A pragmatic guide to the proper use of Tinder (and similar apps)

Why use Tinder at all?

Well, if you don’t feel Tinder has anything to offer, good for you. As for me, as long as I can generate dates with interesting women while sitting on the toilet, I won’t delete this app.

TL:DR It’s still all about your photos. Plus maybe a couple of things you weren’t aware of.

Also, this is from a heterosexual single man’s perspective. I don’t offer any experiences beyond that.

(Very basic) mistake Nr. 1

I base my chances of positive interactions with attractive women on the gorgeous profiles I see on Tinder.

In reality, Tinder subconsciously raises your expectations. Close to zero of the women shown in the app are interested in you and a match doesn’t necessarily mean at all that much. There is a faint analogy between using Tinder and consuming pornography — both provide visual stimulation and variation. Be aware of that when evaluating the utility of the app for you personally.

Honest mistake Nr. 2

I try to convey a realistic picture of myself, because “lies dont’t travel far”. I even compare my pictures to the low-quality snapshots of some women’s profiles.

In reality, Tinder is a fierce photo competition such that all of my photos have to be perfect quality. And they have to show me from my best angle. Otherwise no man, almost no matter how attractive, will stand a chance to get any match at all. Regarding your odds of a match, I guess the relative impact of your first photo is 80%. Show them your face clear and bright. You have nothing to hide. Your other photos contribute about 15%. Your bio and conversation skills make up for the last 5%. Yes, I made these numbers up. But it’s an honest estimate.

Humble mistake Nr. 3

I don’t think of myself as a top match and thus, on Tinder, I am intentionally targeting women “in my league” to increase my chances.

In reality, this works somewhat well when talking about age. Beyond the age filtering, Tinder doesn’t support any such strategy. It doesn’t matter where I place myself on a scale from 1 to 10, I always see all women and women see all men. If I don’t make it to 8, 9, or 10, I will barely find any matches. The app simply does not encourage anyone to ignore the top profiles and be motivated for mediocracy. This holds true for the real life, too: On Tinder, photo optimization pays. In real life, it pays to be aware of one’s specific strengths to find a partner who recognizes those. In contrast, if you try to simply find a less attractive partner because you think of yourself of less attractive, you make a big mistake.

Equality mistake Nr. 4

Men and women face the same challenges on Tinder. I, a 7 out of 10, thus expect to regularly match with women who are 7 out of 10.

In reality, as a rule men check out far more profiles than women do and they give out far more likes. Therefore, women have more than enough matches after only using the app briefly and won’t continue their search — even if they realize weeks after that none of there matches actually worked out for them. Men, in general, confidently choose women based on the photos. Looks are a sufficient criterion to decide to ask a girl out — maybe looking for a short-lived sexual encounter. A woman with a lot of matches does not necessarily have such a clear goal. Some women even might feel burdened by the existence of too many anonymous suitors.

Unreliable statistics mistake Nr. 5

Let’s say, on average I get one match after 20 minutes of swiping. Empirically, one of every five matches results in a date. Now I know how much time to spend on Tinder to keep my love life active, right?

In reality, the number of active users on Tinder varies considerably depending on hour of day, weekday, season, … . By swiping through the whole list of available candidates (requires paying for Tinder Plus) until there are no more profiles left, I learn at least how many women are currently active. If, e.g. after a quarantine, there is a surge of Tinder users among men and women, all the problems around the photo competition are aggravated: I see more beautiful women, my expectations go up — but the women also get to see more men. As a result, my profile is shown to less women. To actually get an idea of my current chances on Tinder, I would need to know the number of active men. This information is not directly available, however. Tinder deceives me about my actual odds.

Vanity metric mistake Nr. 6

It’s a match, I won half the battle!

In reality, a match — depending on how you use Tinder— doesn’t mean anything. If you give out likes liberally, you create yourself the task of weeding through your matches later on. If you don’t initiate contact, the Tinder algorithm devalues your profile. Thus ideally, I give a like if and only if I really want to get to know the woman based on her profile. In my experience, women often give likes without clear intent of getting to know that man. If I collect matches as sort of trophies, without sincere interest, the matches quickly lose their meaning entirely.

Desperate mistake Nr. 7

If I simply like all the profiles, I get some matches and I will find out how my profile performs.

In reality, this experiment doesn’t teach you that much. The Tinder algorithm punishes that strategy and pushes your profile further back. The number of your matches consequently goes down. If you combine that strategy with a boost, you will likely get relatively more matches short-term. There remains the problem, however, that you are testing your profile against a rather specific sample. There is the opposite strategy, where you routinely swipe through all available profiles every day to actually get a realistic estimate of your profile’s performance over a longer time span. Contrary to liking every profile, swiping through all available candidates is not a desperate strategy. It rather is the only way to maintain your odds constant while the number of your competitors varies. This way, you keep the number of actual matches relatively low and have all the reason to write with every single one of them and the number of actual dates that you get out of this is really meaningful.

Now, this is how you do it

So much about the mistakes. Now to the actual advice.

  • Never stop optimizing your photos: put your proud face first, follow-up with photos that show you doing things you like. Show off. Delete any photo that doesn’t show you in your brightest colors. There are dozens of guides out there for inspiration. This is from Tinder.com, the advice seems legit. This is on the extreme side, but I have no doubts that it works.
  • Pay for Tinder Plus and go through all the profiles at least once a day. It is a time-consuming activity, but, contrary to boosts and super-likes, it actually pays out and doesn’t drain your wallet.
  • Only give likes to women that you are actually interested in. Be picky. Given that you scan all available profiles, you will swipe left (i.e. no like) a lot, like 99% of the time.
  • Define a clear goal with any matches you get. I give likes only to women that I want to meet in person based on their profile. Thus, my conversation quickly leads to that very question: “How about having a coffee to get to know each other?” To me, an afternoon coffee is never something inappropriate to ask. Among my friends, some actually make longer conversations in Tinder or Whatsapp before the first date. I don’t judge, but it’s not my style. I am a bit on the extreme end of the spectrum though: In chat, I don’t give out compliments, I rarely make any jokes. My opening line is “Hi / how are you?” and after a bit of back-and-forth, I place the coffee question and I change to Whatsapp (order doesn’t matter).
  • Be real about what to expect. Giving out likes does not entitle you to a match or a date. Imagine you get only one match per week and one date per month–after having swiped 20 minutes daily — if that date goes well, it might well be worth all the effort you put in. A low number of matches does not imply you are low value. It’s just part of how the platform works. If you feel there is a better way to get to meet women, leave Tinder behind.

Some things that I tried but didn’t work for me.

  • Given that I am an Instagram user, contacting girls on Instagram seems interesting. Some girls provide their Instagram handle in their Tinder bio and you don’t even need a match. Great? I don’t know. Instagram has the added benefit that the girl might follow your stories. This way you keep in touch without any effort. However, my Instagram leads regularly don’t lead anywhere, really. I go from Tinder to Whatsapp to coffee and ignore Instagram completely.
  • “Use intelligent opening lines: Make a girl laugh, be flirty!” People share their funny Tinder moments as screenshots in the internet, so it must be true: men are winning girls over with funny lines. Only that it never worked for me. I distinctly remember making a girl laugh and thereafter engaging in a funny conversation. She enjoyed the conversation and responded actively for a while, but ultimately still didn’t want to meet me in person. (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻ Trying to be witty is also prone to misunderstandings and often enough achieves the opposite of what you intended.
  • Super likes: I don’t use them at all. My success rate on super likes is low, simply because my success rate on likes is low in general. Super likes obviously increase the response rate, but I feel I would need to spend a lot of money to get a significant impact. The same is true for boosts. And while we’re at it: forget about Tinder Gold. Tinder Platinum promises to put your profile first, which sounds like a great advantage. In practice, Tinder still requires its users to be active to show their profile. I believe, my strategy of intense daily swiping makes Tinder Platinum redundant.
  • Meet for sex: Some people think this is what Tinder is all about, an app for hook-ups or “one-night stands”. (Does anyone really like one-night stands?) I know people who invite their Tinder matches to their homes same night. Congratulations. I basically do the opposite: A coffee date on the afternoon and if that works out: concrete plans for the second date. This also means, if it’s Friday night and I am bored at home, Tinder won’t change that. In order to have a date on Friday, I need a match on Tuesday. If there is positive sexual tension early on, I still tend to establish my rhythm, even if that implies to slow things down. I have standards, too, you know?

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