Dating apps have forever changed how we meet people. Almost everyone is on Tinder, Bumble, or Hinge these days.
But are dating apps worth it?
We might now have access to an endless “buffet” of romantic options. But at the same time, at least in my social circle, happiness levels don’t seem to have increased.
Learn about the pros and cons of dating apps, what alternatives exist, and how you can become better at flirting with strangers.
Here are the pros of using dating apps.
Dating apps take the anxiety out of dating.
Instead of having to walk up to someone at a bar and risk getting rejected, you simply send someone a message. If they don’t respond — no harm done.
Also, because of the initial matching process, there is “probable cause.” You feel justified reaching out to this person, as they already matched you.
The fact that dating apps reduce anxiety primarily appeals to men. Even in the age of feminism, in most instances, it is still men who are expected to make the first move. But that also means they are the ones at risk of being rebuffed.
But is that a good thing?
I’m skeptical. I think it’s a good thing for men to overcome themselves and take a risk. And it is an even better thing to learn how to deal with rejection. Life is full of it.
When you resort to an easy way out like online dating, you rob yourself of that chance to develop that edge. You become dependent on the app.
Another thing that dating apps have going for themselves is that they provide a safe environment.
With an anonymous dating profile, there is almost no chance for someone to stalk you or physically harm you.
It also allows you to filter. If a suitor is acting weird or pushy, you can just sort them out right away, without ever having to meet them.
The fact that dating apps reduce risk primarily appeals to women. Because they are less physically strong than men, they are the ones at risk of being overpowered by an aggressor.
So, that’s a pro, right?
Again, I am not so sure.
You can’t hide behind your screen forever. There are sexual predators out there, and sooner or later, you will come in contact with them.
Who do you think will be able to better deal with them? The overprotected child-woman? Or the shrewd adult who has dealt with this kind of situation before?
A major pro of dating apps is convenience.
In the past, you would have to get ready first, then drive somewhere, and then spend hours at a loud bar surrounded by a bunch of drunk people.
Now, you can sit on your couch in your pajamas while starting an interaction.
Dating apps make it easier for people with hectic lives to meet someone.
You can just take out your phone between meetings and swipe left or right for 10 minutes. Stuck in line at the supermarket? Check out what Bumble has to offer until it’s your turn.
Also, you can filter more efficiently for no-nos. If you know that you would never date a smoker or a non-vegetarian, the app won’t show these people to you.
This will spare you a lot of pointless in-person interactions.
Dating apps create less awkwardness.
If you are on a date with somebody and you just realized they are doing nothing for you, it can be tricky to let them down. They are right there in your face.
With a dating app, because of the physical distance, that’s much easier. You just send them a quick text, done. If you want to, you can also block them. You don’t need to deal with their accusations.
And, let’s be honest, many people don’t even bother with that. They will just ghost the other person. It might not be the nice thing to do, but it certainly is convenient.
It is not just that it’s easier to cut someone off on dating apps. It is also that there is more of an expectation that people will do so. Some might get mad, but many won’t.
That, too, reduces awkwardness.
Another advantage of dating apps is that they give you access to a much larger dating pool.
When before you were restricted to the people in your city, you can now flirt with people from all over the world.
However, it is a bit of a theoretical advantage.
Unless you are in the position to travel at a moment’s notice, most people won’t be interested. Why would they waste their time with somebody they are never going to meet?
The one scenario that I have seen people use this for is “pipelining.”
When you know you are going on a trip to a different city or country, you can start exploring the local dating scene in advance and already get some matches.
Once you arrive there, you will then be ready to go on some dates right away.
Here are the cons of using dating apps.
On most dating apps, you communicate via text messages.
But by only relying on the written word, you are missing all kinds of non-verbal clues — their facial expressions, their tonality, their body language.
As a result, it is very easy to misunderstand each other. Without that context, something that would have been a funny remark might now be seen as an insult.
Also, many people are a bit lazy when it comes to writing. They will not explain things enough to be done with it quicker. But that, too, will lead to misunderstandings.
In dating, how something is said is often more important than what it is said.
That little smirk. That twinkle in their eyes. That seductive bat of eyelashes.
It is those things that create sexual tension.
But when you are using a dating app, it is almost impossible to recreate that. Since you are not in the same room with the other person, an interaction that should be exciting now becomes mechanical.
There is no spark.
Dating Apps are a massive time sink.
When you are writing back and forth with several people at the same time, this can easily take up several hours each day.
That’d be okay if all of these interactions would actually lead somewhere. But most of them don’t.
A majority of people on Tinder & Co. have no actual intention of ever meeting up. They just enjoy the attention, and feeling wanted.
They also find it interesting to gauge their own sexual market value. They get to test whom they can get with and whom not. It’s a nice diversion for them.
So, you are basically writing back and forth with a large number of people who will never come out, no matter what you do.
And should you actually meet up, in many instances, it will turn out that the other person does nothing for you.
Now you have wasted hours texting only to find out that you have no sexual chemistry in real life.
The most frustrating occurrence on dating apps is if someone you thought you had a connection with disappears.
To be fair, this also happens in real life. For example, you go on a few dates, and at some point, the other person stops responding to your texts.
But dating apps make it easier. Because you never met, people will feel even less of an obligation to let you know what the deal is.
I have a friend, a good-looking guy, who matches a lot of women on Tinder.
On a regular basis, he will inform me how many great first dates he has lined up.
But then, almost every single time, I get this post-date message:
“She was nice enough, but she didn’t look anything like in her pictures.”
It is not just him.
I have heard this again and again from various friends over the years. People put up pictures that are either not representative of them anymore because they were 10 years younger in the picture and 20 pounds lighter, or they simply photoshop their pictures.
You are getting played by the algorithm.
Dating apps make their money through paid subscriptions. So, it’s only logical that the algorithm will try to push you down their sales funnel.
For example, you will get a few easy matches early on to get you hooked. But then the matches stop. To get these quick dopamine hits again, you must get a premium membership.
Of course, that’s their good right — they are running a business, not a charity.
But personally, I would rather be in control of my dating life than be at the mercy of some data leech.
It’s Not the Same for Everybody
It has to be said that the experience on dating apps is not the same for everybody.
Depending on what demographic you belong to, you might have a more positive or negative experience.
The most stark difference is between men and women. Women, especially attractive ones, usually have a much greater success rate. In comparison, men get fewer matches.
That’s because, presumably, men like everyone on Tinder, while women will only like the top suitors.
There is a funny video that I recently saw that sums it up perfectly.
It shows the Tinder profile of a fit, good-looking man. Then it shows his matches, about 5.
Next, it shows the Tinder profile of what seems like a woman — at least her profile name is female. But her profile picture is that of a hardwood floor.
Number of matches — several dozen.
But it doesn’t stop at gender. Several Asian-American friends have complained to me about how many people on dating apps will refuse to date them because of their ethnicity.
I remember one particular anecdote when a Filipino-American friend of mine remarked, “You know what the craziest thing is? Asian women will not date me, telling me they only want to meet up with white men.”
Then again, gay men overall seem to have a more positive experience on apps like Grindr. Expectations tend to be more in sync and the communication between gay men tends to be more direct. There is less of a need to walk on eggshells around each other, as is often the case between heterosexual suitors.
What’s the Alternative?
So, if dating apps are mostly a flawed model (at least for heterosexual users), what is the alternative?
Talking to people in real life.
If you learn to overcome your fear and reach out to strangers, many of the disadvantages of dating apps can be avoided.
There will be fewer misunderstandings. When you are talking to somebody face-to-face you don’t just have to go by their words, but can also take their subcommunication into account, like their body language. That will provide you with more, better information.
You can use other means than just your words to impress someone. If you have a great smile or move confidently, this will go a long way in appearing more desirable.
If you have the courage to flirt with strangers in real life, both of you will know within seconds if there is a sexual spark and if you want to pursue this further. No more wasting hours texting back and forth only to find out there was no chemistry to start with.
It also becomes apparent quickly if the other person wants to take things further, or if they are just playing around.
Finally, it eliminates the problem of inaccurate pictures. When you see someone at the bar or at the supermarket, you know exactly what you are getting (and so do they). There is no faking it.
Yet, if having real-life flirts is so much better, why do we still avoid them like the plague?
It’s a mix of anxiety, risk aversion, and convenience.
Men don’t want to get rejected. Women don’t want to feel at risk. And everybody is lazy.
Dating apps are like fast food. You know that they are not good for you, but they are easy, quick, and convenient.
So, just like most people will opt for McDonald’s over a healthy option, they will opt for Tinder over talking to another human being.
How To Talk to Strangers
If you want to learn to how to talk to attractive strangers, here are a few starters.
First, men and women will face different challenges.
What Men Should Do
For men, the primary concern is fear of rejection. Many men would rather risk dying in a war than talking to a beautiful woman.
To overcome this, you must strategically desensitize yourself. You must gradually lower your fear threshold.
For example, every time you leave the house, make it a rule that you must smile at an attractive stranger. Do this for a few weeks, until the jitters go away.
Now, every time you are out and about, you must give a quick compliment to somebody. Just say, “Hey, I just wanted to say, you look nice today. Have a great day.” Then you turn around and leave without waiting for a reaction.
Again, do this for a few weeks until you can handle it.
Next, make a point to always make an observation and ask a follow-up question. For example, “I noticed you that you carry a gym bag. If I had to guess, I would say that you are really into yoga. Am I right?”
Of course, this is not going to win you a gold medal at the Flirt Olympics. But by simply being normal and putting yourself out there, you will see some success.
You will eventually come across somebody who clicks with you, someone who likes your vibe. And they will want to get to know you, simply for who you are.
What Women Should Do
For women, the primary challenge is that you have been taught to not show too much sexual interest in others.
That’s for two reasons — gender roles and risk avoidance.
Even in a post-feminist world, women are still reluctant to make the first step. Instead of going for what they want, they expect him to make the first move.
You need to overcome this programming. You are not a “slut” for actively pursuing people you are sexually interested in.
On the contrary, it’s the smart move. Just like your chances of winning the lottery are small, so are your chances of “being found” by Mr. Right. You must take luck into your own hands.
The other reason why women are reluctant to flirt with strangers is risk management.
It’s true — a physically stronger man can intimidate or even overpower you.
So, understandably, women tend to be cautious.
But there is a difference between being reckless and taking calculated risks.
You can and you should take some risks. It’s the only way you can calibrate yourself to the nuances of the sexual marketplace.
If you just stay away from all of it, hoping that a white knight on a horse will come to rescue you at some point, you’ll probably be disappointed.
Get your hands dirty. Flirt with some strangers.