Despite how much everyone loves to hate it, more people online date than you may think. That’s right, according to the Pew Research Center, three in 10 adults in the United States report having used a dating site or app at some point in their lives. Of course, usage varies significantly by age and sexual orientation, but a solid chunk of people have given the whole online dating thing a shot. Almost half (48 percent) of 18 to 29 year olds report having used a dating site or app. Meanwhile, 38 percent of people aged 30 to 49 and 26 percent of those who are 50 and older have said the same.
And guess what? Dating apps work for some people! Sure, a bunch of folks on these platforms are probably looking for hookups. But about one in ten of them (12 percent) have said that dating apps have led to committed relationships and even tying the knot. But the world of dating apps is such a densely saturated space these days, with more and more options hitting the market. So here are the best apps to try in 2021 — some legacy apps, and some kids on the block.
Tinder is a dating app notorious for hookups
You’re certainly familiar with Tinder, the O.G. of dating apps (and a notorious hookup app). It’s been around for quite some time; it even has social media accounts dedicated to it, like the hilarious @TinderNightmares on Instagram, where millions of people come to read some belly-creasing Tinder gold.
Tinder makes this list because it’s been around for a while for a reason: it’s stuck with us through the onslaught of dating apps that have come and gone since its debut in 2012. In fact, The Atlantic has even gone so far as to say that Tinder is responsible for “[ushering] in a new era in the history of romance.” In fact, swiping on Tinder has largely even replaced dating. Holly Wood, who wrote her Harvard sociology dissertation on singles’ behaviors on online dating platforms like Tinder, told The Atlantic that respondents of her research spent hours per day swiping. “We pretend that’s dating because it looks like dating and says it’s dating,” she explained.
It probably comes as no surprise that, since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Tinder saw a massive surge in usage from quarantined singles, hitting records in daily usage, according to Fortune.
Women with initiative need to be on Bumble in 2021
For women who are sick of archaic gender norms and who aren’t afraid to reach out first (and for those who are tired of being bombarded with messages, especially of the creepy nature), there’s Bumble, an app made by and for women. According to the company’s research, 63 percent of male users said that “women making the first move” is largely why they downloaded the app, too.
Bumble, like many dating apps, saw a spike since COVID-19 struck planet Earth. In fact, video calls on increased by 70 percent, according to Fortune. The female-first dating app also skyrocketed to a market value of more than $13 billion since listing shares in early 2021, according to the BBC. In fact, at 31 years old, Bumble founder Whitney Wolfe Herd became the youngest woman to take a company public in the United States.
Basically, Bumble isn’t bumbling around. Herd was actually a co-founder of Tinder but left the company after allegedly facing sexual harassment, the BBC reported. The company is all-around empowering for women; a Business Insider reporter tried out a bunch of dating apps and ranks Bumble as one of the most successful.
Hinge is a dating app for those who want more than a casual encounter
Ah Hinge. It’s been around since 2013, but it’s arguably gotten more popular over the years. Hinge touts itself as “the dating app designed to be deleted,” where you can “meet people who want to get off dating apps, too.” It’s mission is simple: “In today’s digital world, singles are so busy matching that they’re not actually connecting, in person, where it counts. Hinge is on a mission to change that.” And, so far, so good.
In fact, according to Tech Crunch, Hinge is the first app to actually measure real-world success. With its feature called “We Met,” Hinge asks users a few days after they’ve shared their phone numbers with one another whether or not they went on a date. If so, they ask whether or not they’d like to see that person again. The data informs Hinge’s algorithms to improve matches, as well. It’s sort of genius.
Add all of that to the fact that you can swipe people in different area codes with the premium membership, and Hinge is a solid option for those still stuck inside their houses in 2021.
Her is a dating app that ranks well among queer womxn
For queer womxn who want to use an app designed with them in mind, there’s Her. In fact, there are over four million queer womxn on Her — hundreds of whom have reportedly found “their person.” Robyn Exton founded Her after trying her hand at all the big dating apps already in existence; she realized that they just weren’t made for queer womxn, according to her interview with Linktree.
However, it took research and one failed app to nail down what exactly queer womxn want. “I didn’t really understand product or tech,” Exton said. “I was like, ‘Cool, Grindr’s doing a great job. And everyone loves that. Let’s just make that for womxn.’ So we made Dattch, which was very much like Grindr, and it did not work. Womxn don’t want casual sex at the same frequency. The behavior and experience that womxn are looking for is based on so many different behaviors and traits and insights and patterns. So I kind of started everything from scratch and built Her in 2015.”
With integrated insights and community events, Cosmopolitan ranks Her one of the best lesbian dating apps out there.
Grindr is the OG dating app for the LGBTQ+ community
Grindr is the OG of dating apps for the LGBTQ+ community; t’s been around for well over a decade. Since its onset in 2009, it’s made quite the name for itself as one of the best dating apps for LGBTQ+ folks to hook up (and, sure, to date, too). After all, on Grindr, users can send photos back and forth. According to the app’s own research, 855 million photos were sent each month in 2020 — and we’re pretty sure that many of these weren’t just selfies. Additionally, Sunday nights seems to be the most popular time for Grindr users — you know, right around when those Sunday Scaries hit hard.
According to an AskMen review, the only real downside to Grindr is the prevalence of faceless bots and advertisements. Otherwise, it’s totally easy to register and navigate the app, and there are tons of people from you can choose your match.
BLK is for Black singles looking for other Black singles in 2021
BLK is a dating app that’s designed with people of color in mind. “BLK is the new app for Black single men and Black single women with a simple mission: to create an exclusive community where Black men and Black women can find meaningful connections with people who share similar likes and interests,” the app explains. The app has hundreds of thousands of ratings on the app store, and most of them are favorable, earning it a 4.5 out of 5 stars on Apple.
BLK was created by the Match Group in 2017 to provide a more nuanced environment for Black people who are online dating, according to Paper. “Black women are considered the most ‘disliked’ on dating apps,” head of marketing and brand, Jonathan Kirkland said. “They get the least amount of right swipes. Even on general market apps, Black men are swiping less on Black women. There’s definitely a huge void there, as well as a lot of discrimination on the general market apps.”
According to Paper, BLK is a platform where users “feel safe, respected and understood.” We love to see it.
Parents (and wanna-be parents) should hop on HeyBaby in 2021
Dating during the COVID-19 crisis isn’t an easy feat, and dating as a single parent during a pandemic is even harder. But there are apps for everyone out there, including parents (and people who want to be parents). HeyBaby is one of them, and it launched in 2020 amidst all the chaos.
There are more than 13 million single parents in the United States, but traditional dating apps like Tinder aren’t necessarily kind to them. Heybaby calls itself “the dating app for people who want kids or have kids… If you’re a decent human being with parent potential (or have kids already), this app was made for you,” their website says. According to Mashable, HeyBaby is doing more than matching couples; it’s creating happy and healthy families.
HeyBaby was founded by three dads, but they made an ample effort to get women involved, as well. In a Fortune interview, HeyBaby cofounder Diko Daghlian said: “We’re hiring a lot of women and a lot of our advisors are women. We realize we’ve got the dad and man perspective. We need it to be super broad: gay, straight, male, female, white, brown, Black.”
Loosid is a dating app strictly for sober daters
Contrary to popular belief, dating doesn’t have to mean drinking — and there’s a dating app out there for sober people who want date other sober people. That’s because dating someone who drinks can be difficult and even dangerous for people who are recovering from addiction; that, and some people just don’t like drinking, plain and simple.
Enter: Loosid, the sober dating app. With over two million interactions, Loosid is a top sober social network. “It’s no secret that drinking is a big component of contemporary dating — after all, ‘drinks’ tend to be the de-facto activity a Tinder date will propose for your first (nerve-wracking) meet-up,” Paper explained. “However, what happens when you’re in recovery or sober for another reason? How do you date in a world where everyone seems to be drinking without feeling awkward or like you have to explain yourself (which you, obviously, don’t)?” And that’s the void Loosid strives to fill.
While many people are still struggling during the COVID-19 crisis, there’s some solace in the fact that sober dating is increasingly interesting. According to Fortune, Loosid saw a 620 percent increase in messages throughout the pandemic.
Feeld is a dating app for non-monogamous folks
Some might say that Feeld is playing the field with all the coverage the dating app for non-monogamous people has garnered. The app calls itself the “threesome dating app,” and “a space where you can explore your desires,” as well as “connect with open-minded humans.”
Meanwhile, GQ calls Feeld “the kinkiest dating app that exists outside of Craigslist.” But Feeld cofounder Ana Kirova described it in another way. “Feeld is a platform for alternative dating, for people who are beyond labels,” she said in an interview with The New York Times. “They can meet each other without the necessity of coming from a very defined place with a very defined requirement.”
Elle interviewed multiple people who’ve tried Feeld out for themselves, and the responses are overwhelmingly positive. Many of the users said that Feeld makes it easier to match with people who are actually interested in group encounters, compared to their experiences on more traditional dating apps where they don’t get a lot of interest and, instead, often face judgment for their sexual desires.
Ship is the best dating app for Millennials in 2021
In today’s world, people are generally lonely, and they tend to feel fatigued with decision anxiety; that’s according to a burgeoning body of research that says millennials, in particular, struggle (via Psychology Today). Millennials are notorious for relying on their friends for help making decisions when they can’t make up their own minds. That’s why Betches’ dating app, Ship, is an ideal option for today’s world.
You don’t have to send screenshots of dating profiles to dissect with your friends anymore. Instead, on Ship, you can swipe with your friends. So you can cure loneliness and decision fatigue both at the same time.
Plus, it’s a great way to keep your biggest hype-people in your corner. “Dating sucks but your crew has your back,” reads the tagline. Betches cofounder Samantha Fishbein told Elite Daily: “When you’re disappointed on most dating apps, there’s nothing to build you back up. But when you’re with your friends, they’re not going to be like, ‘Well, now you’ll never find someone.'”
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