Dating App Strategy

I, unfortunately enough, have spent a lot of time on dating apps. I was an okcupid user back in the early 2010s and have since then (excluding a few happy years coupled) been a longtime Bumble/Tinder/Hinge user. Over that time I’ve seen lots change about the dating apps — from Tinder’s incredible swipe interface innovation that turned finding a lifelong mate to cherish into a sort of erotic candy crush you can play on the subway, to Bumble’s important girls-go-first innovation that has shifted how (some) people think about early-relationship dynamics in interesting ways (for what it’s worth, women in Mexico seem to find it a lot more unusual / challenging than women in NYC did).

Having seen now, conservatively, many thousands of dating profiles I’ve developed some (apparently) non-standard beliefs about the best way to craft a dating profile to optimize for good matches. I’ll share those here in the hopes that they may be of use to all of those other poor souls swiping through the hellscape of dating apps here in 2020. Obviously, given my personal and conspicuous lack of success, take all of this advice with at least a few large granules of salt.

First, we should align on what the goal of a dating app is — for me, it’s to find people with whom I enjoy spending a lot of time with. Ideally at least one of those people will turn into a long-term partner with whom I can build a deep relationship with, but I’m actually happy to meet people on the apps whom I could plausibly become friends with or at least wouldn’t regret spending a few hours with on a first date. That is, I want to effectively separate the people I’m most likely to get along well with from the mass of folks with whom I mostly likely won’t.

If your goal is something different, maybe maximizing the number of dates you go on, or identifying high-probability one-night-stands, then you can disregard all of the rest of the advice in this blog post (or maybe consider actually inverting the strategies described here).

So, with that goal in mind, I want to craft a profile that:

  • Attracts potential partners whom I’m most likely to get along well with
  • Repels potential partners whom I’m least likely to get along well with

I think of this as  a signaling problem where I want to use my profile to signal most effectively to my type of people that I’m their type, and signal to the rest that I’m not. I want to use the space in my profile to send very strong signals to both of those parties — ideally each piece of information in the profile sends the correct signal to both of those two groups.

Let’s consider the single most common thing I see in dating profiles:

“I love to travel”

Because it’s so common, it therefore immediately does a terrible job of separating high-probability partners from low-probability partners. Everyone loves to travel! This sentence tells you nothing about the person writing it and sends no signal to anyone. Because one can easily imagine two people who both love to travel not only not getting along, but also not enjoying the same travel experience, we can improve it by adding more specificity. Here are three examples:

  • I love local culture, so when traveling you can always find me sampling the street food, the spicier the better (no matter the gastrointestinal consequences).
  • I’m a shoestring traveler — I love backpacking and meeting new people in hostels. For me, travel is all about late nights with new friends.
  • I’m all about treating myself — my ideal vacation involves a whole lot of spa time and incredible meals with people I love

All three of these people have a valid love of travel, but one can easily imagine them not enjoying the same trip at all. By adding a lot more specificity, we can attract the sort of people who have similar tastes and highlight our differences to the rest.

Here’s another example of a thing that I enjoy that would do a good job of sending clear signals to the relevant groups:

“I love to go to art museums alone and crank Radiohead through my headphones”

This is both true and highlights some unique things about me that will interest people who I think are good potential partners and turn off bad potential partners. If you’re not into art museums and you’re annoyed by people who like Radiohead, this profile is not going to appeal to you! However, if you’re the sort of person who finds this intriguing / endearing you should email me.

If your goal is to identify the most high-quality matches from the rest of the world, you should try to pack your profile with points like these — you can use your photos to make these points as well, so be strategic! If we all get better at doing this sort of signaling, we’ll all be able to find each other more quickly.

Happy hunting.

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By michael