10 Tips About Online Dating from a Former Tinder User

One aspect of college that I’ve always been skeptical of is online dating. As a first year, I knew next to nothing about online dating apps such as Tinder and Bumble. I’d heard tidbits of conversations about them in the dining halls and knew they involved swiping left or right, but other than that I didn’t understand the appeal of them. Aren’t we always warned about the dangers of talking to strangers through the internet? This worry prevented me from making an account during my first year, even though I’d thought about it a few times.

When I came back to Mount Holyoke last September at the start of my sophomore year, I’d had a slight change of heart. Although I was still uncertain about how reliable the app was, I decided to test out Tinder and see what came out of it. I wasn’t looking for anything too specific, I just wanted to get a feel for the process of online dating.

Shortly after making a Tinder account, I realized how easy it was to get into the habit of using the app. It felt incredibly foreign to me to look at a guy’s profile and then decide whether I liked him or not based on a short biography and a few photos. I’m not someone who likes to judge a book by its cover, but that’s exactly what Tinder wants you to do. And so I spent a few weeks or so swiping through college guys who appeared on my feed. It’s embarrassing to admit how distracted I got sometimes while using Tinder; it’s one of those effortless tasks that consumes your free time without you being aware of it.

A few weeks or so after creating my Tinder account, I ended up matching with and messaging a handful of guys. Some of them were friendly to talk to, others not so much. But I wasn’t too surprised, since Tinder doesn’t have a reputation of helping people form serious, long-term relationships. Nevertheless, I was determined to match with someone who wanted to talk and get to know one another.

As of right now, I’m taking a hiatus from online dating in order to focus more on my academics and myself. Before my break, though, I met four of my Tinder matches in person. As cliche as it sounds, all of these dates were life-changing experiences. Surprisingly, I found that there were benefits to meeting these guys, which is something I never would have expected before. Although I did not end up staying with any of them, all four of them left me with some new thoughts on dating, forming relationships, and just life in general.

I want to share these in case someone else who’s struggling with online dating stumbles upon this article. If you’re feeling frustrated, confused, or just plain old lost about how to deal with Tinder and similar apps, don’t worry! You are definitely not the only one.

Just so you know, these are tips I’ve compiled are based on my personal experiences with Tinder and may be very different from your own. You might disagree with some of these, and that’s okay! But I hope these end up being helpful to others who have been having trouble trying to date through these apps!


1. Get to know some information about the person you’re talking to before meeting them in person.

I think this was the biggest takeaway I got from going on Tinder dates. It’s really nerve-wracking going to spend time with someone you’ve never met before! And what makes it worse is when you know next to nothing about them aside from their name and age. If you’re messaging someone and really like them so far, don’t be afraid to ask them some questions! The questions don’t have to be anything too personal. I usually asked about basic background information like what school they go to, their major(s), activities of interest, and hometown. Even just knowing small facts about someone can help you feel more at ease when you meet them face to face for the first time.


2. Be open and friendly, but not too open and friendly.

It’s a great thing to share aspects of yourself with someone else, but be careful to not overwhelm them. It’s a fine line: you want to let the other person know you’re trustworthy and nice, but you also want them to know you’re not just an open book. My advice is to try and talk about things you both have in common that aren’t too personal: college life, your interests, your areas of study, etc. It’ll help you get an idea of what they’re like without intruding on their privacy.


3. Don’t blame yourself if things don’t work out between you two.

Disappointment is an awful feeling, especially in the context of a potential relationship. It’s easy to automatically blame yourself when things don’t go the way you had hoped. You have this long trail of worrying thoughts that consume your mind no matter how hard you try to ignore them. I completely understand how difficult it is to pull yourself out of this cycle of self-blaming, but I’m telling you now it’s not worth the energy. Instead, focus on finding someone else to meet and connect with. If things were meant to progress between you and the first person, they would have. Try to remember that when you’re feeling upset! I promise with time it will hurt less, and in years from now it’ll be insignificant.


4. If you’re not feeling a connection, let them know as soon as possible.

Leading someone on is never a smart thing to do. It’s hurtful to both people involved, and generally leads to a worse reaction the more time that passes. I’ve been both the person to end things and the person who is rejected. If you’re not feeling a spark between you and your date, do yourselves a favor and let them know sooner rather than later. I know it’s difficult turning someone down, but it’s worse to let them get their hopes up only to later be rejected. Be sure to do it in a polite and friendly manner so they know you’re doing so out of respect!


5. Be safe and smart about where and when you’re going to meet.

This tip seems sort of obvious, but it’s important! If you’re going on a first date with someone, plan to meet during the day in a public space. If anything were to go wrong, it would be good to have plenty of people around as witnesses. Also, your mind is more alert during the day than at night. You can pick more interesting places if you continue to date, but for a first-time meeting be safe when choosing a location.


6. Try to relax and be yourself-- don’t pretend to be someone else in order to impress.

I know it can be tempting to try and mold into another person if you and your date are struggling to find common ground. But even though pretending to like certain things, or acting a certain way will work for a little while, soon enough your true self will shine through. Just be yourself when meeting someone! If things are meant to happen with them, it’ll be because they were drawn to you, not someone you’re trying to be. You have plenty of good qualities; let them show!


7. Allow yourself to make mistakes.

Whether it’s showing up late to a date, accidentally spilling a drink on your outfit, or saying something that came out the wrong way, everyone makes mistakes at some point. And it makes sense in this context! Going on a date is stressful. And while it’s embarrassing to make mistakes in front of someone you’re trying to impress, it’s also necessary to make them. If you slip up, you’ll improve the next time. Life is all about making mistakes and learning from them. Don’t worry about being perfect on a date! Your date is probably just as nervous as you are.


8. Don’t let your heart stay hurt: focus on making it feel better.

Heartache is an awfully painful and unique experience. Before this year, I’d only ever read about heartache in books so it felt like one of those things I’d never experience myself. There aren’t really any words I can find that accurately describe how it feels to be rejected, or beyond hurt by someone. If you’re going through it now, I think the best thing to do is keep yourself busy so your mind is occupied with other tasks: work on a project, write that paper you’ve been putting off for a few days now, make plans to watch a funny movie with your close friends. Making a to-do list everyday helped me feel better about everything, as did time. It’s such an old saying, but I’ve found it to be true: time heals pain. The more time that passes, the more faded painful memories will become.


9. Don’t say or do anything that makes you feel even the slightest bit uncomfortable.

If your date asks you to do something you don’t feel comfortable doing, let them know. Dating involves respecting other people’s comfort zones, and if your date is violating yours, they’re not being decent or respectful. If it happens once or twice, maybe you can talk it through with them but if they’re repeatedly asking you to do things you don't want to, don’t continue seeing them. If they truly wanted to be in a relationship with you, they would be considerate and listen to you.


10. Look forward to meeting new people and forming new connections.

Despite all of the warnings I’ve posted above, also be sure to enjoy yourself! Even if you don’t develop a romantic connection with the people you meet, you can now say you’ve met more people in life and have formed some sort of relationship with them. A lot of online dating apps are used by college students for flings, but I honestly liked talking to the people I matched with just to get to know new people. Online dating can be tricky and tiring, but it can also be exciting and fun when you match with the right people. So don’t be afraid to just message someone in a friendly, platonic manner! You might end up having one of the most interesting conversations of your life.

While not every aspect of online dating was ideal for me, meeting new people really expanded my thoughts on online dating and taught me new things about how to socialize with people. I hope these tips were helpful and relatable for anyone else out there who is taking a stab at meeting someone through a dating app! Got any more tips? Feel free to share them in the comments section with us!


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