Since the mid-1990s and the debut of Match.com, online dating has grown progressively more popular. The digital dating industry has advanced significantly in terms of functionality and features over time, as well. Today, you have a host of different options, from hookup websites like eHarmony to dating apps like Tinder and Bumble. In fact, the very number and diversity of digital dating tools can be more than a little bit daunting. Which is right for you? Should you consider hookup sites? Is an app better suited for your needs? Are they really basically the same? How do you tell?
First, understand that dating sites and apps, while similar, are definitely not the same. Second, understand that there is no one-size-fits-all solution here. What’s best for you will not be best for someone else, and vice versa. You need to know more about your options so that you can chart a course for love, whether you’re looking for a long-term relationship, a weekend fling, or just someone to hang out with during your off hours.
Understanding the Differences between Hookup Sites and Apps
Before we dive into the conversation here, let’s take a moment to explore some of the differences between hookup sites and dating apps.
Hookup Sites: With a dating website, you’ll usually need a web browser. That might be installed on your laptop, your desktop, your tablet or your smartphone. Some of the better websites out there use responsive design, so the interface automatically resizes to fit the specific device you’re using. However, that’s not true for all of them. Some sites are best accessed on a laptop or desktop where you have plenty of screen real estate.
Dating Apps: Dating apps are mobile – they’re accessible through your smartphone or your tablet, but generally not through a desktop or laptop computer. This means they’re a bit more limited, but much more portable. Also, because they are apps and not sites being accessed through a web browser, you don’t need to worry about them not displaying correctly. They will automatically adjust to fit the screen of your mobile device.
Blurred Lines: Some options blur the lines between hookup sites and apps. You’ll find quite a few dating industry companies that have invested in not only a robust website, but also a partner app. Match.com is probably the best example of this, but eHarmony also has an app, as do many other dating companies. The issue here is that not all partner apps offer the same functionality as the website itself – they’re designed to be a related tool, but not to replace the website.
Comparing Your Options
In order to decide whether or not hookup sites or dating apps are better suited to your particular needs, you’ll need to make an accurate comparison. That doesn’t start with the service in question – it begins with you.
Age: Age does not necessarily mean that you’ll be better off with one of the available hookup sites, or with a dating app. Instead, it helps determine where you’re more likely to find others within your age group. You’ll find that many standalone apps are dominated by younger users, while established websites like Match and eHarmony have a larger proportion of older adults. There are even websites dedicated to adults beyond a certain age, helping you to avoid having to wade through a sea of potential suitors far too young for your personal tastes.
What You’re Looking For: One of the more important considerations you’ll need to make is what you’re looking for in terms of a relationship, functionality, usability and the like. In fact, this is a more important question to answer than whether or not hookup sites or dating apps are better suited for you.
Rather than focusing on the access method and underlying technology, you need to make sure that the purpose of the app/website is suited to your dating and relationship needs and goals. For instance, are you a social butterfly not really looking for a date? Then you probably don’t want to use Match.com.
Are you looking for a long-term, committed relationship? You might be better off with eHarmony or one of the other hookup sites, rather than an app like Tinder. Do you want to date people only within your own religion? Are you interested in other cultures or races? Are you looking to settle down soon, or hoping to never settle down at all? Are you interested in something worlds away from a “traditional” relationship?
Comfort with Technology: Finally, you need to determine how comfortable you are with technology. Often, hookup sites are easier to use for those with less technological familiarity, without sacrificing capabilities. Apps, on the other hand, can be a bit more difficult to learn how to use correctly, so the curve here is definitely skewed toward dating websites. Again, there’s no one answer that will fit everyone’s needs. Some apps are designed well for those who aren’t tech savvy, while some websites can be harder to master.
Your Lifestyle: One of the single, largest factors in deciding between hookup sites and dating apps is your lifestyle. Are you frequently on the go? If so, an app might be better, particularly if you own a smartphone but not a tablet, or you don’t spend much time on the go using a laptop. However, if you are not out and about all the time, dating websites might be the better choice for your needs. This is particularly true if you spend more of your online time with a desktop or laptop, or even a decently sized tablet computer.
Gender Orientation: We’re not talking about your personal preferences here, but about the site or app’s orientation. Some, like Bumble, are geared to focus on the needs of women. Others like Tinder are designed to appeal to anyone and everyone. Check out the site or app’s focus and see if it fits your specific needs. If you want a site dedicated to empowering your gender (again, Bumble is a great example), then go for that whether you prefer an app or a website as your primary interface.
Level of Detail: In the past, you were pretty much forced to use hookup sites that required you to fill out a great deal of personal information. This was necessary to help the site match you to those closest to your ideal partner, and these sites were primarily focused on helping you find a long-term relationship. However, many people don’t want a long-term romance. They want to date around a bit. Others don’t know what they want, but do want to get out and explore the world around them.
The level of detail required by the app or site you use will determine quite a few things about your experience. Obviously, the more details required before you can begin using the app, the longer it will take to get things set up, and the longer it will be before you can actually use the app or website. Conversely, if you are looking for the best possible match, then a high level of personal detail is a good thing, as it will not only help with site-based matching, but it ensures you can read about the other person’s interests, history, hobbies, passions and more.
Note that most hookup sites and apps require only a minimal amount of information to get started, and give you the option of filling in more details later on, but others only allow you to enter a minimum amount of information. This may limit the amount of information you’re able to glean about potential dates, so bear that in mind.
Of course, there is only so much you can determine by comparing the options we’ve talked about above. You also need to know the pros and cons of both hookup sites and dating apps so you can be prepared to make the best possible decision going in.
Pros and Cons of Hookup Sites
- Pro: They’re often detail focused, and well-suited for those who prefer a less mobile lifestyle, or those who don’t like being tethered to a device constantly.
- Con: They’re sometimes difficult to navigate simply because of the number of features and functions. The learning curve is higher with sites than with most apps.
- Pro: Hookup sites usually have much more in-depth user profiles, meaning that you can learn a lot more about potential dates and how well they mesh with you.
- Con: The same depth for user profiles can work against you – reading lengthy lists of hobbies, interests and the like can be time consuming.
- Pro: Hookup sites often have fewer features than many apps, which makes them a bit easier to master, particularly if you’re not all that into technology.
- Con: The amount of control provided can be a little daunting, as can the amount of information provided about potential matches.
- Pro: Most dating websites focus on connecting you with people anywhere in the US, or even around the world, allowing you to transcend culture very easily.
Pros and Cons of Dating Apps
- Pro: Dating apps are designed with the busy user in mind. That means you get bite-sized chunks of information and streamlined functionality.
- Con: Some apps are a bit limited in terms of the information provided about potential matches. For instance, Tinder focuses on a “hot or not” mentality, meaning that you look at a picture and then swipe left or right, with little other information available.
- Pro: Many dating apps are local focused, and will actually tell you how far away another user is from your specific location. You may not know their actual geographic location (mapping may be turned off for privacy), but chances are good that you’ll at least know they’re nearby.
- Con: With some dating apps, you can only be messaged by people that you’ve “liked”. That can be a good thing, as it can prevent spam, but it can also be somewhat limiting.
- Pro: Many dating apps are focused on specific niches within the relationship industry. That allows you to focus on specifically what you want out of a relationship, or within the relationship, without having to wade through a lot of what you don’t want.
As you can see, both dating apps and dating websites have plenty of pros and cons. Use the information above to start cutting down your list of options.
In the End
Ultimately, both hookup sites and dating apps have their place, and both can work well for people seeking relationships. Bear in mind that most websites also have branded apps, but they may not be as functional as a standalone app, or they might require an additional fee, as the cost of the app may not be covered by your membership fee, or the site may be free to use, but require you to pay to download the app.
The most important thing in choosing between hookup sites and dating apps is that you know yourself. What do you want out of the experience? What’s your lifestyle like? How much do you want to be tied to a mobile device? How much time do you feel like spending on a laptop or desktop? Do you want to focus on people in your area, or would you like to cast a wider net? Do you want a quick fling, or are you looking for something more committed and longer term?
Ultimately, the choice between dating sites and dating apps comes down to you – your personal preferences, your goals, your desires in terms of the type of relationship you create, and more.