What I learned from being on 8 dating apps for 3 weeks ...
... and 2 books to read with your next brew
Welcome to the final edition for 2022!
Hard to believe it’s been one year since I moved to Substack (December 22, 2021), and how much more I enjoy writing this newsletter now that I’m here.
I’ve got some fun ideas for 2023 and I’m grateful for each and every one of you.
If you want to get me something for the holidays, please recommend this newsletter to your friends (or your readers, if you write a newsletter too) - that is the best gift possible 💖
Speaking of fun … or perhaps I should call it “fun” … I ran a social experiment on myself recently. What to hear about it?
What Happens When a 38-year-old Female Joins 8 Dating Apps for 3 Weeks
Basis of the Experiment: Join a wide array of dating apps for 3 weeks and, well, see what happens.
This idea was born out of curiosity because isn’t that where a lot of great ideas are born?
It has been over a decade since I’ve been available/single and I’ve never really been part of the dating scene. Both of the long-term relationships that I’ve had happened through happenstance - we met through friends or family or similar interests, and it developed over time … you know how it goes.
In between those two longer relationships, I didn’t really “date” - there were a few people that came and went, but again, we met through friends or work, so I never really went looking/hunting for dates.
I say this not to brag - more to emphasize my total lack of experience in the dating world (I have no idea what I’m doing + happily admit that)!
So, from Sunday, November 20th to Sunday, December 11th, I had an active profile on 8 different dating apps (listed in no particular order):
Results of the Experiment:
40+ hours swiping in apps
30+ matches between all 8 apps (meaning we both liked/swiped on each other)
15+ bots chatted with, most of which were obsessed with trying to get me into crypto (a common scam that I’ve read about)
10+ guys that can’t hold a conversation to save their life
8+ conversations that we took off the apps into Whatsapp or Signal messenger, none of which are ongoing
Meet 1 person twice in real life (IRL) who will likely only be a friend
Thoughts on the Experiment:
Simply put, this was f*cking exhausting, especially as an introvert.
At first, it’s kinda fun to see who is out there looking for someone else, but it quickly progresses into a feeling of “people shopping” and swiping left (saying no, I’m not interested) exponentially more than swiping right).
You naturally get a rush of feel-good hormones (probably dopamine) when you see someone you find cute, then read their profile, then swipe right on them.
Then you get an even bigger rush of feel-goods when they actually match with you and you start chatting with them.
And that’s when reality sets in. It goes from being this 2D experience of “people shopping” to learning a new 3D person, with a history and experiences of their own. That times time, effort, emotional investment, and a bit of skill (from both parties!).
I know people who have met their spouses on apps and it can definitely expose you to people you may never meet otherwise. Also, you have the ability to partially “vet” someone in advance - you know more about what they’re looking for, and, possibly, their religion, their preference for kids, their hobbies, their goals … etc.
When you meet someone in a bookstore or a coffee shop, you know NONE of that - you don’t even know if they’re single and looking - so the stakes are much higher in terms of rejection. But you may worry less about if they are who they say they are.
And folks, let’s be honest - I’m an introvert. I will sit and stare at someone I’m interested in but never talk to them, hoping my non-existent powers of ESP will draw them to me. Yes, it’s something I’m actively trying to overcome. Imagine my surprise when someone actually comes up to me and talks to me first … but it’s rare.
I’ve been told that I’m “intimidating” and “unapproachable” in person. Maybe that’s a vibe I give off to keep weak people away, I don’t know, but the sight of me sitting in a coffee shop, drinking iced tea, and reading a book can’t be all that intimidating, is it?
Worth noting that if you do see me in person, please do come up and chat with me. I am quite kind and easy to talk to - which is what others have told me once they get past that “intimidating” and “unapproachable” vibe. Maybe it’s the blonde hair and they think I’ll be stuck up or rude? Who knows - people are weird.
Back to the apps.
The most important thing that I learned (other than bots on dating apps are quite common and it’s an obnoxious problem) is that if you’re going to join a dating app - any app - know WHY you are doing it. Know what you want and state it clearly. Drive off anyone who isn’t interested in what you’re looking for.
Now, that comes with a side of truth: be yourself, but dial down the desperation. Everyone is on the apps looking for someone - that’s the whole point - but some profiles you read wreak of desperation and no one healthy is attracted to that.
The rush of a new connection with another person is exciting. We’re all human and we crave connection but forcing that connection too fast raises so much anxiety in me. I’m sure that’s my own hesitation to work on too but … let me give an example.
I chatted with a number of folks who, after talking for less than 15 minutes, they asked for my phone number.
No. Absolutely not. Slow your roll.
First, a number of those folks turned out to be bots, so let that speak for itself.
Second, maybe I’m a bit old-school, but giving someone your phone number still feels quite personal, and not a line I cross that quickly. Your 15 minutes of basic back-and-forth didn’t earn you that kind of access into my life.
This brings me to the 2nd most important thing you need to know: your standards and boundaries. OK, that’s two things, but they go hand-in-hand.
Standards: The qualities that both you and someone else must possess in order for you to consider a relationship (things like communication styles, health, financial stability, work, emotional availability … etc.)
Boundaries: The limits you put on what someone else can do TO you (things like types of dates, level of access to your life, how they talk to you, how they treat you when you’re in person, whether you’re OK with last-minute plans, whether or not you will “chase” someone … etc.)
Some simplify it down to saying that Boundaries are for others while Standards are for you, but that doesn’t quite capture it for me.
I think of it as: Standards are the minimum of what I expect from you and will also provide to you, while Boundaries are lines you are not allowed to cross with me.
Both can be flexible, and both can change over time, but having a minimum level of Standards and Boundaries can and will make it MUCH easier to know who to spend your time chatting with or even meeting in person, and who simply isn’t a good match for you.
Maybe it would be easier to provide examples?
Have your own job/career and be financially supporting yourself
Have a place of your own
No criminal record or drug abuse
Emotionally available and physically healthy/active
Does not want kids
Good communication skills and doesn’t shy away from/avoid tough topics
No giving you my phone number until we both can confirm we are who we say we are (via proof photos, voice messages, and/or a video call)
No last-minute dates
No late-night dates
No sex before we are exclusive/monogamous
No lying or cheating
No non-monogamy or polyamory
No tolerance for the disrespect of my time, personal space, or choices
No chasing you for your attention
No going days without communication
No racists, bigots, sexists, or anyone that is rude to the wait staff
No one who supports Trump (which often correlates with my previous point, oddly enough)
From my perspective, those are a very basic list of Standards and Boundaries … but it can be surprisingly hard to find someone who can meet and respect them all - at least from my 3-week dating app experience.
Am I still on the apps? Yes and no.
Some apps, Like eHarmony and Match, I completely deleted my profile and have no plan to join again.
Some other apps, like Bumble and The League, my profile is still active, but I ask people to message me on Instagram because I do not have the apps installed on my phone and I’m not actively swiping.
I’m not at a place in my life where I want to invest this much time into finding a partner, especially since my marriage ended not long ago.
I’m not ready for a long-term relationship and I know that about myself. I do want to have another long-term relationship in the future (and would get married again to the right person), but for now, showering my love and attention on myself is what is needed.
That being said, I am open to meeting new people and seeing if it grows into something over time. I’m not in a hurry to partner up with someone or become intimate and exclusive.
When I AM ready to get into a relationship again, would I use the apps?
Sure, I’d give them a shot again, though not all of them, and certainly not that many at once!
You do get exposed to very different types of people on different apps, and some apps have better profile set-ups than others, but I don’t think I’d want to be active on more than 2-3 apps at a time.
Like all other things in our modern world, our attention is the most valuable thing. Dating apps have their pros and cons, just like meeting someone in person has its pros and cons. They’re not all bad, but you do need to go into it knowing a) what you want and b) what your Standards and Boundaries are. That will help you make the most of your time and attention when you use the apps, and allow you to still go have a life and not spend an hour swiping on Tinder.
My Dating App Opinions:
Favorite App: a tie between Hinge and The League
Least Favorite App: eHarmony
App with the Most Bots: Tinder
App with the Most Obvious Paywall: a tie between eHarmony and Luxy
Apps with the Most Crossover: Tinder and Match (i.e. seeing the same folks on both apps)
App I Got the Most Matches From: Tinder (but also mostly bots)
App I Got the Highest Quality Matches From: Bumble (no bots!)
Apps I’d Actually Use in the Future: Bumble, The League, and Hinge (perhaps Tinder too, with a HIGH awareness of the bots problem, but it is a super-popular app worldwide)
💻 What I’ve been reading online …
Is it a coincidence that a number of the places on Travel + Leisure’s 10 Best Places to Live in the World are also on my upcoming trip list? No, no it’s not 😁
Dreaming of visiting Japan and going to an onsen during Winter, thanks to’s helpful tips.
Instead of looking out for red flags, I’m more interested in finding green flags.
I’m oddly comforted by knowing that gets as excited about the first snow of the season as I do here in Colorado.
Drinking in the US vs other countries is not a black/white topic andhas some insights. (I didn’t start drinking until I was 30, so I find this especially fascinating.)
I’ve been on a mission this year to stop optimizing my downtime … if you watch my Instagram Stories, then you know I’m getting pretty good at it (irony?).
Sometimes we all need a pep talk andhas you covered (bookmark this for when you need it!)
If you’re interested in being in (or staying in) a long-term relationship,’ advice is priceless.
📚 Books I enjoyed recently
A book you intentionally read more than once, especially when life feels tougher than it should: Lighter: Let Go of the Past, Connect with the Present, and Expand the Future by Yung Pueblo
A book that makes you question everything you know about productivity + your place in the world: How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy by Jenny Odell
👀 What I’m reading now
The Catch Me If You Can: One Woman's Journey to Every Country in the World by Jessica Nabongo
Out of all the editions of this newsletter that I’ve written this past year, I’m looking forward to the comments on this one the most.
Ask me anything.
And share your dating app experience, if you’ve used them before 📱
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