The eight stages of using Tinder: a complete(ish) guide to the world’s most popular dating app


According to Wikipedia, about 50 million people use Tinder every month. Around Thanksgiving break I became one of them, and it has been such an emotional rollercoaster that I had to write about it. I hope to save you all from the awkward interactions with the random guy/girl 5-15 miles away by writing this in-depth, completely-factual breakdown of the 8 stages of Tinder usage.

Stage One: Downloading the app

Deciding to download Tinder is a lot more than just downloading an app — getting Tinder says: “I’m unhappy with my love life right now/ I’m bored and I’m single and I don’t know what I’m doing/ I am having a personal, existential crisis and no one meets organically anymore anyway/ etc.” People who download Tinder (myself included) are in a complex emotional state — this makes for some entertaining content.

Stage Two: The first few swipes

After making your profile you’ll feel the urge to swipe almost obsessively; it’s exhausting, friends. I’ve made a few criteria for swiping left (I’m sorry that it’s only criteria for guys on Tinder, but I welcome any feedback on girls):

  • only one picture and it’s a selfie that he took too close up
  • includes a shirtless mirror selfie
  • no bio, which means that he’s either too stupid to come up with something creative or he put 0 time into his own Tinder profile so he could just start swiping
  • a bio that says something like, “You have to like the New England Patriots.” Get your head out of your ass, John.
  • Anyone who looks like they’re trying to hide the fact that they’re still in high school
  • “I’m too shy to text first” What does this mean? What does any of this mean? I’m pretty sure this is code for, “I’m an insecure teenager/grown man who refuses to face rejection so I never make the first move.” At least he’s being upfront about it.
  • I didn’t come up with this one, but multiple people told me that if a guy has only group photos, they’re just ugly — and I think this one applies to girls on Tinder too. Sorry, everyone.

I think it’s fair to say that these are incredibly biased criteria, but I found them to be effective in weeding out the weirdos that frequent Tinder. And if these criteria seem harsh and judgmental (which they 100% are), just think about the fact that there are 50 million people on Tinder; I think it’s okay to have some standards.

Stage Three: The first message

Having someone message you after you match feels like true validation. Like, “I don’t know this person except for their six perfectly-curated photos and a 20-character bio, but we’re compatible and now something is happening!” Wow. Truly incredible.

I respond to very few messages; I like to collect matches, like baseball cards, and never actually talk to anyone. But that is definitely just me.

I received a lot of ramen gifs because my bio says “send nood(le)s” (because I love spaghetti and because why not? It’s Tinder) and I just ended up with a lot of ramen gifs, which I have embraced because I feel like it’s a sign of (possibly racially-biased) creativity in an endless stream of bad pickup lines. Some of the best lines I’ve received:

  • “Are you the bottom of my laptop? Because you’re hot and I’m getting nervous”
  • “I dolphinetly think you’re really pretty!”
  • “Is your last name Watson? Because you look magical!”
  • “So what if I want to send you a flitz” — someone that doesn’t go to Dartmouth(!)
  • this youtube video

Stage Four: (Constant) Disappointment

After a few texts with someone, you realize there is absolutely no spark, either because YOU are the uncomfortable variable in this matchmaking formula, or HE is a dead fish that repeats the same “haha that’s cool” over and over again. You realize that Tinder is actually a lot of work, just like IRL dating. Sad.

Speaking of disappointment, it’s suggested that there are hundreds of millions of rejections every day on Tinder. Sad!

I think it took me 24 hours using the app before I quit. And then I immediately started up again and now here we are! Persistence is key, friends.

Stage Five: You match with someone you know

Always makes for a fun story to tell your friends. It’s not even a story, really. (The first time I matched with a friend from home I actually laughed out loud.)

“Guys, I matched with insert person from my hometown/college here on Tinder!” — me, to everyone I know.

Stage Six: A few messages or dates in and things get weird

Originally I wasn’t going to include this but here are some RED FLAGS:

  • dumping personal baggage on you hours after matching (i.e. bringing up their ex)
  • telling you that pineapple on pizza is gross, or that they’re not a dessert person, or something equally sociopathic
  • asking questions but in a weirdly aggressive way (“why are you even here if you go to Dartmouth?” You got me, I’m lying about where I go to college, Ryan. I’m actually an 80-year-old man posing as a student.)
  • immediately asking for your snapchat (I mean, you do you, but if you can’t even form a whole sentence that isn’t about nudes then you clearly need a type of help that I cannot provide.)
  • every response is a Phineas and Ferb gif
  • taking you a date in an isolated parking lot
  • obviously, punctuality is subjective and not everyone cares about it, but usually this one is a hindsight kind of thing. I don’t know. I feel like there’s definitely a correlation (or maybe that’s my own personal baggage that I am dumping on everyone)
  • meeting up in person and having them never put their phone down — it’s just sad!

I think after one or two weird interactions you kind of get a feel for them. So I will just leave you all with this list.

Stage Seven: You get a good one

You finally find a person that has a job prospects/sense of humor/intelligence/good meme knowledge.

“Finally!” you say, relieved to finally exit the crippling disappointment that is the college dating pool.

Unfortunately for you, and me, this can go so many different ways. Maybe this match is the person that makes you delete Tinder for good (probably not, though). More likely, you’ll go on one date and then watch each other’s Snapchat stories until you both die alone. Apathy!

Not to say that going on one or two dates was bad — I was down to just meet up and never see the guy ever again. But not everyone is an unfeeling robot, so take my actions with a large grain of salt.

Stage Eight: Taking a break

You take a hiatus from Tinder — either because you get too busy with school/work, or everyone you’re swiping on is boring, or you meet a person IRL and decide to hang out with them instead of watching Netflix in your bed alone. Personally, I got burnt out on Tinder very quickly and now I have this blog, anyway, so who needs men to be happy? “Me,” I say to myself.

Going on Tinder and swiping through profiles like they’re baseball cards gives a person the illusion of control over their own emotional destiny. It’s safe, contained and sterile. I’m going to go out on a limb here, though, and say it’s not as good as the real thing (like how American pizza cannot be compared to Italian pizza and you can listen to the Hamilton soundtrack as much as you like but it’s still not the actual show). I am 10000% NOT in a position to give advice, but I think sometimes it’s worth meeting people in person, even if you’re scared. At the very least it’ll force you to leave your room.

tl;dr: Tinder is hilarious but don’t give up on real life.

*edit: had a shower thought and decided to add a list of red flags. you are all welcome.

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