Online dating: How to score a date and find love on apps

Dating agency co-founder advises how to converse on apps, and explains new trends like zero date and ghosting

A man and a woman holding smartphones with profiles of each other in dating service app. Virtual relationship, social media dating, profiles match flat style illustration
A man and a woman holding smartphones with profiles of each other in dating service app. Virtual relationship, social media dating, profiles match flat style illustration

SINGAPORE — The world of dating apps can be overwhelming. Whether you are a seasoned app user, or just dipping your toes into the virtual dating pool, finding meaningful connections can be a real challenge.

Here are four tips that can empower you to ace the dating app game, as shared by Violet Lim, chief executive and co-founder of dating agency Lunch Actually.

How to stand out and keep things casual

Having an objective, and knowing why you are on a dating app, is important.

"You are not only competing with yourself, but with 10 or 20 other people. To capture a person's attention, you should come across as interesting," Lim said.

For example, your profile should preferably include a combination of face photos, half-body shots, and photos of you engaging in hobbies or on a holiday.

Once a match happens, Lim recommends taking time to review the matched profile, and crafting conversation starters, to increase the probability of the other party responding.

Examples include asking about what the person has written on their profile, and discussing topics and recent activities such as recent holiday destinations, to establish common ground.

"An example can be: I saw that you just went to Hokkaido, I'm planning to go this year. Where do you think I should go? What are some must visit places?" Lim said.

"That's usually how we want a relationship to start, more casual and getting to know each other as friends first, and then moving from there."

The practice of asking follow-up personal questions also reduces overthinking and excess thoughts over how one can strike a conversation on dating apps.

Lim compares managing one's eagerness to the analogy of flying a kite, where one has to decide when to let loose and when to pull the string tighter. She advises that people generally "do not want pressure" when conversing on dating apps.

Messages should also be replied in a similar length, mirroring the manner in which the other party has messaged.

Why and how to handle being ghosted

Ghosting is another common occurrence in modern online dating. Lim advises against taking ghosting personally, as people usually cast their nets widely on dating apps.

Referencing experiences from friends, she understands it can get very tiring to go through the dating process repeatedly. As such, matches may choose to ghost people as the easy way out.

How can one recover from getting ghosted? By taking time to be upset, but not for too long. Wallowing in self pity can be healthy, but Lim recommends setting a deadline to make the decision to move on, when rejection happens.

She warns against tying one's self worth to the outcome of a potential date, and to avoid jumping to conclusions like "people don't love me" or "I can never find love again".

Reminding yourself that there is someone better out there for you is another way to heal, she added.

If you decide to end the conversation with a potential date, Lim recommends letting someone down easy by being upfront about not seeing the connection working out. You can also end it off nicely by mentioning it was fun to talk, and send well wishes such as "all the best" and "happy to catch up as friends in the future".

To make things easier, she recommends crafting a message template on your notes app, that can be used to politely turn down unsuitable parties when necessary.

Two people on a 'zero date' over coffee (Photo: Getty Images)
Two people on a 'zero date' over coffee (Photo: Getty Images)

The 'zero date' concept

While it can be nice to converse through text, the real goal in online dating is to schedule a meeting offline.

Lim mentioned the rise of a new dating trend called "zero date". This is an initial meeting or a pre-date, with casual and low-pressure interaction. The idea behind it is to help determine interest level and chemistry, before proceeding to a formal first date.

Some zero date suggestions include catching up after work, going to the gym or meeting for coffee, instead of a full-fledged dinner.

Lim spoke on the reality that people can be on dating apps for fun and entertainment, or they can even be insurance agents in disguise. Other profiles can be attached individuals, or those with nothing better to do.

However, if you are serious about finding a potential date, Lim proposes being very unabashedly open about your objective to meet the right one.

"If the individual is the right person, they will respect that, and agree to it as well," she said.

How to prepare for an in-person date

You have scored a date. So how should you go about preparing for an in-person date?

The other party's dating profile can be a great place to look for nuggets on their interest, likes and dislikes, Lim said. Instead of small talk, you can prepare questions and answers as talking points, to showcase your best self on the first date.

The usual approach is to find common interests, but Lim recommends elevating your first date conversations by furnishing your responses with personal details.

"Instead of just saying you do yoga, shop and watch Korean drama in your free time, you can give context to some of your habits and preferences."

Details can include personal beliefs, thoughts on current affairs, and living conditions.