9 questions about the dating app Hinge you were too embarrassed to ask

Hinge Dating App Review

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Note: this piece came out in March 2015 and since then Hinge has been totally overhauled, so much of what’s below is very outdated. For a more recent Hinge explainer, please read Kaitlyn Tiffany’s piece here.

Tinder — the massively popular smartphone app that has radically simplified the process of online dating — is becoming a household name. But its not the only location-based dating app. Hinge, for example, is also on the rise. For now, its much less popular than Tinder, but dominant social networks have been dislodged before, and Hinges focus on making connections through people you already know could win out. “The best analogy is MySpace versus Facebook,” Hinge founder and CEO Justin McLeod said on CNBC in February. Thats a pretty rosy assessment, but the analogy is not all wrong. Hinge is growing fast, and its worth getting to know it.

Hinge is a smartphone dating app, available for iPhones/iPads and Android devices, thats oriented toward relationships rather than hookups and tries to match you with people your friends know and can vouch for.

The basics of Hinge are very similar to Tinder. When you sign up, you are presented with a list of fellow users according to criteria you specify (age, gender, physical proximity to you); if you like them and they like you back, youre matched and can message each other. In both apps, you build your profile by importing pictures and other personal information from Facebook.

But thats where the similarities end. While Tinder gives you a never-ending stream of nearby users, Hinge only provides a select list. Previous iterations of the app gave users new potential matches once a day, but now matches come in a regular trickle, like Tinder but with lower volume.

The main difference, though, is that Hinge focuses on matching you with people you share Facebook friends with, if you have a Facebook account. If nobody is friends with your friends — or if youve already made your way through all those potential matches — the app starts recommending more tangential connections, like people whose Facebook friends share Facebook friends with you. But the focus is on finding people who are somewhere in your social network. Tinder will tell you if a user happens to have mutual friends with you, but you cant screen to see those users first.

Heres a typical screen a Hinge user will see upon opening the app:

See the little dots to the left? Those represent how many matches you have to choose from at that moment. But you cant scroll through them — you have to click the heart (to like them) or the X (to pass) on the profile at the top before you can move on.

You can also pull up Ed W.s profile for more info:

You can see his height, his college and grad school, any friends you share, and a variety of self-descriptive tags that Hinge lets you choose from (including “country clubber,” “bookworm,” “joker,” “smoker,” and “midnight toker”). You can also swipe through any photos hes uploaded; users also have the option of adding a short “about me” section.

Compare this with Tinders main screen:

Thats not too different from Hinges main screen; the main contrasts are that Tinder shows you shared interests and Hinge shows you the users employer and/or school, which is potentially more illuminating. But pulling up a profile (like this one, which Jimmy Fallon and the staff of The Tonight Show cooked up for Britney Spears) looks quite different in Tinder:

You get to see all their pictures, how close they are to you, how recently they logged in, and a short “about me” section. If you share friends or likes on Facebook, you see that, too. (This is a good time to recommend that you like Vox on Facebook, thus enabling you to match other Vox fans on Tinder and keep the lineage of Vox fandom running for many generations.)

But overall, you get a lot less information than on Hinge. Thats partially by design. Part of whats made Tinder successful is that it greatly reduces the amount of effort that goes into setting up an online profile; while sites like OKCupid require you to answer huge batteries of personal questions (“Do you own any dice with more than six sides?” “Do you know the first name of every person youve ever made out with?”), Tinder just requires you pick a few photos and maybe write a witty “about me” section if you feel like it. Hinge takes a middle ground: you dont have to answer questions, but you do get to include more information about yourself.

Sort of? While you can specify that you want people close to you, there are limits; whereas Tinder lets you look for users within one mile of you, the lowest Hinge goes is 10 miles. The app also doesnt automatically update when you change locations. If you live in Boston and go on a day trip to New York City, Tinder will start showing you New York matches, while Hinge will keep serving up Bostonians unless you manually change your hometown in your profile.

The focus isnt on finding a quick hookup close by; its on finding people you could actually date, whom you might ask out if you met at a mutual friends party. “Its all friends of friends,” McLeod said on CNBC. “Its quite hard to use it for casual encounters.”

Hinge doesnt give user numbers, but spokeswoman Jean-Marie McGrath reports that 35,500 dates per week and 1,500 relationships happen because of the dating app. “In our major markets, one in five of your friends is on Hinge,” she continues. “Our users can receive up to 20 potentials a day.” If youre on the app, chances are a lot of your friends are, too; the average user has about 50 Facebook friends on Hinge. The gender ratio is 50-50, according to McGrath, and 90 percent of users are between 23 and 36, making the Hinge user base noticeably older than Tinders. (An exact comparison isnt available, but 52 percent of Tinder users are between 18 and 24.)

There are a lot of horrible people in the world, and OKCupid and Match.com cant do all that much to keep you from going to dinner with them

6) Let’s take a break. Tinder’s produced some pretty amazing memes. How about Hinge?

But Hinges official blog is doing its damndest to try to close the gap, through stuff like its 30 Most Eligible in NYC list, which collects a group of the apps most socially connected and most frequently “liked” users in New York:

It even ranked Wall Street firms based on how frequently their employees were liked versus rejected. Goldman Sachs won. Goldman Sachs always wins.

7) What’s the appeal of Hinge over Tinder or OKCupid?

The danger of most dating sites and apps is that you have basically no idea whom youre being matched up with and whether theyre safe to meet in person. Even now youll hear concerns that your OKCupid date “could be a serial killer,” which, while paranoid and hyperbolic, has a semblance of a point to it. There are a lot of horrible people in the world, and OKCupid and Match.com cant do all that much to keep you from going to dinner with them. Moreover, dating sites aimed at heterosexuals tend to feature a lot of male harassment of female users, sometimes to the point that womens inboxes become sufficiently clogged to render the service unusable.

“If Tinder feels like meeting a stranger at a bar, Hinge feels like getting warmly introduced at a cocktail party”

Tinder got around those problems to a degree by requiring users to “like” each other to match before messaging. That eased the message onslaught, but the relative sparseness of Tinder profiles means you have nothing to go on besides your matchs photos and messages to you, which doesnt do much to help you determine whether a strangers safe to meet at a bar.

Hinges focus on matching with people you share friends with means you can ask those friends to vet prospective dates. Thats not a perfect defense, but its something. “I’ve met up with someone on Hinge because you have mutual friends, so you can be 80 percent sure they’re not a full-on wacko,” one user told the New York Times Kristin Tice Sudeman. “Hinge cuts through the randomness of Tinder … I can take some comfort that she knows some of the same people I do,” another told her. A Hinge fact sheet sent along by McGrath touts “No randos” as a key feature: “If Tinder feels like meeting a stranger at a bar, Hinge feels like getting warmly introduced at a cocktail party.”

The mutual-friends aspect also let the process bleed into offline dating. Buzzfeeds Joseph Bernstein has an incisive piece on how dating apps are giving rise to “offline-online dating” in which people use “offline life as a discovery mechanism for online dating.” Tinder has contributed to this to an extent, but as Bernstein says, Hinge “represents the collapse of the offline-online dating distinction better than any other dating app, because it shows users the very people they would be likely to meet through a friend.”

You might meet someone at a mutual friends party, hit it off but not exchange numbers or make plans, and then run into each other on Hinge (partially because of that mutual friend), giving you another shot. Or the app could provide a safe way to express interest in a friend-of-a-friend whom youre hesitant to approach in person; after all, they only find out you like them if they like you back.

McLeod told Bernstein this dynamic has major appeal to Hinge users. While the app stopped recommending actual Facebook friends to each other after users complained, friends-of-friends and friends-of-friends-of-friends are much likelier to match than people with no connection (which, despite Hinges best efforts, sometimes happens). Users like 44 percent of friends-of-friends, 41 percent of friends-of-friends-of-friends, and a mere 28 percent of people with whom they lack any connection.

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