Your smartphone—it's not just for playing Words With Friends and taking pictures of food! There are many ways our omnipresent smartphones have influenced the dating and relationship landscape. From the politics of phone calls versus texting, to the etiquette of checking your phone on a date, smartphones are such an integral part of most of our lives these days, it's no wonder there are tons of apps that cater to another integral part of our lives—dating!
Taking a cue from the hugely successful location-based gay male social app, Grindr, a number of other players have entered into the dating app marketplace, all relying on your GPS as a way to find interested singles who are currently in your immediate area. As a matchmaker and dating coach who coaches clients through the frustrations of online dating, I am an advocate of trying these apps, even if you don't do traditional online dating. They have an immediacy that can help cut through the endless online back and forth. There's no excuse not to meet for that cup of coffee if you can see that you're only a mile apart!
The folks behind Grindr have turned to a wider audience by creating the dating sensation Tinder. In case you haven't tried it, the way it works is this: you create a free account linked to your Facebook account. It pulls photos of you from Facebook (you can pick and choose which ones appear, and in which order), as well as your name, age and any "likes" you have of pages. You specify the gender, age range, and mileage radius of the matches you'd like to see. Your geographic location is determined by where you access the Tinder app.
Say you are a woman looking for men aged 25-30 within a 50-mile radius of you. Tinder will show you profiles of men meeting that criteria and you make a judgment based on their photos of whether you like them or not. You can also see if you have any friends in common, as well as any "likes" on Facebook. You both like The Walking Dead? Could be a match made in heaven! Your choices are anonymous unless someone you've liked has also liked you, at which point you get a pop-up telling you you're a match. Once you've matched with someone, you are able to chat with them via the Tinder app.
PRO: Rather than lengthy profiles and long questionnaires that are time-consuming to create and to read, Tinder strips down your selection to attractiveness in a fun, anonymous way. Also, there's no ability for anyone you're not interested in to contact you.
CON: The "game" feeling of choosing yes or no can be so much fun many people don't bother to communicate with or meet their matches.
Hinge works almost exactly like Tinder except for one big difference—it only shows you potential matches when you have a Facebook friend in common. Hinge is not yet available in all areas, but it's still worth downloading the app. You'll receive an email notification from Hinge when it's available in your town.
PRO: Rather than completely random people who you may or may not have a connection to (like Tinder), you have a mutual friend who can vouch for your match.
CON: The pool of potential matches is much smaller than other apps, and could be tiny if you don't have many Facebook friends.
3. How About We
HowAboutWe.com is one of the more creative online dating sites. It bills itself as the "offline dating site". Rather than traditional online dating sites, on How About We users pose a suggestion for a date. An example would be, "How About We go apple picking and then bake a pie?" If the suggested date (and accompanying photo) are appealing to you, you can respond to the post.
How About We now has a mobile app that brings the same concept to a location-based format. Using the app's "Date Map" feature, you see a map showing users in your immediate area.
PRO: If you have a problem connecting with your online matches, now you can say "How About We meet for lattes at the coffee shop at 63rd and Broadway this afternoon?" which will increase the likelihood that guy on 65th street will spontaneously say yes.
CON: There's a bit of pressure to come up with creative ideas, and the Date Map feature shows your location down to the street, which might be more information than you'd like to share with complete strangers.
4. OK Cupid
OKCupid.com puts a twist on traditional sites by giving its users the option to answer a seemingly endless number of questions, and by specifying which answers are acceptable by a potential match. So for instance, if the question is: "Do you believe in God?" Your answer might be "Yes", but you might be willing to accept "Yes" or "No" as an answer from a potential match. You can answer as many or as few questions as you’d like, and can only see other users' answers to the questions you've both answered. OK Cupid's algorithm generates "match", "friend”, and "enemy" percentages based on your answers compared with other users.
Like many online dating sites, OK Cupid now has a robust mobile app that gives users access to the full site and also, via the "Locals" feature, the ability to see which users are currently online in your neighborhood. OK Cupid has incorporated a Tinder-like feature where you can like or reject the local users, or you can simply send them a message. You can also suggest an immediate meet-up, How About We style.
PRO: If you like the idea of Tinder, but want to know more about your matches before deciding, you can read their profiles.
CON: If you're interested in the Locals feature only, there are easier apps that don't require you creating an entire online dating profile.
More online dating advice from YourTango:
- 3 Essential Tips For Online Dating
- Dating: Advice, Etiquette & Tips
- 5 Important Tips For Online Dating Success