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Are Dating Apps for Hookups or Relationships?

A girl on a dating app looking for a relationship.

International dating expert Hayley Quinn has long been an advocate for equality in love and dating. Now you can help her spread the word by voting for her SXSW talk Dating Apps: Ruining Romance or Enabling Equality? before August 25. 

Once upon a time maybe your eyes would have crossed paths with the cute guy from the next village as your hands both went for the same loaf of bread; now the second most common way people couple up is through a dating app. Romance has definitely changed: but could this be for the best? Can you find the relationship you want on a dating app?

Dating apps sometimes get a bad reputation for taking the romance out of dating and creating a culture where, because we have so much choice, people are less likely to settle down. As an international dating expert I get asked a lot, “What app or dating site should I use to find love?” So here’s the thing—there’s no magic app where all the relationship-minded people hang out. Technology can’t guarantee lasting love. All dating apps do is help you to meet a larger selection of people. The relationship building is still up to you.

Let me explain this more and give you some simple steps you can follow to find the relationship you want on a dating app.

1. Dating apps are a platform to meet more people.
Alongside taking that salsa class, and meeting people through friends, dating apps give you a way to meet people that you may never have met in real life. This randomization can be a powerful way to meet a much larger selection of people. And because of that, being clear about what you want will make it easier for you to match with people who want the same things as you.

Some people use apps to date casually, others use apps to look for a long-term partner, and just about everything in-between. Whether you just want some fun or are looking for the one, it’s good to start by being clear with yourself about what you want. This will help you to look out for the right qualities in other people, and communicate clearly with them. If you want a relationship and someone just seems to be interested in meeting you between 9 p.m. and 9 a.m. on a Tuesday night, leave it. Likewise if you want to just have a ‘netflix and chill’ then be upfront about your intentions to attract other people who really like to, er… stay in and watch movies. Take responsibility for choosing people who are looking for similar things as you are from the start, and drop trying to change someone’s mind.

Dating apps may not be able to guarantee happily ever after (that’s a lot to ask from your mobile phone!) but what they do reflect is different people’s different versions of happiness. For some people happiness is a lasting partnership, for others it’s a flirtatious Friday night. Both are equally valid dating goals—as long as you remember to be honest about what you’re looking for.

2. Don’t be afraid to make the first move to meet new people.
(Yes, ladies I mean you.)
One amazing thing about dating in 2017 is that it’s more than ok for women to make the first move. Sure in the past things may have seemed more ‘romantic’ but given a choice between waiting to see who sweeps you off your feet, and being able to create opportunities for yourself, I would take opportunity creation every time. This puts you in the driver’s seat when it comes to the romantic choices you have.

Now you may think that men like the chase and that making a move will scare them off. First of all, if any man doesn’t appreciate a woman being communicative and open to dating, you don’t need that guy! Secondly, stats from the dating site Zoosk show that women who make the first move are often more successful. Women who send messages that give a clear suggestion of a date by mentioning lunch, drinks, or dinner get up to 73% more responses. Men sometimes feel they face an uphill struggle while trying to meet women online who are prepared to get offline. If you show clearly that you’re someone who is on the dating app to date, then you can expect a positive response from the men out there who want the same.

Again this doesn’t guarantee the guy who turns up on that date is a great match for you, or wants the same things, this is why you want to use your communication skills to both state what you want, and hear what the other person wants.

If you want a relationship there’s no shame in saying, “I just don’t believe in double dating, sounds confusing!” or, “For the right person, then yes of course I’d be open to a relationship.” Or if you want to be more carefree then say something like, “Right now I’m just focusing on my career and enjoying new experiences.”

It can be a bit ouchy when you want more than the other person, but rather than seeing dating apps as the culprit, instead recognize that it’s ok for people to want different things, and respect people’s choices… even if you don’t always agree with them.

3. Be honest about who you are to attract the right people.
You may think that by creating a more generic dating profile that you’ll get more matches, which may be true, but this doesn’t necessarily mean they’re the right matches. You can see this right away with how you choose your photo—people with a full body photo (this doesn’t need to be shirtless!) get 203% more messages than those without. This is because full-body photos where someone can see all of you create trust, as they allow people to see you clearly.

The same goes for your profile. You may think that all women want a swashbuckling alpha male who bears more than a passing resemblance to Ryan Gosling. But you may be surprised to hear that men with the word thoughtful in their profiles get 66% more messages. As times are changing so do our expectations of what an attractive person is. People are looking for different types of relationships and because of that different qualities in men and women can be appreciated. Sure you’re never going to impress everyone, but if you create a profile full of your quirks, personality, and qualities you’ll get better quality matches, and people who are really interesting in you and the thing you’re passionate about.

The world of dating apps has given us more options—more choice over who to date and the relationships we form. They have reflected how society is changing so that many different versions of identity, partnerships, and paths to happiness now exist. It does mean our love lives have grown more complex, but it has restored a lot of our freedom as individuals to choose how we live, and explore who we are.

If you’re interested in hearing more about how dating apps are shaping and reflecting our relationships, I would appreciate your vote for my upcoming SXSW talk. To learn more and vote for my talk Dating Apps: Ruining Love Or Enabling Equality? check out my PanelPicker page.

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