I have a love / hate relationship with dating apps. In fact I have a love / hate relationship with dating.
I love the idea of dating: the anticipation; the optimism I feel that I might actually meet someone interesting; the potential for a couple of months of excitement and butterflies that you get in the early stages of a relationship.
I hate the fact that dating is so often disappointing. I hate the moment when you see your date approach your pre-arranged meeting point and you know, within seconds, that you don’t fancy him, and that the next hour or so could be torturous.
I hate dating apps. They really suck, but you’d be forgiven for believing that I love them if you knew the amount of time I spend swiping (usually left).
Let me give you a tour of the five dating apps that I have had on my phone in the last six months or so.
Tinder (Score : 3/10)
Tinder is infamous. It is commonly known as a hook-up app. In fact I was in a meeting at work a couple of months ago and somehow, don’t ask me how, the conversation progressed to dating apps. My boss informed the room that Tinder was “a dating app for those who just want sex. It is the heterosexual equivalent of Grindr.” I decided not to mention that I had Tinder on my phone; probably not a wise admission for anyone seeking a half decent performance appraisal.
My boss is wrong. Tinder isn’t just about sex and hook-ups. I have had a few Tinder dates and neither me nor my dates were there to hook up. One of my Tinder dates informed me that in Los Angeles (where he had been living for eighteen months) people use Tinder as a social app; an app for those who want to make new friends but want neither sex nor a relationship. I am not sure how true this is, but I nodded approvingly.
Tinder is free and is really simple to use. It links to Facebook, from which it takes your photos and you can have an account up and running in less than a minute. If you live in a big city like London, you could probably spend 24 hours swiping and still not run out of potential dates. You can waste hours, literally hours, and you could probably get some pretty severe repetitive strain injury from all of the swiping too.
The opportunities are endless, and so, I’m afraid, are the bare chested men, the sedated tigers, the men astride motorbikes, the occasional dick pic and the photos that were probably taken a decade ago.
I am British, a prude, and for better or for worse, I have the stereotypical British stiff upper lip. After the my boss’ proclamation that Tinder users just want sex I deleted Tinder.
E-harmony was around seven years ago when I was last dating. At that time though it was just a website rather than an app. I now have the app version on my phone and have paid an annual subscription (about £35 a quarter).
I am not a fan of e-harmony and wish I hadn’t committed such a huge amount of money. The app feels clunky, messy and old fashioned.
You get more detailed profiles on e-harmony than on any other app. You feel that, if someone bothers to fill their profile out, you might actually get to know something about them.
The problem is that detailed descriptions and lengthy paragraphs don’t lend themselves to smartphones. I don’t bother reading. I am as superficial as everyone else on a dating app and I will make a decision based on the photo. If a potential match passes the photo test then I might read the blurb, but then again, I might not.
The most depressing thing about e-harmony is the activity page. The activity page tells you when someone has added a new photo to their profile or updated their blurb, or sent you a smile (an utterly pointless feature on this app). The activity page also tells you when someone has viewed your profile.
The activity page is depressing because there is NO ACTIVITY on e-harmony. Nothing happens. People pay their subscriptions, but when nothing happens they ignore the app. They don’t delete their profiles because they’ve paid a subscription, they just don’t bother checking in.
As you can probably tell, I am more than a bit annoyed about the money I’ve wasted on my e-harmony subscription.
This is the most recent dating app download onto my phone. I really want to like this app. It is clean. It looks smart. I like the frog with a crown on its head.
Once, as the name might suggest, pings you one potential match every 24 hours. At midday every day you receive your ‘match’. A digital clock counts down the hours, minutes and seconds until you receive your next match.
It took me a while to realise that, unlike on Tinder for example, a ‘match’ isn’t actually a ‘match’ until you both ‘like’ each other. Your ‘match’ then becomes a ‘connection’ and you can start chatting…apparently.
I say apparently because, in the two weeks or so that I have been on this dating app, I haven’t had a ‘connection’. This is partly because I decline quite a few of the ‘matches’ pinged in my direction, and those that I don’t decline clearly decline me.
When I first signed up to Once the connections page merely said “No connections yet!”. It now says “But don’t worry there’s someone out there for you…” Hmmm ????
Unlike most dating apps, Once is not purely based on algorithms. There are apparently real humans in their offices, playing God (or maybe Satan) and trying to match us up. I have an image in my head of rows and rows of ‘match-makers’ sitting in front of their apple macs desperately trying to match us all up. In my head the match-makers have my picture up on the wall under a title “the undateables”, “the unmatchables”, the “not a hope in hell”.
Once is a new app and it is really pushing for dating app dominance. Almost everyday there is some new functionality, a new offer, a new opportunity to spend some money. I can pick my ‘match’ for tomorrow (if I pay £1). I can get another ‘match’ instantly rather than waiting until midday tomorrow (if I pay £1). I can send a message to a ‘match’ before a ‘match’ becomes a ‘connection’ (if I pay £1, although I suspect that the recipient would also have to spend a £1 to read my message). I can pay for my own personal matchmaker and can chat through my own personal preferences (I suspect this would cost more than £1). In a nutshell, I can spend an absolute fortune and still not get a ‘connection’.
I really want to like this app, but I fear that if I let myself have a love affair with Once I will soon be bankrupt.
Coffee meets Bagel (3/10)
I think this app is big in the US. In many ways, Coffee meets Bagel is similar to Once. Coffee meets Bagel is supposed to send you one ‘bagel’ a day. A ‘bagel’ is essentially a profile of a potential match. You then have 24 hours to decide whether you want to ‘like’ or ‘pass’ on your bagel. If you like your ‘bagel’ and they have also liked you, you’ll connect, meaning that you’ll be able to message one another in a private chat. I found that I received four or five ‘bagels’ each day (I couldn’t work out why) but that I really didn’t like any of them. I have to say that after that I just got a bit bored.
Then my I-phone was running out of memory. I sacrificed my Coffee meets Bagel download. I think I’ll survive.
Bumble ( 7/10)
And last, but not least, is Bumble. Bumble looks and feels like Tinder. You swipe right if you like him, left if you don’t. There is still a lot of swiping left.
When I first downloaded Tinder a friend of mine told me that ‘Tinder etiquette’ dictated that women should not message first. I got loads and loads of matches on Tinder but weeks would pass without a conversation. Men are rubbish when it comes to messaging.
On Bumble the woman always makes the first move, and if you don’t say something to a new connection within 24 hours, that connection disappears forever. This means that you don’t get so many dick pics on Bumble (although I have had one – totally unsolicited I can assure you). It also means that you don’t get hundreds of matches and no conversation.
If you pay an extra £1.99 a month you can upgrade your Bumble account so that you can see who has already swiped right on your profile, thereby indicating that they like you. This means that you don’t have to spend hours swiping without receiving any matches.
Each day I get a couple of dozen men who have swiped right on my profile. If I swipe right on them I get a match instantly. This is much more efficient for the time poor.
Now, logic dictates that this business model only works if the majority of Bumble users do not pay the £1.99 subscription each month. If we all waited for someone else to swipe right first then none of us would ever get any matches.
Do you have any dating app recommendations? How do you find the dating world in 2016?