So you’re gonna give online dating a go? After five years on and off the dating apps, I’ve learned a thing or two — or five. The first thing to keep in mind is that “dating apps” is a misnomer. They are meeting apps — a place to see who is available and maybe match with you. Don’t put too much energy into the flirty texting banter. Your goal is to meet in real life.

1. Don’t be discouraged. There will be hundreds (thousands?) of profiles on the apps that are just ridiculous. Men without photos; men with icky photos; men with photos of fish, or their children, or their cars/boats/motorcycles, or of themselves when they were hot back in high school. Do. Not. Be. Horrified. Those men are not for you. Think of them as the hundreds of ordinary men we pass in our daily life and don’t take notice of. Swipe left.

2. Don’t take offense. You’ve matched! Yay! They sent a message…”Hi.” That’s it? Yup. It has nothing to do with you. These are the same men that make you carry the conversation at a bar or party. When this happens, I now think to myself, thank you for so graciously eliminating yourself by sending an effortless “hi” and un-match.

Warning: there will be some cringey text exchanges after a match. Those icky men are not IN your phone. A quick un-match will send them back off in the black hole of dating cyber-space where they belong. Do not let the bad behavior of some men keep you from finding the good guys on the apps. I promise, they are there.

3. Trust your gut. Photos look too perfect? Do what I do: screenshot the pic and put it through a reverse photo search. More than likely, the perfect photos are from a perfectly curated Instagram feed of some perfect gay model or actor from Brazil. After a while, you’ll start to recognize the repeats. I keep a folder on my phone of the scam photos so I can report them to the app administrators. This brings me great pleasure.

4. Set up rules. Once, after a date showed up forty pounds heavier, ten years older, and with a lot less hair did I learn that profiles must have more than one photo. Over the years, my rules have become less hard-and-fast, but I do have dealbreakers, like absolutely no smokers. You decide what’s truly important to you whether it be religion, education, height, or “must love dogs.” Be picky.

5. Take a chance. Be picky but not too picky. Maybe his write-up showed some personality — maybe it made you literally LOL. Maybe he’s not your typical guy, looks-wise, but there’s something about him that’s interesting. Even if he’s too young, or older, or lives outside your distance range, swipe right. Maybe, just maybe, that frog is really a prince. Or if anything, you could have a fun date. A few years ago, there was a man on Bumble with one handsome photo and one, well…not so great. He wrote: Hate overhead lights. I swiped right. We matched. We dated for six months. (PS: he looked like the better photo, thank goodness.)

Dating apps are no different from those days, way-back, when we entered a bar or party, scanned the room, and took a chance approaching someone that interested us. Just like in-person, on the apps, you must be patient and it helps to be a bit adventurous and dauntless. When things don’t work out, keep in mind that there are more options waiting at the next party or on your dating app.

Next: Five tips for putting your best self forward on your dating app profile.

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