Swipe Right for Love: NYC Dating in the Age of Tinder

Before the smartphone, young New York singles flocked to the city’s watering holes. Men would offer to buy a lady a drink, she might accept, and then he might get her phone number (real or otherwise). Rinse and repeat.

The iPhone's dating apps have, for the most part, replaced personal ads and online dating websites. Write a few sentences about yourself, put up two to three decent pictures, and you can meet nearby singles looking for companionship or hookups.

I have only lived in Manhattan for two months. On at least one occasion I went on three Tinder dates within a twelve-hour period, dashing between a NoMad coffee shop, MoMA in Midtown, and Central Park’s Jackie Onassis Reservoir. This type of behavior is apparently not uncommon in New York, primarily due to the massive number of singles available via a simple right-swipe.

Because setting up a date is essentially effortless, and the dating pool has widened to include anyone with cell service (except for the MTA riders, wait until you pull into the station!), many bemoan the end of serious relationships. In fact, New York City has been recently labeled the worst city for singles looking to find love.

There are 8.4 million people within the city’s five boroughs – 1.63 million in the 23 square miles of Manhattan – yet those of us not already partnered up find ourselves in something like a romantic desert, where one can have multiple first dates in any given weekend. That second date? It might as well be a unicorn. 

Some attribute the pains of dating in New York to a shortage of men; as of last year there were two men for every three women looking for a heterosexual, under-30 partner in Manhattan. According to census data, there is not a single neighborhood in all of Upper Manhattan that has more single men than single women.

With 8.4 million people, settling down with just one person seems almost impractical. It’s difficult to be excited about seeing someone again when there are others who may share more of your interests, live fewer subway stops away, or have a better job, apartment, and view of the city.

All is not lost, Manhattanites! For those looking for something casual, Tinder is widely useful. With 50 million users worldwide, 40% of which are in the US, there are plenty of people to choose from. You get around 100 right swipes (that is, likes) per day, and an analysis found that 100 right swipes average about 10 matches. Those are good odds, assuming you take some time to fill out your profile and choose your pictures carefully.

Users can even super-like one person per day, and that person will be able to see that they’ve been super-liked, increasing the probability of them swiping right in return. While some users are interested in serious dating, the general consensus is that, at least among straight users, the app is mainly for casual dating and hooking up.

Beyond Tinder, there are numerous other online options for those looking to find something more serious, and where you should begin depends on what bugs you about Tinder. For those who wish to know much more about a potential date before actually meeting in person, OKCupid is a must-try. The service is free, has web and mobile versions, encourages users to fill out extensive profiles, and gives you a percentage match, much more than you can glean from the sentence or two on a Tinder profile.

For women who are tired of receiving creepy, gross, and otherwise tasteless messages from matches, there is Bumble. The app requires that the woman message the man first, and if she makes no move within 24 hours, he disappears. This places the power solely in the lady’s hands and potentially eliminates a lot of unpleasantness.

If you’re entirely uncomfortable with online dating, you might want to give speed dating a try. Although it might sound ridiculous, it is much less artificial than small-talk on a smartphone. If you’re bookish like me, look out for Housing Works Bookstore’s infrequent Literary Speed Dating nights, billed “I Like Your Glasses.”

When all else fails and you're still looking love on this crowded, smelly island, don’t be afraid to aim high. Be on the lookout for Mr. Right at your local dog park, Whole Foods, bookstore, or coffee shop. But also realize that New York is a unique place that not always conducive to serious dating among 20-somethings; rent is high, hours are long, jobs are stressful, and New Yorkers live with a high degree of independence. You might have to kiss more frogs, compared to elsewhere in the country, before you find your prince.

Feature photo: Kirsten Samanich, @kiri_onmywaywardson.