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Some people meet the love of their life through happenstance or mutual acquaintances. For the rest of us, there’s a dating app.
Lumen (senior dating app), FarmersOnly.com (rural dating app), JSwipe (Jewish dating app). Whatever your demographic, preference or location, there’s a dating app for your cell phone, computer, or both.
You simply create an account, pay a fee (although some are free to use), enter some information and a photo, your interests, and what you’re looking for. You can search, be searched, or let the website algorithms generate a list of potential dates. That’s it.
What are you getting yourself into when you go online looking for love? It depends on what you’re looking for.
Dating apps can be ideal for introverts or people unable to physically connect (for dating during a pandemic). It helps to articulate what you’re looking for and what you feel are your best qualities. Even if it’s not a perfect match, sometimes you feel the warmth of a kindred spirit and develop a friendship. And let’s face it, it’s kind of fun giggling over an email or other notification that indicates someone has liked your profile.
“Meeting new people leads to meeting more new people,” said Ted, a semi-retired executive in north Idaho, who has used dating websites for about four years.
“I don’t know how else you meet people,” he added.
Most platforms allow some level of filtering, which can help whittle down your prospects. You might meet someone who’s wonderful, but not for you.
In addition to looks, you can search according to location, background, lifestyle, and values, from political and religious views to shared interests.
For example, in a search on Match.com, an industry leader in the increasingly crowded field of dating websites, 1074 men ages 60 to 70 fell within a 60-mile radius of my zip code. Of those men, only 622 included a photo. Only 41 were cat lovers, and 18 of them definitely want kids.
For the 70-to-80 age range, 214 were potential candidates, still only 19 cat lovers, and three who still want kids, which suggests a misunderstanding of this particular parameter or indicates exceedingly potent urges—red flags either way.
The 20 gentlemen aged 80 to 90 looked like they could be years younger, which is either a good sign, or a reminder to ask every prospective match: “How old are the photos on your profile?”
Not enough candidates? Adjust your search parameters, providing you’ve already spent time determining what your boundaries are and what you’re going to do if he/she/they respond.
If someone does respond, you have a whole new set of challenges: Text? Email? Call? Meet? If so, when, where, and how? While those are questions for another article. In the meantime, know that dating takes time, effort, and a willingness to put yourself out there.
And it comes with some risks.
First, you need to create a profile. That means at least one photo, answering some questions about your background and what you’re looking for.
Profiles that get noticed, according to experts, include good, current photos. Smiling photos do best, while action photos convey vitality.
A graphic designer in her 50s, Kate T. won’t respond to any profiles without photos and looks for those that show faces clearly, especially the eyes. Photos that emphasize flesh or physique are out, too.
“It’s not an area where I want to be overly judged,” she says.
Writing about yourself can be challenging. Focus on your attributes, but don’t brag or exaggerate, advises a recent study. While looks are important, trust is more important.
Be both personable and positive—avoid bashing the ex or conveying a “hot-pants” vibe.
Be specific about your interests, but consider seeking out qualities you’re looking for rather than a list of physical attributes from others.
Finally, spell and grammar check everything. Twice.
Things to Remember
It’s your profile, so you can and should check it and update it as you find new and better ways to articulate what you think you bring to the table and what you’re looking for.
Understand that sharing any information in such an open forum is not without risk.
According to Kaspersky, an international cybersecurity firm, 55 percent of users have experienced some kind of issue with online dating.
Some issues are germane to all social media usage, like receiving dubious emails, data leaks from the vendor site, and being unable to completely erase your profile.
Most potential issues revolve around things users can control, like someone taking advantage of overshared information.
Kaspersky advises users to employ good computer protocols, like a strong passwords you change often, not using the same photos as those on your social media, limiting sharing, and not responding to unsolicited emails.
Some issues with online dating, however, are beyond your control, like being recognized by someone whom you’d rather not have noticed, or a disingenuous person whose age, height, and gender don’t match their profile, and of course, being rejected.
Organized matchmaking is not new, and for some cultural groups, it is the norm. Nor are matchmaking services, as Jane Austen fans can attest. But in the 1940s, they turned to data to determine whom you should date.
In 1965, for example, more than one million subscribers signed onto the first internet based site, Operation Match, according to a 2013 PBS broadcast, xoxosms. The show also reported that meeting your mate through mutual friends is still the most preferred method.
In 2004, four Harvard students launched the forerunner to OKCupid, which currently boasts almost 10 percent of the market share and is one of the most popular dating apps.
The most popular app is Grindr, which gears towards the LBGTQ community, followed by MeetMe, which caters to the after-40 set, but its social discovery approach seems more likely to appeal to a younger crowd.
Next is Match.com, PlentyofFish, Hinge, OKCupid, and Tinder, all five of which are owned by the company Match Group, Inc.. The company reports revenues in excess of $2 billion.
So much for free love.
The numbers suggest dating apps are firmly embedded in the landscape of love. Fifty-five years ago, Operation Match accounted for roughly one in every 200 Americans. Today, about one in 13 Americans, more than 30 million people, use dating apps.
The pandemic has certainly changed the dating landscape as well. OKCupid recorded a 700 percent increase recently, as well as an increase in users interested in longterm and committed relationships, versus a decline in those looking for something casual.
Get online and look around. Most sites allow you to browse at least a little for free, while some sites, like SilverSingles.com or eHarmony, ask for the equivalent of a Meyers-Briggs personality test before letting you take a peek.
To figure out which sites are out there, try portals like weeklydatinginsider.com or consumer-rankings.com. Better yet, ask around. Statistics suggest someone you know has already used a dating site.
As for your profile, to get a sense of what works, newbies might want to search for appealing profiles and emulate that approach. Ask a trusted friend or family member to review your profile before posting. The writer of this article has reviewed numerous profiles for exes and guy friends alike.
Dating is an investment of time and money. Most sites charge a subscription fee for one month up to several months. Turn off the automatic renewal feature, so you’re in control of your investment.
As for time, you’re in control of your profile and your experience. Use it when you want to, and respond to whom you want. Turn off your profile for a bit when you need a break, or if you’ve met someone you like.
Finally, know that dating apps are simply a way to put you in a target-rich environment. The only way to ensure you will not meet anyone is to stay physically and virtually isolated. Dating apps open the door to opportunities. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
“If you’re serious about not wanting to be alone the rest of your life, you gotta take the plunge and be persistent,” says Ted, who still dates the lady he met online more than a year ago.
“Don’t be afraid to fail,” he advises. “You don’t fail, you just move forward.” ISI