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The new dating app etiquette

Want to snag a lover? Treat them kindly right from the start.

A collage with people dancing and the fire emoji.
(Illustration by Elena Lacey/The Washington Post; iStock)
6 min

Life on dating apps is chaotic, says Damona Hoffman, a certified dating coach whose dozens of clients look for love on Grindr, eharmony and more.

After the pandemic, hopeful romantics watched their inboxes fill with “hi” and “sup.” But where did it lead? Ghosting, or ending a relationship by cutting contact, has gone through the roof recently, she said, and many online daters are burned out.

“What I’ve been seeing is a lack of consistency from daters, which I think is due to general uncertainty, but also the constant crush of communications,” said Hoffman, whose book “F the Fairy Tale: Rewrite the Dating Myths and Live Your Own Love Story” comes out in January. “There are way more conversations happening than our brains have evolved to sustain.

At the same time, some surveys indicate that people are more likely to find partners on dating apps than in person. Someone who starts as a face on a screen could end up being the love of your life — or at least a sexy evening. (One time I messaged a hot guy on Hinge expecting crickets, and now we are legally wed.) So it’s worth treating everyone with kindness. “First do no harm” is Hoffman’s Hippocratic tip.

As the Help Desk investigates how etiquette is changing, here are some rules for dating apps from four sex and romance experts.

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