Guide to dating app success

Instant swipe right

Looking for a last-minute date for Valentine’s Day? Time to get swiping! But how do you make sure you stand out in a sea of faces on Tinder, Bumble or Hinge? We asked students about the do’s and don’ts of a great profile.
By Ingrid Ştefan and Rob van der Wal
13 February om 11:08 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 14 February 2024
om 11:09 uur.
February 13 at 11:08 AM.
Last modified on February 14, 2024
at 11:09 AM.

Pictures are everything

Let’s face it, when you’re swiping away on a dating app, you dismiss most of the profiles based on the photos alone. So when you’re curating your own profile, make sure to use appealing pictures.

DON’T use a picture with a fish (or a horse)

Certain things are just an instant swipe left, like the all-time classic ‘guy with a fish’. If you’re looking at men’s profiles, you’re sure to have encountered them a few times, to the point where it’s become a running gag. And though it’s hard to tell why fish-holding photos persist on dating apps (perhaps a remnant of men’s long-lost hunting practices), it’s clear that women are not impressed anymore by a man proudly holding his catch.

‘I’m a vegetarian, so I won’t have that. I also think they’re showing off with something which is actually sad’, explains an art history student. For medical student Rose, it’s even easier than that: ‘It’s just small dick energy to me’, she says. So, while fishing might be a great hobby, it’s better to stick to the bio.

Is there a female counterpart of the fish photo, though? ‘Horses’, according to law student Sal. He immediately swipes left when he sees one. ‘I just don’t like horse girls.’ 

In fact, best to avoid pictures with other living beings altogether. You may think including a group photo shows you’re a friendly person, but for some, it can be a turnoff. ‘It’s so hard to tell who the person actually is from the whole group. Also, it’s a red flag if his friends are hotter than him’, says Rose. 

And if you’re a guy posting a pic with kids or fluffy animals, be aware that they can be a double-edged sword. ‘Men know all too well that women like those cute photos’, says medical student Mirthe, ‘so they could actually be a bad sign.’

DO be yourself

While the female students we interviewed are quite picky when swiping right, the men are often not as selective. ‘It depends a lot on the level of alcohol I have had, and I usually also let my friends swipe on my profile’, says international business student Bas. ‘But either way, if she looks pretty, I’ll date her.’

Though even he identifies some red flags, like pictures with filters. ‘Because you just can’t tell what she looks like’, he explains. A clear, full-face picture is best, PhD student Marianna agrees. ‘I really want to see a photo where I can look at her face, so I can see if she is authentic.’

Spontaneous photos also fit that bill. ‘I’m looking more for the ambiance of the person, rather than how they look’, says medical student Wietske.   

Showing off, on the other hand, is a bad idea. According to the women we talked to, there’s no bigger red flag on a man’s dating profile than shirtless pictures, unless it was taken on the beach. ‘Those pictures just scream “I’m a loser”’, is how Rose bluntly puts it. 

A set of enviable washboard abs sounds great, but it’s just not the first thing you want to know about a person. Nor the second. Or the third. Educational sciences student Jenke also feels it says something about a guy’s attitude. ‘They come across as egotistical people’. Medical student Nora agrees: ‘The shirtless guys are really arrogant.’  

Put a little effort into your description, too, though

When you’ve reeled someone in with great photos, you don’t want to undo all that work with a sub-par bio. So get editing!

DON’T describe your ideal match

You may feel it’s a good way to weed out the kind of person you would never go for, but all-too specific descriptions of the ideal girl or guy are likely to turn off those you would want to date as well. Women say they just feel objectified when they see that. ‘Or a line like “I want a girl that doesn’t take herself seriously”, says the art history student. ‘That just screams “I’m emotionally unavailable”.’

And while on the one hand, you want to paint a clear picture of who you are, perhaps this is not the place for politics. Journalism student Chris would never swipe right on a woman who has divisive political statements in her bio, he says. ‘Back in Ireland, there were a lot of women who were hard-line anti-migration. That scares me off.’ 

Don’t feel you need to mention your height in your bio either, at least if you’re a man. It comes across as insecure, say the female students, and they don’t really trust you anyway. ‘Guys are always shorter in real life than they say they are in their bio’, according to Wietske.

DO get quirky

‘I swiped right on my now-boyfriend because of his calves’, says Alexandra, a chemical engineering student. ‘I once dated a guy who was a salesman for potatoes in Morocco’, biology student Anouk adds. ‘I thought, well, that conversation is at least not going to be boring.’

All this to say, you never know what might sway someone to like your profile. The students we asked all said that they are impressed by something unique, be it in someone’s looks or their personality. 

And an informative bio could just be the way to find your soulmate: hey, this person collects Funko dolls as well/goes to every Bruce Springsteen concert/is on a mission to visit every country on earth! ‘I am a historian myself, so if there is someone who goes to museums and has reading among her interests, I am attracted to her’, says master student Daan. 

Once you get a match, though, be sure not to start the conversation with one of those bad pick-up lines. They may sound creative, but they’re often a turnoff, says the art history student. She used to have a picture of a pro-Palestine protest on her Tinder profile and she’d always get lines like ‘A left-wing woman needs a right-wing man’.  It was definitely funny, she admits, but it never led to an actual date: the men only made it to her friends’ group chat as a screenshot.

Still no luck? 

Remember, even a perfectly curated profile doesn’t guarantee a date. Some – perhaps even many – students aren’t actively looking for love. ‘I never actually do anything besides swiping, like going on real dates’, says Nora. Rose, too, uses Tinder ‘just to swipe when I’m bored. I’m very picky, but I think that’s good for your ego’, she says. And for Anouk, ‘Tinder is a good way to see if I’m still in demand’. 

So when you’re sitting home alone on Valentine’s Day, nursing a bag of crisps while watching Married at first sight, you can always comfort yourself with the thought that it’s not you, it’s them.