In a fast-paced, technologically driven world, many singles are turning to the internet in hopes of finding the one. But while meeting new people is easier than ever before, the dating game has become even more complicated under the guise of convenience. With so many different options available, which dating app is best for long-term relationships, as opposed to casual flings (which are great in their own right)?
"Dating apps can be excellent resources to connect with people," says Dr. Stefani Threadgill, a sexologist, PhD, LMFT, and founder of The Sex Therapy Institute in Plano, Texas. "Most of us take the same commute to work [and] grab coffee or lunch at the same places every day. We are limited in our routines with new people to meet, especially in certain geographical areas such as rural areas or even the suburbs where the feel is 'everyone knows everyone.'"
It's true that online dating expands your search area exponentially, but it can also lead to sloppy etiquette, at-a-glance judgements, and a mentality of endless (and disposable) connections. So in today's day and age, how does a savvy woman wade through a sea of singles in order to find "the one"?
Ahead, relationship experts and real-life users speak candidly about their own experiences using some of today's hottest dating platforms. From swipe-style apps to lengthy profiles on popular matching sites, it's not just about what you use; it's how you use it. If you're ready to quit all your dating apps, read this first.
Look For Platforms That Encourage Detailed Profiles
If you've taken to the web to search for a soulmate, the first step is to pinpoint the platform(s) that best serves your needs. There are always exceptions to the rule, but generally speaking, apps that encourage snap judgements based on appearances tend to attract a more casual crowd, while in-depth profiles can indicate users looking for something more.
"With only photos and a few words, there's no way to know if the other person aligns with your values, interests, humor, worldview, etc.," points out Jennifer Gunsaullus, PhD, a sociologist and intimacy speaker, author of the new book, From Madness to Mindfulness: Reinventing Sex for Women. Based in San Diego, the 40-something relationship guru is a dating app user, herself. "I can't and won't use the Tinder-style apps. It personally doesn't feel like it's worth my time and I'm looking more for quality over quantity."
Instead, she recommends using platforms that encourage in-depth profiles, which can help weed out shallow connections. "There are sites that specifically cater to folks looking for long-term relationships, like eHarmony or Hinge. It's worth spending time on these and creating a profile (with feedback from male and female friends) that helps you attract the kind of person you're looking for."
Sonya Schwartz, a dating and relationship expert and founder of the dating blog Her Aspiration, agrees. "eHarmony, for instance, requires [users] to fill in a lengthy questionnaire that's too boresome for those looking for hookups, but inspires trust to those looking for marriage or long-term," says the 43-year-old from Plano, Texas. "Match also has a lengthier signup process that appeals to those interested in something serious. Badoo and Tinder are more 'bubbly'; they attract younger folks who're more interested in a casual thing or one-night-stand." (Now, to be clear, there's nothing wrong with wanting something less serious and non-committal. If that's your preference, swipe away!)
Make Your Intentions Known
Both experts and dating app users agree that sharing your intentions up front is key in narrowing your search. "If you're looking for a long-term relationship and find yourself really attracted to someone but they clearly state that they aren't looking for anything serious, move on," warns Dr. Gunsaullus. "Don't secretly hope that you'll change their mind because your connection feels so strong."
While you can certainly do this with any site or app, some are more conducive to revealing this information at a glance. "I always swipe left if someone’s just looking for 'something casual,'" says Ashli Campbell, a 30-year-old dating app user from Portland, Maine. When relationship preferences are clear from the get-go, "it removes the need for the awkward 'so what are you looking for on here?' conversation," she adds.
Of course, that initial honesty can lead to its own slew of frustrations. "Bumble now offers the ability to put 'labels' on your profile of what you’re looking for (i.e. relationships, flings, if you want kids ...)," explains Kayla Hockman, a 26-year-old publicist in Los Angeles who's tried several matching services. "At first glance, I thought it was a good idea, but [it] apparently only drives men away, according to two men I met on Bumble who gave me their unsolicited advice after seeing I had labeled myself as the 'relationship type.'" But discouraging as it may be, immaturity like this is not indicative of long-term relationship material.
Keep An Open Mind
It's a tough balance: On the one hand, it's important to be honest about what you're looking for in a partner, but become too picky, and you can miss a spark. In fact, it's one of the biggest online dating mistakes people tend to make.
"I call it the 'all the fish in the sea' syndrome," says Hockman. "Everyone has a database of 'all' the singles in [their immediate area] and it can be overwhelming, so people become incredibly picky, which usually gives you little to no luck. So [my] tip is: Be open for an unexpected match but don’t stress over [...] looking for someone possibly 'better.'"
Campbell seconds this advice. "Don’t narrow your focus to people with the same interests as you, or to the qualities or interests of your ideal mate," she suggests. "Instead, be open-minded. You may learn to enjoy things you never thought you’d do (like bird-watching, which I actually had a ton of fun doing [with an online date])."
Consider Whether Paid Subscriptions Are Worth It
Then, there's the matter of paid subscription services, which tend to offer in-depth features while (hopefully) discouraging more casual users. So, is it worth the money?
"Paid sites don’t ensure compatible interests or intentions from both parties involved," notes Dr. Threadgill. "That said, ‘the fish that you catch is a function of the bait that you use.’ It is my favorite piece of dating advice (I believe I heard it in a workshop given by David Schnarch at SMU in 2011)."
Hockman admits she's skeptical of whether it's worth shelling out cash to access profiles. "The thing is, I don’t want to pay for a database of men that seemingly may still only want to hook up," she says.
So, perhaps more important than deciding whether to sign up for a paid service is seeking one out that speaks to you. Does it ask questions you'd want to know about potential matches, and ones you'd like them to know about you? Are there sign-up requirements that might discourage anyone just looking for a one-night stand? Do you enjoy the features and overall user experience? If you find a platform that checks all these boxes and there's a fee to join, it might be worth it.
What These Ladies Really Think About These Popular Dating Apps
Naturally, not everyone will have the same user experience (yes, it's possible to find long-term love on Tinder), but these app users give their take on a few of today's most popular platforms.
Tinder: "Tinder seems to be mostly used for hookups and just sometimes for relationships. Sometimes people note 'no hookups' in their profile. On the other hand, I often see the phrase, 'Here for a good time, not a long time.'" — Campbell
OKCupid: "I used to love OKCupid for finding potential serious relationships. They were more inclusive than other dating apps and asked interesting questions, and once you answered enough of their weighted questions, their algorithm was so impressive. But a few years ago it was clear they started screwing around with their algorithm and then they moved to more of a Tinder-like swipe style. I no longer recommend this app like I used to, and I don't use it myself anymore." — Dr. Gunsaullus
Bumble: "The dating pool on Bumble is similar to that of Hinge. People are able to identify in their profile what they’re looking for, so it’s more often listed up front along with where they’re from, level of schooling, height, whether or not you want kids, etc. It makes it easy to swipe left or right." — Campbell
Hinge: "Hinge seems more balanced in terms of what people are looking for. I have seen more professionals in their 30s on Hinge than on Tinder." — Campbell
Match/eHarmony: "I found Match to be more suitable for casual dates and long-term relationships, whereas eHarmony works better for long-term commitments and marriage[seeking]." - Schwartz