The greatest invention in romance since condoms, dating apps are pure efficiency: thousands of women, no long profiles to read, no grammar mistakes to harrumph over, nothing but the essentials: picture, age, first name, and a fortune cookie.
If you’re interested only in hook-ups, there’s a mathematical strategy for maximizing hits: Swipe right for everyone. This works when you think about dating the way a shark thinks about eating.
But if you’re looking for love—or simply good company—you’re in for “Hot or Not?” the video game. And, like any gamer, you need a winning strategy.
When you're looking for a site to get sexy on
You think: All single women are on Tinder and variety is my ally.
She thinks: Tinder is a Greyhound bus full of slobbering old men.
Try this: Stop carpet bombing; investigate surgical strikes. Women give high marks to Bumble, the “lady first” app, for safety features that chase away twitchers, droolers, and stalkers. Or check out Bristlr, for women who like men who grow beards. Every kink has its fan base.
When you're setting up your profile
You think: I rock a six-pack in my mirror selfie, I’ll post that.
She thinks: This dude has no friends. Also, no job.
Try this: Pictures are a split-second opportunity to land that right swipe, so:
1) Get a great headshot to lead with (read: smile, take off your sunglasses).
2) Demonstrate your interests with a landscape shot in which she can also see your face. That Ironman finish is badass; a close-up of you surfing Mavericks will get her wet, too.
3) Avoid clichés: At Machu Picchu. In a ski suit and goggles. On a boat looking off at the horizon. Arms around a bunch of bros holding drinks. In a fancy sports car. Cuddling newborns. Holding a fish. Holding a gun.
4) Women love pets, but two or more shots with your animal besties veers into furry fetishism.
You write: “I want a partner in crime. We’ll travel to all 50 states, where we can be 4:20 friendly, GGG, do CrossFit, eat healthy, meditate, and banter like my grandparents who met on Tinder.”
She thinks: Left. Also, yawn.
Try this: This isn’t an essay contest. Answer four basic questions: who, what, where, and how tall. Chicago blues lover, unrepentant hedonist. Skier. Surfer. New Yorker now, Midwesterner at heart. Six feet tall, 10 feet deep.
You think: In a world of bunny rabbit boilers, reveal no identifying details.
She thinks: I know nothing about him.
Try this: Be Google-able. Offer a Twitter or Instagram handle. Dangle enough data for her to find you on LinkedIn or Facebook. If she’s Nancy Drewing you, she’s interested.
You write: “Be real. No serial daters. No pen pals. Look like your picture. No bitches.”
She thinks: His baggage is showing.
Try this: Frame qualities you’re seeking in the most positive light possible—otherwise you’re just taking your neuroses for a walk. Never underestimate the power of “Looking for a connection.”
When you're ready to make contact
You write: “Hey, wuts up? ;)”
She thinks: I don’t date illiterates. Or speak emoji.
Try this: The first conversation: Now this is the essay contest. Run up the score with full sentences. Craft a cut-and-pastable opener you can recycle: “It’s harder than I like to admit coming up with a clever intro to follow a few pictures and a 200-word profile. Now I’m feeling kind of bad about people I may have overlooked because all they wrote was a mere “Hello, [YOUR NAME HERE].” So, hey, here I go: “Hello, [HER NAME HERE].”
When you've made the connection
You think: We’re texting back and forth, she totally wants me.
She thinks: Is he ever going to ask me out?
Try this: After the third volley, make the call to action: “We can’t really learn about chemistry on an app, Want to grab a drink Thursday?” [YOUR NUMBER HERE] Get off your app fast. GPS alone will never be enough to find a soulmate. You still have to go out and meet her. There must be fireworks. And there’s no app for that—yet.