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Love at First Swipe: Dating App Habits of Single Americans

How long do you think it takes to make a first impression? An hour? Fifteen minutes? One minute? Studies have found it takes just seconds for people to make up their minds about others. In the world of online dating, it’s often even faster, as some people focus solely on what they see. With just a flick of a finger, people can swipe left to reject potential dates and swipe right for those they’re interested in connecting with. 

We surveyed more than 820 single Americans who use dating apps to get insight into their dating app habits. We specifically wanted details about first impressions, but we ended up learning about the dark side of dating apps too. 

Top 10 Most Popular Dating Apps

While everyone wants perfect vision, people on dating apps aren’t necessarily in pursuit of the perfect love story. More than half (52%) of the people surveyed said they’re only looking for a casual relationship. Surprisingly, 41% admitted they just use apps out of boredom to fill or waste time. Nearly one-third owned up to only looking for a sexual relationship (and almost 2 out of 5 said they’ve had a one-night stand with someone from a dating app)!

22% revealed that they only use apps to have someone to talk to, but have no plans to meet anyone in person. 6% went so far as to say they’re only in it to get free food and drinks. Check, please! 

That’s not to say everyone on dating apps isn’t looking for love at first sight… or swipe. More than 3 out of 5 (63%) are looking for a serious relationship, and almost one-third (31%) are hoping to find their future spouse. 

The top 5 dating apps people turn to are: Tinder, Bumble, Hinge, OkCupid, and Facebook Dating. While about half (49%) have two or more dating apps downloaded on their phone, the majority (68%) only actively use one. Some of those singles we surveyed (3 out of 10) are relatively new to the dating app world and have only been using apps for a year or less. 

Many singles admit they have turned online dating into a contest. One-third said they’ve made games out of swiping left or right and getting matches, and 2 out of 5 have even let friends swipe for them!

Dating App Profiles

Dating App Profiles

Looks are everything when it comes to your dating profile. Users marked photos as the most important feature for profiles and said physical appearance is the biggest turnoff. More than half of singles say they will not look at the rest of someone’s profile if they’re not attracted to the first picture. In fact, 49% decide whether to swipe left or right based on that first photo most of the time.

Another major turnoff is a bad-quality photo. People are more likely to move past users with overly-filtered or edited photos and too many group pictures. More than one-third (35%) said they’ll for sure swipe left if they see photos where an ex is either in the picture or obviously cropped out of it. Despite being picky about the pics, users themselves admitted to keeping some older images on their profiles. Nearly half (47%) said their photos are older than a year or even longer.

The best pictures don’t always include makeup. 68% of users said what matters most is pictures of people smiling or laughing. About half said they look for pictures showing the person’s interests or activities and their full body. 16% would prefer to see the person with an animal! 

There are some other make-or-break factors that don’t have to do with appearance. People also look for similar political preferences, interests and the type of relationship the user is looking to have.  

Swipe Left or Swipe Right?

Swipe Left Swipe Right

Can we just reiterate again how important dating app photos are? More than 4 out of 5 people admitted they will swipe left on singles with clearly outdated pictures, a photo with an obvious ex, a Snapchat filter, a hunting picture, or nudity. 72% would prefer people leave fish in the pond instead of posing for a picture with it, and 68% would rather not see a gym thirst trap pic. Guns out, they’re out. 

More than half also said they swipe left on profiles that include pictures of children and ones with people who aren’t smiling. Surprisingly, selfies are not as bad as you might think. Nearly 9 out of 10 (89%) said they’ll swipe right on a selfie picture. 71% will also swipe right on a bathing suit or bikini pictures, and 64% will give mirror pictures the benefit of the doubt… at least most of the time. 

The Darkside of Dating Apps

The darkside of dating apps

While it’s supposed to be a good time, using dating apps is not always fun and games. Although 50% of users report having a positive experience while using dating apps, the other 50% reports having a negative experience. Nearly one-third (30%) have felt unsafe meeting a person from an app, and shockingly, 74% said they’ve come across fake profiles. 

67% of users say they’ve caught others lying to appear more desirable through an app. The biggest lies revolve around appearance, age, relationship status, profession, and education. 

Nearly 1 out of 4 (24%) single peoples admit they have been catfished, and nearly 1 out of 5 (18%) said they’ve been bullied or harassed through an app. Unfortunately, that’s not the worst of it. 40% said they’ve gotten unwanted sexually explicit images, photos or messages. Of those who have gotten unwanted images, 70% were women. 

Dating Apps & Relationships

Dating apps and relationships

It turns out most dating app users are talking to three people at once. So what makes one person stand out over another? The answer is humor. 37% of people said they’re most likely to respond to a message that makes them laugh. Nearly 3 in 10 will also write back if someone sends a comment or question about their profile. 

While dating apps connect you with people you may never have met in person, that also means people can disappear just as easily. More than 4 out of 5 (82%) said they’ve been ghosted, and almost half (44%) have done the ghosting themselves. The main reasons for vanishing without a trace include a lack of attraction, awful conversation, a bad date, annoyance, or just because the person didn’t look like their picture. 

The majority of singles admitted to ghosting people right after the first date, although 20% said they’ve done it after two or three dates. But this isn’t the case with every connection. More than 2 out of 5 people said they’ve had a relationship with someone from a dating app. Nearly half (49%) described it as casual, while 42% said it was serious. 48% said they ended up dating that person for more than six months. So, there is hope you can find love at first swipe! 


In April 2022, we surveyed 823 single Americans who use dating apps to better understand dating app preferences, habits and opinions. Respondents were 56% female and 44% male, with an age range of 18 to 62 and an average age of 28 years old. Regarding sexual orientation, 64% of respondents self-reported as straight, 25% self-reported as bisexual, 7% said they are gay and 4% self-reported as lesbians.

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Last Updated May 23, 2022

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