My 4 (very long) days of online dating

Illustration by Colette Fogarty

Despite having heard a number of horror stories over the years, last week I decided to brave the stormy seas of popular dating apps – for review purposes, of course. This probably makes me a catfish, but it was all for a good cause. 

P.S. sorry if I matched with and then aired you. Now you know who I am, find me on Facebook so we can continue our debate on whether toilet paper roll feeds out over or under. It’s over…definitely over. 

Just as I was finishing up my GY245 research paper, I set out to conduct my own research project.  I downloaded 5 dating apps: Tinder, Bumble, Hinge,, and OkCupid. I set my preference to include both men and women, 18-30, and swiped right on 40 random people per day per app. This excepting Hinge and OKCupid, both of which limit you to ten swipes a day. Bemusingly, Match doesn’t allow you to set your preferences to men and women, so all my Match matches were men. I wanted to see which apps worked, which didn’t, and which ones matched me with the most … interesting people. Like a true geographer, I kept my control variables the same: pictures, name, age, and bio: “I like my partners the way I like my coffee, hot and bitter”. For someone who doesn’t tend to put herself out there, this bio proved to be a welcome conversation starter rather than mundane small-talk. 

Tinder – ‘Match. Chat. Date.’ 3 stars

79 matches, including 12 girls, and 41 messages (most asked where I lived and if I lived alone…can’t imagine why). 

Many of these apps are known for one thing: hookups. If you have a curious personality combined with the need for constant validation, then Tinder’s addictive swipe function might be for you. 

Let me just start by saying (and this is applicable for most dating apps) for the love of God, if you post a group picture please please please make it clear who you are. It’s also very easy to tell when your picture is fake. My thirteen year-old self got very excited when a Joe Sugg profile popped up. It’s an app that gives you false hope in more ways than one. 

As far as choosing a simple, easy-to-use dating app goes, you can’t go wrong with Tinder. Just like Instagram and Snapchat, it’s fair to say most people have Tinder on their phones. This increases the probability of matching with people you know, as I quickly confirmed.

There was a multitude of cringey messages, including one seventeen-year-old guy posing as 18, and with a peculiar message. In all fairness, it was very nicely written: “I’m going to be honest with you, if you’re looking for hookups that suits me because I just want to lose my virginity. I would very much appreciate it if you agreed, and I will even treat you to some dinner.” Disappointingly for him, underage boys aren’t really my style.

I’m also not a fan of the logo, it reminds me of my Santander banking app. Some may say just as unsuccessful. 

Bumble – ‘Date, Meet, Network Better’ 4.5 stars

78 matches, including 8 girls, and sent 39 messages.

What impressed me most about Bumble is its account verification. The app will use your camera to take a candid picture and verify it against the pictures on your profile. Why don’t they ALL do this? I didn’t realise this was even a function until a guy messaged me making it clear he wouldn’t talk to me unless I verified my account.

I didn’t think I’d be a fan of Bumble. The idea of sending the first message was really daunting, especially when the best I could think of was “hey” (Sometimes I would go with “hey x” if I was really getting my flirt on). That’s as far as my chat-up skills go. But it seemed like that was enough for most people; they were more amused with my bio, which I can’t take credit for as I found it online. If it were up to me I’d have left it blank. 

I don’t know if it was me, but the people I matched with on Bumble seemed to be looking for more than just a hookup. They were genuinely interested in finding out about me and going on dates, rather than whether or not I lived alone. 

Bumble has the same swipe function as Tinder, making it just as easy to use. You can also add more information like your height, if you have pets, if you smoke, and how much you drink,  all of which provide good conversation starters. 

Like all dating apps, there are some questionable individuals. One asked me if I would give him a rimjob because I “looked like the type of girl who would do that” – classy!

Hinge – ‘Designed to be Deleted’ 2 stars

9 matches, including 7 girls, and 6 messages. 

Whilst Hinge proportionately had the highest ratio of swipes to matches, it was by far the most confusing dating app of the bunch. Four days later I am still none the wiser. 

The swipes are limited to ten a day, which makes the dating process all the more tiresome. As someone with the patience of a three year old, this made the app ‘designed to be deleted’ for the wrong reasons. 

Within the first five minutes I was ready to be done. I have no idea why there were so many questions related to my religious beliefs, ethnicity, and my desire for kids — I don’t want to scare people off before I’ve even started. This wasn’t helped by one particular match of mine, who sent me the short but not-so-sweet message: “wine and anal?”. I told him I was happy to take the wine and pass on the anal, to which he replied “as long as I can suck your toes, we’re fine.” As anyone who knows me knows, that is certainly NOT fine. 

You are also required to write three painfully cringe conversation starters. As I’ve established, this is not my forte, and my answers probably didn’t help my chances. If you are naturally witty, I’m sure you’d be great on Hinge. But really, what are you meant to answer to “the key to my heart is _____” besides ‘food’? I know, how boring. 

One positive element is a very useful two-way function. You can see who has liked your pictures and also like their pictures. Once you choose to match, you can then prompt them to reply rather than responding yourself, which gives you extra control over the like-to-match pipeline. – ‘Start Something Real’ 0 stars

41 matches, all guys, 0 conversations was the biggest waste of time out of all the apps. I was on it for two days before I discovered that I had to subscribe before receiving messages. You can swipe all you want for free, but what’s the point in that?

Clearly it is aimed at a much older demographic — the average age is 39, a touch out of my age bracket. One of the questions asked what my relationship status was: never married, separated, married, widowed, or divorced. It felt odd to define myself only as someone that hadn’t gotten around tying the knot. 

Interestingly and rather shockingly, the opening question to the app was “are you interested in men or women?” There was no option to choose both, an annoyingly closed-minded stance for a dating app in 2020.

The only place ‘started something real’ was in my email inbox: I received 96 emails from matches I couldn’t see because I hadn’t subscribed. I would not recommend anything about this app. 

OkCupid – ‘Dating Deserves Better’ 1 star

6 matches, all guys, 5 conversations

Again, the statistics look very good on paper. However, like Hinge, you are limited to ten swipes a day. The app makes you answer a few questions, like what you want out of the dating app, your age, your ideal partner, and, naturally, whether the monarchy should be abolished. The app then works out a percentage match with users you can swipe on. Just like the LSE100 black box problem, you have no idea how these percentages are calculated.

Like, OkCupid targets an older demographic, including many married people looking for someone to join their threesome. It’s also the only place I met a Holocaust denier. 

All in all, Tinder and Bumble offer the best of both worlds: Tinder to bang, Bumble to date. Stay away from the other three unless you don’t mind waiting three months for your first date with the maximum ten swipes a day.


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