The first time I signed up for a dating app, I didn’t even sign up. My friend, Akshay, grabbed my phone while we were eating dinner in our college dining hall, downloaded an app, and started setting up my profile. At first, I protested. From what I knew, dating apps were last resorts — places where desperate people turn when they’ve given up on meeting someone the “normal” way. But I was also incredibly awkward and shy, and newly out of the closet. I didn’t have any practice asking someone out, and certainly not a woman (who might not even be gay!). I could see the appeal of having an app that vetted possible matches and then facilitated talking to them. So I let Akshay continue along.
My dating app origin story isn’t necessarily unique — plenty of people have been encouraged onto an app by a friend, whether or not their friends were as forceful as mine — but it’s far from the only way in. For some, it’s a blip of a decision — no big deal. But for others, wading in takes time and careful thought. Ahead, seven people share how they first put their dating lives in the hands of the algorithm gods.
“I was so hesitant to sign up for dating apps at first. I finally caved after accepting that this is how dating works now, and seeing the success my friends had with finding their partners on various apps. At first, signing up for an app felt strange — like I was forcing a relationship. But ultimately, it helped me find people I’ve enjoyed welcoming into my life, which was honestly my goal.” —Katie, 27
“I first decided to download dating apps because I was too afraid to put myself out there physically as a newly out gay man of color. Dating apps offered a sense of safety and security, since I could talk to people from behind the phone screen. Slowly, I got more comfortable with myself and my wants and needs after talking to strangers on these apps.” —Cliff, 26
“I started downloading dating apps because the only other way I was meeting people was through friends and coworkers. And when those relationships ended, it was always messy and complicated. The appeal of dating apps was that if it didn’t work out, I could easily excise the person from my life. Now, I’m engaged to someone I met on an app!” —April, 29
“The first time I used a dating website felt like a huge deal, but by the time I decided to download a dating app it no longer felt like A Thing. I first started using dating sites when I wanted to explore dating women, so it came with a lot of excitement, nervousness, and sense of freedom. Downloading Tinder several years later was largely done out of curiosity, since all of my friends were using it and I didn’t understand the appeal. I realized I really love using apps when I travel because dating apps function so differently in different cultures. I’ve used Tinder on trips to talk to people about music, film, language, travel, and, yes, for dating.” —Jen, 27
“When I first signed up for dating apps, I did it because I wanted to see what all the hype was about, even though I was nervous about putting myself out there and being vulnerable. I’ve always been shy to initiate the conversation, especially in person. I was still shy on the apps, but it was easier to talk to someone. I met my current boyfriend four months ago on Tinder. We’ve been attached at the hip ever since.” —Kaitlyn, 22
“When my girlfriend and I broke up after two years, I decided I needed to distract myself from thinking about her. I wanted to find new people to talk to, and if we went on dates that was great. None of my friends really encouraged or discouraged my decision, but my two close friends both met their current girlfriends on Tinder, so I figured I would give it a shot.” —Kory, 20
“I was (very) single and did not have a lot of opportunities to meet people, so I figured why not try out Tinder? Plus getting matches was an admittedly nice confidence boost. I wasn’t really looking for anything in particular so it was pressure-free. That is until I decided to meet up with someone in person for the first time, which I was extremely nervous about, but it went really well. In fact, I’m still dating them! When I first signed up, I did not expect to end up in a serious relationship but I’m so glad I did.” —Danielle, 24