Roast Tinder bios with “6’1″, since that matters” all you want, but a good portion of us are goddamn thankful for online dating.
Some grandparents and fake deep Twitter still insist that online dating takes away from that raw conversation that can only be had in person. But if you think about it, online dating technically fosters many more face-to-face interactions with people that you probably wouldn’t have met otherwise. At any rate, it’s a helpful step to mitigate the pressure of meeting someone new, especially for introverts or people following social distancing rules.
The modern serendipity that is coming across your soulmate out of millions of profiles is more likely than you think: Two Stanford sociologists found that online dating is officially the most popular way for U.S. couples to connect. The 2017 survey found that 39% of heterosexual couples and 60% of same-sex couples originally met online, beating the numbers of older, traditional methods like meeting through friends or at work or school.
Other recent studies about the types of connections being made deliver a swift blow to the antiquated arguments about online dating being solely rooted in superficial factors, like how hot someone’s profile picture is: People who meet online are more likely to be compatible and, if they decide to tie the knot, have a higher chance of a healthy marriage — that is, according to this study cited in the MIT Technology Review.
No one is assuming online dating is the variable that guarantees riding off into the sunset. But research does suggest that people who are willing to put effort and honesty into compatibility tests and open-ended profile questions might be more ready to get serious.
The variety and quality of information on your profile matters
In many cases, the amount of information you can get from these detailed profiles is more than what would be covered in the “traditional” period of getting to know someone. The whole “do you want to have babies” thing is a huge piece of information that could decide your future with someone, but it’s very possible that such a weighty subject won’t be brought up until you’ve caught feelings or met their parents.
However, many dating sites ask about kids — whether you want them or already have them — during the sign-up process (as well as other potentially-awkward questions), and probably won’t match you with someone who has different goals than you do. Similarly, some of OkCupid’s matching is rooted in political and social justice views. Will you find out if someone keeps guns in the house or opposes vaccinations on the first date? Probably not, but OkCupid sure as hell won’t send you to get a beer with someone you’d start a fight with on Facebook.
Plus, it’s always nice when your current booty call doesn’t suck as a person.
She would know — she’s been helping clients find love online since 1994.
“People didn’t have mobile phones and laptops, and the process was people would go home, log on slowly, see who had written to them and write back,” she says. “The courtship process was a lot slower, so it took quite a while to get from the first interaction to actually going on a date. Plus in those days, there was a stigma associated with online dating. You did not tell people you met your spouse, or partner, or even a date online.”
The rhetoric has clearly come a long way since then, and the digital dating landscape has evolved with people’s changing needs. OkCupid realized that the way a potential match votes matters romantically to a lot of people. Women were tired of men blowing up their messages with creepy first-liners, so Bumble came along. On Coffee Meets Bagel, only people you’ve liked back can message you, and swiping through people won’t take up all your free time. “Tindering” is now a verb, but it’s far from your only option.
We haven’t reached full AI-based or gene matchmaking just yet, but many modern features facilitating more meaningful matches (or quicker, safer hookups) have sprung up even in the past five years.
The OG reigns supreme with a tried-and-true algorithm and features that modernize with the user base. Free version: Yes One month of Premium: $35.99 Three months of Premium: $19.99/month Six months of Premium: $17.99/month One year of Premium: $15.99/month
Match (no more “.com”) has totally reconstructed its questionnaire to be less of a tedious interrogation and more of a conversational probe into how you’d react to realistic situations — both with a partner and, say, a neighbor who needs help at 3. a.m. The probe into your daily habits and values (plus the ability to mark traits that are deal breakers) ensures that Match sets you up with someone whose ideal lifestyle matches yours. The meshing of playfulness and rational thinking downs the pressure of signing up for a paid dating site.
The site’s push to appeal to a younger crowd goes past the clean app redesign.
In 2020, Match launched Vibe Check, a social distancing-era video call feature that aims to give new matches the closest thing possible to a first date. (This is also a smart way to ensure that the person on the other end is legit.) Users can now talk to their Top Picks without a paid subscription — a free feature that’s sure to make up some people’s minds.
At the end of the day, Match’s mix of classic and modern has helped it grow a user base that’s bigger than the population of New York City. “Match is the family brand,” Spira says. “It’s the one where someone could see their grandmother on, and someone could see their grandson on. It has the largest critical mass, and they have done a fabulous job of keeping up with the technology.”
Best non-swiping app for newbies
Matchmaking based on subconscious swiping behavior • Huge variety of people
Potential to be hit with random fees • Profile views might be inflated to make you feel better • Too many dead or spam profiles
Zoosk is boring but could expand your horizons if you’re tired of the same Match users popping up.
Free version: Yes One month of Premium: $29.95 Three months of Premium: $19.98/month Six months of Premium: $12.49/month
Incorporating “liking” photos and having a similar look as a Facebook feed was attractive to young, single people… in the early 2000s. The problem is that Zoosk hasn’t changed much since then. It’s plain, riddled with dead or fake profiles, and there certainly aren’t any modern tweaks like OkCupid’s politics-related ice breakers or Match’s overhauled questionnaire. Despite Zoosk being advertised everywhere, people started opting for Match Group’s offerings with more premium designs, less messy notifications, and personalized algorithms.
Zoosk is free to sign up, but you’ll need a paid subscription to do basically anything. Not only is there a fee on the end of every message, but Reddit users complain about random charges to their account and ignored requests to cancel their subscriptions.
The whole coin system feels less like romance and more like you’re playing some sort of pop-up ad game, but they’re there.
Best app for millennials
Limited scrolling rather than endless swiping • Unique profile criteria like political affiliation and stance on marijuana • Rapidly-growing user base, especially in cities • High statistics for second dates
Filtering by height no longer a free feature • Have to pay for unlimited matches
The wide appeal of Hinge is due to its thoughtful combo of Tinder’s instant gratification and Match’s relationship focus.
Free version: Yes One month of Hinge Preferred: $12.99 Three months of Hinge Preferred: $6.99/month Six months of Hinge Preferred: $4.99/month
Despite the fact that we’re actively seeking out new dating apps and feel a rush every time a cute contender swipes right back, no one wants to be on these. Unless a friend with benefits is the max connection you can handle right now, the whole point of online dating is to find your person so you can stop looking for your person. That was the idea behind Hinge’s 2019 rebrand to “the dating app designed to be deleted.” It’s a really smart combo of witty and optimistic that should deliver users some hope. Hinge’s real-world statistics speak for themselves: The “We met” feature asks users how the first date went. Some 90% said the first date was great and 72% said they’d be down for a second date.
There’s a common understanding among users that Hinge isn’t just for sex, but there’s no pressure to rush into a relationship either.
Prompts range from “The most spontaneous thing I’ve ever done” to “Two truths and a lie.” You can also explore a potential match’s height, college (if they went), political affiliation, stance on weed, and more. By covering so many bases before even messaging someone, Hinge lowers your chance of meeting someone you’d hate.
Best for liberals and leftists
Expands compatibility to those with similar social justice views • Dedicated space in bio for preferred pronouns • Modern redesign that’s genuinely fun to navigate
Not great in small towns • Recently got much pricier, but understandably so
One of the original dating sites, OKC is dedicated to adapting, looks bomb, and goes past the corny stuff.
Free version: Yes OkCupid Basic: $19.99/month OkCupid Premium: $29.99/month
Users can illuminate the issues they hold dear and weed out people they’d want to argue with by answering deal-breakers like “Would you date someone who keeps a gun in the house?” or “Should the government require children be vaccinated for preventable diseases?” As one of the most inclusive dating sites on the market by far, OkCupid is known for its decision to let all users choose their pronouns. In June 2020, the site introduced the option to add a Black Lives Matter badge to your profile. Per OkCupid’s own stats, liberal women and people who plan on voting have significantly better luck on the site.
Of course, politics aren’t the only determining factor in romance. In-depth user bios, derived from questions that are smart, on the cusp of modern dating, and dive into your love language without crossing the cliché line.
It’s an algorithm that OKC has been perfecting since 2004.
best for those looking to get married
High success rate speaks for itself • Questionnaire makes you think about what you need to work on • Super user-friendly
Historically not LGBTQ-friendly • No support for non-binary users • Hard to pin down prices before sign-up
If you’re dying to find the one and settle down ASAP, eharmony’s proven success is worth the premium cost.
Casual daters will feel smothered, but eharmony has made serious changes to appeal to marriage-minded millennials.
A spokesperson for the site says it’s been used by 54 million people, and is apparently responsible for 4 percent of U.S. marriages. That doesn’t mean you’re going to walk down the aisle within the first year, but it at least narrows your options to singles who are open to being exclusive, meeting the family, or moving in together.
What was once a doozy of a sign-up process is now short, sweet, and free of the corny, religious questions that held it back from being a top choice for the younger crowd. The comprehensive questionnaire now covers 32 dimensions (up from 29) of what makes a happy relationship. Instead of blatantly asking if you get mad easily or if you’re emotionally stable, eharmony may ask how you handle apologizing after a fight or if a certain action would piss you off. These hypotheticals draw more natural responses, and a few other fun ones are thrown in to cover surface-level basics like hobbies, too.
It should be noted that eharmony hasn’t always been a welcoming place to members of the LGBTQ+ community. Following a 2010 lawsuit, their gay and lesbian spin-off site Compatibility Partners has been folded into eharmony’s overall site, but users on Reddit as recently as 2019 say that it still seems geared more toward straight people.
Best for career-oriented people
Recent update makes questionnaire more fun • More mature user base than most dating sites • Low chance of getting catfished
Way too pricey • Restricted to a few matches per day • Distance filter starts at 50 miles • Might get suggestions that don’t match your filters
Calling on a more established crowd, EliteSingles offers a mature space for ambitious individuals to connect.
Free version: Yes Three months: $69.95/month Six months: $53.95/month One year: $39.95/month
EliteSingles loves to brag that 82% of their members are college grads, and with most of its members between 33-50 years old, we can pretty surely say you won’t have to worry about accidentally coming across a fresh college graduate. College kids probably wouldn’t be down to pay $30 to $70 a month on a dating site anyway, and that high subscription price is just another giveaway that EliteSingles is targeted toward more established folks with a disposable income.
Rather than being thrown into an endless pool of profiles, EliteSingles attempts to match you through the Five Factor Personality Test. Via 29 algorithms, the site will try to find singles to complement your attachment style, selfishness, and more stuff that you should try to be honest about.
However, though you can technically filter potential matches by profession (for example, a teacher looking to date another teacher), it’s difficult for any dating site to track down every single person lying about their job or how much money they make.
Best for people nervous about meeting IRL
Little to no effort required after making a profile • No messages from people you haven’t liked back • Less judgement over the perfect profile picture • Premium perks earned just by using the app • Can get a lot of real dates out of it
Smaller cities might see the same users again and again • Kind of expensive for the bland features it offers
This small user base allows CMB to find a handful of highly-compatible matches while you get on with your day.
Free version: Yes One month of Premium: $34.99 Three months of Premium: $24.99/month Six months of Premium: $19.99/month One year of Premium: $14.99/month
Millions upon millions of active users is usually a plus. It is nice to know that your options are virtually limitless, but it’s a bit jarring to have 20 new messages to read every time you sign on. This happens on eharmony and Tinder alike — people want connection, and they want it now. The slow and steady approach is great for singles who are rusty, introverted, or who simply don’t feel like scrolling every free minute.
Every day, CMB offers seven of its best matches (bagels) for you, chosen by your answers to prompts, how you swiped on yesterday’s batch, and who has already expressed interest in you, too.
It’s less pressure than Bumble’s 24-hour time limit but still eliminates a list full of people who don’t care enough to respond or plan a meet-up.
Best for outgoing women and shy guys
No unsolicited creepy messages from dudes • Eliminates “dead” matches • Bumble Boost lets you rematch with an expired match
Time limit could be too high-pressure for some • You’ll see a lot of the same people as Tinder
With women making moves and matches expiring after a day, Bumble gets you considering matches more seriously.
Free version: Yes One week of Boost: $8.99 One month of Boost: $24.99 Three months of Boost: $16.66/month Six months of Boost: $13.33/month Lifetime Boost: $119.99
Bumble is also famous for tossing matches after 24 hours. This is clearly not the ideal setup for someone who wants to sit back and wait for the algorithm to send them a soulmate in due time, though the expiration period does make you consider who you really care to engage with.
The photos and short bios are pretty close mock of Tinder, except for the fact that Bumble relieves the anxiety of accidentally swiping left on a hottie by letting you backtrack. Filtering by zodiac sign is also a thing as of 2019. The internet is divided over whether this will actually help you find people you’d get along with, as anyone with basic astrology knowledge knows that sun signs aren’t a tell-all.
Bumble also offers a BFF feature to find strictly platonic friends and a LinkedIn-ish networking feature called Bizz in attempts to remind everyone that it’s not just a hookup app.
Best for queer women
Designed by queer women, for queer women • Involvement in local queer events • Special place in bio for sexuality and pronouns • Four million users and growing quickly
Recycling of same few profiles in small towns • Occasional biphobia and “gold star lesbian” seekers • No algorithm past age and location
HER is a rapidly-growing space for queer women to make real connections while avoiding unicorn hunters.
Free version: Yes One month of HER Premium: $14.99 Six months of HER Premium: $11.99/month One year of HER Premium: $7.49/month
As the user base of over four million grows, HER could widen your dating pool beyond the queer women you already know. Users can get creative in profile building with categories like diet preferences (like veganism), and star signs, as well as a “What does this mean?” field in the sex, gender, and pronoun categories to supply a more well-rounded understanding of identity. The traditional text bio is where you can flex your sense of humor or describe what kind of relationship you’re seeking. Joining niche groups like “newly out” or “travelers” can introduce you to people using the app for similar reasons.
Many HER regulars are simply looking to make friends or scope out the queer community in a new town.
Putting “bi” in your profile might get you some hate here, but it’s also a place to meet experienced men. Free version: Yes Grindr XTRA: $20/month Grindr Unlimited: $50/month
Instead of swiping right or left to match, you’ll get a borderline-infinite collage of people who are close location-wise. Aside from it being overwhelming and slightly frightening, it’s obvious that there are a ton of men out there waiting for a conversation. Whether someone is looking for a relationship or just to bang will probably be obvious within the first few messages.
The main complaint from bisexual people about Grindr isn’t that it’s aggressively horny or 99% men. It’s the biphobia. This entire thread of Reddit users have experienced it in some way, describing the disappointment they feel from not being supported by their LGBTQ+ community and getting messages like “vaginas are gross” at the first mention of being bisexual or anything that’s not strictly gay.
Best for people 50 and over
Clear and easy to navigate • No dealing with age filters that are ignored anyway
The site doesn’t reveal premium prices until you sign up • No support for non-binary users • Many outdated and spam accounts
A friendly, age-specific option for those who don’t have time to waste on swiping.
Free version: Yes Three months of Premium: $44.95/month Six months of Premium: $34.95/month One year of Premium: $24.95/month
A sister site to EliteSingles, SilverSingles uses the same intense compatibility system that EliteSingles does, bringing in the popular big five personality traits to assess five levels of your being: openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. Rather than sitting around sifting through a never-ending pool, you’ll receive five handpicked matches per day.
LSMJIMMY, who found the “right one” on SilverSingles in 2020, gave this advice on Reddit: “I put up 18 pictures and changed the primary picture every few days to keep it fresh. I also edited or changed the responses to the questions about once per week. I spelled out what I DID NOT want…I am not a couch potato and love to travel fish, boat, ride motorcycles, hotrods, etc, etc.
I don’t have time to drag this dating thing out, so I think it helped by getting what Who I am and want I am looking for on the table early.”
Best true hookup app
No-strings-attached sex without the sketchiness • Desktop version is as trendy and clean as the app • Everything is deleted after 24 hours • Stellar reviews in the app store • Artsy design and modern layout
Possible catfish risk • Have to re-upload photos/re-type bios constantly • Definitely won’t be useful in less-populated areas
Self-proclaimed as “the hookup app”, the success of this hipster Snapchat for sex depends on the day.
Free version: Yes
Your uploaded selfies, personal info, and conversations with others self destruct every 60 minutes, promoting spur-of-the-moment and borderline anonymous connections. The app will ask for your phone number and credit card info, but that’s just to make sure you’re a real person. The app uses your geolocation and sends out the sex version of an Uber request, rather than trying to pair you with someone who lives in another state.
We like that Pure gives all the feels of a hookup-only site without the obnoxious spam and nudes everywhere. The surge of blatant sex positivity is a breath of fresh air when compared to other dating apps that try to convince you that you’ll find your soulmate.
Best desktop hookup site
Massive user base (in the U.S.
Millions of down-for-anything users make AFF great for finding a fling, but it’s as sketchy as it is sexy. Free version: Yes One month: $39.95 Three months: $26.95/month One year: $19.95/month
With 20-something million monthly users as well as live video options, chat rooms, groups for ultra specific kinks, and more, you can probably assume how wild this site can get. But there’s such a large and diverse group of potential matches, you’re very likely to find other like-minded people, which does wonders when all you want to do is connect with someone who’s on the same page as you.
You’ll find people who work the regular 9-5, people who work the night shift, and people in other time zones, so it’s nearly impossible to log on and not have people to talk to. AdultFriendFinder is like the booty call that’s always awake when you text them.