Ah we know the feeling... all too well 😑
Chatting online can be one great way to meet new people and talk about what you’re into. These days, there’s literally an app for whatever you’re looking for (from hooking up to dating, to finding a new friend or a long-term partner).
A word to the wise: You must be 18 years old or older to be on dating and hookup apps.
While there’s lots of ways to connect with new people, if you’re thinking of using an app, check out the awesome info we’ve compiled for you below, including a list of 8 safety tips from some trusty app veterans.
Six months into quarantine, I was starting to get hit by loneliness. I was about to turn 19 and my only romantic experience up until then was a boyfriend for two months when I was 14. So, I started an online dating profile. I wasn’t really looking for a boyfriend, I just wanted a nice conversation and see where things could go from there. My first match was this guy I thought was the most handsome of my matches. Our first video call lasted 3 hours, and I thought we clicked. Maybe I had hit a home run on my first try! The next video call lasted 5 hours. The next, 6 hours. But I realized by the fourth call that we never went past menial small talk. It had been a month and I couldn’t envision us going anywhere. I didn’t know how to bring it up. It wasn't that there was something wrong, I just didn't want to be in a relationship with him. But I kept talking and talking and talking... It was all for naught though, as he ended up ghosting me. I had never felt so relieved. I regret not ending the situation earlier—it would have saved a lot of time and honestly, unnecessary effort, on both our parts. Now, if I don't see a future with any of my matches, I'll let them down straight away.
I couldn't wait to get it on with this amazing girl I met on Tinder. It was going to be my first casual hookup. I never shared a bed with someone I had only known for 24 hours. The idea excited and frightened me at the same time.
After we chit chatted for a couple of minutes, we started making out. We removed our clothes one by one, and when she reached for my dick, tragedy struck. "What's wrong?" she asked me. Then she realized my erection was gone and my penis had betrayed me the moment I needed it the most.
Thousands of voices started playing in my head. "I’m not good enough, I’m a failure, I’m not a 'real' man." It crushed my self-esteem and made it even harder to get hard in the moment. I was ashamed of myself. I didn't know what was wrong with me. I thought maybe I had erectile dysfunction. But I was hard when we were making out. It didn't make any sense to me.
At the time, I didn't know this was a common thing. It could happen to any person of any age. If you get too anxious during sex, all the blood that’s supposed to go to one head (your penis), ends up going to another head. (That might not be the most scientifically accurate reason why that happens.) However, the girl was very nice about it. We talked and cuddled all night till we fell asleep. The next morning when we woke up, we started getting it on again and this time, my erection stayed. It worked because I let go of the pressure to perform and decided to go with the flow.
This experience made me realize the danger of judging my worth by my sexual prowess. It puts way too much pressure on your performance. I judge my worth based on how I am as a person, not on my penis performance. So, when my performance does waver, I don't feel like a failure anymore. I remind myself, it’s just biology.
Now tinder casual hookups don't scare me at all. If a girl reacts badly to my erect or non-erect penis, it’s a reflection on her, not me. It’s the perfect filter to weed out people that don't deserve me.
I've been using apps to meet guys since I was 18. As a digital native who came out as gay in my teens, websites and apps have been a significant part of my sexual and romantic life. They've led me to one-night stands, long-term relationships, seasonal flings, mentor-mentee relationships, and friendships spanning several years. As I'm sure many can agree, they've also caused me heartbreak, frustration, and confusion as a young person growing up and learning about my sexual identity, how to assert my boundaries, and figuring out who I am in bed (… or the kitchen, or the park, or the public bathroom) as well as figuring out who I am as an individual and member of the queer community.
Ten years and an HIV diagnosis later, I'm still always learning. Testing positive definitely changed my experience using apps. When I was first diagnosed, I went back and forth trying to decide if I wanted to include my serostatus in my profile. When my profile indicates I'm poz, I get way fewer messages and replies from other guys than when it used to say 'negative' or if I simply leave it blank. I also get intrusive and ignorant questions and comments (everything from "Who did this to you?” to “Are you suing the guy?" to "Sorry, disease-free only" and "Ew, no"). But there are also benefits to indicating that I'm poz. For one thing, it automatically weeds out the guys who don't want to message me because of my status (chances are I won't be interested in them either). I also find that guys who are non-judgmental of my status, who I do end up connecting with, are better at having open and frank discussions about sexual health, identities, and pleasure, and this is where I've found the best connections and experiences.
Online dating is... weird. Sometimes guys be messaging you with an opener of “Hello, can I pee on you?” At least he asked. Sometimes you gotta rap battle on bumble. Sometimes you don’t reply in 10 minutes and they call you a “fucking bitch.” And then there are those times when older men message “Hello (name)” and send you a picture of a lovely bouquet of flowers on the beach. And then they disappear into the sunset as gently as they came, and you never hear from them again.
Although I still haven’t found love, through these experiences I’ve learned to set boundaries and have a better idea of when to set a boundary and move on from a conversation. I don’t actually need to keep responding to someone who won’t take no for an answer when I’m really not interested in being peed on. I don’t need to stay around managing other people’s feelings, practically strangers, afraid of their reaction or feeling guilty for being honest about what I want. I’ve also learned that I can have someone blow up on me (a great fear of mine and why I resort to pleasing others and feeling guilty) and still keep myself safe and healthy.
Maybe one day, someone won’t want to just pee on me, they’ll want to take me out on a really nice date that involves mutual respect and nice gushy feelings. I’ve learned that not everyone is a heathen (I use this in jest heh heh) and that if I can keep my boundaries, I can experiment with being vulnerable and opening up while remaining true to myself at the same time.
I really wasn’t the type of person who would lock eyes with a stranger sitting across the bar......
... I’m still not. So, a few years ago, after a particularly painful breakup, I resorted to online dating. Meeting people from the comfort of my own home, without having to leave my bed! It felt like every homebody’s dream. But what I loved the most was that I felt more in control of who I got to talk to and go on dates with, because I could do my research before I met them in person. This was very empowering, as I’ve always found it quite difficult to reject or ignore people in real life, mostly in fear of their potentially violent reaction. Online, ignoring people was made simple with the ‘block user’ button.
I had just moved to the UK when I met my current partner on OkCupid. I wanted to meet new people to explore what my new home had to offer. On our first date, we walked around the city for hours and hours, discovering new places in the city together. In the dates that followed, we had a lot of fun, and more importantly, I felt safe and comfortable. We ended up moving in together, relocated to Canada, and have been together ever since.
But not every date I had went this well. Not every message I received online was pleasant. Ranging from fetishization to threats, there were so many moments that made me feel angry, scared, and discouraged.
If there’s anything I learned from my online dating experiences, it’s that dating should be fun. It should feel good! You deserve to enjoy yourself when you’re on a date, feeling happy and flirty and comfortable. If there’s anything – especially your gut feeling – telling you something feels even a little bit wrong, remember to trust yourself. If you’re willing to take some precautions and work up the courage to dive in, online dating can prove useful, fun, and rewarding.
When to disclose? After being diagnosed with HIV, I took a break from sex and dating. Once I decided it was time to come back, I quickly realized I had a new element I had to present to any prospects, regardless if the encounter was gonna be a walk or straight to the bedroom. At first the plan was to get to know them, and then tell them when I started to have feelings for them or when I sensed the time was coming for us to take off our clothes. Sometimes it was a polite "thanks for letting me know, I don't have a problem with it" (and then they stop texting and are never seen again). Other times, it was "all good, i'm positive also" or "I'm on PreP." I guess I'm lucky that I don't have any horror stories where someone freaked out or was an ignorant prick.
My other approach was to tell them while chatting prior to meeting. This worked well cause if they were okay with it, the date would happen and if they weren't, it ended there. My goal was to be upfront and honest (and not get my feelings hurt or have an uncomfortable conversation in person). People can get really awkward when you tell them something they're not expecting or know nothing about (and that's totally okay).
My approach now: it's in my profile bio. I usually write u=u to hint at my status. Most of the time people know what it means. I also bring it up in conversation to assess the situation. If they don't know what it means, it's a good opportunity for education.
It's important to find what works for you and remember that there's someone else receiving the information so it's not all about you. Be brave but also be compassionate if someone needs a minute to take in what you've told them.