My therapist recently told me that she thinks of dating apps as “meeting” apps. It’s simply about meeting a lot of people and deciding if there’s that rare connection—there doesn’t have to be (and isn’t) all that much “dating” going on. When she said it, a lightbulb went off. I’ve always thought of dating apps as dating, as if every person I swiped on should be an IRL date. This led me to believe that I should give everyone a chance in person if we matched (even if someone exhibited things that I didn’t like, they swiped right, so I have to give them a chance, right?). But if I look at dating apps as simply meeting a lot of people but furthering a connection with only a few, I feel a lot more power in who I choose to continue relationships with or invest time in (IRL).
Once I stopped focusing on trying to please everyone I matched with on a dating app, I set some ground rules based on my experience, and now I’m sharing them with you to inspire you to make your own ground rules. Quick disclosure: If your partner of five years has every single one of these in their bio and you’re in a healthy relationship, I am so happy for you both! These are not universal red flags—everyone is different and wants different things (and there are always exceptions to the rule when it comes to love). I am simply sharing my own experience and preferences after seeking both men and women on various dating apps for about seven years in case it helps save you time or inspire you to make your own ground rules. And for me, these 12 red flags are a hard swipe left.
1. If what you both want is not aligned
Time and time again, we get ourselves in situations we could have prevented if we stuck to our guns. If they ask you what you’re looking for and you give an answer that doesn’t align with what they’re looking for, you want different things, period. I’m not saying you can never turn the f*ckboy into marriage material or have a casual hookup with the girl who is looking for something serious, but when someone tells you what they want, believe them. If I want a relationship, I’m no longer going to pursue people who say they don’t and hope I’ll change my mind (newsflash: I won’t), and vice versa.
2. If their bio says anything even remotely sexist
Oh, you “don’t want a girl who’s like other girls” or you state on a dating profile that you “aren’t into the girls that come with drama?” Thank you, next. Frankly, I don’t want to see any of the “isms” on a dating app (or dating, period)—if you have the audacity to show even a little bit of racism, homophobia, fatphobia, xenophobia, etc. on an app, I don’t even want to know what you’d say behind closed doors.
3. If they list their education or occupation as a joke
I love a sense of humor, but I also care about being with someone who’s proud of their education and job, not someone who wants to say they went to Krusty Krab Academy.
4. If they make a very non-original thing their entire personality
Loving The Office or Harry Potter is great (and like, same), but most people love those, too. What facts are unique to you? Making loving something that everyone on Earth loves your entire personality doesn’t allow me to get to know you better. I’m much more into the people who want to have a conversation about which Hogwarts house we belong to and can also get into conversations about what type of music we like or a book I haven’t heard of before but they swear changed their life.
5. If they are embarrassed of meeting on a dating app
Dating apps have been around for over a decade at this point. It’s not weird or embarrassing to meet your partner on an app, and we all probably know countless couples who met on Tinder, Bumble, or Hinge. If you’re too embarrassed about being on a dating app and joke that instead you’ll tell people we “met at Trader Joe’s,” perhaps you shouldn’t be on a dating app and should just… go to Trader Joe’s?
6. If they answer a prompt the same way everyone answers it
Every time I see someone say that they are overly competitive about “everything” or “I quote too much from Step Brothers,” I feel like I’m having déjà vu. It’s kind of like answering the interview question about your weaknesses with “I try too hard and care too much”—it’s not going to impress your potential employer because they’ve heard it a thousand times before. If you start seeing the same answers over and over again, that probably means the person who answers generically doesn’t care enough to put in that much thought to their profile or isn’t very original IRL. Either way, it’s a left swipe for me.
7. If their bio says, “I don’t come on here much, so add me on Snap”
Now, there could be a lot of well-intentioned men and women out there who genuinely do not check dating apps and prefer communicating over other apps. But in my personal experience, “I don’t come on here much, so add me on Snap” is a 21st-century booty call (and not the fun kind—the kind where they send you “hey, wyd?” on Snapchat text and ask for a nude pic). Why are you on a dating app if you’re “not on here much” (make it make sense!)? It sounds like an excuse to get out of having genuine conversations to me. However, if you are looking for a quick nude pic exchange (no shame!), this is your sign to swipe right.
8. If they respond with one-word answers
Talking to someone on a dating app is, frankly, time consuming and a little daunting. You’re meeting someone new, so of course some awkwardness will ensue as you both work on opening up, keeping up the conversation, and coming off as alluring as possible. However, I refuse to be solely responsible for carrying an entire conversation on my back—I want someone who wants to get to know me and can carry a conversation. If someone can’t put in a little bit of effort to keep up the conversation, I can only assume they would do the same throughout the relationship.
9. If they say they’re “apolitical”
Yes, it’s totally possible to have a relationship with someone who has totally different political views (even if it is a little difficult). But to outwardly say that you’re “apolitical” in 2022? No one can be “apolitical” when politics affect the daily lives of everyone in the country. As a queer person, seeing someone say they’re apolitical or “don’t care about politics” honestly offends me. I don’t need someone who aligns with all of my beliefs, but aligning on all the big issues and caring enough to go vote are important qualities to me.
10. If they talk about their ex too soon
Anyone who’s dated in the 21st century knows it’s a little taboo to bring your ex up too early. It’s awkward and creates a culture of comparison no one wants to deal with too early on. But the dating-app equivalent to “You’re so much better than my ex” is immediately unloading every bad aspect of their last relationship onto you as essentially a primer for what they don’t want to experience again. It’s fair to be upfront and not want to repeat patterns, but it also makes me think they’re not over their last relationship. Ma’am, this a Wendy’s—let me learn about what you do for a living before I know about how your last girlfriend hated your mom. Let’s get to know if we’re interested in pursuing each other before we get into the dating history talk, shall we?
11. If they don’t have a bio at all
Sure, you can not have a bio and be serious, but it’s hard for me to believe that someone who couldn’t take the time to just say a little bit about themselves and what they’re looking for would put time into a relationship. To me, it shows that you believe dating apps are strictly about looks because how am I supposed to know anything about you if all I see are a couple of pictures of you? Another one I hate: “Just ask.” Excuse me? Now I have to ask if I want to know anything about you? Pass.
12. If they have unnaturally hot photos
OK, so this one might be an unpopular opinion because celeb lookalikes deserve to swipe like the rest of us, but if their pictures look like a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit photoshoot, they just might be. I’ve been burned one too many times by a catfish, so if they look too good to be true, I reverse Google Image search. Oh, and if they only have one photo of themselves and it looks like it came from a catalogue? Sounds fishy. PSA: Being safe is a crucial part of online dating too.