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We’ve all heard stories about marriages that came from online dating websites. There’s also the negative side of online dating such as the Tinder horror stories Buzzfeed writes about every year or so. However, if you’re looking to get started using online dating apps or want to switch up your online dating game, then try some of these steps.

Picking the App

There are many applications and websites that offer matchmaking services. Tinder is the most common, but while its original use was for hookups, one can use it for more (see Building the Bio below). Bumble is another dating app that actually has three settings depending what you are looking for: Dating, friends or networking. Okcupid allows you to take a survey on your preferences regarding different topics, and you can see what other people answered to compare your compatibility.

Online dating is also heteronormative. For those who identify as LGBTQ, some dating apps allow you to select your gender expression, but the apps don’t offer the same when selecting the gender you are interested in.

Building the Bio

Just be yourself. With apps, there is the common idea that you need to keep things superficial. But the best conversations happen when both people put more than just height and name on their bios. It helps if the information in your bio are things you are looking for in the other person. This can range from your basic info, hobbies, interests, etc.

One of my friends decided to use pictures of himself in drag for his Tinder account. The result was that he received an increase in matches and gave his matches something to message him about first.

Be straightforward with what you want. This includes writing your sexuality in your bio so you don’t attract the wrong people. It never hurts to write what you are looking for (i.e. whether you’re looking for a relationship or not). You would be surprised at the number of people who are just looking for friendships.

To Message or Not To Message First

The most common advice is to be confident. Don’t be afraid to message the other person first. If you want to stand out from other matches, consider saying something other than “hey.” You can ask them about one of their pictures or about themselves. Some people write a question on their bio to encourage the other person to message first.

With that in mind, prepare for the worst. It is possible that you message the person first and either never get a reply or get unmatched. There are a bunch of possible matches out there. Don’t let a couple bad experiences put you down.

To Meet or Not To Meet

Meeting in person depends on what you are comfortable with. Some prefer to meet in person early on when there’s still interest while others prefer to wait after a few conversations to do so. If you do meet the person, then always do so in a public space or at least for the first time. Some suggestions for possible public spaces include a restaurant, Starbucks or a farmer’s market. It is also possible that you can be ghosted (never hear back from the other person) after meeting for the first time. Again, don’t let that stop you from using dating apps.

You also want to be honest upfront. You wouldn’t want to send mixed signals. So, make sure to clarify whether the meetup will be a date or not.

Whether you are looking for a potential romantic relationship or a possible best friend, online dating can look intimidating. You might go in looking for love but end up with friendship. All in all, don’t be afraid to put yourself out there.