If you haven’t seen the Modern Love TV episode about his life, Justin McLeod’s life story goes something like this.
Guy meets girl in college. They where to hookup in Waco date, on and off, for years. They leave college, breaking up and parting ways forever. A bunch of life stuff happens. Guy struggles with addiction. Guy gets his life back on track. Four years on, guy reaches out to girl again. Too late, she’s fallen in love with someone else and living on the other side of the world. Guy is heartbroken. Guy writes to her on her birthday every year. He never gets a response. Guy creates a dating app. Guy tells the story about his heartbreak to a stranger, who tells him to drop everything and get the girl back. He does. They make it work. 14 years after they met, they say ‘I do’.
On the face of it, Justin’s love story is as far from ‘textbook’ for a millennial as you can get.
Hinge CEO shares advice on dating, and how heartbreak led to ‘the dating app designed to be deleted’
At a time when the grand narrative of people’s relationships often start and end with, “We met on Tinder” or, “We matched on Bumble”, or “I thought her Hinge profile was cute”; Justin’s love story is all about fate, regret, and second chances.
But if you ask Justin, the CEO of Hinge – one of the world’s most popular and successful dating apps – his modern romance easily could have played out in the context of online matchmaking.
“When you think about it, how you meet is point 0.1 per cent of your relationship, right? It’s just that very beginning and then after that, I think everything’s the same. I think what dating apps give us is the opportunity to meet more people more often,” Justin told Hack.
For Justin, dating apps haven’t really changed the universal things about love and connection and desire. They’ve just made us better at dating and figuring out what we want in a partner.
“They give a lot of us a lot more dating experience. So we learn what’s important to us and what’s not important to us.”
How to be more successful on dating apps
Justin’s app Hinge bills itself on being the “app that’s designed to be deleted” – that is, to set up dates that lead to meaningful, serious relationships.
That philosophy means Hinge is against some of the hallmarks of dating apps – users can’t quickly ‘swipe right’ (or left) on matches, and they’re only allowed to give out a limited number of ‘likes’ every day.
“I don’t know if we’ve reached ‘peak’ dating app. I think people will continue to use them. But I do think that we can design them much more thoughtfully so that people spend a lot more time offline out on great dates and less time on the app chatting and searching and swiping.”
Use photos that invite a conversation. A simple selfie doesn’t do that, but showing your interests or showing your quirkier side definitely does.
“The same thing goes with entering the text prompts. Those are really designed to help you get into a conversation but it does require that you really spend time thinking about them and putting forward a response that reflects you and your personality.”
“I think all of us are looking for connection and intimacy. And I think a lot of us confuse validation for connection. So we try to get a bunch of likes, and we put that filtered, ‘best’ self out there. While it may generate a lot of likes, it doesn’t help you in terms of finding the person who’s really going to like you for you.