When Emily Mosser, 23, was looking for single men her age, her friend suggested she try Tinder. It’s a mobile dating app you can use on your phone. It uses GPS technology so you can see profiles of singles nearby. Mosser, a teacher working in Indianapolis, used the app for a month and met her current boyfriend. That was in 2013.
“I liked Tinder because the only way you ever matched up with a person was if it was mutually agreed upon,” she says.
On Tinder, pictures of people appear, and with the swipe of a finger you can say "like" or "no thanks." The other person never knows if you don’t "like" or "reject" them. You only get notified if you both express interest. Then, you can send private messages or arrange a date all without swapping phone numbers.
“Once you became matched with someone, there was no pressure to do or say anything,” Mosser says.
As many as 11% of American adults have used an online dating site of some type, including Match, eHarmony, and OKCupid. Some sites use technology like GPS to match singles who are nearby, or video-chat features like FaceTime or Skype.
Not meeting potential dates through your friends? Online dating lets you branch out beyond your social circle as you search for a partner, says Paul Eastwick, PhD, assistant professor of human development and family sciences at the University of Texas in Austin.
Cut to the Chase
Tinder and other apps like Hinge, JSwipe, and Grindr don't ask users to create detailed personal profiles with information on profession, body type, or political views. Profiles include only a few photos, age, and a short self-summary. The apps generate profiles from users’ Facebook pages. You can upload photos. Plus, you can filter matches based on gender, age, and distance.
This process may seem superficial, but singles waste less time poring over lots and lots of data, Mosser says. “Whereas most dating sites have that pressure-filled moment when you create a profile, Tinder is much more relaxed.”
She says it worked for her because she could use it to plan to meet up for a casual meal, drink, or movie. “Tinder works for busy people, because it is what you make of it,” she says.
Mobile apps speed up the meeting process so singles can arrange a call or date quickly, Eastwick says. Too much information about a potential date may be distracting, he says.
“It is very hard to get a sense of personal chemistry from an online dating profile," he says. Dating apps that don't ask you to make a detailed profile "may save people a lot of wasted time and energy.”
Karen Levy, a 45-year-old pet-care entrepreneur in Atlanta, also likes the way Tinder allows users to make quick decisions. She also recently downloaded JSwipe, a similar app for Jewish singles.
“These apps are as close to organic dating as you can get without sitting at a bar,” Levy says. “The only information you get at a bar is really what they look like or what they are doing at that moment. Tinder gives you more, like their age. Tinder and JSwipe are fast tracking you to a date. It simplifies the process. If you are chatting [online] with people too long, you have too many expectations.”
While location and speed may be everything for some singles, other newer dating sites are narrowing the field in a different way. They match members based on shared ethnicity, religion, or background. These include:
ChristianMingle. The site’s banner includes biblical quotes and symbolism to attract Christian singles.
FarmersOnly. Using the tagline “City folks just don’t get it,” this site matches singles who live on rural farms or ranches.
Meld. This mobile app focuses on African-American singles, mimicking Tinder’s GPS technology.
OurTime. This site matches people 50 and older.
TimHop. This site focuses on singles with Asian backgrounds.
People who have strong political, theological, or social viewpoints tend to want to meet someone who falls in line with their views, says Misha ben-David, a rabbi and licensed counselor also based in Austin. But just because someone shares your politics or race may not mean you'll have chemistry, he says.
Eastwick says having these things in common with your date doesn't necessarily make it likelier that you'll be a good match or that you'll even be attracted to them when you meet in person. “That being said, there are certainly cases for some people where religion or race is a deal breaker,” he says.
Levy says she's willing to branch out beyond her religion. She’s used Jewish dating sites like JDate in the past, but is now open to looking for men who share her interests, if not her background.
“Jewish people may identify with other Jewish people based on shared experiences,” she says. “That was something I grew up with, but religion has become less important" than other things, like having a similar lifestyle.
Tip No. 1: Get Face to Face
However you contact a potential date, spend less time scrutinizing profiles and set up an in-person meeting to find out if you're compatible, ben-David says.
About 75% of communication doesn't involve talking, he says. Gestures, dress, and facial expressions may be better cues for chemistry than text messages. So “even if you communicate via Skype, body language is lost.”
Singles may project their own issues, needs, or feelings onto the images they see on profiles. When they meet in person, they may complain that the person doesn’t match the perception, says ben-David.
“It’s like our own internal movie screen and we project what we want to see,” he says. “We think, ‘Isn’t this person fabulous?’ But you are working with personas as opposed to actual people.”
Mobile dating was a convenient way for Mosser to meet men her age who lived nearby, she says. She either ignored or declined interest from men who said they were only interested in hook-ups, or casual sex. After a first date on Halloween with her current boyfriend, the couple spent a few weeks getting to know each other before making a serious commitment.
“We realized after meeting on Tinder that we actually knew a lot of the same people and had a lot of the same interests,” she says. “I don’t know where I’d be if I didn’t get the app. I’m very happy.”