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I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Online dating is the biggest change in human relationships since we decided to mate for life. For that reason, and because I’m a marriage and family therapist who is super interested in online dating, I want to make sure this massive, seismic shift works in your favor. Sometimes I do that by calling out douchey behavior in the Tinder Files, but today I’m going to be teasing out dating app reputations.
I’ll start by letting you know all the apps on this list are free. We’re all in the same boat here, as twenty-somethings just tryna live. And finding a relationship shouldn’t require you to take more hours at work. I’m surprised you have time to date now! But while these 11 apps are all viable options for someone in your financial position, they’re not all going to help you find the same type of relationship.
This guide will tell you which are for finding hookups, and which are for relationships. Gone are the days of suffering through an endless stream of “sups” and “hey theres” while you wait for the right guy to come along. Release yourself from the burden of men who copy and paste the same message to every woman and forget to change her name. Breathe a sigh of relief as you roam the apps, free of tasteless sexual innuendos. Unless, of course, that’s what you’re looking for.
In that very same breath, I also want to urge you to take these dating app reputations with a tiny lil’ grain of salt. I know a girl who is marrying a guy she met on Tinder. So, these dating app reputations exist, but they are not the be-all-end-all!
Which Dating App Reputations Fit Your Needs?
Of all the dating app reputations out there, Tinder’s is clearest.
If you don’t know, Tinder is based heavily on attractiveness. You see a photo of a person, and if you like them, you swipe their photo to the right. Don’t like ’em, swipe left. Bios are short, and developers do no matching aside from limiting location. Since it gives very little chance to get to know potential matches, it was deemed most appropriate for encounters where personality doesn’t matter: one-night stands.
One draw to Tinder is that it’s mainstream. This is good for two reasons. First, it means there’s very little stigma. If someone saw Tinder on your phone, they wouldn’t think you’re desperate or any other silly stereotypes. Second, it means you have a way wider range of options, though that also means more to weed out depending on what you’re looking for.
Once upon a time, one of my best friends downloaded Coffee Meets Bagel to win a date with Dr. Mike, this famously sexy doctor. She didn’t win, but a smart, handsome (wealthy) man named Chris happened to message her. He said: “is your name Megan or Rachel?” because there was a glitch in the app. She said “Megan,” and the rest is history. Yesterday, I attended their apartment-warming party. So, she says, who really won that contest?
Coffee Meets Bagel is different in that they give you a finite number of matches per day– people they really think you’ll like. Once you’ve given a yes or a no, you’re done for the day. Sometimes online dating can feel like you’re shopping or playing a game, so I like that this one forces you to be patient and selective. On the flip side though, imagine this. You get four matches one day, and you only like one of them. If that person doesn’t message you back, you can’t just go try someone else. You have to wait until you get more.
Another testament to how serious CMB is about relationships is the idea that chat rooms are only open for seven days. Once you match with someone, you have one week to chat ’em up before you lose your shot. Of course, you can pay to re-open it, but this guide to dating app reputations is all about the free ones, so I don’t suggest that.
I’ll be brutally honest: I think POF is the worst app on this list. It’s not user-friendly, they don’t have “matches,” so anyone can message you, and their algorithm genuinely sucks.
It’s more traditional than Tinder, with some kinda matching algorithm and a more detailed profile. This should mean it’s more relationship-oriented; you’d be casting a smaller net, but getting higher quality matches. This is not the case. They weed out very, very little for you. The only preferences you can set regarding who messages you are their gender, age, and message length. What about location?? People from Florida and Colorado have messaged me in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Why?? I assume because otherwise, they’d have to admit that there’s not actually plenty of fish out there.
But you know what? I prefer that. I’d prefer a small but great selection of big, smart fish with a lot to offer, over a giant selection of sexually charged fish who can’t spell.
Unless, of course, I’m reading this all wrong. If the name actually refers to the number of photos of proud shirtless boys in camo baseball caps holding fish, there are indeed plenty of those.
Happn is one of the ones with the more ambiguous dating app reputations. It’s not specifically for hooking up or serious relationships. It’s for missed connections, which actually makes it a lucrative choice for a lot of people.
Picture this: you’re standing in a coffee shop next to an attractive stranger. He grabs his coffee, smiles at you, and just LEAVES. Devastating. Well, if you have Happn, it doesn’t have to be! Just open it and see who you have “crossed paths with”. If he has the app, all is not lost. The downside is that if he doesn’t have the app, all is still lost. And unfortunately, this isn’t a mainstream app that everyone has yet.
In fact, that’s my biggest complaint about this app– there aren’t enough users. I cross paths with the same three guys I went to high school with every time I drive past their houses. It’s a great idea, but their marketing team needs to step up their game.
Something else I don’t love is that this game they send me push notifications about all the time. They give you four guys and ask you to guess which one has liked you already. But when you guess correctly, it matches you with that person! I think that’s a little misleading. Believe me, the person I want to match with is not always the person I think matched with me.
Takeaway: great idea, poor execution.
OkCupid is the app I use most aside from Tinder, and the one that gets me the most dates and good conversations. Essentially, it’s a much better version of Plenty of Fish.
OkCupid is another that proves dating app reputations can be ambiguous, because it allows you to choose what type of relationship you’re looking for. In fact, you have lots of control over your matches on OkCupid, which is why I like it so much. They do have a swipe feature like Tinder, but it includes your match percentage with the person as well as their photos. There are hundreds of questions you can answer to make that match percentage more accurate. People can message anyone they want, but the object of your affection won’t answer unless you’re a match via the swipe feature. I think it nicely balances the best features from many of the apps.
Hinge’s claim to fame is that it uses your Facebook friends to facilitate connections, and that it’s the app that’s “designed to be deleted”. And it seems to be working! They claim that they’re the #1 most mentioned dating app in the NY Times wedding section.
The way it works is that you can browse everyone, or you can browse who has already liked you. But people have to choose something specific on your profile to like or comment on. And they have a lot of interesting prompts that act as conversation starters, such as “best halloween costume,” or “my dream job if money didn’t matter”. However, I find that people often just “like” the responses rather than commenting on them, which puts the ball in your court. For someone like me, who isn’t necessarily looking for a serious relationship, this doesn’t often go anywhere because I’m not invested enough to make that first real move.
So, in terms of dating app reputations, Hinge is for serious relationships, or people who are comfortable making the first move. And personally, I’ve noticed a lot more cute guys on Hinge than some other apps, so if you’re looking for a serious relationship with a ten, I’d say Hinge is a good bet.
The League actually brings a whole new meaning to dating app reputations. Seriously, it’s all about reputations, and it’s very selective.
When you sign up, you’re automatically put on a waiting list. Of course, you can pay to move up more quickly, but you don’t have to. The list moves when they kick users out for being inactive, or if they’re caught trolling for one-night stands. They also accept based on creating a balanced and diverse community. In that way, I think the app is great. I like that they thoroughly vet their users and make sure people are using it for it’s intended purpose. However, I do sometimes think they focus a bit too much on appearances.
The fact that the app is called The League makes it sound a little elitist to me. And they ask you for your LinkedIn profile, which to me, means they’re looking at what you do and who your connections are. For a lowly little intern like me, it doesn’t bode well.
Once you’re off the waiting list, it works like CMB in that you get a certain number of matches per day (at “Happy Hour” which is super boujee if you ask me). If you choose, they can also match you up with events they think you might be interested in, which is cool. Having safe, app-sanctioned events to meet up at takes some pressure off a first date.
Overall, dating app reputations for The League vary. On some levels it’s boujee and superficial. On other levels it really takes catfishing seriously, which adds to safety. But it is definitely for serious relationships only!
On Weepo, you actually RSVP to events. Once you say that you’re going somewhere, you can swipe through all the other people who have said they’re going, too. This eliminates the potential awkwardness of asking someone out– you’re already going to the same place. For that reason, I’d say this is one of the ones with clearer dating app reputations. It’s much more oriented toward single encounters.
If I were looking for a one-night stand, I’d love this app. I’d also love it if I were new to a city, trying to find cool places to hang out. But since I’m into a little more depth, I feel like this can be a cop-out. You don’t have to work up the nerve to ask them to go out. It also concerns me that even people you don’t match with will know where you are because you’re both on the same list. If I don’t swipe to someone because I find them super creepy, they still technically know where I’ll be that night. And I’ve heard if you bail on events, you have a score that goes down so people know you might not show up where you say you’ll be.
Bumble is the app where women have to message first. A lot of women like it because it gives them more control over who gets in touch with them. They feel it levels the playing field a bit.
However– I have done some academic research on dating app reputations, and Bumble came up at a conference. As it turns out, a great deal of women feel like Bumble just adds more pressure onto women. They think women already have to worry about whether they’ll be safe on a date, and now they have to initiate contact as well. They wondered what that left for men to do.
Personally, I can see both sides of this debate, so I’m sharing both sides with you. Make an informed decision! If you’d rather let the men come to you, Bumble is not for you. If you like to feel in control, it might be great!
Dating app reputations are not just about whether they’re good for relationships or hookups. Some are based on their target audience, like Grindr. Grindr is officially known as the world’s largest social networking app for gay, bi, trans, and queer people. On the DL, it’s a hookup app for gay men.
When it first started in 2009, it exploded in popularity because it gave gay men a safe place to be themselves outside gay bars. However, it quickly became a haven for men to quickly get what they wanted from other men, hence it’s reputation for hooking up. Lately, it has been trying to clean up it’s image, playing up the idea that they foster real connection and are involved politically. (They have been helping out gay Syrian refugees.) However, they are struggling. They were recently involved in a scandal which revealed they were sharing HIV status with third parties.
Most of the apps on this list cater to LGBTQA people, but it’s just a different experience to have a space just for people who are like you. For that reason, I hope Grindr is able to clean up it’s image. For now though, I would steer clear of it if you’re looking for a serious relationship, unless you’re willing to really be patient.
Her is another app that focuses on the LGBTQA population, specifically lesbians but also bi and queer people. What makes this app cool is that it also has a feed full of queer news and events in your area. And judging by the fact that their homepage on their website says “FIND YOUR PERSON,” real big like that, I’m thinking this is a site you use to find people you enjoy being around for more than just a night. Considering it’s for women, who are socialized to care more about deep connection, this makes sense.
Again, I have not used this app personally. In fact, I hadn’t even heard of this one until I did a little research for this post. But it claims to be the biggest community for queer people worldwide, with over 3 million users. Looks like great odds you’ll find someone you like!
Are there any other dating apps you love to use? Hate to use? What dating app reputations didn’t I cover?