Ah, the dating app: It’s pretty much the modern-day meet-cute. Just ask dating and relationship expert Wendy Newman — and the roughly 80 percent of Americans who agreed it was a good way to meet people in a recent study. Prior to meeting her current boyfriend, Wendy met a lot of frogs — and we do mean a LOT — while researching her book, 121 First Dates ($11). Named for (you guessed it!) the number of dates she went on in the name of dating research (not unlike fellow author Melissa Pimentel), we think it’s fairly safe to say she’s something of an expert on modern-day dating and the apps that frequently accompany it. Read on to find out which ones she was a fan of and which ones she says you should “swipe left” on.
1. String: This newcomer to the scene promises to match you on a deeper level based on a list of 36 questions that studies say accelerate intimacy between two strangers and foster a “mutual vulnerability.”
Pros: With availability currently limited to the San Francisco Bay area, it may be too soon to tell, although she says the questions can be a fun/cute game to play.
Cons: At a cursory glance, Wendy says that sadly, “a fun game” is about all these questions are good for — they aren’t deep enough to offer real insight to the human psyche. “[They’re] fake compatibility questions,” she says. For those that truly seek to be matched by compatibility, she says you have to look at the questions through the filters of “how can I best connect to someone and connect to a husband/wife [or] partner?” And these? Ain’t gonna cut it. Citing queries like, “before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say/why?” and “Given the choice of anyone in the world, who would you want as a dinner guest?” Wendy says most of these are wishful thinking, fantasy, or “get-to-know” you questions as opposed to deep, meaningful ones.
2. Tinder: The release of Tinder more or less turned online dating on its ear with its swipe-n-go, lightning-strike approach to online dating. Originally viewed as a “hookup site,” the app shows users nothing more than a profile picture, age, interest and, more recently, education and job status before asking them to swipe right (thumbs up) or left (thumbs down). More recent features also include a new communal element that allows you expand your social circle.
Pros: “I like Tinder!” Wendy tells us. “It gets people off the couch.” What’s more, Wendy says it’s very male-friendly. “The way it’s designed is really attractive to a man’s brain,” she says. “[They like] the game of it.”
Also on her list of pros? The total transparency with regard to relationship status. If someone is in an open relationship or is polyamorous, “they’ll lead with that,” Wendy says.
Cons: Safety and privacy concerns were at the top of Wendy’s list of cons. “If you’re afraid to meet people… this is not gonna be your site,” Wendy warns. “[There may not be ] enough info [given] for a woman to feel safe and bold [enough to date].”
3. Match: Match.com is pretty much the old standby of online dating. The premise is simple enough — make a profile, search for a “match” and connect. Easy, peasy, right?
Pros: As what many would consider the original dating site, Wendy says that Match has a leg up when it comes to funding and helping its users take things offline. “They run the show [because they have] the most money for meet and greet events,” she tells us. “[They ] lead the way in offline connection.”
Cons: A dated model and a dwindling male pool. “More and more [men are] getting off Match and getting onto Tinder,” Wendy says.
4. OKCupid: This modern version of a Match-style site makes online dating accessible to the masses by forgoing membership fees.
Pros: It’s free! OkCupid is more closely aligned to Match or eHarmony in the sense that it allows for the creation of a more traditional profile, without the pricey membership fees. “I used to think if you weren’t willing to pay $40 for love, you weren’t worth my time,” Wendy says. But after finding many of the same men on OkCupid as she found on Match, many of whom were quality candidates (one of whom turned into her current boyfriend!), Wendy was sold.
Cons: Not many — OkCupid is a pretty solid bet as far as dating apps go, at least in Wendy’s books.
5. Bumble: This site puts the women in control when it comes to communication; in fact, male users aren’t even allowed to make the first move. Designed to cut back on unwanted harassment from overzealous male daters (although a friendly “extend” option exists for them to indicate their interest). Bumble is all about making women feel safe.
Pros: Bumble is probably a pretty safe bet for women with Wendy’s aforementioned safety concerns — its whole foundation is built around “countering problematic and antiquated hetero dating concerns” (although it is open to mutual communication between same-sex users).
Cons: Wendy’s main beef with Bumble was its age barriers. “I think Bumble is great, but it’s really for 20s and 30s,” she shared. “If a woman is 40 or over, she’s not going to be able to find what she’s looking for.”
6. Coffee Meets Bagel: Promising “quality over quantity,” the main thing that sets Coffee Meets Bagel apart is its match-a-day system. Sending you just one match for review every day at noon (based on things such as mutual Facebook friends and interests), the idea here is that you’ll be able to take your time and be choosy with your matches.
Pros: While Wendy says the site’s filters are pretty decent, she notes that they can also be pretty hard to find.
Cons: Wendy says the thing that sets this site apart is also its downfall. “I know they’re trying to have people be more thoughtful rather than swipe, swipe, swipe,” she says, but it’s also “limiting. You’re stuck with one person for the day — if you’ve accepted them, [you have to] wait around for them to reply.” She also notes that with fewer members than some of the other apps, you’re at risk of “poor matching quality.”
7. eHarmony: Using 29 “compatibility traits” to analyze your personality and match you with others of similar mindsets, eHarmony claims to be the “#1 trusted relationship services provider” in the US.
Pros: Like other sites before it, Wendy says the main pro to eHarmony is that it offers you access to people you may not otherwise meet. “If [you see a man] in a taqueria, he might be really cute, but you don’t know his availability,” she reasons. Furthermore, he might not be open to a meeting — “he might just be hungry!”
Cons: “It makes people jump through hoops to get to each other,” Wendy muses. “You have to prove [you’re a fit] before you can reach out.” As someone with plenty of experience in the arena, Wendy says putting that much time, energy and heart into a connection that might be over within five minutes of meeting makes it easy to get burned out on dating entirely. “On the next one, they’re gonna say f*ck it,” she says. “[You want to] get to the real person as soon as possible.
Based on Wendy’s feedback, it sounds like Tinder and OKCupid are currently your best bets when navigating the dating site pool. A word to the wise? “Learn to swipe left fast,” Wendy says. “You’re not gonna’ want to talk to everyone. Get past the things you’re not interested in.” A good rule of thumb when learning to sort through the human dating pool quickly? “Pay attention to what they’re saying instead of how cute they are.”
Do you agree with Wendy’s analysis? Let us know over @BritandCo!
(Photos via Getty)