16 of the Best Dating Apps for Finding Love, Sex, or Whatever in a Socially Distant World

Photo: Getty Images / Flamingo Images
Once upon a time, people met in person. Then "swipe right" happened. And then, just as concerning, a virulent virus swept the globe, making it all the more difficult to find romance. With nowhere to go, singles flocked to their screens; Match Group, which maintains 60% of the dating app market including Tinder, saw an 11 percent surge in subscribers during the second quarter of 2020 alone. Clearly this is a necessity for love in the time of Coronavirus but if you're an app newbie, how do find the best dating apps for you?

Well, terrific news: you don't have to, because I already did the legwork. And truth be told, your literal mother and I are probably the only two people who aren't using dating apps at the moment (that and TikTok, not even in a pandemic). But I'm not like a regular mom, I'm a cool mom, and if you're going to date, I'd rather you do it safely and specifically.

So whether you're seeking a DTF dude to boink, a woman you can grow old with, or someone with a full and robust beard, here's 16 options to help you find what you're looking for until we can [sigh] go back to drunkenly meetcute-ing in crowded bars again. Oh, but do be mindful of meeting IRL in the meantime.

These are the best dating apps to help you find exactly what you're looking for, in no particular order

1. Tinder

Great if: You’re looking for something easy right now.

I won’t sermonize here because most of you are intimately acquainted with the app. In short, Tinder is best if you’re looking for something low-commitment, in uh, a variety of ways. It’s no muss, no fuss swipe-intensive approach works for quick hook-ups with the very occasional long-term success story.

2. Ship

Great if: You, like, actively want your friends to set you up.

Run by Betches, Ship allows your friends to swipe for you, which definitely isn’t the worst plan. After all, when you’re trying to decide which way to swipe or how to respond to a message, isn’t the move to drop that screenshot in the group chat? Ship seems to streamline that process, so it’s a match if you’re very squad-forward (or can’t be bother to overwork your index finger anymore).

3. Hinge

Great ifYou're trying to look for something slightly more serious than Tinder.

Right now, Hinge is "designed to be deleted." (Does anyone really want to keep swiping until they're eating mashed peas in the nursing home? I don't know, you do you.) Your matches are based on questionnaire that pairs you people who share common interests and expectations. You know, people who might actually want to date versus people that'll never be dignified with a last name or introduced your second tier friends. Try it out when you've past the rebound phase and feel ready to graduate to (socially distant) dinner plans.

4. Her

Great if: You’re on the quest for solid queer connections.

Her is an app "for queer womxn, by queer womxn," and a really safe space to find lesbian, bisexual, queer, or gender non-conforming partners. More than that, Her is big on building a community; the company hosts parties and socials in over 15 cities across the country. So it’s great for finding your person, but it’s also great if you’re looking to expand your LBGTQ circle.

5. Bumble

Great if: You're a woman who wants to be in control of who you talk to.

If you’re less enthusiastic about the idea of a salutation dick pic, Bumble might be the match for you. As a refresher, Bumble ethos is that women are in charge of making the first move. It encourages a more female-friendly environment in this way, with a dedication to stomp out hate speech and bad behavior. It's not perfect, my former roommate still ended up accidentally dating a Trump supporter for six months, so be thorough during the vetting process.

6. Lesly

Great if: You’re looking for women and the OG apps are not cutting it.

Lesly has a Tinder-esque swipe right interface but dumps all those bros holding fish (to which I say, regardless of sexuality, thank GOD). Instead, you can match with other LGBTQ+ singles. The app promises that each registered user is "rigorously scrutinized" by staff to ensure that you’re not getting scammed. No one wants to find out that the cutie with the bob haircut is some finance guy named Mike.

7. Hater

Great if: You’re the person who boasts that they’re "fluent in sarcasm," which, okay, we’re not 15 anymore. As someone who literally couldn’t write this piece without sarcasm, can we just all agree that it's code for, "I’m kinda mean"? Alternatively, you’re just very, very picky.

Here’s the deal, Hater matches you up with someone based on—you guessed it!—what you hate. You mark a seemingly endless list of prompts of things like, "Facebook stalking," "Vegan food," and "paying for a broker" with whether you hate, dislike, like or love it. And I wanna snark on this, but this is kind of a perfect filter if you’re one of those loves-to-bitch Misery Loves Company types. Or, like, any New Yorker.

8. Loosid

Great if: You’re firmly committed to a sober lifestyle.

Pre-COVID it was a dating default to "grab drinks" after work, to the point where some of my friends had designated "Bumble Bars." That go-to can breed awkwardness of you struggle with addiction or just don’t mess with booze anymore. Enter Loosid, a supportive app that connect you with not only connects you with other sober-minded singles, and thoughtfully tunes you in to alcohol-free events in the area. For, you know, when the world re-starts.

9. MeetMindful

Great if: You want something meaningful and embrace wellness as big part of your lifestyle.

And there is a very good chance that you're down with wellness if you're here, so here's the situation. MeetMindful is all about "connecting with intention." There's no swiping, just a questionnaire that asks about your feel-good passions (yoga? spirituality? meditation?) and then presents you with a platter of people you can choose to "like."

10. Sweatt

Great if: You're looking for your swolemate (I'll see myself out).

Sweatt is serious when it comes to fitness, and if you're serious about fitness, I couldn't think of a better app. It really separates the people who love hitting up the gym versus the people who say they love hitting up the gym. Good luck, you wacky kids, I'll be on the couch eating ice cream for dinner again.

11. Profoundly

Great if: You've always loved the buffet aspect of a reality dating show.

Profoundly, to that point, won't let a prospective love interest see a women's face until they chat you up. Women set up "audio-rooms" where suitors are supposed to bid for their attention, answering clever ice-breakers and sending over saucy confessions. The further they get in the convo, the more they get to see your face. If nothing else, do it for the friends who get serious ennui when the latest season of The Bachelor ends.

12. Struck

Great if:"What's your birth time" leaves your mouth quicker than "do you have any siblings" on a first date.

Struck is a go-to app for the astrologically-invested, and we don't mean someone who skims their horoscope on a weekly basis. This app isn't about pairing together compatible Sun signs like so rogue amateur, it goes full synastry by comparing your whole damn birth charts. You'll get daily recommendations based on who the stars align you with, so sign yourself up if you want someone to geek over aspects and conjunctions with.

13. Jigsaw

Great if:You clutch your pearls at the idea that anyone would swipe you based on aesthetics alone.

Like Profoundly, Jigsaw doesn't allow users to see someone's face at first blush. Unlike Profoundly, people aren't vying for your rose all at once. If you're someone in the London or New York area who really wants to put personality first, then this is a good way to crack into the app dating game. Who knows, maybe you'll find your perfect fit.

14. Vinylly

Great if: You have a strong High Fidelity energy about you (and if you can't grab that reference, this probably isn't for you).

If the name didn't tip you off, Vinylly is an app for audio enthusiasts, it matches you with others based on your music streaming data. If you normally seek out mates based on their record collection (me), sign up on the immediate and start a very nerdy conversation about what David Bowie era is the best.

15. HeyBaby

Great if:You have baby fever (or already have kids).

You know that awkward moment where you have to ask a partner if they want kids, and the date can stop right there based on their response? Well, if you're sick of superficial dating and definitely want a family, HeyBaby rules that problem out for you. It's also a great way for single parents to connect with others, because isn't life hard enough when you're homeschooling youngins through Zoom? No need to complicate dating.

16. Bristlr

Great if: You’re sexually attracted to Hagrid.

Or if you’re just a fan of facial hair. Bristlr boasts the incredibly direct tagline of "connecting those with beards to those who want to stroke beards." If beard-stroking is a big priority for you, then truly, go wild.

Originally published March 8, 2019; updated January 4, 2020.

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