How to use Tinder without losing faith in humanity

7 tips on avoiding the darker pits of online dating from a despair expert

As lockdowns progress and our worlds shrink to the size of a phone screen, the hopes to casually bump into the love of your life on a weekend trip to Paris start to evaporate. A lot of my friends are trying Tinder for the first time — and I worry for them.

Just like any other great technological invention, say, explosives or nuclear reaction, Tinder has great capabilities of both creation and destruction. It’s a tool that allows you to reach great people that you would have never bumped into in real life. It is also a reign of unhuman algorithms that morph our intimate interactions into a soul-crushing high-speed hell ride.

Out there in the internet, there’s a ton of guides on how to get a satisfying date on Tinder for girls, boys, and everyone in between. I didn’t find the ones that explain how to approach online dating in a way that helps you arrive at the said date with your hopes, energy, and goodwill towards humankind largely intact.

My credentials: a naturally depressive human bean, I use Tinder for five years since I moved alone in a foreign country without any support system but with huge social anxiety. Been here on and off, obviously — the point of using Tinder is to find a reason to stop using it. I’ve found some treasures and I’ve found some dirt, I’ve ridden the dopamine waves and stared into the deepest pits of despair. Then, I found ways to make the algorithm work for me and have fun with the process.

The most important thing about dating is not apps or strategies, it’s the attitude. So these are the tips to protect your mental energy and positive mindset when you choose to try dating online.

1. Commit to the fact you’re on Tinder now.

I know, I know, online dating is awkward.

Still is, despite the marketing campaigns and influencer couples sharing their Tinder stories. You don’t want to look like you are in the need of an external tool to help you connect to people. You’re cool, you have friends and admirers — and if it wasn’t for the lockdown, you would have a crowd of potential lovers waiting at the gates of your castle.

So you make a profile with a couple of half-assed selfies and a line like “I’m not sure what am I doing here”,
or “I lost a bet to my cousin and now I’m here”,
or “I’m never on this app find me at @thegoldenprinceinstagram”.

And then you swipe some and wait.
And wait.
And then delete the app.

If you’re a fashion model, you will have a flood of creepy DMs in your account in any case. But in general, this approach will lead to some disappointing results. Because if your matching pool was a party, you would be that person who sits in a corner all night complaining that the music is trash, the place is cheap and you should be going anyway. Go figure who finds that attractive.

There is an ancient Russian saying: if you can’t stop the disgrace, lead it. So if you’re on Tinder, don’t act like it’s an accident. Commit. Vow to take the place by storm. Don’t wait for other people to offer you a good show.

Be the show.

2. Realize this is a marketplace

The economies of scale are tough — you find yourself in front of shelves and shelves of dating profiles until any trace of human interaction is gone. One part of it makes the game extremely fun — you laugh at the profiles with your friends, judge all the personality faults from a single picture from the comfort of your home.

The second part of it is soul-crushing: it is when you realize that all the above is done with your own profile too.

So for the sake of your own mental health, try to accommodate this thought from the get-go: people are going to spend a 0,006 of a second at your profile and be sure they know enough; people are going to look at you deducing what value you can bring in their lives — not the depth of your soul.

So if your best idea was to go “It’s hard to describe myself, swipe right to know more” and then expect some profound connections, you’re in for a tough journey.

Whatever line of work you are in, making an online dating profile is your chance to flex your marketing skills.

Here, you are the product — so instead of being heartbroken about it, step into a competitive, entrepreneurial mindset. Experiment, optimize, try to package yourself to be the most desirable candy for your preferred category of customers.

Which brings us to the next point.

3. Figure out who are you looking for

If you ask a Tinder rookie what’s their goal on here, the default answer would be “dunno I’m just checking it out”.

Beware, because if you are going there looking for “something”, you will find something — loads of it — and you’re not going to like it a single bit. Wonder where all these zombie-like, heavy-eyed, never-tinder-again boys and girls come from? They all tried to check this place out without knowing what they are searching for.

The best thing about Tinder? You can find here anything. It’s a mainstream platform with an insanely huge user base. Whether you need a partner to discuss Schiller and Goethe or a hookup, you have a chance here. So at least for yourself, be specific. What do you need? Relief from boredom? A confidence boost? Some source material for a research paper on mating behaviors of great apes? When you figure that out, you will know what to do without wasting your energy,
because

The worst thing about Tinder? You can find here anything. By default, the vast majority of this user base is going to suck. If you are a heterosexual female, you can be especially exposed to negative, sometimes offensive interactions. (I’m sorry gentlemen this is empirical data. please up your game)

If you’re not crystal-clear on the end goal of your mission, you can spend years of your life wandering in these wastelands and getting traumatized by the most disadvantageous aspects of the human condition.

But if you know what you want, you can start crafting your profile and approach to only attract the people you could like.

4. Step in their shoes — and show them something they’ll like

So, in today’s economy, a successful Tinder profile is a profile that attracts your desired audience while detracting people you won’t want to spend time with. And this is where the most tricky part is.

The first instinct of so many people is to list their requirements (tall, fun, fit, etc), and then point their royal finger to the door for all the unsatisfying categories of users: “If you are over XXlbs / smoke / put pineapple on pizza / gold-digger /don’t text first / poor, swipe left”.

They hope that when that perfect tall, fun, fit, and rich someone sees their profile, they will think “oh, this must be a real diamond” and fall in love immediately. In reality,

  • most will roll their eyes at yet another fountain of negativity and move on;
  • a small percentage swipes right just to argue;
  • another small percentage swipes right because they have self-esteem issues and an irresistible desire to earn the love of an angry stranger. Not sure you want to deal with that.

The key to successful filtering is to talk about things you like, not the things you hate. You don’t have to do it in a form of a grocery shopping list, either: phrases like “tell me the last book you loved” or “what was the last movie that made you cry” work as a demonstration of some of your interests and traits, advertisement of the possible activities, and a conversation prompt.

Moreover, in the last few years, Tinder optimizes your matching pool according to the words you use in your profile. If you state that you are into BDSM and crochet, it will try to find people near you who do BDSM or crochet. But it’s not always smart enough to tell positives from negatives — so if you state that you hate one-night stands and Ed Sheeran, you will for sure get those.

Including an important deal-breaker saves us all some time, but make sure it doesn’t outweigh your deal-maker.

5. Push your own aesthetics

There’s a lot of grief about Tinder working only if you are “model-looking, tall, rich, or a girl”. Yes, it is a platform dominated by visual stimuli, like our mating behaviors were since the beginning of time. But in the age of digital ads and expanding beauty standards, you don’t have to be conventionally pretty — you have to be eye-catching.

For those in the back:

You don’t have to be conventionally pretty to have a successful Tinder profile — you have to be eye-catching.

And as modern advertising teaches us, these things are not at all the same.

Gucci Beauty 2020 campaign

Imagine you were a magazine. What kind of photography style would it have? What topics would it talk about? How would it sound— relaxed, matter-of-factly, or madly energized? Your online dating profile, in fact, is a tiny magazine that is telling a visual story. So if you have nothing but the blurred bathroom selfies — go and make some new material for it. They don’t have to be conventionally perfect. But they have to tell a story about you.

The more unusual, controversial your mini-magazine turns out to be, the better. You will pull in the ones that share your passion and attitude, and push away the rest, clearing the field to have meaningful conversations.

Which brings us to the next point.

6. Have a strategy that allows you to be human in a conversation

For a “strategy” I mean a set of rules on interacting on the platform that allows you to be fully present in each conversation that opens to you.

For example, my set of rules:

  • I put up some model-quality professional pics and an eccentric description;
  • I swipe left on all the people without a description unless they’ve sent me a superlike and have something interesting about their pictures;
  • if I like their description and I have a match with them, I immediately text whatever ridiculous thing that came to my mind;
  • if they didn’t have any text, I wait for them to write something first and see if I’d like to continue;
  • if they text “hey how are you” or “hey pretty” I unmatch.

Why like this?

  • I’m a rather weird person, so I need to lure people in and see if our weirdnesses align before we even interact.
  • I’m obsessed with the written word, so if someone dislikes it enough to leave a profile empty, we won’t have a good conversation.
  • I’ve got an abrasive, absurd sense of humor and I’m only attracted to people who share it.
  • I’m horrible at small-talk, so if a person opens up with it, it for sure will be a failure.

This set of rules allows me to show my most entertaining sides in a conversation for those that might appreciate them.

The swiping game is easy and fun, having an engaging conversation with a stranger is hard, and sometimes frustrating. The amount of possible choices makes it difficult to invest proper attention in one conversation, and the lack of context in a virtual chat box with a stranger makes it hard to have fun with it.

You need to help yourself resist the reign of a heartless machine. Find out the approach that allows you to arrive fresh, hopeful, and human to each in-chat encounter.

Your rules may be nothing like mine. Maybe you’ll want to swipe right on everyone, but just before breakfast. Maybe you will try writing a personal poem to every match and see how they react. Maybe you’ll challenge people with a provocative question. Maybe you will limit yourself to have one match a month.

The trick is to set rules that help you interact with people without getting sucked in an endless, addictive swiping game. To try having an unscripted connection before running for the next big thing.

Which brings us to the last point.

7. Learn to have fun with the unexpected findings

You may be as smart as it gets with filters, algorithms, and strategies, but the crude reality outside of your bubble will find a way to poke you in the eye. Some people will feel like it’s their duty to God to explain to you why your way of life is wrong. Some will explode at an innocent joke. Some will be clingy or just plain boring. Some will be the opposite of their online persona. And some will be nice to spend time with, but not what you were looking for.

The Master Zen level, the one I struggle with myself, is to learn to adapt to the unexpected, dance with that crude outside reality, and make it work for you in some way.

Some conversations make your heart melt, others will be great content to make your Instagram followers laugh. Some interactions will be an opportunity to pick the brain of your political opponent — how cool would that be if we could take that opportunity instead of smashing the phone against the wall in frustration?

I wish I could take each instance like that to learn a bit about that peculiar state of being human — and I wish I found a way to keep the genuinely nice people I found there. We might not be an exact response to each other’s search request, but we still could share some part of our lives.

Because however different our social circles might be, we are all humans trying to run away from loneliness. Some might be more graceful in it than others, but the dance is the same. And if you see it like that, nothing could bring you down.

P.S. If you applied all the tips and it’s still sad, try to change the location. In these trying times, Tinder can double down as a tourism platform. Personally, I find swiping through London boys very satisfying — but to each their own.

Add Drama Button. Stories from another hemisphere. Russian in Milan, Italy. Get a letter from me: https://slidetosubscribe.com/adddramabutton/

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store