How to Win at “Dating Sunday”

by Kristin T.

January 7, 2024

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Is one of your resolutions to find love in the new year? You’re not alone! The first Sunday of the year is the highest traffic day for online dating sites and apps. With that much competition, how do you make sure your profile stands out from the crowd?

All Sundays are the busiest days on dating apps, but the first one in January is particularly special. Single & seeking folks who presumably just endured the holiday season solo are off and running to make sure they don’t have to do that again. According to Mashable, there are stats to back up the hype about this day: “OkCupid typically sees a 70 percent increase in user activity on Dating Sunday. Tinder estimates that 10 percent of all January swipes occur on that date as well.” 7pm to 10pm in the evening is apparently the most active time frame for this wave of popularity, so you still have time to prepare!

Of course, dating isn’t a game or a competition, but if it were, here’s how to “win” at Dating Sunday, according to relationship experts:

Set Your Intentions:

Before you put yourself on a dating app, it’s important to do some soul searching to know what you’re trying to accomplish there, because there are LOTS of possibilities. Long-term love or someone to start a family with? One night stand? A party buddy with a few hookups? Someone to join your almost perfect polycule? There are sites out there for pretty much every kind of dater, so start by using one that’s right for you. Know precisely what your intentions are for dating and, when possible, indicate them within your dating profile so others can see if yours may be a good fit for theirs. As dating expert Crystal Cansdale told Stylist, “Whether you’re trying to get back into dating after some time off or looking for something a bit more long-term, that’s all fine – as long as you’re upfront. Be clear about what you’re looking for – it’ll help you attract the right people and the best matches for you.

It’s also important to remember what your boundaries are for people you’d be interested in matching with. Everyone has a pros & cons list of what they are looking for, and probably some hard passes. It’s okay to keep those things in mind, and stay within those boundaries as you’re matching with, messaging, and getting to know people. If someone’s throwing off a bunch of red flags, run. When it comes to being honest with yourself, there’s no shame in the dating game. Speaking of honesty…

Be Honest:

While you obviously don’t want to disclose everything about yourself, you need to offer enough personal information that someone can reasonably tell if they’d be compatible with you or not. This sometimes requires posting somewhat sensitive info about your politics, religion, or desire or lack thereof to have children (or if you already have them). Just like you wouldn’t want to “waste your time” with someone you have nothing in common with, allow other seekers the opportunity to keep scrolling if your interests, needs, and desires just don’t mesh with theirs. Major differences in big-deal beliefs or deal-breaking behaviors & lifestyle choices (i.e., smoking, or having dogs if you’re deathly allergic to dogs) are not usually something that will correct themselves in the dating process. Be honest and clear about what you are looking for so you don’t need to bother with anyone who clearly isn’t a good fit.

Put Your Best Face Forward:

Choose just a few of your favorite photos for your profile; having too many can make you look narcissistic. At least 3 but no more than 5 tends to be the Goldilocks zone. When possible, use photos you’ve had friends take of you rather than selfies – they always look more natural and show you from a better angle. While it’s okay to show several different styles you can go between, all of your pics should be recent – like, within the last 6 months recent. Make sure they all “look like you” on a daily basis, including the clothes, glasses, or other accessories you typically wear. Avoid posting photos of yourself with children, friends – or exes if that’s not obvious enough – and if you absolutely must, blur the other faces.

Be Positive:

Your profile should talk about what you love, not what you hate. David Vermeulen, CEO and founder of Inner Circle told Metro UK for their article about Dating Sunday advice, says: ‘People who focus on what they don’t want in their profile get half as many matches as those who focus on the positives. Set your new year off on a positive foot, and communicate what you’re looking for.’ Just like positive reinforcement works better than punishment, and constructive feedback is always better than outright criticism, do your best to keep the messaging in your profile positive. You can still get your message across, even it’s about setting a boundary: in other words, saying “I love open-minded, free-thinking, kind individuals” will get your profile more hits than saying “I despise bigots and homophobes”. Fair enough.

Be Safe:

While dating apps obviously require a bit of personal information, like where you live, to work properly, keep things as vague as it will let you. Don’t post photos that show the address or obvious features of your home or any places you visit regularly, like your workplace or bars & restaurants . During the matching & chatting phase, be as vague as you can about your occupation. Never name the company you work for until you’ve vetted this person on actual dates.

Sadly, speaking of actual dates, setting those up can be a personal safety minefield, too, especially for women and people who are any variety of queer. Once you feel you’ve thoroughly vetted someone through online messaging and it’s time to meet in person, keep these safety rules in mind and stick to them whenever possible:

  • Meet somewhere: For the first few dates, it’s always best to meet at a public place like a restaurant or a museum rather than pick one another up at their home. This way, you don’t have to disclose where you live, and you both have your own mode of transportation to get out if things go south.
  • Tell someone: Before going out with any new date, tell a family member or close friend who you’re meeting, including as many personal details as you know about them such as full name and phone number, where you’re meeting them, and about how long you expect to be gone. Text them occasional check-ins when possible, and let them know once you’ve made it home safely.
  • Don’t get inebriated: While it’s okay to have a drink or two, getting schwasted on a first date with a stranger off the internet isn’t ideal. Remember, alcohol lowers inhibitions, so you might wind up saying things you’d be embarrassed about later, or be willing to do things you wouldn’t otherwise want to do. It also makes it so you can’t drive yourself home if you need to get out. If you do drink too much and find yourself in a situation where you feel unsafe, many bars have an “angel shot” protocol where they will help you get a cab or Uber and get out of a date and home safely if needed.
  • Have an out: Keep a plan in the back of your mind for what you will do if you feel uncomfortable and need to end a date early. A family emergency is always a safe bet. Sure, they may “know what’s really happening”, but that’s okay because ideally, you haven’t disclosed much personally identifying information at this point, so they won’t be able to find you/message you if you need to report or block them. While it would be nice if we could just be honest about this instead of making up excuses, that’s not always the case. Be gracious, offer to pay for your portion of the check, and be on your way.

First dates can often feel awkward and kind of forced, but no one should ever be made to feel downright unsafe, uncomfortable, or creeped out, and they should be allowed to leave safely and freely if they do. If you’re the one having these dating rules thrust upon you by the other person, understand that it is for safety reasons and go with the flow. Empower their agency. It may feel inconvenient at first, but accommodating their requests will go a long way towards building trust right off the bat.

Manage Your Expectations:

Don’t fall for the hoopla and the pressure something like Dating Sunday can create around looking for love. Just because there’s this surge of activity on dating sites now doesn’t mean it’s the only time to make a match. Besides, the ones who stick around after the most popular weekend are likely the ones most committed to finding love. It’s not a matter of “all the good ones will be gone”; there’s always the chance that the perfect one for you will come along weeks or even months from now. Stick with it, making adjustments to your profile if you see they’re needed based on the matches or feedback you’re getting. Be optimistic but be patient.

Manage your expectations when it comes to meeting people, too, and remember that not every date is meant to end in a forever love. If you don’t feel it with someone, don’t try to force it. Using dating apps largely means leaving the fate of your future relationship in the hands of a bunch of algorithms – and they don’t always get it right. If you don’t find a match made in heaven on Dating Sunday, it doesn’t mean you’re doomed to loneliness again in 2024. Just keep being yourself, trust the process (and it is a process), and keep an open mind and heart. You’ll have plenty more opportunities throughout the year.

So, if you’re looking for love in the new year, go spiff up your profile, get your swiping finger ready, and get yourself back out there!

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