end of summer 2018, and there certainly have been moments of fun and excitement, and also moments of frustration and disappointment. There have been weeks of being “swipe” crazy on the apps, and also times where I just needing a fucking break from it all. I’m here to simply share my two cents in what I’ve personally experienced.
So let’s dive in to Jera’s Online Dating 101.
Own being single
First things first, before jumping into any kind of dating, it’s important to be not just comfortable with being single, but to be confident with being single. Now I type this with some hesitation because this is something I very openly have struggled with. I truly enjoy being in relationships. I even had a tarot card reading recently and she told me the same thing about myself without any prompt or hint. I was like like, YEAH LADY! Tell me somethin’ I don’t know, eh?!
Being single might come really easy to come, but for others (and for me!) it’s kinda like a muscle you gotta flex and grow. I think it starts with an active curiosity in getting to know yourself. Go do things alone. Find joy in being totally selfish. Explore new hobbies. Take yourself out on a date to the movies and to dinner. Journal. Exercise. Take improv. Whatever you gotta do!
Ultimately, you have to become whole yourself before letting someone else in, because the thought that someone else will complete you is a temporary solution.
How do you know you’re ready to start dating?
This is a tough question because it’s going to be different for each person, and it’s going to be different depending on your expectations.
First step is to feel like your previous chapter is closed. Like actually closed. And I say this as someone who has not followed this step before. It’s hard because sometimes we just want some fucking attention. Attention can feel good! But when it comes down to it, you’re not setting yourself up for success, and that quick fix of attention may feel good in the moment but usually it leads to feeling shittier if you haven’t properly prepared for it. So if you’re recently out of a relationship, allow yourself time to process and heal, however long that takes.
Second step is to own being single. See above.
Third step is to acknowledge whether or not you truly want to start dating. Maybe you want to be single for a bit and focus entirely on you. That’s totally cool! Don’t put pressure on yourself to start seeing someone else simply because you’re now over your ex, because all your friends have boyfriends/girlfriends, or because your grandma is asking about your relationship status over Thanksgiving. So tune into yourself. Turn off the noise of the outside world. Are you ready to have someone else in your life right now? Are you willing to put in the effort that dating requires, and do you have the time to do so? And are you prepared for the emotional roller-coaster that inevitably comes with dating?
If you answered yes to these, then hells yea! I think you’re totally ready and in the right mindset to date.
One last step before goin’ ham with the dating apps. It’s important to define your expectations and ask yourself what you’re looking for. Hook ups? Casual dating? A long-term relationship?
When I first got back on the dating scene after my most recent break up, my goal at first was to date casually and not jump into anything serious. A few girlfriends and I had this joke about getting a “rotation” of men going. Essentially having a few guys that we date at the same time, so that way if one guy isn’t texting back, no worries! There’s another guy ready to go. Well, this was a fun idea, but I failed miserably at it. I learned that I really don’t enjoy trying to “juggle” guys. It stresses me out, and just doesn’t feel good to me.
But this was a good lesson to learn about myself! Some of us like seeing multiple people at once. Some of us like to only see one person at time while still testing the waters. It’s a process and we learn as we go.
Choosing a platform
Alright ladies (and gents!) You’ve decided you’re ready to try online dating. You have an idea of what your expectations are. The next step is to pick a dating app.
I think starting this process, especially if this is your very first time doing it, can be extremely intimidating. But remember that everyone who’s currently on a dating app was a beginner at some point in time.
And keep in mind that this is a totally normal way to meet people these days. I think there used to be quite a stigma around it, but it’s so common now, so there’s no reason to feel any shame attached to it.
Everyone has an opinion about which app to use, so the following is simply one person’s perspective. (Mine, muhahaha!) My advice would be to start with just one app for now, and once you get use to it, try out another.
Juggling two apps was my max. I had three going at one point, and I was like…. Nah son. This is too cray. It was definitely was server overload.
Let’s kick this off with my favorite app: Hinge. Hinge is my favorite for a few reasons. First, every user is prompted to answer three questions/prompts that appear in their profile, for example:
What’s your go to karaoke song?
Most spontaneous thing you’ve ever done?
My last meal would be:
(they offer like, 100 different prompts so there’s gotta be a few in there that call out to ya!)
I like this because it forces people to actually say something in their profile. In some other apps, there’s an open space for people to write anything, and they end up saying nothing. That honestly drives me crazy. But I do understand that it can be confusing, and also intimidating to try and come up with something. Like what are you supposed to write about yourself?! An actual bio? A quote? Something funny? A mysterious combo of emojs?! So, Hinge helps with this conundrum by requiring all users to answer three questions.
When I look through Hinge profiles, of course I look at the photos, but I find myself also focusing a lot on someone’s answers. Humor is such an important quality to me, so if at least one answer gets a smile or a laugh out of me, I’m much more likely to “like” that person’s profile.
When it comes down to it, I want to see that someone has put some sort of effort into how they’re displaying themselves to the outside world. If all your answers are boring/lackluster, then why would I want to engage with that? Or if I see an answer that appears across multiple profiles (for example Q: where do you see yourself in five years? A: Not on this app!) I’m like, c’mon yallz, let’s get a little more creative!
Other things that are mentionable about Hinge:
-Instead of swiping on an entire profile to show interest, you “like” a part of their profile, like a photo, or one of their answers. This feels a little more personal and provides for a better conversation starter.
-I also like that once matched with someone, Hinge prompts who is supposed to send the next message. It takes the pressure off about who is supposed to message first, and makes it more clear when to respond.
-After you’ve been on the app for a bit, Hinge will start to suggest “Most Compatible” and display a profile that they think you’d be a good match with.
Ah, Tinder! It’s a love/hate relationship. I have a soft spot in my heart for it because it’s the first app that I ever used, and how I met my ex that I was with for over a year. I think there are a lot of conflicting opinions about Tinder- some people hate it, some love it. For me, it’s that app I use second most often after Hinge, so I guess for the most part, I like it.
In my opinion, it’s the most mainstream app. Like, everyone is on it, which is good because it means there is lots of opportunity. But because so many people are on it, it means there are a lot more profiles to sort through.
To give you an idea, I’ve probably swiped left on hundred profiles in a row on Tinder before finding one that I wanted to swipe right on, compared to Hinge where I usually find someone I’m potentially interested every five to ten profiles. But Tinder kinda feels like the “OG” to me, and that’s why I keep coming back to it. At least when I need a break from Hinge.
As I mentioned earlier, I mentally can only handle two apps at once, so since I’ve been single this time around, I haven’t spent a lot of time on Bumble. But I do think that Bumble is a really interesting concept, because once you match with someone, it’s up to the gal to message first. If the girl doesn’t message first, then the match expires forever after 24 hours. So, ya gotta make a move quick otherwise, buh-bye!
Last time I was on Bumble, I also noticed that profiles became a little more detailed. For example, people now have the option to list what they’re looking for: serious relationship, casual, “not sure”, etc. I like that feature!
… of course there are plenty of other dating sites out there as well! I’d talk to your friends who are currently single and see what other apps they’ve enjoyed using and recommend.
Creating your profile
Each platform is a little different, but they all require photos and some sort of bio.
Obviously you want to choose pictures that you like, and have a range of ‘em. Selfies, group shots, close up, full body. Photos where you’re doin’ thangs that can be conversation starters are great too: travel photos, hanging with your dog, eating something delish… and don’t forget a smiling photo! Anytime I see a profile without a single smiling picture, I’m like, hmmm, going to assume you don’t have any teeth…
For me personally, it’s important for me not to have all my photos be professional photos. I have a few of ‘em in there, but also ones that I’ve taken myself.
It’s all about dat range, and honestly, whatever makes you feel happy, comfortable, and excited when putting yourself out there.
As I mentioned earlier, Hinge definitely makes this a little easier. With an app like Tinder where it’s a blank space, it’s a little more challenging to come up with something. But for the love of god, don’t leave that shit blank. My biggest pet peeve is when guys leave it blank, only have emojis, or just put their heights. I’m like, HELLO! Can ya at least attempt to dazzle me?
I was particularly stumped and overwhelmed while first making my profile though, so I get it. But here’s the thing, it’s fine to be short and sweet. You don’t gotta write no manifesto. But you should throw some sort of bone when it comes to starting a conversation. I think my very first tinder bio was something like:
Three very important things you should know about me are:
1. I have a dog named Spicy Grandpa
2. I would eat pasta for every meal for the rest of my life if I had to
3. It’s my dream to one day hold a baby pig
I think at some point I was bored and had the one line:
Have you seen the music video Miracles by The Insane Clown Posse?
Like yeah, I know that’s weird, but it definitely got some good responses.
Here’s the thing. What you write doesn’t need to be the bestest thing ever. It doesn’t need to be the funniest thing ever. But it should be genuine in some shape or form, and there should be some effort behind it. Even if it’s just a sentence about the Insane Clown Posse. (But wait, have you guys seen that music video? It’s cuckoo bananas, go watch it.)
I got some tips for you when it comes to swiping. YALLZ READY?
-Don’t only look at the photos. Read the text as well.
-If someone makes you laugh, that’s a good sign.
-Trust your gut reaction. If something interests you (ok, even if it’s just the photos) then swipe right.
-At the same time, don’t be too harsh. Some people may not be the best at representing themselves in an online profile, but perhaps they’re super fun once you start chatting with them.
-If someone links their insta profile, check it out! (I personally don’t link mine because I prefer to tell people what I do once we’ve been talking a bit.)
-Don’t go into a black hole of swiping. Try and set a time limit on it. It’s soo easy to sit on the couch and just mindlessly swipe for longer than you intended. Believe me, I’ve been there!
-Pause swiping for a day or two once you have few matches. Not everyone may agree with this, but I find that I prefer to try and talk to the people I’ve matched with and see if there’s some potential there for a date, rather than just continually amass matches and having too many conversations going on at once. This ain’t no race, you can take it slow.
-Take a break from it all when you’re feeling overwhelmed or bogged down. The apps will be waiting for you whenever you’re ready to return. Sometimes it’s good to step away from ‘em for a bit!
Sending the first message
Once you have a match, on apps like Hinge and Bumble, it’s clear who is supposed to message first. But on an app like Tinder, anything goes.
Here’s the thing. No one wants to reach out first. People are shy. And if they’re not shy, well then, people are lazy.
I know it’s nice to be approached, but if you match with someone and you wanna chat, just send em a motherfuckin message yo. Like it’s 2019. If you’re a gal, know that women do not need to sit around waiting for a guy to send them a message. And if you’re a guy, well, nothing wrong with taking the first step and sending the initial message. Women definitely appreciate that.
I think people who have been on dating apps for awhile tend to get lazy. Snap out of it! Put some effort into it. Otherwise, take a break from it. I’m honestly tired of people who half ass it.
And on that note, when it comes to sending the first message, I personally try and avoid the “hey”. Have I sent that before? Yes, I have, but it’s rare. I do my best to actually look and read through their profile and send a message that shows I’ve put some sort of thought into it. And bonus points if I find some way to be funny.
“Is that your dog in the second photo?! What a cutie! I have a dog and I call him Spicy Grandpa.”
“The flannel shirt is perhaps the most ravishing flannel shirt I’ve ever seen.”
“Wait… you do not like avocados?! How is that possible. Please enlighten me.”
Yeah, these are kinda silly/goofy but they’re way more interesting than a zero effort “hi”.
Still totally stumped? Ask a question. ANY question. The sillier/more random, the better!
Keeping the conversation going
It takes two to tango, baby! It’s a back and forth, like a game of ping pong. You should always provide a way for the person to respond back, like with a question. One person shouldn’t be doing all the work. Nothing drives me crazier than someone writing back “nice” or “cool” and nothing else to something I’ve said. Like I just told you something about me and that’s all ya got?! Once again, it comes down to effort. Some people are willing to try, and others aren’t.
Don’t pin all your hope on one person
Let’s be real. You’re going to have to prepare yourself for disappointment. There’s honestly no way around it. Whether you match with a cutie, write to them, and never hear back, or perhaps you have a long, amazing conversation one night, and then it fizzles out.
I’ve had so many moments of getting excited over someone I haven’t met yet, only to end up feeling down about it in some way.
It’s good to remember that the people you match with are all at different stages of their lives. So you may not hear back from them for a variety of reasons. Maybe they got slammed at work. Or they have five dates that week. Or they just became official with someone and you were their last match before that happened.
I certainly have dropped the ball on many conversations for all kinds of reasons, mostly life just getting crazy, not because I wasn’t interested.
So, keep your expectations low initially. Don’t get too excited about one particular person. Don’t take it personally if you end up not hearing back from someone.
Try to be realistic otherwise you’ll drive yourself cray.
Zero tolerance for creeps or inappropriate behavior
Yo quick but important thang. If someone makes you feel uncomfortable in anyway, FUCK THAT! The conversation ends. Report them if necessary. Unmatch them.
Remember that you do have to keep talking to anyone for any reason. You don’t owe anyone anything.
When to take things from online to offline
This is going to different from person to person for sure, but if I am going to generalize my typical experience it would be:
Match on an app > talk on the app for 1-3 days > exchange numbers once it’s clear there’s some interest and then text for a day or two > then set up a date for sometime within the next week > meet IRL
(But let me just say, it’s pretty rare to get to the texting stage. Sometimes matches happen and neither person reaches out, or conversations end up dying after a message or two.)
I think there is definitely a balance of messaging/texting that needs to happen before setting up a date. For me, I want talk enough so that I feel like I have an initial sense of who they are and what they’re like. But I’ve also made the mistake of texting way too much before a date and regretting it. One time, a guy started sending me random photos of his nephew and I was like… why are you sending these to me?! This feels strange. I don’t know you well enough to be getting random photos of your nephew.
One last thing I’d like to note here. It’s ok to do a little stalking. Look ‘em up on Insta, LinkedIn, whatever floats your boat. You should make sure that this person is who they say they are. I’ve never encountered a fake/catfish profile, but I have friends who have.
UP NEXT ON ANOTHER BLOG POST:
First Dates and Other Dating Questions
Alright folks, this is a LONG ASS blog post. We covered a lot! So I think I’m going to sign off and save part two for another time.
Let me know your thoughts in the comments below, and definitely share any questions around dating that you’d like me to cover in part two!