A guide to dating apps (from someone who hates them)

Photography by ADAM STANLEY

Words by Hannah Furst

I remember the exact moment I realised I despised dating apps. I was 20 minutes into a first date with someone that I had zero chemistry with.

It was the most uncomfortable 20 minutes of my entire dating career; it was more awkward than the interview where I completely sweated through my white shirt, and the guy interviewing me politely asked, “Would you like to step outside for some fresh air?”.

I was so fed up with app chats going nowhere – you know, where you go back and forth with dozens of guys without actually going on a single first date – that I said yes to a drink with a guy that I had spent less than five minutes chatting to. Whats the worst that could happen?

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Well, the worst did happen. The conversation basically came to its natural conclusion within the first 18 minutes, we sat silently for another two minutes and then I faked a mystery illness and walked out. I promise, I am not usually this rude on first dates, but I couldn’t bear sitting in silence any longer. I hadn’t been on an app date in months, and this was the sign I needed from the universe that app dating just wasn’t for me.

Well, fast forward to the end of a very lonely lockdown, living on my own and working from home, and I was ready for ANY form of intimacy. At that point, I would’ve sat in awkward silence for 30 minutes.

But this time, I wanted to do app dating differently. So I enlisted the help of the experts. Well one expert, one fellow 30-something single girl, who unlike me, is killing it on dating apps… and my mum. Oh yeah, and a guy I’m talking to on Hinge who piped in when I told him I was writing this column. Here’s what they said.

The Dating Expert: Audrey Claire, founder of My Wingwoman

I interviewed Audrey for my dating podcast Single Minded, and boy, did I learn a lot. The biggest a-ha moment for me was when she said, “You can either view apps as a treasure chest or a tool. If it’s a treasure chest, you expect to open it and there will be gold.”

Dating apps are actually just an introductory tool. Nothing more, and nothing less. So we need to treat them with their intended purpose in mind. Audrey made three practical suggestions for those who are experiencing swiping fatigue:

  1. Don’t use the apps as a chemistry gauge; upgrade from text to video or in person, sooner rather than later. We make big judgements based on a small amount of information on dating apps, so if you’ve got enough in common to warrant a video chat to do a chemistry check, suggest a 20-minute session. COVID has normalised video chats, which Audrey says is the best thing to happen to dating apps. Upgrading also weeds out disinterest – you’ll know very quickly how serious someone is about meeting if they can’t commit to a 20-minute virtual chat.
  2. Your dating profile isn’t meant to attract the widest pool of people – this is dating, not a general election. Use your prompts or bio to attract your person, not every person. Audrey says that there’s a trend towards bios that are witty and funny, but, there’s a fine balance between being funny and being guarded. You need to show that you’re willing to show a bit of your true self. Sincere is sexy!
  3. Become more intentional about the time you spend on dating apps. Set diary time, and start with only 30 minutes of quality time, as opposed to hours of transactional, zoned-out swiping. Only say “Hi” if you mean it. Make a commitment to yourself that if you’re not in the mood to chat, don’t get on the apps. Be in it for quality conversations, so turn up with that mindset.

My podcast interview with Audrey was filled with more dating app tips and tricks like these. You can listen here if you’re interested in hearing more.

The Single Girl: Emma, known on Instagram as ‘The People’s Bachelorette’

When Emma broke up with her long-term partner of eight years, she started using dating apps for the first time ever. She quickly understood what all her single friends were talking about. So she decided to shake it up this summer and start an Instagram project called ‘The People’s Bachelorette’ where she shares her experiences of dating for fun. She committed not to start seeing someone for the entire summer. The entire summer would be devoted to dating.

Her goal? To flip the narrative of the ‘modern dating is shit’ trope. None of her dates has been a success, if success is measured by wanting to go on a second date. However, they’ve been fun. When I was chatting to her, I realised, maybe we need to redefine our definition of success when it comes to dating? If we’re in a dating rut, could we say to ourselves, “The goal of this date is to have fun”, not to meet “the one” or even to meet “the one night stand”?

As Emma says about online dating, “It’s an opportunity to meet someone new, have a few drinks, and see how things go.” Or an opportunity to go skinny dipping; yep, Emma got naked on a first date at 6am to watch the sunrise!

You can listen to my chat with Emma to give you some inspo for how to make dating fun again here.

My Mum: Linda, married for 33 years 

I handed over my phone to my mum – who is also my co-host on Single Minded – to give me her honest opinion on my Hinge profile.

One of my prompts (written in the midst of lockdown) read: “This year, I really want to: Join the mile high club, eat bar nuts, lick the traffic light button, travel the world, join the gym.” The other prompts were about my mac ‘n’ cheese. See, sincere?

Mum wasn’t impressed. She said I would only attract “dirtbags”. Guys did seem pretty excited about the whole, “Join the mile high club”. Didn’t they know it was a COVID-related joke?

Mum, who knows me better than anyone, said my profile was funny but didn’t actually say who I was. She said, “But you love hiking, you love to travel, you love your job… I think you need to include more about you. I’m not taking this mac ‘n’ cheese bullshit seriously.”

So she took over: “I’m looking for: Fellow traveller. Good conversation. Not averse to some beauty chat. Sense of humour. Doesn’t take life too seriously. Calls your mum every day.” I didn’t love it, but since then, there’s been a lot of self-confessed ‘mummy’s boys’ sliding in my DMs.

Overall, the new profile – which included a hiking photo – seems to be attracting guys more open to a first date walk, as opposed to first date ‘cuddles’ (and we all know what cuddles really means).

And finally, the guy I’m talking to on Hinge

As I was writing this column, I started chatting to a guy on Hinge. He opened with the pretty standard, “What’s going on tonight?”. I decided to go rogue and spice up the conversation. “This might seem strange but I’m writing a column about how much I hate dating apps,” I replied.

“What is it you hate about them so much?” he responded, followed by this little nugget of wisdom: “Maybe the mindset of people using them is the fatal flaw.” Mindset blown. I knew this was the perfect end to the column.

“That’s what the column’s about. Don’t worry, the main character always learns something at the end,” I wrote back. He replied, “Haha. Good to know :)”

And with that little smiley face, dating apps suddenly didn’t seem so bad after all.

Hannah is a content creator from Melbourne. She works in the beauty industry, and in her spare time hosts Single Minded, a dating podcast that’s flipping the script on being single. When she’s not creating beauty content, you’ll find her somewhere remote backpacking overseas – preferably with no WiFi to get a much-needed break from Instagram. Follow her addiction to serums and travel on Instagram here.

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