Tinder vs. Coffee Meets Bagel: Can True Love Be Found on a Dating App?

Photo: Flickr via Peter Batty

Photo: Flickr via Peter Batty

It’s no longer news that dating in 2014 is drastically different from how it was 10 years ago. Many people have attributed the change to the rise of social media or the popularity of Korean dramas—but especially the ubiquity of online dating apps. And like it or not, it looks like the apps are here to stay. So, as an unattached Mochi staffer interested in finding a potential future boyfriend, I decided to test out two of the most popular options for myself. Here’s a peek at my experiences with the two apps, Tinder and Coffee Meets Bagel, and how they stack up. (Spoiler alert: I’m still single.)

My first adventure started with Tinder. In case you are the rare person who hasn’t heard of Tinder, it is an app that suggests matches based on your location, providing each person’s photo, age, distance from you, and a brief bio. When you open the app, you’re presented with a match. You swipe left to pass or right to connect with someone, and you can then reach out or move on from there.

It becomes clear pretty quickly why people call Tinder the hook-up app; the language within the app assumes a light-hearted, casual attitude. With every match, I could “send a message” or “keep playing.”  Though I honestly started with the intent of finding true love, after a few weeks, I realized that the app at its core just wasn’t set up for seriousness. Lunch break with coworkers? Let’s “play” Tinder. Bored on a Friday night but too lazy to go out? Let’s “play” Tinder. It became a way to pass the time, to look at guys’ pictures and judge them without consequences. It was a game, not a tool for real-life dating.

That said, I did chat with a few interesting people on Tinder. I even ended up having dinner with a 30-year-old at a swanky restaurant and didn’t pick up any signals that he just wanted to hook up. But I knew it wasn’t going anywhere when he started making comments along the lines of “oh, you’re still young, you still have time” and “once you get to be my age, your bones just start feeling more tired.” (For the record, he wasn’t even that much older than me.) In any case, there were no sparks and I never heard from him again. Date number two began with an awkward moment at a coffee shop. Do I hug him? Wait, he wanted to give me a handshake. Oh God, I just grabbed his hand and did a bro hug. That sums up the entire encounter. After that, I hit a lull for a few months without any date offers, once I started admitting in chats that I was only on the quick-and-easy app to make new friends and not to hook up.

Undeterred, I moved on to Coffee Meets Bagel (CMB) with high hopes; a few months prior, my friend had married a guy she met through the app. Many considered this app to be safer and more reliable. Your account is linked to your Facebook profile so that you’re only shown matches who are friends of friends—though you have to use “beans,” the app’s internal currency, to see who those mutual friends are if you want to get their opinion. You’re limited to liking or dismissing one profile, or “bagel,” a day, and each comes with longer, more personalized bios along with photos, age, and other self-reported information like religion, ethnicity, or job description.

I did occasionally opt to cash in on beans to ask friends whether they knew a few of my “bagels.” The problem though is that so many people are Facebook friends with acquaintances they’ve only met once or twice, so in reality those bagels might as well have been strangers. Still, I did go on quite a number of dates through CMB, compared to the two from Tinder, and I noticed a difference right away. The mentality of the people on the app was diverse, even from date to date. I met a law student who seemed very interested in simply meeting new people (but not necessarily dating them), who after the date invited me to a law school mixer and encouraged me to bring my coworkers. Another guy I met for dinner seemed more intent on finding a girlfriend, though it was obvious I wasn’t his type. We didn’t go on a second date, though he was nice on the first one.

In other words, there’s a better mix of interests and intentions as far as I’ve seen—which may contribute to CMB’s continued popularity and anecdotal success. However, there still exists the mentality that if you’re actively looking to find someone special, you’re desperate and trying too hard. (This stigma is one that the app’s founders are trying hard to combat.

After several months, I’m still on Coffee Meets Bagel. I also started using Hinge, which is available in only 9 cities, but has gained more appeal recently as a happy medium between Tinder and CMB in terms of number of prospective matches a day and reputation. Since I’m wary of starting a relationship in the workplace as a young professional, for me dating apps is the way to go, especially since I recently moved to a new state. I plan to continue using these apps, keeping in mind that their main advantage is that they increase the size of your dating pool—and only take you halfway. It’s still up to you to put in the effort of getting to know someone, assessing compatibility, and working on a strong relationship, if that’s what you’re after. What comes after a coffee and bagel meet remains the most challenging part of dating, no matter how or where you find your other half.

Note from the editors: Before meeting a stranger, always let your friends know where you are going, who you’re meeting, and have them check in periodically. Safety comes first.