I got 99 matches but a valentine ain’t one

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We all probably know the myths, history, and meanings (if there are any) of Valentine’s Day, but even after years and years of trial and error, some of us still don’t know how to cope with this day that is supposed to be full of “love”.  To help those in need, some talented entrepreneurs across the globe took it upon themselves to create dating apps.  

In order to score dates, users generally fabricate pictures, boost up the bio, and stick to a script.  As dating apps become more popular and deemed acceptable, many strategies exist for users, especially for males.  To study this phenomenon, three writers reluctantly decided to try dating apps in two different cultures – Korea and the U.S. – to research the differences and the winning strategy. For the U.S., we chose Coffee Meets Bagel, which is famous among Korean Americans due to the founders being Korean; for Korea, we chose Date at Noon, a popular dating app in Korea.

[How to start a conversation – usually, male users send the message first.  The beginning of the conversation can be one of the most awkward moments when using the app, and here are some feedbacks from two of our writers on the first message.]

Cathy – For Coffee Meets Bagel, you get one of their three “fun facts,” which can be used as a great ice breaker topic. Once you get matched with someone, the app will suggest a conversation starter question, such as “John* said ‘I used to be able to dunk a basketball..’ Ask him about it!” It helps the conversation to move more naturally, rather than the generic “hey” or “what’s up.” Personally, I don’t like pickup lines because I can imagine the guy copying and pasting it to everyone. They feel less sincere to me. I also don’t know how to respond to those pickup lines! I don’t want to sound like I am full of myself by saying “Thanks, I know I am gorgeous/pretty/beautiful”.

Yejin – Something related to my photos is always a plus. Especially when you know a particular brand/name of an item in the photo, you SHOULD mention it! The best first word I heard was from a guy who knew what kind of wine i was holding in my profile photo and said “I can get you the same one ;)”

Cathy – Me too! I had a picture with my pizza sweater and many people asked me about it. I think you can ask someone about their pictures such as “that place looks amazing! Where was it?” to start more natural conversations.

[What to get out of a conversation – After getting the reply, it is hard to carry on the conversation.  Remember that the goal is to meet the person and score dates.  Here is usually how.]

Cathy – Coffee is usually the best for the first meet-up.  As long as I can tell he is decent and not too awkward, I am always down for coffee.  I don’t mind straight up questions such as, “would you like to grab coffee with me?”. I also like movie dates because you have something to talk about after the movie. But if someone asks me to meet at a bar for the first date, I would probably turn it down. I know meeting a stranger from a dating app can be awkward so  you might need some alcohol to help with it. Yet, it seems too desperate and insincere to me. Also, most bars are too loud you can hardly have any conversation.

Yejin – Depends. As long as he can prove that he is safe, I usually wouldn’t mind setting up a date with him.  However, coffee first then if I like the guy, I would ask for a meal or drinks afterwards.

[Looks vs. Bio – Before starting a conversation, dating apps give two ways for the users to appeal to others: looks(pics) and bio (jobs).  Everyone posts a good-looking picture of themselves and boast about their career.]

CathyIf I am looking for something casual, then I would put more focus on his pictures. However, if I am looking for something more serious, then I would definitely pay more attention to other details such as his occupation, his bio and age. If there is a guy whom I find pretty cute but his bio is empty, then I wouldn’t swipe right. To me, filling up those bios show that this person is actually here for the right reason and is willing to get in a relationship.

YejinAppearance. And the way he talks.  Personally I focus on his figure more than this face.  As for Korea, there are some male users who write bios with not much confidence just to be humble, and I think it is a huge turnoff.

[When do you decide to stop replying? Why ?]

Cathy – If we have been talking about meaningless stuff for more than 3 days, and there’s no sign of moving forward, then I would probably stop replying. We necessarily don’t have to meet up in 3 days. At the same time, if we are still asking questions like “what do you like to do during your free time?” on day 3, I will just move on and focus on someone else. No one really checks the app 24/7 so we can only have limited conversation each day.

Yejin – Agreed! When I see no possibilities of moving forward, or when a guy sounds too sketchy such as asking too many personal questions, I just stop replying.

[Any pet peeves?]

Cathy – It is really hard to tell what you look like if all your photos are from 2008 or before. It is also hard to tell when all your photos are group pictures. I will probably not respond to you if you send me “how r u?” or “whr r u?”. Personally, I don’t like guys taking selfies. Selfies make all of us look good, not always in the most realistic way. I try not to put my selfies on dating apps because I know they are misleading! So no selfies on dating app please (for both genders).

YejinSorry for my selfies :P I usually don’t mind selfies as long as the guy posts other photos. For me, if a guy posts only one photo, I don’t swipe. Also as mentioned above, I really didn’t like the guys writing self deprecatory bios. Even though you are “shy and humble,” you were brave enough to like me on the app.

We fixed one of our male writer’s profile for him!


After a series of questions from male’s point of view, the female writers had their counter questions. However, when it comes to guys’ intentions on dating apps, they are more straightforward to please.  Generally, male users have no luxury of being picky on dating apps. The demand is not as high as female users whereas the supply is much higher.  That being said, they usually are just happy with any matches they have and would go on a date unless the matched female user delivers extreme uncomfortable emotions.  This, clearly, could also be just that our male writer is not as popular as he wishes to be on dating apps, so do not take our word for it 100%.  Whether it be Korea or the U.S., male users tend to be the ones that need to initiate.  

[Do guys read bios?]

Thomas – Guys do read the bios, however, it does not do much for the guys.  Looks tend to be more interesting to me because I’m not on dating apps to be engaged in an intellectual or professional conversation.  Some guys may like it, but it all depends on what you’re looking for.

[Do guys copy and paste pick up lines?]

Thomas – I don’t do pick up lines.  I know there always will be guys better than I am in pick up lines.  Besides, I personally think it’s a waste of time to come up with one.

[Why do guys end conversations?]

Thomas – When a guy ends a convo, all I can say is sorry…?


Never give up

According to TechCrunch in 2016, doctors, attorneys, and investment bankers got the most matches on Tinder, one of the most widely used dating apps.  Let us not give up though. Not every women can get doctors, attorneys, and investment bankers.  Some of them have to settle with men with less interesting(salary) careers.  Also, do not worry too much, there are plenty of apps and users in the scene, and it will only get bigger.

Currently on Korean Google Play Store, there are three dating apps sitting at the top 10 most profitable app rankings.  The most profitable among them is Amanda(2nd), which is  similar to The League in the U.S., a dating app that only accepted users can join based on their appearances and jobs.  Next up is Date at Noon(4th), and just like Coffee Meets Bagel, the app only sends a few profiles at 12 PM everyday.  Shimkoong(8th), which resembles OkCupid, allows users to create communities and have conversations based on similar interests.

So here are a few tips for both guys and girls on taking advantage of dating apps.  Compared to the male users, the females users may be harder to please on the app just like on any other setting in the world.  Just with the right amount of lies and pretentiousness it seems male users can always win first dates (remember to go for a cup of coffee). Good luck everyone and hopefully you won’t need this article this time next year!

Cathy is a staff writer with Tech For Korea where she writes about interesting startups in Korea. She worked for a startup company Buttercups over the summer in Bangalore, India. She is also a student in Carnegie Mellon University. Cathy can be reached at hwaeunsh@techforkorea.com.


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