8 Tips to Improve Your Dating App Etiquette

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The older we get, the more it might seem like everyone we know is partnered. However, that isn't exactly true: about 31% of the American adult population is single,and over 36 million Americans live alone. Dating apps are a common tool for those that are single, and they're also used by people in polyamorous and ethically non-monogamous relationships, as well as those in open marriages.

If you've spent any time perusing a dating app, you've likely noticed how diverse the dating pool is: some people list everything possible about themselves in their profiles, while others don't share a single word.

Connecting with prospective dates can be shaky. Some people might be great conversationalists and others may leave you to do all the work. If you have wanted to use dating apps but they seem intimidating, knowing how varied others' behaviors are may make the thought of joining a dating app even more daunting.

Whether you're a pro or a novice at dating apps, you can benefit from knowing proper etiquette. Ahead, we have a list of eight tips that can help you be more successful at finding that special someone(s) more easily.

Read on to learn everything you need to know about dating app etiquette. And if you need tips to set up your profile before moving ahead, check out these suggestions first.

Know Identity Terminology

The number of sexual identity terms in play may be overwhelming, but if you want to meet other people, you ought to know them.

If you identify as LGBTQIA+ community you may already be familiar with some, or even all, because one or more applies to you. However, even if you're a cisgender heterosexual person, you'll still need to understand the identity of someone you're interested in dating.

It isn't polite to ask someone what their identity means, and it's a request for emotional labor. You can increase your chances of connection by doing your research first.

Identity, sexual orientation, and relationship models (such as monogamy or polyamory) are important information that many include in their profiles. In order to know if someone may be a match for you, it is helpful to learn and understand what they mean. If you're on a niche app, such as Grindr or Scruff, this is even more important.

If No One Reaches Out, No Dating Happens

One of the oddest parts about dating apps is how common an occurrence matching without talking is.

Some people note in their profiles that they won't message first, whereas others state that it's on the person who gets the "it's a match" notification to reach out first. While that could be seen as the most straightforward method, the truth is that many people receive match notifications but don't speak first.

You can't go on a date, or land in a relationship, with someone you've never spoken to, so it pays to message first.

This can be done no matter what gender you are, or what gender your match is; those old-fashioned rules of men speaking first have been obliterated by apps like Bumble, in which the only option is for the woman to initiate messaging. If you are interested in a match, take the initiative to send a message!

Ask Questions and Offer Compliments

People like being asked questions because it encourages them to share information about themselves, supports more ease and flow in conversation, and can lead to positive emotions towards the asker.

You can ask simple questions, such as how someone's day is going or how they are doing. You can ask playful questions, such as "How would you describe yourself in three emojis?".

You can ask deeper questions like "What is one of the greatest lessons the pandemic has taught you?" or "What brings you joy?". You can also refer to the information offered in their profile to ask a more specific question unique to them.

If you're intrigued by where they were in a photo, their pet, or something they mention in their bio, ask about it to learn more.

You can also offer a kind, genuine, and thoughtful compliment. Most people enjoy receiving them and it helps to be original. Telling someone they're attractive is nice, but it isn't personal, as attraction can be assumed based on the fact that the two of you matched. You can authentically compliment someone on a specific achievement or action they took, character trait shared that you admire, or physical feature like their eyes or outfit.

Be Truthful

It may be difficult to know if someone is lying to you, and that is one reason some people avoid apps.

Be honest and up front about who you are and what you are looking for. Successful relationships are based on a foundation of trust, and you can lead with honesty and communicate this is something you value.

It takes time to get to know someone and build trust and you don't need to disclose everything all at once. But instead of lying about a topic, you can say "I'm not ready to share about that yet."

If there are parts of your life that you don't want to tell strangers about, that's OK. You can omit that information until it's more relevant or say "I'm not ready to share yet," rather than lie about it. That way, you have a better chance of the connection moving forward successfully with honesty and integrity.

Don't Overshare

It is important for people to learn more about who you are, and it is also important not to overshare early on. Oversharing can be off-putting, uncomfortable, and may be a sign of a trauma response. If you find yourself frequently oversharing on dating apps or social media, it may be helpful to reflect on why this is and what you are seeking or hoping for in the process.

Not everyone deserves to know the intimate and personal details of your life journey. Allow yourself time to get to know someone and to be known by them. Time and consistency deepens trust, and when you feel someone is trustworthy and able to hold space for your vulnerability, then you can share more as you are ready.

Tell people what's necessary, but avoid sharing about major and emotional life issues until you know them a little bit better.

Keep It Clean

This point is super important: be tactful, polite, and PG-rated in your initial exchanges. Many apps, including Tinder and OK Cupid, no longer even have photo sending as an option. That's because so many inappropriate photos were sent.

Wait until another person requests a photo of you before sending one. Don't sent a photo of an intimate body part unless it is specifically requested and all parties consent to doing so. Sexting in the early stages of messaging on a dating app is not recommended, unless you are both specifically seeking sexting or sex, and have both consented to doing so with each other.

It's important to understand that some people just don't like sexting or don't receive any real enjoyment from it. So, make sure to ask first and respect someone's answer.

Also, sometimes even just asking to engage in sexting too soon can be off-putting for some people (as it may come off as if sex is the only thing you're interested in), so it's still best to save that conversation for further down the road or until you've met in person.

Be honest and authentic—if you naturally swear a lot, then swear if that is what feels genuine and true for you, and you will attract those who are okay with it and repel those who are not.

Be yourself instead of pretending to be someone you are not, and trust the right people will be drawn closer and others will filter themselves out in the process.

Be Expressive

According to an article in Time Magazine,conversations that use emojis and gifs last longer than conversations that don't.

Emojis and gifs also increase the likelihood that the person you're messaging will reply to you. Think of messaging as a conversation, and consider how you talk to your friends. Of course, you don't want to act in any way that isn't true to your nature, but you do want to put your best foot forward.

If you're someone who likes emojis and gifs when talking to friends and loved ones, use them in your dating app correspondence too. If you're a person with a large vocabulary who isn't afraid to flaunt it, don't feel the need to censor yourself if that's how you talk to prospective dates. If your communication style isn't a match, that's best found out early on, so feel free to be yourself.

Set a Date

You may notice that some app users put the statement "no pen pals" in their bios. That means that they don't want to text endlessly with their matches.

Whether or not you choose to put that in your profile, it can generally be assumed that if you're on a dating app, you want to go out on dates. You definitely want to get comfortable with a person first and to establish some basic lifestyle matches.

Once that's been accomplished, you can very much ask them out. Just like who talks first, this doesn't need to be initiated by any one of a specific gender. Because everyone has their own timeline of establishing comfort, if you're worried it's too soon to go out, you can just be forthright about that.

Let your match know you've been enjoying talking with them and are feeling comfortable enough, and interested enough, to want to meet in person. Invite them to let you know their feelings, and take it from there.

If your match isn't ready to meet in person yet, you can suggest setting a date and time for a phone call or video chat to connect virtually first.

You Don't Owe Anyone Your Time

There are strong opinions in the dating app world about "ghosting," but as long as you haven't hit a point where someone is relying on you to respond, such as in the midst of making plans to meet, you are free to leave a conversation at any point if it no longer feels like a match.

Even if you just aren't interested in the person, you can stop replying. If you want to be polite, thank them for their time and let them know it isn't a fit. However, you don't have to do this if you feel like they are potentially volatile and may be negative to you in response.

If you have that concern, you can unmatch them, which will immediately enable them to get the point without the ability to respond. If you don't feel it is a match, you can also be honest, clear, and kind by messaging something like, "Thank you for your time, but this isn't the connection I am looking for. Wishing you the best!"

A Word From Verywell

Dating apps may feel like a jungle, and they can be intimidating, but by considering these tips you'll increase your chances of having a more positive experience overall. Just remember: As with everything in life, dating goes best when you do it mindfully. It can help to know who you are and what you're looking for, and to communicate this clearly and courageously moving forward.

4 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Brown A. A profile of single Americans. Pew Research Center. Published August 20, 2020.

  2. Statista. Single-person households United States from 1960-2020.

  3. Huang K, Yeomans M, Brooks AW, Minson J, Gino F. It doesn’t hurt to ask: Question-asking increases likingJournal of Personality and Social Psychology. 2017;113(3): 430–452.

  4. Reilly K. This Strategy Will Make Your Tinder Game Stronger. Time Magazine. Published March 17, 2016.

By Ariane Resnick, CNC
Ariane Resnick, CNC is a mental health writer, certified nutritionist, and wellness author who advocates for accessibility and inclusivity.