Our in-house Know-It-Alls answer questions about your interactions with technology.
Q: How Do I (Safely) Use Dating Apps?
A: Happy Valentine’s Day! Welcome to the delightful (and sometimes horrifying) world of dating apps. Flirting from your phone can be fun, as well as alluringly convenient—make a match on your morning commute!—but it’s also work . It takes time and effort to sort through the crowd to find someone you want to get a drink with, and you’re certain to face disappointments along the way. The process also inherently requires sharing personal information with strangers, who may screenshot your photos or try to find you on other sites like LinkedIn and Facebook without your consent. Here’s what you should know before you start swiping.
Don't Bother Paying at First
Most dating apps have both a free and paid version. Choosing not to shell out for the paid membership option won’t stop you from meeting the partner of your dreams. Most of the perks offered—such as the ability to swipe right on an unlimited number of potential matches—only make a difference for the heaviest power users. If you find a service you really like and want to see what additional features could do for you, don’t let me stop you. But when you’re first starting out, it can often be more helpful to try different apps to see what works—rather than financially committing to one option. Plus, dating apps can get expensive: Bumble’s paid tier is $24.99 a month, whereas Tinder’s starts at $9.99 for users under 30 and $19.99 for anyone older.
Think Hard About Facebook and Instagram Data
Most mainstream dating apps—including Tinder, Bumble, Hinge, and Coffee Meets Bagel—allow users to share data from their Facebook profiles. Until recently, some even required having a Facebook account to sign up. On the one hand, this is a good thing: Importing information from the social network can give you an extra layer of security, since it allows you to tell which potential matches have Facebook friends in common with you. It’s often less risky to meet up with someone with whom you share a mutual connection.
But at the same time, your Facebook profile might contain information you don’t want strangers to know about you right away, such as your employer or where you went to school. While almost all dating apps display only your first name coupled with your job and alma mater, that could be enough to find you elsewhere on the internet. There’s no need for a first date to have examined your full LinkedIn résumé before they even shake your hand. Consider omitting this info from your dating profile: In the best case scenario, you might have to endure pickup lines about your day job. In the worst, a harasser or stalker could continue trying to communicate with you even after you block them.
Dating apps also allow users to import their Facebook photos. Don’t include the same picture you use as your Facebook profile image in your dating profile. Again, doing so makes it too easy for someone to find your profile on the social network. Some apps, like Tinder , allow you to fully integrate your Instagram account, letting potential matches check out your entire profile. If your Instagram isn’t particularly private, go ahead and share as you please. But keep in mind that friends and family, whose photos may be on your Instagram, might not necessarily be comfortable being seen by strangers as part of your dating activity. At the very least, before you link your Insta to a dating app, review everything you’ve posted—you might find a particularly intimate or revealing upload you forgot about.
Stay Inside the App
The chat function inside a dating app is a beautiful place. Oftentimes, it doesn’t permit users to send photos or links—just text messages, gifs, and emoji. That might seem limiting, but it’s a safety protection (no unsolicited dick pics, phew). Until you meet someone IRL, it’s best to talk only within the app where you connected with them. That way, if the date is a flop, they don’t have your phone number and you don’t have to go to the trouble of deleting theirs.
Delete Your Account—Not the App
Met someone you like? Congratulations! Now delete your accounts—not just the dating apps themselves. Removing a dating app from your phone won’t necessarily erase your profile. Make sure you carefully follow the steps provided to properly nuke your accounts after you fall in love. Not sure if you’ve found the one, but want to take a break? Some dating services let you temporarily hide your profile and remove it from the pool of eligible singles.
Louise Matsakis is perhaps the only person genuinely excited about Facebook’s new dating app. She’s also a staff writer for WIRED's security desk.
What can we tell you? No, really, what do you want one of our in-house experts to tell you? Post your question in the comments or .
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