If finding ~love~ is one of your 2016 resolutions, statistically speaking, now's the time to give that dating app a shot. It's less scary than you think. Ya never know until you try, right? If you absolutely hate it, you can always delete the app and forget it ever happened. Here's what you need to know before you hit the install button:
Anyone and everyone is on dating apps
Once upon a time, there was a stigma associated with online dating. For instance, "It's for people who are super desperate for love" or "It's for socially awkward hermits who never leave their room" or whatever.
These taboos are complete BS. Online dating is an option for everyone. With the rise of free and easily accessible dating apps, pretty much everyone -- yes, even that hottie you've been crushing on -- considers signing up for one. It's commonplace now, and there are totally 100% normal people on every app, even Tinder. I promise.
It's a commitment
In order to meet someone on a dating app, you need to, y'know, really *use* a dating app. You need to fill in your bio and select profile pics. You need to look through other people's profiles. You need to send messages. You need to check out the people who message you (yay!) and decide if you're interested in continuing the conversation. And then you need to figure out WTF to say to them in response.
All of these things require some degree of commitment. You can't just download an app and expect some magic smartphone fairy to do the rest of the legwork for you.
It's about quantity, not quality
Every left swipe brings you one swipe closer to the person you'll want to swipe right on. Every awkward text conversation brings you one convo closer to the person you'll immediately click with. Every bad date brings you one date closer to that swoon-worthy, butterflies-in-stomach date.
Actually dating someone is obviously about quality, not quantity, but you can't meet *the one* -- in real life or online -- if you don't put yourself out there.
Be upfront about what you're looking for
Don't play games. Your time is precious, so don't waste it on somebody who isn't on the same page as you. If you're not honest about what you want, you won't find it.
"Know what you’re looking for and advertise it," clinical psychologist Dr. Wendy Walsh told MTV News in a story about the evolutionary science behind Tinder. "I don’t care if you only have 140 characters, put that in there so you're very clear to somebody from the top. Then, as soon as you start texting, [say] 'I know Tinder thinks we’re a match because we like the way each other looks, but I’m telling you this is the kind of relationship I'm looking for.' ... If you have one foot in the dating pool and one trying to build a relationship, you won't succeed."
Write something in your profile
Don't be that person who leaves their profile or bio completely blank. If you want people to message you, give them something -- anything! -- to go off of. Otherwise you'll be fielding the same "Hey, how's it going?" messages all day, every day. ?
Do your research
You're meeting strangers on the internet. It's totally acceptable to Google their names, look them up on Facebook, etc. to make sure they are who they say they are. Ain't nobody got time for catfishing.
Above all, be safe
It doesn't matter if you're a guy or a girl. Making the leap from digital communication to in-person talking is nerve-wracking.
For the most part, online dating is safe -- don't let internet horror stories freak you out -- but if you're worried, calm your fears with a few helpful steps. Before meeting up with anyone in real life, Google their name (see #6). Agree to meet them in a public place, like a coffee shop, bar or restaurant. Tell your roommates where you're going, who you're meeting and what time you expect to return. Keep an eye on your drink. You know this stuff already!
Choose the right app
You have options. There's Tinder, Hinge, Bumble, OkCupid, The League, Happn, Coffee Meets Bagel, PlentyOfFish, Match.com, eHarmony and more. Each app and website has its own pros and cons. Looking for something strictly casual? Tinder's a good place to start. Are you too busy to scroll through hundreds of profiles? Coffee Meets Bagel might be right for you.
Figure out which services meet what you're looking for and sign up! If you hate it, you can always delete your account and start fresh somewhere else.
You have to meet in person
Surprise! This may seem obvious, but the whole point of dating apps is to meet new people. Chatting online doesn't count. It's easy and convenient to fall into a rut of solely messaging people for validation or for the sake of messaging someone.
When you find someone you're into, the conversation needs to eventually move from your phone screen into real life. Otherwise, all you have is a really hot pen pal.
You WILL get rejected at some point
Even if you're Ryan Gosling's long-lost twin, someone out there doesn't have the hots for him. Nobody is swiped right on 100% of the time. You'll message someone who doesn't respond to you, and it'll discourage you for a hot sec.
The good news? Online rejection is quick and painless. Maybe that person hasn't checked the app in awhile. Maybe that 29-year-old's search criteria didn't include your 22-year-old self. Who cares? You don't even know that person, anyway.
It's OK to say no
Just like someone won't respond to your message, at some point you likely will ignore a message yourself. And that's perfectly OK. When it comes to online dating, never say yes just to be polite. If someone asks you out and you're not feeling it, say no. If you don't want to talk to someone, don't.
You don't owe anybody, much less a complete stranger, an explanation for your actions. If they don't respect your boundaries, don't hesitate to hit "block." That button is there for a reason.
You don't have to lie about how you met
If you're lucky enough to find that special someone online, don't feel pressure to lie about how you two met. Online dating is practically the norm now. Did you not learn anything from #1?
You'll become more confident in your love life
Between all the awkward text convos, "meh" first dates and rejection, online dating is emotionally exhausting. Asking someone out, whether it's online or in person, feels less intimidating the more you do it. Dating isn't easy, but like with most things in life, practice makes perfect. These experiences will teach you what you want and (more importantly) what you don't want in a relationship. And you won't settle for anything less.