Online Dating

A Beginner’s Guide to Online Dating

Last updated
online dating with phone scrolling Tinder app

Swiping, profiles, catfish– oh my! Toto, I don’t think we’re in real life anymore.

Getting started in online dating is a whirlwind, especially if you’re not one for pics. Since photos are king in the dating app realm, take this as your first nudge to start snapping more pics of yourself when you’re out and about; bonus points if they’re not selfies!

After this quick read, you’ll be fully prepped to handle everything and anything dating apps throw your way, and you’ll look *chefs kiss* super hot while doing so.

Step #1: Understand the risks associated with dating online.

scrolling dating apps from the couch

We’re not trying to scare you off online dating by any means, but we do want you to make it out without losing your sanity, finances, or kidney (jk, that would be insane and doesn’t happen much).

In the online world, stranger danger is key to survival. Consider these tips; although it is rare to come across these red flags, it’s still something you should know.

pirates of the carribbean, more like guidelines than rules meme

You should never:

  • Give anyone you haven’t met IRL money or detailed personal information about your family, location, or job.
  • Meet for the first time in a private area. We always recommend a public space that’s well-lit and decently busy, like a cafe, restaurant, or bar.
  • Be too sure that the person is who they say they are. Ask questions and meet in person prior to sending any explicit photos or confidential info. There have been cases where daters exchange sexy pics in the heat of the moment and are later blackmailed for cash, fearing their photos will be leaked.
  • Send unsolicited private pics. Just don’t do it unless asked (and it’s still your decision!)
  • Leave your drink unattended.

As we said, this isn’t an everyday occurrence. There’s tons of fish in the sea, so chances are rare, but you can never be too careful.

The rest you’ll learn as you go– and we’ll fill you in on some dating etiquette down the line as well– keep reading!

Step #2: Find what dating app is best for you!

cute couple spinning around under the stars

Each app has its own target users and, therefore, caters to a specific type of dating. Are you a single parent who has three dogs and one-and-a-half cats? There’s an app for you.

All jokes aside, we’re serious. As of 2023, there are over 2.5k dating apps and even more dating sites. So if you’re looking for your fish, who knows what ocean (or app) they’re swimming in. Don’t lose hope; simply try out a different app!

Before we begin… there are two ways to go about dating apps. Ask yourself, “Do I want to find a needle in a haystack, or do I want to find my needle in a pile of needles?”

Example A: You want to date a sober single.

There’s tons of those on Tinder, but you’ll have to dig through profiles and introductions until you find your dating pool. On an app like Loosid, you know immediately that your matches don’t partake, so that convo is already out of the way.

You’ll probably vibe with someone cool on the popular apps where most singles hang out. But if there’s something super important to you that you won’t budge on, check out those niche apps.

Popular Dating Apps
App Name: Reputation For:
Tinder Hookups and random travel encounters
Bumble Extroverted women who don’t mind making the first move (you have to message first)
Hinge A mixture of serious and not-so-serious relationship seekers
The League Entrepreneurs or working professionals who don’t want to waste time on flaky people (legit, they’ll remove your profile if you are inactive for an extensive period of time)
HER LGBTQIA dating and friendships
Plenty of Fish (POF) Singles in their 30s-50s who want to expand their horizons outside of their city
Grindr LGBTQ hookups and dating for all ages
OkCupid Connection-centric questions and matching algorithm for long and short-term relationship seekers
EHarmony “Serious” matches for singles over 30, but actually full of singles who want to get hitched like yesterday Long-term relationships and some casual hanky panky for singles over 40+

If you’re in the mood for something more niche– here are ten more apps with very specific tastes.

Niche Dating Apps
App Name: Best For:
Happn Falling in love with the person you passed in the subway, but IRL. This app sends you matches that have crossed your path that day.
Loosid Sober lifestyle living, no pressure to drink on dates
Raya Dating “cream of the crop”– only 8% of profiles are approved! Boost your chances with Photofeeler!
Stir Meeting and dating other single parents
Feeld Singles wanting to explore kinks and fetishes
S’More Connecting without a photographic first impression. You’ll see a blurry image of your match until you build rapport.
Veggly Vegans and vegetarians– unite!
ChristianMingle Christian faith-based dating, hit or miss reviews
WooPlus Curvy singles, no body-shaming tolerated!
BLK Melanated singles looking for serious relationships or hookups

Step #3: Perfect your profile pics.

man smiling and looking into distance, attractive profile picture

The first impression behind 90% of dating apps is the initial profile picture. This is where people make a split-second decision on if you’re their type or not. And it really does happen that fast. 55% of people will not look at the rest of the profile if they’re not attracted to the first image. Although that seems like a lot of pressure, that’s why we built Photofeeler– to help singles navigate this step and catch attention (even in a split second!)

Too often, we see profiles with an amazing person in the snaps but hardly amazing photos. We get the vibe we’d click, but the photos prevent us from attempting to connect. That won’t be you on our watch!

Take a few of your favorite photos of yourself and ask yourself these questions:

  • Would a stranger looking at this photo be able to gather any interesting details about me or my lifestyle? If so, what?
  • Is there anyone in the picture that could be perceived as a gf/bf? If so, don’t use this photo.
  • Do I look sober or sober-passing? Nobody wants to swipe right on a drunken sailor.
  • Is this pic recent? Most daters think a photo that is more than 2 years old is considered too old for a dating profile. If your date is expecting the “eyebrow guy actor,” and you walk in looking like 2023 Will Poulter… well, then it’s a pleasant surprise but still slightly deceptive. Still though, match your pics to the current you so your date doesn’t leave to “go to the restroom” and never come back.Will Poulter young and older photo

Once you correct all these minor details and have a collection of photos to test, get unbiased feedback with Photofeeler.

Why do profile photos matter so much?

Allow us to make an analogy here…

You have $1000 for a trip of your choice. You’re interested in marine sports and the outdoors. You have three trips in front of you:

three trip packages related to online dating choices

Which one do you choose?

"Pick number three, my lord!", Shrek meme

Chances are, you’ll pick Trip #3, the nature retreat on the coast.

Now, people aren’t trips, but you get the picture (pun intended). When you’re browsing profiles, you’re going to match with people who fit what you’re looking for in terms of a future partner. By selecting a profile photo that sums you up best, you make it easier to attract what you want.

Your first profile picture on any dating app vastly impacts what strangers think of you, whether you want it to or not. But that doesn’t mean the rest of your photos can slack off. The more context you give people, the higher the opportunity of starting a convo. The recipe behind a kick-a** dating app profile is a saucy first pic and personality-infused secondary snaps! And contrary to popular belief, filling all nine photo slots on Tinder is actually a disservice.

Some pics might seem like winners but should be a second or third pic, such as:

  • That epic photo of you hitting a ramp on your snowboard in Vail, CO. It’s a total vibe, but where’s your face? We need to see those sparklers!
  • A hat selfie. There’s something about hats and sunglasses in first pics that gets people questioning your real appearance. It gives Men in Black vibes, so save that for a secondary pic.
  • The uber zoomed-out photo of you on a remote island. We’re not sharks, we can’t see you, and Tinder doesn’t let us zoom in; please help.
  • A drunken wedding selfie. Just because you’re in your formal wear doesn’t mean we can’t tell you’ve been vigorously chugging Miller Lites, Ashley!"I think you should delete that one", searching online dating profiles

Step #4: Attract attention with a personable bio.

online dating app profile bio examples

You’ve aced it thus far– now let’s hit it out of the park with a conversation-starting bio.

You don’t need to write your autobiography, and there are definitely some phrases to avoid completely, but staying true to yourself is vital. Experts state the bio sweet spot is “70 percent about you and 30 percent about the person you’re looking for.”

“But Photofeeler, I don’t know what I want.”

Hey, it happens. Do any of us truly know? Think of qualities that stand out to you in a potential partner. Are they funny, romantic, or the next Einstein? Maybe they can change a tire with their eyes closed, or they couldn’t care less about what Kim was eating on episode 70 of Keeping Up with the Kardashians? Dig deep!

We have tons of suggestions depending on what app you use (and each app has a different approach to bios, prompts, and questions). Still, you can get a head start with these Tinder Bios, Bumble Bios, and Hinge Prompts and Answers.

Step #5: Keep it short but sincere.

woman smiling at phone, online dating

Dating apps still tend to function the old-fashioned way– the man messaging the woman first (besides apps like Bumble, LGBTQ, etc). Now, that doesn’t mean you need to adhere to this unspoken process. If you want to message a man first, you go girl!

No matter who curtseys first, keep the conversation simple but personalized. It pays to make a wave with a sincere message rather than mass-sending a “hey” to every match that crosses your path. If you wouldn’t reply to your message, your match won’t either. Also, sending a massive paragraph with the unpublished manuscript of your life story probably won’t get replies. Keep it more Forrest Gump and less Bubba.

forrest gump talking to bubba about shrimp

If you’re lost, start with:

  • Replying to a photo with a question.
  • Finding a common denominator in their bio and expanding on that.
  • This list of icebreakers

Step #6: Respect (and honor) the timelines.

first date, toasting her date at a bar

Transitioning from online to offline is like fishing. When there’s a bite, get ready to act or you could miss your chance.

The consensus is 2 weeks maximum before making the initial contact on dating apps to IRL fairytale romance (hopefully). One week is great because you can skip the awkward small talk and connect in person. 48 hours to make plans for a date is the best-case scenario. Although it may seem ideal to have an epic chat daily before the IRL date, you could be setting yourself up for disappointment if it doesn’t go as well as texting.

If you’ve been chatting for more than one month without meeting IRL? That’s a long-distance online relationship orrr you’re talking to a catfish.

How to land a date over text?

You’re ready to rumble (respectfully) and want to set up a date in person– but how?

Look at your messages with your match and then follow this web:

Should I ask my match on a date?
Natural, responsive messages 2-3 messages exchanged
Back-and-forth communication Low-effort or one-word replies
Flirty banter Days-long ghosting in-between messages

This makes it seem so simple, but you’ll know when you know. Whenever someone brings up a place or activity outside of the app, it’s time to jump! Follow our cue, like this time we asked Beyonce to a cappuccino:

online dating app convo with Beyonce, fake tinder conversation


Of course, it’s not always this easy, but take your chances as they come.

Speaking of chances, boost your odds of catching (and captivating) attention on any dating app with a photo test on Photofeeler. Find out what vibe you’re sending so you can perfect your first impression and attract quality matches!