How to Actually Get Dates on Dating Apps

Many of us have caved on using dating apps in the last five years or so, frustrated with the lack of connections we’re finding in “the real world.” We may be frustrated to find we’re having a hard time there, too — it feels like we don’t get any matches, or not the ones we want, or once we do, no one even talks to each other. What’s the secret?
While there’s no magic formula, and we can’t control others’ actions or decisions to match with us or not, there’s a lot you can do to make your dating app experience as effective and successful as possible. Here’s where I’d start:

Decide what you want

If you’ve been on dating apps for longer than five minutes, you’ve seen some variations on the phrase “I’m not even sure what I’m looking for…” or “Don’t know what I expect from this…” If you do nothing else differently in your approach to dating apps, make sure you don’t do this.
Making intentional decisions about romance and dating is hard — figuring out what we want, and what that would look like in a relationship, is a lifelong project. You don’t need to have the entire rest of your life planned out or know what you want to buy your future partner for an anniversary gift, but if you can’t name what you’re looking for in a dating context, then you also can’t have any realistic expectation of getting it. And even if your absolute dream person matched with you, if you have no ideas at all about what you want to happen with them and were hoping that a relationship would somehow develop with no input from you, then you’d be out of luck anyway.

Are you looking for a serious relationship — even a marriage? Are you looking to hook up or casually date? Are you nonmonogamous or polyamorous and hoping to find another/new partner? If so, how would they fit into your life and current relationship? It’s okay to be open to more than one possibility — for instance, maybe you’re looking for a fun summer fling but are open to it becoming more serious if it feels right — but your dates need to know what they can expect to be on the table with you.
Make sure your profile has the information that matters

What you’re looking for is arguably the most important thing you can include in a dating profile, but there’s a lot of other information that makes a huge difference in how people think about your dating app presence.
Imagine you’re on a job hunt — you want to find a career you feel solid in and can stay in for years, maybe even forever, but right now you’re at the stage of sending out dozens of applications to dozens of jobs and maybe interviewing with a few of them.

You find two job postings in your field that seem promising at a glance: when you look at the first, it has a detailed breakdown of job responsibilities, expected time commitment, salary range, what qualities the committee is prioritizing in applicants, an explanation of company benefits and PTO policies, and when you can expect to hear back from them with a response. The second job just says, “We’re looking for rockstars who are ready to commit to an exciting opportunity with a team that works hard and plays hard.”

Which one are you applying to?

The latter example is functionally what you’re doing when you create a dating app profile that’s just 2-3 similar selfies and a bio that says something like “Not sure what I’m looking for on here — I’m just a fun and laid-back person who likes music and spending time with friends.”
While it may feel like you’re being rejected or are unappealing when you don’t get matches with a profile like this, the reality is likely that people aren’t finding anything in your profile that they can connect with, because it’s so general and vague. They have no way of knowing if you’re someone they’d like to go on a date with or not, because they know nothing about you at all; certainly nothing pertinent to how you are as a partner.

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