I Tried Every Single Dating App–and Here's What I Learned
There was a time I was totally against downloading a dating app. Despite You’ve Got Mail being one of my favorite movies of all time, the thought of meeting my potential S.O. online felt unnatural, uncomfortable, and a little scary. Unless T-Hanks was going to IM me and tell me about his love for freshly sharpened pencils, I was not game. But then, I moved to Manhattan.
The city’s notoriously soul-crushing dating scene, combined with a few more years of wisdom, and a few more painful and unsuccessful conversations with dudes at bars convinced me to give online dating a go. Plus, I’m a millennial and interacting with people on the Internet in some way, shape, or form is a daily occurrence, so the antiquated taboo wore off quickly.
But this isn’t one of those stories where I tell you I downloaded one little app, swiped twice, and, to quote Tom Hank’s character Joe Fox, found “the one single person in the world who fills your heart with joy.” Whether it’s been because of a friend’s suggestion, trying to up my odds, or pure frustration with not getting messages back, I’ve downloaded and used a plenty of apps! So when the InStyle team was looking for volunteers to write a real-life, first-person review of dating apps, well… I guess we had a match. Read on for my findings:
I’m going to assume I don’t need to introduce the concept of Tinder and its reputation to you. Obviously, I know people who've met their hookups on this app, but I also know people who've met on it and are now in serious (and lovely!) relationships. Tinder is what you make of it, but you do have to weed through a lot of people because you can only sort by age and location. I first downloaded the app about four years ago. While it might have changed since I’ve used it, I had a lot of nasty comments or “Wanna come over?” messages sent to me in the wee hours of the morning. I went on at least five horrible dates (like with the guy who told me my pictures weren’t doing me any favors) and a few amazing dates (like with the guy who I ended up seeing for close to six months). I’m not a fan of the swiping, or the unsolicited comments on my body, so eventually I retired it as an option.
I heard about this app from a friend who described it as “basically, kind of like meeting someone in real person.” Happn connects you with people that you’ve crossed paths with once or even multiple times. It’s like a digital interpretation of what could happen if you finally talk to the guy that’s always in front of you at the coffee shop. If you both like each other, you can start a conversation. Seems cute, but I personally found this app a little stalker-ish. Someone, theoretically, could see exactly where we’ve crossed paths, and I don’t know if I’m about strangers knowing my exact whereabouts. Also, because I have data on the subway, I was crossing people’s paths underground on the 3 train while they were outside above ground getting a bagel. I deleted it within a week without going on any dates because I got scared. I’ve watched enough Lifetime movies to know how this turns out.
I was all for Bumble when it first came out. An app that gives women the power to start the conversation, hopefully eliminating the sexist comments to my inbox? Yes! You swipe just like you would with Tinder, there’s a tiny bio section, and it’s location and age-based as well. You both have to match to chat, but only the girl can start the conversation. I went on quite a few dates from Bumble, but nothing serious ever came from it. While my dates were overall decent, and I met a lot of cool, interesting people, it didn't make me feel in control. I messaged a lot of guys that never ended up responding back, and it honestly started to hurt my self-confidence. I felt like I was making way more of an effort than my male counterparts. I rate it higher than Tinder, but I definitely didn't like it as much as I thought I would.
File this under the more “exclusive” dating apps. To use the free version, you have to be invited to join or added to a waitlist to go through a vetting process and then you’re accepted. When I joined the waitlist, I was around number 37,000. It’s connected to not only your Facebook, but also your LinkedIn (but it remains private, so you don’t have to worry about your boss finding out) and is marketed as being to app that lets you "date intelligently" and caters to your "high standards." You can get uber specific, like if you only want to date guys with the same education level and religion. The list moves, but not quickly. I had it for about a month and still was at about 33,000. You can move up the list if a friend who is already a member refers you. That got me to number one on the list, believe it or not. But then I was number one for three weeks ... Sorry, but if that’s still not enough to join your bougie dating app, I’m not interested. I deleted it before getting accepted.
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Coffee Meets Bagel
I have a friend who met her serious boyfriend on this app, and I had only ever heard good things about it. When four people say something along the lines of, "Oh, my best friend’s sister met her guy on that app," sadly, you get excited. I found this way less daunting than the endless swiping that Bumble and Tinder present. Each day, a guy is given 21 "bagels" to like or pass. Women then receive a selection of bagels based on who’s already shown interest or "liked" their profile. I think I had about seven guys to choose or pass each day. If you don’t start a convo within about a week, the connection expires and you get reminders urging you to chat. I liked that I didn’t have FOMO about not swiping because my selections were already given to me. It also has a built-in monetary system called "beans," so you can buy coffee beans to like more bagels if you so choose. I went on a few really nice dates, but no sparks. While I don't use it anymore, overall I give it a B+ and would totally suggest it to friends.
When I first moved to the city, this app only connected you with friends of friends on Facebook. I don’t have a ton of friends on FB and went to a rather small college, so this truly limited my matches. When I re-downloaded it about two years later, however, I found a completely different app. While it still uses Facebook, it doesn’t limit your matches. Now marketed as "The Relationship App," you’re given a specific about of my likes per day. But it’s not just liking photos. You have to fill out a full profile, answering questions that can help stir up conversation like "What did you want to be when you grow up?" or "What are you currently reading?" You can like and comment on someone’s answer, and the same goes for pics. If you connect, you can keep on chatting. I don’t have anything bad to say about this app and have been suggesting it to all my friends, too.
To put it very bluntly, I’m not a fan of this app at all. I like having a profile feature, but this was a little extensive. I didn’t like that anyone could message you without matching, and I never connected with anyone I shared interests with. I used to hear about this app and how successful it was at making matches when I was in college, but to me, it’s seen its time—and that was 2010. Plus, the one date I went on from it wasn’t fabulous. But hey, maybe it’ll go through a makeover like Hinge?
While I think seven is a substantial list, I know there's a ton of other apps out there designed for you to meet your someone special, and they get a hell of a lot more specific than both liking baseball. Seriously, ever heard of Farmer's Only?