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21 Online Dating Tips from an Expert (& Women Who Met Their Spouses on ‘The Apps’)

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In a perfect world, your future husband would save you from getting hit by a UPS truck as you struggle to free your Gucci slingback from a sewer grate. You’d tumble into each other’s arms and then he, a surgeon (back from a Doctors Without Borders trip, naturally), would gaze into your eyes and fall deeply in love. But you’re not J.Lo, and Matthew McConaughey is married—sorry, ladies. Instead of the rom-com of our dreams, this is real life, where finding a partner out in the wild is as rare as finding those Gucci slingbacks on sale. Instead, so many people are connecting via dating apps that they’re actually the number one way couples meet, according to a Stanford University study.

While this gives us hope, we know that navigating the World Wide Web of dating sites can be overwhelming and frustrating, to say the least. That’s why we reached out to Logan Ury, Hinge’s Director of Relationship Science, plus 11 women from all over the country who were able to do it successfully, for their best online dating tips. Their wisdom, below.

Meet the Expert

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1. Don’t Post Overly Filtered Photos

When it comes to a dating app profile, photos are truly worth a thousand words—or more. They’ll give a potential match an idea of what you look like and your personality, so choose your images wisely. Ury advises ditching accessories that’ll put guesswork into the game. Say goodbye to filters, sunglasses and group shots—at least when it comes to the lead photo. “For the all-important first photo, start with a clear headshot,” she says. “Include a mixture of different types of photos, including at least one full-body shot, one that shows you doing an activity you love and one with your friends or family.”

2. Make It Easy to Start a Conversation

“Your Hinge profile is a chance to show who you are. You want to use this space to tell your story,” Ury tells us. If you don’t put in much effort, you’re not giving prospective matches much to work with in terms of starting a conversation. “Think of your profile as your opening line—something your match can respond to or ask a follow-up question about. For example, if you include pictures of you kayaking or [information] about cooking, that’s a great entry point for someone to get into a conversation with you.”

3. Skip the Small Talk

We get it—small talk feels easy and safe. But that’s not how you’re going to make a meaningful connection with someone. To do that, you’ll have to be comfortable with the idea of vulnerability. Ury recommends sharing information that’ll help a potential match really get to know the whole you. "Your profile should be an extension of your personality, so lean in to both your silly side and your more serious one. You’re not just one thing. Regularly refreshing you profile with new information about yourself will help you get more matches and likes.”

4. Avoid the “Beige Flags”

Red flags, green flags...in Seussical fashion, there are also beige flags, which, according to Ury, are the cliché answers that guarantee you won’t stand out. "A great profile includes unique, personal responses that will help you catch someone’s attention. For example, don’t respond to the prompt ‘I’m overly competitive about…’ with ‘everything.’ Or for the prompt ‘You’ll know I like you if…’ don’t give the overused answer: ‘If I invite you to meet my dog.’ Use this precious real estate to stand out and make a great first impression.”

5. Know the Red Flags

Some red flags are obvious, but others are more subtle, making them hard to catch when you’re trying to convince yourself that someone might be the one. But, as Ury reminds us, anyone who is treating you like an option (not a priority), making you question their interest and who thinks they aren’t ready for a serious relationship is probably not a good fit. “Instead, go for green flags—someone who’s a great communicator, honest about their intentions and makes you feel your best,” she says.

6. Ask Questions

Witty banter and one-liners are fun, but hardly anything of substance. “Great connections start with great conversations. The best way to establish a powerful connection is to ask questions,” Ury notes. "To get past the small talk, you can ask questions like ‘What’s something that makes you lose track of time?’ or ‘What’s your go-to pump-up song?’ Research shows asking personal and thoughtful questions is the best way to get to know someone.”

7. Know How to Unmatch Without Ruffling Feathers

Have a feeling the match isn’t going to work out? That’s OK—not everything does. But it can feel awkward when you want to end the conversation. How do you do it without ruffling feathers? Ury suggests being straightforward and not leaving them hanging. “People will appreciate it if you’re upfront and honest about how you feel. One way to make this easier is to have a go-to message you can send when needed. Go to the notes folder on your phone and save this template that can be customized to the person: ‘Hey [name], I enjoyed meeting you, but I don’t think we’re a romantic match.’ Commit to sending this as soon as you know you’re not interested in someone. Be firm but kind, and most of all, don’t ghost!”

8. Give It Some Time (Even If it Feels Like There’s Not a Ton of Spark)

The movies make it seem like a lifelong relationship happens in an instant. You catch each other's eyes and fall in love. Your hands brush, and there’s a jolt of electricity. In the real world, though, falling in love can take time. “Remember that some of the best connections come from a slow burn rather than a spark,” Ury reminds us. “Give someone a chance, even if you don't feel that initial chemistry. One in three Hinge users shared that it takes them until the second or third date to know if they are compatible with someone. Some of the best relationships are between people who didn’t initially feel the spark but grew to like each other more and more over time.” 

The Do’s for a Successful In-Person Meetup

Taking a relationship offline comes with a whole new set of jitters. Here are Ury’s tips for a successful in-person meetup. 

1. Share Something Personal

“So often, we stay at the shallow end of the pool on dates. Where are you from? How long have you lived here? What do you do? But 93 percent of Hinge daters prefer to date someone who’s emotionally vulnerable,” she shares. “Real connection comes from real vulnerability. That means sharing what’s going on for you in your life. Go to the deeper end by talking about a hobby or topic you’re passionate about, something you have learned that’s changed your perspective or something that challenged you this week. Your date will appreciate your candor and the conversation will be more memorable.”

2. Don’t Be Afraid to Be Silly

Laughter is a great diffuser for a reason. According to Ury, the action lowers the stress hormone cortisol, enabling us to relax. “Laughter also creates a dopamine hit, activating our brain’s pleasure centers. It reinforces our behavior and makes us want to go back for more. All good things for a first date: more bonding, less stress and an improved chance of a second date.”

3. Focus on Them

You want to make a good impression—who doesn’t? However, Ury reveals that you might actually enjoy yourself more if you put the focus on your date rather than yourself. “If you only focus on yourself and worry about how you’re coming across, you’ll have a less enjoyable time and miss out on important cues from them. Instead, focus on your date and be as present as possible. The more you can shift your attention to them, the more relaxed you’ll feel and the better you’ll come across.”

The Don’ts for a Successful In-Person Meetup

With the list of do’s comes a list of don’ts. Here are two things you should avoid, according to Ury.

1. Don’t Overanalyze Everything

A wise man (Mr. Darcy) once said, “A lady’s imagination is very rapid; it jumps from admiration to love, from love to matrimony in a moment.” He might have been on to something. How many of us have jumped from the first date to envisioning a wedding? We just want to know if it’s going to work out. Fair, but in the case of first dates, you’re better off keeping a simple goal in mind: Get to know them. “The point of the first date is not to decide if you want to marry this person. It’s to create connection, have an experience together and determine if you want to hang out again,” Ury reminds us. “If you sit through a date trying to evaluate the other person and your own reaction, your date can’t get a good sense of who you are, and you're unable to experience the moment, let alone enjoy it.”

2. Don’t Treat the Date Like a Job Interview

One thing job interviews definitely are? Jitter inducing. That’s the last thing you want on a date, so don’t grill each other. "Flirt, be present and focus on building a connection,” Ury says.

Advice from Women Who Found Their Spouses on Dating Apps

1. Look for Someone Who Makes It Convenient for You

“Wait for the one who goes out of the way for you. For instance, for our first date, Joey made sure to pick a place near my apartment and at a time that made it easy for me. I was living on the Upper East Side at the time, and he lived all the way down in Hell’s Kitchen (which is New York for far). It showed me that he was interested in me and my life—and it felt so different from the standard ‘Hey, let’s meet up’ mentality that you usually find on dating apps—which led to four and a half years of marriage and a 19-month-old son.” —Amy D., 35, Bronx, New York

2. Cut Them Off If They’re Not Texting You Back 

“I’m divorced—after marrying pretty young—so it was mildly horrifying to try out dating apps for the first time in my late 20s. But I learned from that first marriage that I didn’t want to waste time on anyone who didn’t reach out often enough. I think going on dates is great, and you should go on dates if you’re interested in the person you’re messaging with, but if they don’t message you back in a timely way, just move on. Anyone who really wants to get to know you will make that obvious.” —Carra T., 29, Los Angeles

3. Kick Your “Type” to the Curb

“I would tell single friends to keep an open mind and don’t go for a certain ‘type.’ When I met my now-husband, I was swiping right on all the ultra-masculine, body builder types because, physically, that’s what I was into at the moment. You might think you’re only attracted to blonde guys with hair like Thor or that anyone shorter than 5'6" is out of the question. But my husband’s smile in his profile picture seemed so genuine and kind and it totally drew me in, so I gave him a chance and I’m so glad I did! We just got married in November.” —Megan K., 40, Lexington, Kentucky

4. Put the Apps Down While You’re on a Date with Someone Else

“In order to give a first date—or any date, really—a chance to blossom and grow into something real and meaningful, you need to turn off notifications on your dating apps so that you have no distractions while you’re with someone. You can’t be fully present on a date with one person while getting a new message from someone else.” —Amanda B., 37, Dallas

5. Go for the “Normal” Photo Guy Who Matches His Bio

“It’s so important to try to figure out who a person is instead of just focusing on someone because their picture would look great on the cover of GQ. My now-husband’s photos were very normal and not overdone like plenty others are. Instead of modeling headshots, he had regular pictures of him and his dogs (an apparent sign of trustworthiness) and a basic kitchen selfie. His bio was normal too; he doesn’t work out a crazy amount or go adventure hiking every single weekend. He eats pizza and drinks whiskey. I was sold!” —Lauren N., 31, Long Beach, California

6. Don’t Shy Away from Cultural Differences

“After four years of dating, three years or marriage and now with a baby on the way, I can say I’m glad I took a chance with online dating and with someone very different from myself. I went into it with an attitude of being open to and accepting of those differences, which weren’t small considering my family and I are from Rizal, a province just outside Manila in the Philippines, and Mike is from a big Italian family in New Jersey. But staying open to what made us different and teaching each other about our respective traditions and customs actually made us much closer than I anticipated.” —Dia M., 36, Somerset, New Jersey

7. Make a List of All the Things You’re Looking for in a Relationship

“You should know the answer to the ‘What are you looking for?’ question. I would never be the one to ask it and actually always thought it was a stupid question, but when my now-husband asked me that on Bumble after we had already been talking for a little while, he seemed like a really honest and straightforward guy (he is!), so I did tell him the truth that I was looking for someone serious about the future. Turned out, that was the answer he was looking for! So don’t be afraid to be honest and weed out the guys who are not serious—if that’s what you want. We got engaged after nine months and then married nine months after that and have been married for a little over a year.” —Alex P., 29, Manchester, New Hampshire

8. Make Sure Your Core Values Are Clear Up Front

“I was a little reluctant to try app-based dating and didn’t jump on the bandwagon till later in the game because my faith is very important to me and I didn’t know how I was going to filter out men who didn’t share that core value. I met Franz after two weeks of being on Bumble, and we decided to meet up for tacos after only talking on the app for a few hours because we were both very up front about our faith being a huge part of our lives. The advice I would give my fellow online daters is to make sure you are clear and honest about your big deal breakers, and to never sacrifice your core values and beliefs for anyone. Franz and I dated for almost three years after that, then got married just last month! We now live together with our cats, Tuna and Wasabi.” —Alexandra V., 28, Sacramento, California

9ths . Save the Interesting Conversation Points for Real-Life Dates

“My biggest successes with actual dates that I met on apps came by moving things from my phone into real life as soon as possible. Exchange a few messages to be sure you feel safe and are interested, but then come up with a plan to get to know each other in person quickly. A few times I spent weeks messaging or texting with someone I hadn’t met, and then by the time we did meet up, it felt like we had done all the getting-to-know-you questions online, and it inevitably fell flat. Something that immediately attracted me to my fiancé was that, after a couple of messages, he asked me out right away with a specific place and time. His decisiveness and clear intentions were refreshing. People can be so one-dimensional on apps. Giving someone the benefit of seeing the full picture in person is the best way to set yourself up for success.” —Megan G., 27, New York City

10. Take a Break

“Honestly, I think the number one thing is to keep trying but don’t be afraid to take breaks from online dating when you need it. I felt like I looked under every rock to find my husband and it was exhausting, so I had to step away for a week or so every now and then. The repetitiveness of all those first dates that were sometimes weird, uncomfortable or straight-up bad left me feeling jaded. I left quite a few bad dates! But I didn’t leave the date I went on with my future partner—we’ve been married a year now—because I gave myself time to regroup after the bad to appreciate the good.” —Jess A., 43, Baltimore

11. Talk to Your Friends About All Your Dating App Highs and Lows

“My advice for anyone who is wading, swimming or drowning in the online dating pool is that it’s more an ocean than a pool. Legit everyone’s doing it, and we should all be talking about it. Talk to your friends! Share your frustrations, your worries, your joys, the lows and ups, especially when it feels like a giant dead end because it’s hard to keep doing it when it gets discouraging. Talking about it is healthy—emotionally and mentally. Maybe someone you know is going through the same thing or has an ‘I can top that’ terrible date story that will make you laugh. The point is there’s a stigma around online dating that shouldn’t be there because this isn’t a novel concept anymore.” —Kailah B., 32, Albany, New York

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