We all have a Tinder horror story. Some of us have several.
One encounter on my highlight reel involves a bologna-scented man who left his phone in my car with porn still pulled up on his browser. Another involves a man named Rooster, whom I used solely for a motorcycle ride, determined to live out my Lana Del Rey Ride music video fantasy.
Dating apps are f*@$king weird. And if you’ve found yourself with a hefty “worst date ever” Rolodex and little else, you’re not alone.
The Whole System Is Inherently Flawed
The majority of online dating apps and sites follow the same general format. Users answer questions, list preferences and upload photos. Then, they wade through a sea of potential suitors, making choices based on the individuals’ answers, preferences and pictures. But with over 44 million online users, how do the apps manage? With Algorithms.
Several online dating platforms keep their algorithm magic under wraps. Others, like Hinge, openly use age-old compatibility patterns like the Gale-Shapley algorithm.
It seems harmless at surface level. But this superficial curated content can quickly reveal harmful biases. Intimate discrimination can be as covert as CoffeeMeetsBagel pushing profiles of the same ethnicity regardless of their expressed preference. Or, it can look like Grindr’s ethnicity filter.
You’re More Than A Left Or Right Swipe
Humans are complicated. And despite making great strides since the online personal ads of late 90s Match.com, today’s algorithms are still a bit too clunky to capture the nuances of compatibility.
Ben Berman, Miguel Perez and Mozilla created Monster Match, a dating app “game,” to highlight the pitfalls of these algorithms.
“In practice, algorithms reinforce bias by limiting what we can see,” Berman told Wired in 2019. “I think these existing dating apps have become narrowly focused on growth at the expense of users who would otherwise be successful.”
Trying to stay vulnerable on a platform that prioritizes shallow connection has consequences. A study published in BMC Psychology found users of swipe-based dating apps (SBDA) “to have significantly higher rates of psychological distress, anxiety and depression.”
Finding love online is by no means impossible. But for many of us, multi-million-user platforms might be a bit too impersonal for the task. Smaller boutique dating apps can encourage deeper connection that goes beyond a swipe to the right. Take a look at some of our suggestions down below.
Struck: A Match Made In Heaven
Struck is a dating app for stargazers. There are no endless scrolls through detached selfies and beach pics. Instead, an in-app astrologer matches users based on each person’s natal charts.
Synastry, or the study of how two people’s natal charts affect their relationship, has been used for centuries. And it’s not surprising—a natal chart tells us a lot more about ourselves than just our sun sign.
In addition to sun signs, a natal chart reveals an individual’s moon, ascendent signs and which planets and stars rule over which aspects of their lives. This increases the likelihood that you and your match’s personalities, preferences and goals are closely aligned.
Still think astrology is fake? Well, so are the last five Facetuned selfies you just scrolled past. Tomato, tom-ah-to.
Vinylly: Finding Your Concert Buddy For Life
If you’ve ever experienced the misfortune of riding in a date’s car while they play the worst possible music you’ve ever heard on their radio, try Vinylly.
Vinylly matches users based on streaming music data and online music habits. So, although no one’s music taste is quite as good as yours, Vinylly puts you one step closer to finding your musical mate.
This small music-centric app is more than just sharing your favorite playlists with strangers. Vinylly also provides a variety of custom-tailored, music-inspired date ideas for when you and your match finally meet in-person.
Let’s be honest—it’s still going to be hard to find another person who enjoys listening to Broadway soundtracks, Dua Lipa, and Black Sabbath back to back, but Vinylly can make it easier.
HeyBaby: Start A Family
A 2017 LendEDU survey found that 22.22% of millennial Tinder users used the app to “look for a hookup.” Only 4.16%, however, claimed to be looking for love. And a whopping 44.44% said they used Tinder for “confidence-boosting procrastination.”
Granted, everyone’s entitled to use these SBDA as they see fit. But for singles looking to build or grow a family, coming across profiles looking for an ego boost is frustrating.
Enter HeyBaby, a boutique dating app for single parents or singles looking to start a family. Forget figuring out if Chad from Chi Kappa Phi is willing to have a kid or not. HeyBaby is all about shared priorities and can be found nationwide. Is there anything sexier?
Try To Enjoy Your Time Offline, Too
No matter which dating app you use—Tinder, Hinge, Bumble, Bramble, Doorjamb, Jellybean, etc.—it’s important to remember that if they don’t work, it’s not you, it’s them.
Sure, dating apps are all the rage right now, but a 2018 polling platform found that 84% of millennials would rather find love “in real life” than online.
Whether in-person, online or via letters circa the 1890s, all forms of dating are going to be a little weird, nerve wracking and awkward. That’s just part of life. But as someone who has lived to tell my cringe-tastic Tinder tales, I can safely say that the love you seek often appears as soon as you stop looking (or swiping).
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