How Does Tinder Work: A Beginner’s Guide

A woman who learned how to use Tinder, swiping on her phone during her lunch break to try and meet someone.

It’s a whole new world, as far as dating goes. Back in the day, you’d head to a cafe after school with your crush, maybe split a milkshake, and then you’d be going steady. Or if you were from more recent generation, maybe you’d rush home to call each other on the phone and chat for hours on end until you both realized you were in love. Or if you were fan even more recent generation, you’d spend time talking on AIM and texting while walking to and from classes across your mutual college campus. Sigh… It all seemed so simple.

In some ways, dating has gotten easier, but for a lot of people, it can be overwhelming too. Dating apps are still so new to so many people. Whether you’ve been out of the dating game for a long time and are just stepping back into it or you are older and don’t feel as familiar or comfortable with dating apps, it can be a lot.

Arguably the most famous of the dating apps is Tinder. And Tinder can be a blast, but it can also be a bit daunting if you just don’t know what to do with it. So we’re here to help.

If you’re wondering how does Tinder work, here’s a simple, step-by-step walk-through:

Step 1: Create your account.
This seems obvious, but it’s a very important first step. To create a Tinder account, first download the app, open it up, and log in using your Facebook. The app will help you by prompting your phone to open Facebook, and voila. You’re in!

There are a few things to confirm here, as well. You need to allow your phone’s location services to connect to Tinder. Oftentimes, people hit no on this because why does an app need your location? Well, Tinder does. Otherwise, you won’t actually be presented with potential matches anywhere near where you are. Location, for Tinder, is kind of everything.

Step 2: Modify your account.
Again, this seems a bit obvious, but it’s another important step. You need to choose your pictures and write your bio. Create what the Tinder world will get to know about you. Your bio can be a short, funny sentence or two, or it can be a bit longer and genuine. A major difference between Tinder and some of the other dating apps is the casual vibe. Tinder bios tend to be shorter and sweeter. You don’t have a ton of characters to tell your life story and you don’t answer some of those compatibility questions that other dating apps have. Be breezy and fun. (And if you need some extra help, check out these Tinder profile examples and tips for men and women.) 

As for pictures, you’ll want to choose a few (five, actually) that showcase you and your life. Choose whatever you want, but remember that people will be judging whether or not they “like” you or are interested based on these pictures. Something fun, something active, something showing your hobby, maybe one with friends, selfies are great. It’s all up to you.

Step 3: Get to swiping.
Okay, so once you’re set up, it’s time to “meet” new people. Tinder is the dating app that popularized “the swipe.” Once you’re set up and ready, you will encounter profiles of other people. Depending on which gender you chose when you set up your account, you will encounter either men, women, or men and women. The profiles are just like yours. You’ll see a photograph in the middle of the page, someone’s first name, their age, how far away in miles they are from you. Sometimes, their career or university will be listed and the number of friends you have in common on Facebook. Below all of that will be their bio.

And below all of that basic information about the person are three options. You will see a red x, a blue star, and a green heart. You can swipe to the right across your screen to say yes to someone or swipe to left to say no. You also have the option to push one of the buttons to say yes or not oo. Red is for “no,” which means the person will swipe away to the left. The blue star means you really like them, which is called a “super like.” And the green is for yes, which is just a regular, “yes I am interested.” Their profile will slide off to the right and if they also swiped right on you, you will get an exciting “It’s a match” screen.

Step 4: It’s a match!
So you’re a match. That’s Great! This means you liked someone’s profile and they liked yours too. What happens next is up to each of you. You can absolutely reach out and message that person— which is only an option if you match— or you can wait for the other person to message you. You can also choose to rack up the matches and never reach out to anyone, but the point of a dating app is to get to know someone, so maybe think about talking to at least someone out there.

Messaging on Tinder works a lot like messaging on any social media app or even text messaging. You send them something, they send you something back. GIFs are incorporated in Tinder, as are emojis. Be yourself, chat away, and meet someone if you’d like!

Now that you know the basics, there are some other important things to know about how Tinder works:

Be safe and use your block button. 
Tinder is a dating app, which means you need to be aware of your safety. Not everyone you encounter on Tinder will be a nice or kind person. Some people may harass you or make you feel bad about yourself, but the “unmatch” button really comes in handy for those moments. You don’t have to keep talking to someone just because you matched once upon a time.

Hook up if you want to, but don’t feel bad if that’s not what you’re looking for.
You will also encounter a lot of people who will try to hook up right away. If you don’t want to hook up, don’t feel bad. It’s okay to tell someone you’d like to get to know them first. Or if you’d like to hook up, make a plan, but keep your safety in mind.

Beware of Tinder cliches.
You’ll also probably encounter a lot of people who: hike, catch fish, have kids in their pictures but will note that they are their niece/cousin/nephew and not their own child. You will encounter couples who are looking for a threesome. You will encounter people who should… maybe not be on Tinder. (They’re using the app to cheat, etc.)

Keep an eye out for great people.
But the thing about Tinder is that you might also encounter the love of your life. Tinder used to have a reputation for being a hookup app, that though that’s a big part of it, it’s also come a long way. Many, many people have met and fallen in love and created lives together on Tinder. That could be you.

Using Tinder can feel overwhelming or like a lot of pressure, but it’s great to swipe and chat and have fun. Swipe right on someone you may never have thought you’d be attracted to. Swipe on someone who looks like they could teach you something. Swipe on someone who reminds you of your ex or someone who absolutely does not. Swipe, talk, meet new people, and have a good time. That’s what Tinder is all about. Enjoy yourself! 

Jessica Tholmer

Freelance Writer

Jess Tholmer has been writing on the internet for what feels like most of her life. After studying English Literature in school, she has leaned into her degree and is a full-time content writer, social media manager, and freelance contributor to websites like HelloGiggles.com. You can find her @tholmz on Twitter and Instagram!

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