How to Use Tinder — A Complete Guide

There’s always a first time for everything.

Tinder is a popular (if not the most popular) dating app that matches adults based on their Facebook profiles and locations, allowing mutually interested parties to chat anonymously (until, perhaps, they decide to exchange phone numbers and/or meet up for coffee or casual sex). Though it’s often criticized as a product of an attention-challenged, image-conscious, addiction-prone generation, it’s still basically obligatory if you’re single and under 35 (even if you’re focused, deep and don’t have an addictive personality).

The Pros of Tinder

Fast-Paced: Unlike trying to meet someone single who’s right for you at a bar or club, Tinder is quick and targeted. And you know everyone there is interested in at least meeting new people. If you’ve got a decent profile (and don’t live in the middle of Bumblefuck USA), then your chances of getting several matches in a few days (if not a few hours) are pretty high. 

Fun: Show your friends the pictures of your matches while sipping on some wine. Message a few of your matches if you’re feeling flirty. It can be a rush just to see who you match with, even if you don’t pull the trigger with any of them!

Convenient: Pull out your phone and you can check Tinder anytime, anywhere, wearing anything, including sweatpants.

The Cons

Unpredictable: Tinder can be a hit or miss. You can’t control who shows up when. And though you can control who you like, you can’t control likes you, obvs. On one day, you might hit the jackpot with a bunch of profiles you’re interested in; the next might feel like a dating desert. 

Misleading: Just like any other form of social media or online dating, people only present the best, most polished version of themselves. With creative lighting, angles, Photoshopping, and Kardashian contouring, people might be less hot in RL than they appear on Tinder. And some folks are just better on paper.  To avoid disappointment when you finally meet, lower your expectations — even if, or especially if, their profile seems too good to be true.

Cis/Hetero-focused: Tinder is catered towards cisgendered, straight men and women. Though you can choose what gender you would like to see (men, women, or both), the environment itself could be more LGBTQ friendly. According to one college student who identifies as bisexual, “Bi erasure is real on Tinder. Even if I have it in my bio (or Bi-o?), people will still make assumptions about my sexuality.” DatingAdvice.com suggests LGBTQ users will probably have a better time elsewhere.

Shallow: The nature of the Tinder beast means a lot of emphasis is placed on looks. And the suggestion of a surplus of available people may make commitment less desirable (see Professor David Buss’s explanation here.)

Undeterred? Then download the app to your smart-phone and get started! Here’s how:

How Tinder Works

The (In)Famous Swiping:

  • Swipe LEFT on a profile if it’s a “NO GO” for you. They won’t show up again in your feed (unless you’ve upgraded to Tinder Plus, which lets you “rewind” any accidental or overly hasty left swipes).
  • Swipe RIGHT for “YES.” That person will not know you’re interested unless they also swipe right, in which case you will match! Pay extra attention to those at the top of your feed, since anyone who’s swiped right on you will tend to appear there.
  • Swipe UP for “SUPER LIKE” (or just tap the blue star icon on someone’s profile). Unlike a right swipe, a super like means that person will see the blue star when they come across your bio, so only do this if you are okay with them knowing you’re really into them.
  • “Discovery” is the swiping process, which you can remove yourself from — let’s say, if you start dating someone with serious potential — by turning Discovery off in your settings (you can turn it back on and throw yourself back into the mix at any time).
  • You can unmatch anyone you’ve already been matched with at any time, blocking them from future contact. But once you’ve unmatched someone, it’s a permanent done deal.

Location Settings:

  • Your location will automatically adjust depending on where you are.
  • You can set a maximum distance, so that your matches will be as close or as far as you want them.

Age & Gender Preferences:

  • You can set an age range so that the profiles you see are not too old or too young (ages range from 18-55+).
  • Under settings you can set it to see just men, just women, or both.


  • Once you’ve been matched to someone (i.e. you’ve both swiped right on each other), you can send them an anonymous message to get the conversation started.


  • Boosting your own profile makes you one of the top profiles in your area for 30 minutes, for a price.
  • To purchase Tinder Boost, tap the purple lightning bolt on the main screen (Boost button) and follow the instructions.

Tinder Plus:

  • For an additional price, you can sign up for the Tinder Plus subscription, which give you extra features: rewinding on swipe lefts, extra Super Likes, one free “Boost” a week, matching all over the world (not just your immediate vicinity), no ads.
  • Controversially, Tinder Plus costs more for older users.

– How to Survive a Blind Date in 6 Easy Steps –

Picking the Right Photos for Yourself

Like it or not, this is the single most important element of your Tinder profile. Make it count:

Reflect reality: This doesn’t mean you have to post a photo of yourself without makeup on. It means don’t post one from 15 years or 15 pounds ago. Flatter yourself, but don’t delude yourself.

Elevate your pics: There’s no excuse for shitty pics when Smartphone cameras are so good these days. If you’ve got a terrible eye, have a friend snap some pics with flattering, natural light and a non-distracting background.

Post the maximum number of pics Tinder allows. This will give you an opportunity to show the various sides to yourself — and prove that the ridiculously good-looking shot of you was not a fluke.

Avoid excessive shirtless pictures & mirror selfies: While one shirtless picture at the beach is totally fine (and often welcome), nothing but a sea of pecs can scream “Self-absorption!” Same goes for the mirror selfie, which seriously lacks aesthetic and stylistic considerations. A range of realistic pics will advertise that you’re grounded — and human. 

Go easy on the group pics: While it’s nice to show you actually have friends and aren’t a loner, make sure viewers can easily pick you out from the crowd.  Also make sure your friends are cool with you putting their face on Tinder!

Consider using “Smart Photos”:  You can have Tinder employ its mathematical algorithms to determine which photo of yours is the most effective and automatically set it as your main photo. Just use their “Smart Photos” option.

Creating a Compelling Bio

It’s optional, but well worth it. It shows you give half a damn. And at a maximum length of only 500 words, it’s doesn’t take much strain. In fact, you may want to come well under that word-count, lest you come across as trying too hard:

Have fun with it! This isn’t therapy, it’s a light-hearted dating app. Let your sense of humor shine through. Crack a joke or two (just avoid overdone ones). Be your best silly self, ’cause Tinder ain’t so serious. 

Offer specific details: Being vague will only make you sound generic and boring. Specific details give people conversational ins with you. Favorite foods, current obsessions, origin stories, political leanings — decent bios with details like these means you’re both not starting from absolute scratch (which can make for painfully awkward first encounters). Mentioning your love of tacos means your chances of getting stuck on a taco-less date are greatly reduced. 

Express your intentions:   People use Tinder for casual hook-ups, dating and, yes, even finding new friends. So you should convey your expectations, either explicitly or implicitly. For example, if you’re looking for something super casual, your bio can be more mysterious. But if you expect to be wined and dined, or are only interested in people looking for a committed relationship, best to be more forthright about it (don’t be coy) — this will help with those who wrongly assume Tinder is still just a casual sex app. E.g. “no ONS” = no one-night stands. And hey, if you are just looking for a single night of meaningless sex, you can certainly say so, too! I.e. “No strings.” At millions of monthly users, Tinder is big enough for you to find a fairly decent match. 

Don’t be too negative, picky or sleazy: Better to express positively all the things you’re looking for, rather than negatively complain about all the things you’re not. But a laundry list of impossible-to-meet standards won’t help your cause either. And do we really need to tell you to keep it classy? Even if raunchy sex is on your mind, start slow and respectfully, to make sure you’re dealing with a like-minded dirty bird.

Tinder Do’s & Don’ts

Don’t use pickup lines (especially un-ironically): Overused, generic lines reflect a lack of effort, creativity and genuine interest in the person as an individual. 

Do be honest: Be honest with what you want, what you like, what your expectations are, and so on. Don’t pretend to be someone you’re not. Don’t lie. Just because you might be interested in something casual, doesn’t mean you should be casual with the truth or someone’s feelings. 

Don’t swipe right on everyoneIf it’s taking a while to get matches, you may be inclined to start swiping right indiscriminately — but all this does is increase your chances of meeting someone totally incompatible, which is unfair to both of you.  Better to work on improving your profile (or yourself!). 

Do be the first to message: We’re talking to you, ladies. This is the 21st century! Hey, they swiped right on you too, and if for whatever reason they don’t respond, then screw ‘em. Whatever you do, for the love of all that’s holy, come up with an opener that’s more inspired and personalized they “Hey.”

Don’t immediately request digits: Basic Tinder etiquette calls for at least one exchange or conversation via the anonymous safety and privacy Tinder offers before phone numbers, Snapchat handles, and other social media accounts are put on the table. Remember, once you give those out, there’s no going back — so be selective. 

Don’t be afraid to change your mind: If you think you are into someone at first but then realize you aren’t, that’s perfectly fine. No one expects you to make a final decision about a potential partner after just reading a short bio and seeing a couple pictures.

Don’t take any bullshit: If someone says something you don’t like, then unmatch them so you don’t see them again. And if you think what they said was inappropriate (or worse), then report them, i.e. go to their profile, hit the menu icon (ellipsis icon) and hit report.

Do meet in public: Just as you would on any blind or online date, drive separately and go somewhere with lots of people, like a coffeeshop, bar or restaurant. This way, if you begin to feel uncomfortable (or they’re certifiable), there are witnesses and you’re not trapped. Even if you are both just interested in casual sex, it’s best to meet up somewhere public initially should you immediately or eventually have a change of heart — so the hotel bar, NOT the hotel room. And be sure to tell friends or family your plans (where you’ll be when and with whom, not necessarily what you’ll be doing).  

Don’t have unsafe sex: Thanks to Tinder, STDs are on the rise. Know your sexual health status; share your status. Use condoms and dental dams correctly always. Don’t let anyone you don’t know well tie you up. Duh.

Good luck in this Brave New Tinder World!

Additional reporting by Miranda Levy.

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