Once you pick that perfect selfie and write paragraphs to sell all your best attributes to your future digital Valentine, it’s time to start browsing. This is where the big differences between these apps are apparent. Bumble, on the other hand, puts all the power in women’s hands; men can’t even contact a woman unless she’s first expressed interest. Others, like Match and OkCupid, have robust profiles that let you dive deep into a user’s personality (or at least the one he or she has decided to present to you), before you decide to go on the pursuit. Hinge lets users create profiles that are a beautiful blend of visuals and text.
Now that you’ve perused the dating pool and have your eyes on that special someone, it’s time to bite the bullet and actually reach out to them. Each app offers different ways of showing your interest. Match will let you Wink at a fellow member for free, and Plenty of Fish doesn’t charge for messaging. In most dating apps, messaging is typically free when both users like each other. However, free users only get so many likes per day, with Hinge being especially limited. In other instances, you’ll get charged for reaching out. If you’re not ready to express your feelings in words, Bumble lets you send Bumble Coins to prospective matches, for $2 a pop. Zoosk offers the slightly creepy option of buying coins to anonymously browse profiles, as well as reward anyone who views your own profile (for an additional fee, of course).
As this is 2021, all of these services, even the decades-old Match, offer both iPhone apps and Android apps. Most also have desktop counterparts for when you’re at work and want to take a break from your spreadsheet to set up a weekend tryst. Just be aware that the functionality can vary substantially between the app and desktop interfaces. For example, there’s no swiping on Tinder’s browser version. Facebook Dating and Hinge are only available as mobile apps.
Once you’ve installed these apps and signed up for the services, get ready for a barrage of notifications and email. Some, like daily match suggestions, are helpful, while others, like alerts that tell you every new “like” you get, can just be annoying. The good thing is you can easily tweak these alerts by drilling down into the settings menus in each of the apps.
Any activity that involves meeting strangers from the internet carries some safety risks. If you find yourself in a toxic situation and need to cut off contact, all of these apps let you block and report users who haven’t taken the hint. These services try to vet their profiles and keep unwanted inappropriate material from appearing. Bumble blurs nudes with AI. Tinder lets you secretly alert emergency services if you’re on a particularly bad date. There are even third-party solutions. UrSafe is a hands-free, voice-activated personal safety app with features for online daters who are looking to meet up with their matches in-person. Not having to use your hands is especially appealing during a viral pandemic, which brings us to our next section.
In case dating wasn’t difficult enough, our social lives were upended by the COVID-19 epidemic. Ideally, online dating should lead to meeting up in real life. However, sometimes the responsible thing to do is to stay home, and that created quite a dilemma for dating apps. Fairytrail, a dating app for connecting via shared travel destination dreams, saw an bittersweet increase in use. Similarly, Zoosk’s Great Dates feature lets couples virtually tour exciting locales safely at home.