Dating app algorithms are hard to manipulate and you shouldn’t try

Dating apps will never save us from the people we want to avoid.
Annika McFarlane/Getty

  • Singles often talk about trying to optimize their dating app profiles to find more or better matches.
  • These strategies will never make dating easier, despite the apps touting special algorithms and safety features to enhance singles’ experiences.
  • To truly enjoy dating, singles must do difficult but rewarding self-employment. Dating apps are just tools.

Recently, my newly single friend outlined her plan to force Hinge’s algorithm to give her better matches, a trick she said she learned from another woman’s TikTok. Honestly, she looked exhausting.

I wanted to support my friend in her efforts, but her strategy required an unnecessary amount of mental gymnastics, especially for someone I knew was typically bold and indifferent.

“Seriously? All this for someone who looks hot but could be trash in real life?” I asked her seriously. She laughed, acknowledging the ridiculousness of the technique, which involved deleting her existing account, creating a brand new one, and refusing any correspondence received for 24 hours.

But she remained adamant about giving it a try, as did so many other singles looking for hacks to help them make a solid connection, or at the very least, have a fun night with someone cool. A 30-year-old app developer admitted to deleting unique details from his dating app profile, saying the more generic and “meaningless” he made his profile about him, the more matches he seemed to get. On Reddit, a straight man wondered if changing his Tinder preferences to men and women to get a few more likes, then switching it back to women only a few days later would “inflate his position on the algorithm,” resulting in more matches.

And who can blame them? It’s tough out there.

I’ve been writing about sex and relationships for five years, and I spend my days talking to therapists and researchers, so I know the frustrations of dating intimately, and I also know the most productive ways to combat those frustrations. Experts have told me this over and over again, tricking an app into giving you what you think is the desired result is not one of those ways. In fact, it will likely backfire.

The truth is, if you want a vibrant and happy love life, you need to act in ways that make you feel vibrant and happy. This means avoiding debilitating situations, such as fixating on the choices you make in a fickle wayworld of dating apps.

Whenever I hear the ways singles are fiddling with their dating apps in search of better dates, I field pitches from dating app startup founders. In them they say they created THE app that will finally make dating safe or provide its users with the most compatible matches possible. In emails from representatives of already popular dating apps, they often claim that their new feature will help users stand out from the crowd. I’m here to tell you that none of that matters.

A dating app is just a machine, and an imperfect one at that. And life is too full of possibilities to channel all of yours into the invention of a techy brother. That’s why more singles should consider dating apps as one tool, but not the only one, for finding a worthwhile match.

Instead of trying to fix a tool that keeps failing, singles should focus on the tangible parts of their dating life that they can control, such as their commitment to meeting other singles, the energy they bring to first dates and the limits they set to ensure they spend their precious time with people they truly value.

There’s nothing wrong with setting aside an hour each day to swipe or ask your friends if they find a potential match cute, dating coaches and therapists told me. But unexpected moments of connection in the real world, with your bartender or a passerby complimenting your outfit, can be far more rewarding. In those moments, you might be brave enough to put yourself out there when you see a nice stranger or realize you have feelings for a friend. And when you’re feeling brave and confident, you’ll have the discernment to let the right people into your life and let the wrong ones go, whether you meet in real life or through an app.

Those character-building exercises, not your ability to trick an app’s algorithm, will attract someone who’s right for you.

Instead of worrying about online dating, I propose a longer, but much simpler route: Trust yourself and your timing. From personal experience, this method is much less annoying and much more fun than playing games in the palm of your hand.

Then, keep scrolling. Chat with matches, reject some, and update your photos when your friend takes one where you really love the way you look. But the moment a dating app seems to be working or makes you feel like you need to adjust your life to achieve desirable results, put the phone down and walk out.

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