The Dating Scene Report, Summer 2021 Edition

VICE ran a Dating Vibe Check to see which apps people are on, what corny pickup lines to be aware of, and whether anyone's looking for more than hookups.
Hannah Smothers
Brooklyn, US
A transfeminine person hanging out with friends at a bar
The Gender Spectrum Collection
It's not a set of rules—it's a state of mind.

Here you are: It’s June of 2021. The summer solstice has passed; it is horny vax summer. Outside your window, the hot air thrums with the low hum of flirting. Inside your window, you wonder, What app did everyone meet on? 

Whether it’s been the entire pandemic or just a few months since you last dated, it’s likely that the rules and trends have slightly shifted. The Hot New App changes, the “guy holding a fish” gimmick morphs into something else, and questions that never existed before—are you vaccinated?, are you cool doing stuff inside?, are you down for ethical non monogamy?—are now all over the place. 


So what’s it like out there? To find out, VICE asked sexy singles in your area (just kidding; we mean “active daters”) about what the dating world is like right now. Consider this guide the equivalent of your most Samantha-esque friend leaning in close to you across a martini-riddled table, regaling you with hot tips based on their experience. What we mean is, take this with a grain of salt; we didn’t conduct scientific research into the apps (though that would be sick), we just checked in on those who are already grabbing this Four Loko summer by the horns. Here’s what they had to report.

Are people still on dating apps?

Yes! Totally.

Do they still kind of suck?

Yes! Totally.

But people are using them. Cool. Which ones?

Just as before, there are an overwhelming number of dating apps now. If you’ve been away from the dating scene for a minute, you might fear there’s some new popular that “everyone” is on and that you just don’t know about (or maybe a former dark horse pushed out the reigning champ). But fear not; we surveyed the landscape and the current Big Three are still the same as you probably remember; with some nuances to their activity. Let’s get into a power ranking. 


Let’s call first a tie between Hinge and Tinder, because people had mixed reviews on both. Hinge is the app everyone is on, despite that weird thing with the bad questions you’re literally required to answer. Faith, 27, told VICE she likes Hinge because, out of the Big Three, it feels “the most classy”: You can only send so many likes per day (unless you upgrade your membership, more on that later) so the matches feel more deliberate. Meanwhile Anna, 26, said she feels like the app’s algorithm is doing people dirty; she got “better” matches on the other two apps than on Hinge, and eventually deleted the app because of that. 



You know how OkCupid used to be where all the “in an ethically non monogamous relationship, communication is key,” people were? Now they are on Tinder, according to what several people who spoke to VICE. “That’s been a really huge thing, there are so many people who are ethically non monogamous now,” Tara, 25, told VICE. “I definitely noticed it more during the pandemic, so maybe people were getting sick of their partners? It’s just this new wave of non monogamous folks.” 

If that’s your bag, get to Tinder. If not, there’s plenty else to be found on the app, which everyone seems to agree has the most potential if you’re willing to wade through a whole bunch of people. 


Anna ditched Hinge for Bumble because she felt she was lacking in matches, and found better results on Bumble. Brittany, 30, said the same thing. “No one on Hinge ever actually talks,” Brittany said. “But it seems like Bumble, since women [have to] talk first, men respond more.”

Bumble’s still running the same shtick: In hetero matches, women talk first; in all other matches, either user can send the first message. If you’re into that (Faith said she wasn’t, it felt like too much of a burden to always be doing the work of sending the first message), Bumble may be a good fit. But here is the thing: As nearly everyone VICE spoke with said, the apps are almost all populated by the same users. Everyone is seemingly on the Big Three, it’s just a matter of which app serves you the “right” people first. 


Sleeper hit: Feeld

Several folks mentioned Feeld, which used to be an app that catered to threesomes and group sex, but now functions more as a dating/hookup app. Emily, 28, told VICE she likes Feeld because the people on it “tend to be more progressive and diverse” compared to the Big Three. The big downside to Feeld is that it may not be as populated as the other apps (or maybe that’s an upside?), especially outside of major cities. 

Alright so they’re all basically the same. At least they’re still free, right?

Haha. Technically yes; in practice, no. It’s unclear what happened—maybe the apps got cocky from carrying the entire weight of dating during the pandemic—but now they all seem to want you to pay up, in some shape or form. 

Hinge has tiered memberships but it’s newest, uh, let’s say “financial initiative” is getting users to buy “roses,” which are the equivalent of Tinder super-likes: Roses boost your like to the top of a person’s feed, which allegedly ups your chances of matching. Laypersons get very few, or you can pay around $3 per rose to send more. Tinder wants $15 per month for Tinder Gold, which lets users customize what’s shown in their profiles and see all their likes at once. And Bumble wants a whopping $33 per month for its Premium version, which lets users see who’s already swiped right, change their location to swipe around the world, and apply “filters” to the big dating pool. 


All the apps function just fine on free mode, keyword being fine. There’s definitely more push to pay now than there was a couple of years ago. 

What’s going on on the apps? Guys still holding fish?

Not so much! RIP fish pics :(. As both Tara and Ashelyn, 26, said, now the thing is a bunch of outdoors-y photos, because that’s all anyone was able to do outside their house for the past year and a half. Also: Masked selfies.

Any corny lines I should be wary of?

Bro…. of course. This is modern dating. Ye olde “going to Whole Foods, want me to pick you up anything” line has been replaced with bangers such as: “Looking for my quarantine cutie,” and, “Stay home if you’re sick, come over if you’re thicc.” (Fine; that one does slap.) 

What about vax status? People care about that?

Yes! And the apps encourage it. Hinge lets you put a little “vaccinated” badge on your profile, and as Ashelyn said, on Tinder, a lot of people put their vax status right into their bio.

“Probably seven out of 10 profiles that I see had something about being vaxxed, like ‘half-vaxxed’ or ‘fully vaxxed and looking for my travel buddy’; just some shit like that,” she said.  

This is overwhelming; what if I want to meet someone in person, and not via the apps?

As several people told VICE, meeting in public and through mutual friends is a definite wave at the moment. It makes sense! Our friendships and friend groups changed over the course of the pandemic, and now that we’re reemerging, we may be seeing new faces at our parties and park hangouts. 

Maya, 22, said she met the person she’s been seeing for the past two months after they slid into her Instagram DMs, asking if she wanted to meet up at the park and play with their new dog. They’d been mutuals for years, had seen each other around recently, and were both newly single (more on that in a sec), and ended up hitting it off. 


Monica, 26, got out of a six-year relationship at the beginning of this year, and told VICE she’s met people at the bar where she works. “He was just a patron there, we were chatting after my shift and he asked me to get a drink,” she said. “It wasn’t even a date date, but it was the most date-date that I’d been on in a long time. We ended up getting a drink and then staying together that night.” 

If you don’t work at a bar and don’t have access to flirty bar patrons, Monica said she’s also been meeting people at parties. People are so eager to socialize again, post-vax, that talking with strangers at parties feels easier than before, plus, we all have a shared experience now (if that’s something you’re even interested in talking about). Monica’s advice for approaching people is cliche, but good: “Go for it,” she said. “If you don’t put yourself out there, and just say, ‘Hey, I think you’re cute, I’d love to get to know you more,’ then you’re going to miss out. It might be scary, but that vulnerability is how you meet people.” 

Especially now, after having lived through a global pandemic, Monica’s advice rings true; freaking go for it! Nothing that can happen as a result of missing a shot is worse than what we’ve already been through this past year. 

What’s the vibe out there? Is it really a horny summer, or are people trying to do summer cuffs? 

As both Maya and Monica said, people are either newly single (and looking to mingle) (sorry), or they’re freshly coupled. Across the board, both said that everyone seems to want to have fun right now. If they find someone cool along the way; great. This may be the first year on record in which cuffing season occurs twice: This summer, and then perhaps again in the winter, as always happens. Loosening restrictions and more and more people vaccinated have people feeling safer than they’ve felt in over a year, which translates to more dates with more people. 

Overall, the dating world you’re entering now is not so different from the dating world we left behind in early 2020. The big distinction is maybe that the vibe feels a little bit… celebratory? We’re getting our vaccines, COVID rates are down, and places are safely reopening. All of that is worth getting stoked over, especially with another person.

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