It’s difficult to remember a time before dating apps existed. “We met on [insert dating app name here]” is no longer a statement people are embarrassed to make – in fact, with millions of users on apps like Hinge, Tinder and Bumble, it’s more common than ever to meet your partner via swipe. Gone are the days where someone devotes their time to courting you IRL (see: 10 Things I Hate About You).

While learning to date during the pandemic has been an experience, we’re realizing that dating apps are here to stay. Plus, with Valentine’s Day coming up, we want to help you find the best ways to secure love—or whatever it is that you’re looking for. Luckily, we have some intel: we chatted with Shan Boodram, Bumble’s resident Sex & Relationships Expert about updating your profile for V-Day, if you should buy a new fling a gift, red flags to look out for and more.


How has the dating landscape changed since dating apps have become increasingly popular?

Like everything in the world with technology, things just move very quickly. So the answer to that question is different now than it was a year ago than it was two years ago. With the pandemic, those changes are even more rapid. So the truth is, the landscape is ever moving, and the technology is constantly advancing to adhere to the needs of the users. But there’s also a lot of fear in that because change can be scary and hard to get a handle of. But as many places become more acclimatized, the fact that this might be the new normal, and we’re figuring out [how] to go back to a life that feels normal to us.

A lot of the [dating] trends that are happening are very positive. The number one trend that we’re seeing right now is that the gray area is gone. Now, people are very clear that I’m looking for a partner, or people are happy to stay single, and they’re using, you know dating apps like Bumble, but they’re using other facets of it like [Bumble Bizz] or [Bumble BFF] because they’re looking for other kinds of intimate relationships. Bumble has this beautiful stat they found last year—over 53% of users were consciously single, and so you have more people saying, ‘Look, I am okay by myself.’ Or the flip side, you have people saying, ‘I’m ready to really dive into dating, I’m actually looking to meet new people.’ I think explori-dating is a really beautiful trend that happened, where more people are open to individuals outside of their traditional types. They’re saying that whatever I did pre-pandemic, I want to try something different.

With Valentine’s Day coming up, what are some tips you have for someone to update their profile?

First and foremost, less is not more. I think people think that it’s cool to be coy on dating apps, but they are introduction facilitators. If you meet somebody who doesn’t say much or is behind a mystery wall, you’re probably not going to remember that person and feel engaged with them. So more is more. The apps are constantly updating to facilitate greater matches and to understand you better, to make greater matches for you. So if you’re not filling in the various sections, if you aren’t utilizing things like badges, if you’re not putting captions to your photos, if your bio is just a link to your Instagram handle, which puts a barrier to getting to know you–you’re going to put yourself in a position where the dating app experience is not going to work for you, it’s going to be hard work. The extra few minutes that you put into ensuring that the app is thoroughly filled out, is going to make a massive impact in terms of the output that you get.

In addition, it should be a community effort. Just because our phones are this insular thing, we might have a protective screen that feels very private. [But at] the end of the day, when we’re looking for intimate partners, we’re looking for people to join our community. So why not make it a community effort just like you would, if you were socially meeting people, your friends would be there. So incorporate your friends, ask them to look through your profiles, make sure that it is the authentic you. That’s the most important thing on dating apps is people want to see what you really look like. People want to feel your true presence. Have a friend look through, [but] make sure that they’re the kind of friend who’s going to push you a little bit past your comfort zone. It should be an exploration because the thing with filling out the dating apps thoroughly, even if you don’t ever use it, it’s an opportunity to get to know yourself better.

What red flags should you look out for on dating apps? How can you ensure you don’t get entangled with someone exuding these “red flag” behaviours? 

What we have seen last year is the rise of a term that I think is very useful, which is love bombing. We now understand that love bombing is a red flag, whereas Disney and every rom-com has told us the exact opposite—that when you meet the right person, they’re going to shower you with gifts and love and fly you off to Paris. We now know that it’s really the exact opposite, that when we’re looking to make connections with people, it should be mutual. It should be gradual, and it should be logical. If connections are not that, that would be a red flag to slow things down. It’s also a case of the Goldilocks principle where too much is not good, but also too little [isn’t good either.] If you can’t take the time to respond to messages, especially when we’re trying to make plans, if that person is flaky, if they’re not meeting you where you are, those are also red flags to say this is going to be the kind of partnership where I have to drag you along, and I’m just way too tired for extra weight at this point in my life.

Should people get a gift for someone they’ve just started dating? What’s the best gift you can give someone on Valentine’s Day?

[Let’s] take away that Valentine’s Day is for lovers. Instead, Valentine’s Day is a celebration of intimate relationships. So this year for Valentine’s Day, I’m committing to buying my sister a Valentine’s Day gift—and my niece and nephew. Remember back in the day when we were in elementary school, and everyone got a candy gram? It wasn’t this thing that was romantic only.

If you’re in the beginning phases of a relationship and you don’t have one person that you’re keeping in mind, what is the small, thoughtful, logical gift that you would give to someone that you’ve just met to say, ‘I’m interested in getting to know you intimately.’ Or, here’s what I’ve learned about you already through our intimate foray, and here is a gift that’s representative of that. If you doubt this person will reciprocate it, you might want to scale down a price point. Or you might feel comfortable knowing that the person doesn’t reciprocate, that’s ok. A book is a great [gift], a gift card to a coffee shop. A card can be really incredible, especially if you do something cute on the inside, like write a coded message and they have to figure it out—it becomes a practice in increasing your intimacy and increasing your bond. Or sometimes just a nicely worded text message. Those small and thoughtful things that just say, you are a part of what I’m thinking of when I think about relationships in my life. Not to say that I’m putting any expectations on it, but I am celebrating you today.

What advice do you have for someone who is thinking of trying dating apps but doesn’t know where to begin?  

If you’ve never been on dating apps, or you’ve never been on connecting apps or in general, you don’t have to focus on dating.  I know a lot of friends who got on Bumble for friends first, because they’re in a new city, or they got on [Bumble Bizz] first. Those are lower stakes relationships that are win-win (more than likely.) That might just be an opportunity for you to practice in a low risk environment and then see the benefit of those apps and get a chance to navigate them without feeling like you’re putting your most vulnerable self out there.

If you feel like you’re ready to dive all the way in, there’s also nothing wrong with creating a profile and then not publishing it yet. Just see how it looks, put the pictures out, fill things in at your own pace—just get yourself in the mindset. Then when you’re ready, you can put it out there. An app like Bumble, for example, also has various ways that you can interact. There’s incognito mode, you can also snooze your profiles, there’s options for how you show up. You don’t have to dive into the deep end of dating apps, if you don’t quite feel ready for that yet. The apps will always be there—the beautiful thing is that most dating apps are meant to be deleted. They’re designed for you to make connections and then decide that you’re gonna take a break, and then maybe come back and or dip in and then take a little break. Apps are always going to be there, so don’t overwhelm yourself or make it a negative experience. It’s a space where people who don’t know each other, put their intentions out there to say I’m looking to meet somebody, and then connections happen. That’s a beautiful thing, if you can just focus on it from that vantage point.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. 

Read more:
The Pandemic Has Brought Us Endless Swiping, But Has Made it Even Harder to Find Love
A First-Timer’s Guide to Sexting
I Love Being Single