How to Use Tinder and Actually Get Dates

A woman who learned how to use Tinder, at a coffee shop laughing while she swipes on guys.

Before we get into the complex and beautiful world that is dating on Tinder, let’s make one thing clearSwiping is not dating. Matching is not dating. Chatting is not dating. Dating is dating. If you’re on Tinder making a ton of matches and chatting up a storm, you may be having a great time getting to know other people and flirting, but you’re not really dating unless you’re meeting people in person.

And that’s the tricky part now isn’t it? Tinder is designed in a way that makes it quicker and easier to ‘meet’ more people through the app. But when it comes to actually getting off the app and to that first in-person date, it’s still pretty hard.

But it can certainly be done. In fact, tons of people go on Tinder dates every day. So if you want to know how to use Tinder to actually get dates, here are a few helpful steps.

Step 1: Set up that profile.
I know setting up a dating profile can seem almost as painful as updating a resume, but if you want to meet people who are actually interested in dating (and aren’t just on the app to just mess around) it’s important. Take a little time to pick some good dating profile photos and write a quick Tinder bio. It shows the other people on that app who are interested in actually dating, that you’re there for more than swiping too.

Step 2: Swipe and match.
Like I said, this is the easy part. Swipe right on the people you’re into, left on the people you’re not and see what happens. If you start getting a ton of matches and you don’t have time to respond to everyone, be more selective. If you’re not getting a lot of matches, don’t be so picky. And, even though there’s a part of me that hates saying this, if you’re having really bad luck you can always say yes to everyone and then decide later if you’d like to chat with them.

Step 3: Start a conversation.
If you’re a heterosexual male on Tinder, you’re probably going to have to make the first move and start the conversation. If you’re not, you may want to anyway, since it will help you be more successful and is a lot better than sitting around and waiting for someone to do it for you. 

A lot has been written about how to craft a great Tinder opening line, but the main thing is to say something more than just hi or hey. Asking a question about the person’s profile or photos is great. Compliments or jokes are harder to pull off (they often come across as creepy pick-up lines) but can be done if handled well. Don’t be too formal and introduce yourself.  (As in, “Hi, I’m Jake. I just moved here and am interested in meeting nice people.”) Instead, ask a question about the other person so that the ball is in their court.

Step 4: Establish a good back and forth.
Once you get a response from the person you’ve messaged, keep that conversation going. You don’t even need to have a typical dating conversation with questions like, “Where are you from? What do you do? What do you like to do in your spare time?” It works better if you see where the conversation takes you, and then you can fall back on the dating questions if the conversation begins to die down. 

For instance, if your first message was about a vacation photo on their profile, talk about that location, ask questions about their trip, or chat about where they want to go next. If you said you loved their Ghostbusters Halloween costume, chat about what character you relate to the most (even though we all know it’s Bill Murray) or what movie was your favorite.

Also, help each other out. Don’t just answer the other person’s questions with one line, a yes, or a no. That makes it so they have to do all the work to keep the conversation going. When you give answers elaborate, tell stories, and go off about something you enjoy. Don’t think too hard about saying the smartest most charming thing, just respond as naturally as you would with any other friend. The best conversations are when people are chatting fast, one idea moves into the next, and you find yourself wondering, How’d we even start talking about this? So don’t be afraid to see where things take you and go for it.

Step 5: Ask for a date.
After chatting for a bit, even the best conversations have a lull. If you’re interested in the person still and want to meet in person, that’s when you ask them out. There are a lot of ways to ask someone out online, but most of the time a simple, “Hey, I’ve really enjoyed chatting. want to meet up sometime?” is all it takes. If the person is interested, they’ll say yes. If they’re not, you can say, “I understand. Thanks for the good convo,” and move on to the next person.

What you don’t want to do is keep chatting with someone off and on for weeks. Then your conversation can get stale and the other person may forget about you or grow disinterested. If you’ve had a good convo and you want to take it off the app, go ahead and ask them.

Step 6: Nail down the logistics.
If you’re asking someone out on an app, it’s best to make plans for that week. You don’t want to wait more than seven days or put it off while you’ve got good momentum with this person. So plan something simple like drinks or coffee that works with your schedules. If you’re the one doing the asking, usually you should be the one to suggest a place. So have a few ideas in mind and don’t ask the other person to make too many decisions. Just like when you’re making plans with friends, asking a bunch of questions (What do you feel like eating? What time works for you? Where do you usually like to go?) can create friction and a lot of “I don’t knows.” So make it easy on them, with something like, “How’s Thursday work for you? There’s a new bar downtown I’ve been wanting to check out.”

Step 7: Keep it fresh.
Once you’ve agreed on a date, don’t completely ignore the person and go into silent mode. You don’t need to text or chat with them all week leading up to the date, but at the very least a “Hey, we still on for tonight?” the day of the date is helpful. And if you’re both into each other and excited, it’s completely fine to keep chatting leading up to the date. Even a simple, “Oh man, this week seems so long. I wish it was Thursday already,” is a non-weird way to check in and start a new conversation. 

Step 8: Show up.
Ok, so this isn’t a step so much as the inevitable conclusion, but yes, showing up to your date is important. Once you’ve gotten past the initial awkwardness of meeting and chatting online (or maybe things went great and it wasn’t awkward at all) comes the inevitable first date. So enjoy it!

No matter how things go, you’ve already been successful in getting off the app and getting out there. You should be proud of yourself! The truth is that Tinder is easy—swiping, matching, and chatting is easy. But dating… Well, that’s hard and it takes practice and a little bit of bravery to get out there and do it right.

So as you’re moving through the steps, don’t forget that it’s ok to stumble now and then. Chances are you’re going to say the wrong thing, make a bad joke, realize you’re not that into someone, pick a bar that they hate, or fumble up trying to ask for the date. And that’s ok. The important thing is that you keep trying and learning. That’s how you’ll eventually meet someone really great.

Megan Murray

Editor-in-Chief of The Date Mix

Megan Murray is the Editor-in-Chief of The Date Mix and works at the online dating site and app Zoosk, that has over 40 million members worldwide. She splits her time between writing for The Date Mix and working on the Zoosk product, which gives her behind-the-scenes knowledge about the world of online dating.

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