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You can do great online dating for free, says expert, so 'keep your coins'

Twenty/20

With a global pandemic still very much part of people's lives, signing up for a dating app or site may seem futile: Is it worth meeting someone when the danger of contracting the coronavirus makes it tough to meet in person?

Absolutely, says dating expert and matchmaker Devyn Simone.

"Right now, we're actually seeing a lot of success in dating online," she says, "because everyone who has a full life, all the people you really want to be dating," are at home. "They are available."

Almost a third of U.S. adults (30%) have used a dating site or app, and of those, 57% had an overall positive experience, according to the Pew Research Center. These days, there are a slew of options for those looking to date online, from the old-school OkCupid to the highly selective Raya. And while many dating services offer free versions with limitations, most also offer a paid membership enabling features like swiping right (or showing interest) on as many people as you want without restriction.

But even with more potential love interests accessible during the pandemic, Simone says it isn't necessary to pay for online dating apps and sites. "You need to invest the time rather than money," she says. 

Free apps are good enough as long as 'you're proactive'

Features on the free version of apps like Hinge and Tinder include swiping right on a select number of people per day (10 on Hinge and around 100 on Tinder) and messaging with as many people as you match with. These free features "are good enough if you're proactive" and actually use them on a regular basis, says Simone.

With an estimated 7.8 million people on Tinder and 1 million people on Hinge, plus 5 million on Bumble, 4 million on Plenty of Fish, 1.9 million on Match.com, and so on, according to Statista, the free versions of all of these services could provide plenty of opportunity to e-meet.

Social media is the 'ultimate dating app'

Dating apps don't have to be your only digital resort for finding romantic prospects. Social media, from Facebook to Instagram to TikTok, is "the ultimate dating app," says Simone. "If you're scrolling through social media with extra time and you see someone attractive or interesting," she says, "go for it."

Simone suggests sending that person a direct message responding to something they posted or even asking them in earnest how they are doing. Between the rising death toll from Covid-19 and protests about police brutality against America's Black community, people are "more vulnerable" right now, she says.

"We are collectively experiencing this sadness, this loss, this uncertainty" she says, and "shared experiences actually unite people." At this moment, a thoughtful message sent to someone you've never met could be well received. 

Everyone who has a full life, all the people you really want to be dating … they are available.
Devyn Simone
Dating expert

Study up to help you 'recognize dating opportunity'

For anyone who still feels a little lost as they dive into the world of online dating, Simone recommends reading books on the subject to help you "recognize dating opportunity" and gain a boost of confidence. Among her personal favorites is "Why Men Love B------" by Sherry Argov. You can also peruse Amazon's list of bestselling books about dating and see if your library has any paper or e-book copies to borrow.

There are also numerous podcasts about dating, from The New York Times' "Modern Love" to therapist Esther Perel's "Where Should We Begin" to comedian Nicole Byer's "Why Won't You Date Me?"

Simone recommends spending up to 30 minutes a day on your dating search. However you choose to spend those 30 minutes, though, there's no need to spend money on an app to improve your chances. If you're interested in meeting people, "keep your coins, put them into something else," she says.

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