It’s 2014 and becoming abundantly clear that online dating sites, and particularly dating apps, are no longer a cesspool of Nigerian princes, catfish and deviants. Rather, they’re a genuine tool for making connections — however blurred the definitions of a relationship may be.

Before Tinder, the dating app movement was really revolutionised by the gay and bi community back in 2009 with the launch of Grindr, which by 2012 had four million users. Like Tinder, the app worked off a unique algorithm of common interests, age, demographic, etc, but was fundamentally a location-based match service.

Since its 2012 launch, people have criticized Tinder for its shallow representation of dating, and accused it of being nothing more than a “hook-up” service. Isabelle, 22, a recent Tinder convert, describes the process as “like having a night out on the town, from the comfort of your own bed! You have your hotties and your weirdos.

“Sure, there are a few duds out there,”  Isabelle laughs. “I’ve been asked if I was a camel — because I’ve ‘got good humps’. And I’ve often been unable to read messages due to their graphic content.”

All in all, it can be pretty terrifying — or a bit of a laugh. Either way, it’s nothing that any Brisbane woman who has spent a regrettable night at any establishment in the Valley isn’t accustomed to.

Tinder is just the beginning, though, as dating apps continue to evolve. You might be aware of a brand new app called Happn — essentially, the French have created a tool to allow users to salvage missed opportunities at love. Unlike Tinder, it all starts on the streets, when a glance or a smile that goes unreciprocated suddenly has the chance to be reignited via the app.

The way it works is that when two Happn members pass physically on the street, in a bar, on a train or at a party, they are notified of each other’s profiles. Both people must have Happn accounts to instigate a connection.

My personal experience with the app, however, has been far from serendipitous, with most of my crossed-paths occurring with people who have simply driven past my house whilst I’ve been inside sleeping or watching Keeping Up With The Kardashians, looking a far cry from the pictures on my profile.

Also on the radar is the newly introduced Clocked, or “The Social Dating App”, a platform to meet new people, whether it’s for the purposes of dating, networking or even just forming friendships. With tools such as a calendar and a far more specific algorithm for compatibility, this app promises better results for its users, and most likely a hell of a lot less unwelcome nudes.

Of course, the Aussie dream of meeting your soulmate at a pub can still be a reality — and now there’s an app for that. The Winger Social, developed this year by two Brisbane entrepreneurs, promises an experience like no other with tailor-made dating in a group setting.

You’ll need two friends to sign up for Winger, and you’ll want to pick those friends wisely — you’re only as strong as your weakest wingman, after all. The Winger team then asks you a few questions and takes a few hints from your Facebook profile to plan your night. They’ll hook you up with another group of three friends, and choose what they think is the right bar for you.

‘Winger Concierge’ Jack Walkom says the service differs from other dating apps because “the matching is done by a person (myself) rather than algorithms or just preference information”.

Tom, 25, recently put the Winger Social to the test. Previously something of a skeptic towards online dating, his expectations were absolutely exceeded. “I definitely recommend it; it’s a perfect way to meet new people. If you think about it, you go out on a standard night out and if you meet one new person who is vaguely interesting you’re happy. With this, you are assured of meeting at least three new people!”

For the single Brisbanite, it seems the light at the end of the dark tunnel that was dating apps is nigh. Tinder no longer has a stronghold on the market, and there are more personal experiences on offer for those after more than just a hook-up.

My dad often brags of the fateful tale of how he and my mum met at Jo Jo’s on the Gold Coast back in the ’80s, and how he won her over by successfully landing a piece of ice in her cleavage from across the table.

In summary, there is no “fairytale” romance — the love of your life could be knocking back rumbos at The Caxton, or they are trying out online dating for the first time as we speak. 

Either way, #donthatetheonlinedate.

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