8 Tips to Improve Your Dating App Etiquette

Young woman at mobile phone

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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.

Both identities and relationship models (such as monogamy or polyamory) are items that many include in their profiles, and in order to know before talking that someone's identity and relationship style is a match for you, you have to know what it means first. 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.

Ask Questions and Offer Compliments

People like being asked questions because it encourages them to disclose information about themselves and leads to them liking the asker.

You can ask simple questions, such as how someone's day is going or how they are doing, or use the information offered in their profile to find out more. If you're intrigued by something they wore in a photo, their pet, or something they mention in their bio, ask about it to learn more.

You can also offer a compliment. Most people enjoy receiving them but try 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.

Be Truthful

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

The best that you can do is simply not lie to others. Outside of the fact that you may eventually be found out, it sets a precedent and a foundation that can't possibly lead to a successful relationship.

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, rather than lie about it. That way, you have a better chance of the connection moving forward successfully.

Don't Overshare

Inasmuch as you don't want to tell people too little about who you are, because knowing about others is how we decide if they're a fit for our lives, you also don't need to overshare. Oversharing can be off-putting.

Just think about friends or family you've seen say too much to their network on social media, and how cringe-y that can feel to see. While it's definitely good to divulge important life information, be aware of your audience, and of how well you don't yet know them.

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 G-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 asks for a photo of you before sending one, and even then, don't send photos of your body parts without them asking for it.

A study showed that sexting may not have an impact on psychological well-being. Despite this, 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.

Regarding your language, while it might be tempting, it's best to not swear early on in a conversation either.

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.

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.

A Word From Verywell

Dating apps may feel like a jungle, and they can be intimidating, but by taking these tips you'll have a great chance at having positive interactions. Just remember: As with everything in life, dating goes best when you do it mindfully. The above guidelines will help you keep your head on straight as you navigate the world of dating apps.

5 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. Gordon-Messer D, Bauermeister JA, Grodzinski A, Zimmerman M. Sexting among young adultsJ Adolesc Health. 2013;52(3):301-306. doi:10.1016/j.jadohealth.2012.05.013

  5. 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.