It's that time of year again. Birds are chirping, love is in the air and you've got no plans on February 14. Yup, it's Valentine's Day. What is meant to be a happy day for many is often the the exact opposite. It can suck to be alone on Valentine's Day, plain and simple. This year we are going to change that and it all starts with your smartphone.
There are mobile apps for everything, including quite a few that help you meet people. It's time to swallow your pride and try online dating. These are the best apps on Android, iOS and the Web.
The hookup apps
There are a top of apps out there that cater to a younger audience of people that aren't particularly interested in anything serious or long term. I found that this is more common with people that use the app Tinder. There are others out there, but Tinder is the one with the most active users. Now don't get me wrong, I know a handful of people who have met some awesome people through Tinder and went on to have successful relationships.
Most people have heard of the app, but if not the idea behind it is simple (and rather superficial). It's essential a big game of "Hot or Not." If you see someone you find attractive you give them a thumbs up by swiping right, if they aren't your type you swipe left. You will be fed a nearly endless stream of potential dates from the designated age group and radius you indicated. If someone you swiped right on also finds you attractive by swiping right, you will then be able to message one another.
Tinder is only available on Android and iOS. You are also required to login through Facebook, although nothing will be posted on your wall.
The dating apps
For those people that want something a little more than a so-called hookup, there's what I like to classify as the dating apps. These include free offerings such as OkCupid, Coffee Meets Bagel, Plenty of Fish and Hinge, among others.
OkCupid is my personal favorite, but I am a bit biased because it's where I met my girlfriend. The appeal of OkCupid and Plenty of Fish is that they are offered as part of a freemium business model. You can pay for additional features, but I sure didn't as it's not necessary. Both services are similar to traditional dating sites. You can take a variety of personality tests and create a detailed online profile that other users can view. OkCupid and Plenty of Fish can be accessed on the Web or through their Android and iOS apps.
Hinge and Coffee Meets Bagel are somewhere in between the hookup world of Tinder and the dating world of OkCupid. Both apps, which are only available on Android and iOS, limit the amount of matches you can browse per day. Coffee Meets Bagel takes this one step further and offers up only one match each day at noon.
Hinge takes a slightly different approach than Tinder. Rather than being shown random people in your radius and age group, Hinge provides you with a list of Facebook friends of friends, and friends of friends of friends to choose from. The app will also analyze your interests and browsing habits to tailor your matches specifically for you. For example, my employment at CNET may have me matched with someone who also works in media.
Once those matches have been laid out for you, Hinge becomes similar to Tinder. You evaluate the pictures and profile to figure out if you're interested in that person. If you and that same person find each other interesting/attractive, you will be able to begin messaging one another.
Coffee Meets Bagel is similar to Hinge in the sense that you won't see any random people. Your curated match will share a mutual Facebook friend, but there is a small catch. That match will only be available for 24 hours, during which time you must choose to either pass or like. If sparks fly and you both hit that like button, the app will set up a private chat room for you to message one another.
The marriage apps
Now I'm not at the point in my life where marriage is on my mind. That will likely occur sometime over the next few years, and that's exactly why I avoided services classified here as "marriage" services. The two most obvious in this category are eHarmony and Match, both of which you may see frequently advertised on TV. These services require a monthly fee, which, in my opinion, is the reason they attract an older, more serious and committed type of individual. This is a generalization, of course, but you are likely to find more party animals on Tinder than Match. I can guarantee you that.
In addition to being accessed on the Web, both eHarmony and Match offer apps on Android and iOS.
Others apps and services
As I said earlier, there are apps and services for almost everyone and everything. Want to meet someone who is Jewish? There's JSwipe and JDate. Maybe someone who shares your faith? Well there's Christian Mingle. You also have Zoosk, Chemistry, BlackPeopleMeet, FarmersOnly and OurTime, among many others. There's even High There, an app that.
One of the reasons I included the apps and service I did is because of their popularity. Being in New York City, apps like Tinder and Hinge never seem to run out of matches, but things can be a bit slower in more rural areas of the country.
I'm not going to lie, there also seems to be a stigma towards people who meet online. People always seem to want to know more about the rather uninteresting details behind how I met my girlfriend. It's either that or the sound of judgement in their voice. Either way, it's something you will have to deal with on what seems like a daily basis. This is, of course, only if you are successful in meeting someone, which can sometimes be rather difficult.
CNN Money did a nice job documenting the pros and cons of online dating. In short, while there are some incredible people out there (if I may say so myself), you have to sift through a lot of garbage (along with cheesy pick-up lines and borderline harassment) to find them. You should also be sure to take certain precautions to protect yourself, such as meeting at a public place and checking in with friends throughout a date. Just remember to be smart.
Having trouble deciding which services is right for you. Check out this helpful infographic.