• Kathie Scalf

Dating Digitally


Today I was approached by another single friend of mine with a question I get asked with a fair degree of regularity-

“Of all of them, which dating apps should I be putting myself on?”

I guess because I’m such a vocal and unapologetic user (or abuser) of online dating sites, some might view me as some sort of guru with insider knowledge, which I can assure you based on my consistent track record of failures is absolutely not accurate. However, I will say I have gained quite a bit of personal experience with these things, and I don’t mind to share some of the lessons I have learned along the way in the name of sparing someone else the headache.

My first and most solid piece of advice is that it is all just a numbers game, so you better be ready to commit some time to exhausting yourself on dates. As much as I would love to tell you you’re going to quickly meet compatible people on these things since you can already read about shared interests and photos, just like every other social media platform, people for the most part are only going to share their highlights. I would say at least 90% of the men I go out with list themselves as “casual drinking, non-smoking, Christian conservatives” but by the time our first date is over they’re drunkenly bumming a cigarette with one hand while trying to grope me with the other between curse words and dirty jokes. I guess I just have that effect of men.

The truth of the matter is this; there is a lot of garbage out there, and you’re going to need to sift through all that trash raccoon style to find a handful of decent people. My process of elimination goes a bit like this, and there is some degree of success to my methods.

First, you need to turn off your notifications. Treat online dating like a second job and limit the amount of consideration you give it to about an hour a day. Otherwise, you’re going to find yourself addicted to another digital time suck, but worse than others, this one will strictly bring you validation and attention from outside sources and we don’t need that.

Next, narrow it down to 2 platforms max. Depending on what you’re seeking to gain, certain apps are better than others. If you want something more serious you may want to look into a service that requires payment like Match, which tends to attract people who genuinely want to meet someone. For your average person I think that Bumble and Hinge attract at least some people who pretend to be interested in more than just the physical. But if you strictly want booty or a free meal, Tinder is the way to go.

Once you’ve nailed down your weapons of choice, get to swiping. I would suggest skimming over their written words and not just basing your actions on photos, but honestly, don’t think too much on this process. Go with your gut instinct. When you start getting matched with people who have swiped on you, you’ll have an opportunity to ask direct questions and learn more about them.

At that point you can really start weeding through people. I give it about a day or two of brief messaging back and forth, but no more. You should know within a couple of exchanges whether you’re interested in speaking further or if they’re going to kidnap you to harvest your organs. And if you don’t know, then you need to really work on sharpening your people reading skills. Treat this initial contact on the app like you just sat down next to each other at a bar or are standing in line beside them at the grocery store. You have limited time to share, but you like what you’re hearing and want to continue the conversation. The quicker you can move from the dating app to another platform like Instagram or texting via phone, the better. This is important- a lot of people want a penpal. They enjoy endless messaging or worse, want to call and talk to you before a date. That is what your first in-person date is for. If you spend all that time chatting beforehand, when you finally make it to the date, what will you have to talk about? Keep the conversations short, sweet and purposeful.

Back to the numbers game aspect, go ahead and assume that half the dates you make will fall through so you may as well overbook. For example, I’ve booked as many as 6 dates in 4 days, but in the week leading up to the events, 3 of them didn’t come to fruition. One guy never followed up to confirm, one guy canceled and one sent me an unsolicited and unprompted picture of his junk which led to me blocking him permanently. Of the 3 dates I ended up going on, 2 of the guys I would see again, but only 1 had what I would call “staying power.” These are the kind of odds you’re up against.

When it comes to finally meeting in person, less is more. Make the first time something non-committal like a happy hour cocktail or a cup of coffee. If you get there and are enjoying yourself, you have the opportunity to continue the date into a second drink or a full meal. But if you book a whole dinner reservation with someone and it sucks, you’re kind of committed to at least an hour of suffering.

Lastly, don’t take these things so seriously. People make dating so heavy; this should be something fun where you’re putting yourself in line to meet lots of new connections in many forms. I can’t tell you how many lasting relationships I’ve made with guys who, even though the romance wasn’t there, have become great friends. Look at it like you’re practicing interview skills for your next job opportunity, and in a worst case scenario you at least shared a drink or some food with someone you never have to see again. Best case scenario, you find someone who adds positivity to your life in some form or fashion. Always keep your best interests at the forefront and ALWAYS listen to your gut. If something feels off, remember you don’t owe anyone anything, especially a stranger from the internet. Don’t feel bad about excusing yourself or slipping away while they’re in the bathroom. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

Good luck to all my fellow singles who are ready to mingle. It’s a jungle out there!