Are Dating Apps Social Media? Purpose-Built Social Networks


I met my partner on eHarmony, and we’ve been married for over 10 years now. Back then, meeting someone on the internet had a creepy stigma. But today, online dating is common, with over 40% of Americans using these sites. So, do you consider dating apps social media, and do they pose the same privacy problems as social networking?

Generally, dating apps are considered a type of social media. Like social networks, online dating sites allow text messaging, photo sharing, and sometimes video chat. Many dating services collect much more sensitive data than the well-known social media companies to match singles together.

Since these match-making services gather pretty personal and intimate information, it’s crucial to not create an account if you’re genuinely concerned about privacy. While eHarmony also notes that “53% of people lie on their online dating profile”, there are other ways to find love without sharing your entire life story. Let’s first compare what dating apps collect, and later I’ve included 4 offline ways to meet singles.

Couple at coffee shop taking selfie because dating apps are social media

Dating Apps Gather FAR More Sensitive Information

If you’ve joined any social media platform, you’ll know that the information they collect from users is relatively invasive. 

Users typically fill out information like:

  • Birthday
  • Gender
  • Location
  • Contact information
  • Education level
  • Workplace and job title 
  • Interests and activities and
  • Several profile pictures

Dating apps dig a lot deeper, collecting intimate information on their singles to match a potential partner or casual date. Users give away sensitive and personal information like:

  • Religious views
  • Political affiliation
  • Sexual orientation
  • Physical information like height, weight, body type
  • Financial status
  • Race and ethnicity
  • Stance on drug use
  • Criminal history information 
  • Private thoughts and desires (usually not shared on regular social networks or even with people in real life) 
  • Family makeup and problems

During my eHarmony experience, I was asked very private questions about my preferences in a match. Then the online dating site had me rank or weigh how important each of my answers was. While this level of data collection led to marrying my partner (totally worth it 😁), I was naively giving away a detailed psychological profile of myself. Since I paid for my subscription, I have confidence that eHarmony treated my data privately.

Privacy Tip:

When signing up for a dating app, do not use the “Log in with Facebook” button, for example. This method of creating an account adds to Facebook’s knowledge graph or profile on you. The company uses your dating app sign-up for advertising to you and may manipulate your social feed.

Want more reasons not to use these social login buttons? I walk you through the advantages and disadvantages of social login buttons in this article.

But what should users of free or cheap dating services do to protect their identity?

Three male friends helping their female friend with her dating social media app

Slightly Falsifying Your Personally Identifiable Information

As you begin creating your online dating account, there will be fields where you can enter personal details such as name, birthday, location, etc. You may want to ensure that all of those details are accurate enough to help the dating service find potential matches. Don’t worry about being completely precise, as most dating apps won’t check against public records.  

For example, here are my suggested substitutions.

DemographicRealSlightly FalsifiedReason
NameMichael ChuMike ChuUse a nickname or alternate spelling of your first and/or last name.
BirthdayOctober 10, 1979October 1, 1979Use the first day of the same month and year. It’s close enough.
LocationClarkston, GA, USAAtlanta, GA, USAPick the closest large nearby city & do not give the app or site location permission

As you fill out more of the base information fields, decide if you can skip or strategically input slightly false data but won’t impact the match-making algorithm. The goal is not to catfish other members but to keep your personally identifiable information (PII) private.  

Is It Illegal To Lie About Age On A Dating App?

Generally, it is not illegal to lie about your age on a dating app between adult members. The dating service’s terms of use will address the consequences of falsified information and must be read carefully before sign up. Most jurisdictions have strict laws prohibiting adult and minor communication.

Stop and cancel your registration if you find yourself questioning the legal, moral, or ethical disclosure of the information you’re providing to the dating (or any social media) service. It’s always better to error on the side of being truthful and honest. 

Bonus Effect:

An added bonus of using just-off-reality information is you can catch services misusing your PII. Maybe a non-dating service starts wishing you a happy birthday on the first of the month. Perhaps you receive a spam email that tries personalizing to includes your falsified city. It’s easier to trace where that information came from.

Inevitably there will be some data that you cannot falsify as you build your dating profile. Things like phone number, email address, gender, desired match preferences, and the tone of voice used in your texts are harder to fake. We have to find creative, privacy solutions.

Compartmentalize Your Dating Profile

I’ve introduced compartmentalization before, but it bears defining it again. 

Compartmentalization is a security practice where you separate your information or habits. These compartments might be based on task, company, time, or other logical separators. If one compartment is hacked and the information is leaked, it doesn’t expose the whole of your information or identity.

When creating a dating profile, tweak the information you enter, as I mentioned earlier. For everything else, we start separating using some technology solutions.

Use A Burner Phone Number

I also previously defined and provided some FAQs about burner phones. Keeping your dating profile private is another perfect use case for a burner phone.  

Match-making companies typically want to ensure that the accounts on their platform are legitimate users and not spammers or robots with fake profiles. The idea is that since there are a limited number of phone numbers, user accounts that have a phone number are less likely to be spambots.

To maintain privacy, you should not use your actual primary cell phone number. You’re usually asked to enter a telephone number where a verification call or SMS text message is sent during sign-up. Once verified, this phone number may not be used for other interactions on the dating website. 

The process of getting a burner is reasonably simple if you follow our guide. Use a burner phone number for online interactions like account verification. 

When signing up for a dating service, a phone number isn’t the only personally identifiable information to compartmentalize. This next piece is far easier to segregate in your dating profile.

Using Fake Email Addresses

Most people wonder why their email inbox is jammed with spam. Similar to thoughtlessly giving out their phone number, users will drop their email into any website without knowing the consequences.

The problem this causes is that, for example, if you use your @gmail.com address, you can’t simply change your address if your Gmail becomes unusable because it’s been hacked or chalked full of spam.

Email forwarding services solve this situation by allowing users to create disposable email addresses that forward messages from one location to another.

For instance, you might create a forwarding address like MChu-Dating@SomeForwardingService.com to receive emails from various dating profiles. This address forwards all emails to your regular inbox, so the dating services never have your actual address.

I’ll admit that I go overboard creating a unique forwarding email address for every site and company I do business with. Since I’m using a password manager, keeping track of the compartmentalized emails is not a hassle and prevents me from forgetting them.

Check out some of these privacy-respecting email forwarding services:

Hang In There: I have some tips for meeting other singles that don’t involve dating apps or all this tech stuff further in this article.  

Dating apps are more invasive than social media because you’re really opening up your desires for a romantic and/or intimate match.  

Dating App Profile & Match Preferences

The primary reason you joined a dating service is to meet other singles that are similar to you. So how can we craft an attractive profile and enter your match preferences without completely giving away too much of your privacy?

Sometimes low-tech solutions are better.

Three women filling out a dating app social media profile together

Can you pay someone to write your dating profile?

You can pay someone to write your dating profile to reflect who you are and your desired matches. Dating ghostwriters will interview you and use their experience to compose a successful profile. Asking close friends to fill your online dating account is a free alternative to get a dating profile.

Callously remember that a dating profile is simply good sales copy. You’re selling yourself to prospective buyers. I know I’m going to get comments in the Telegram account over this statement.

Both the professional ghostwriter and a group of your friends will give you an outsider’s perspective of your qualities and write your dating profile to match. We’re often our own worse critics and tend to over-share our personal information and experiences leading to a less appealing profile and more importantly…exposing a lot of our personal data

Can you use AI to write your dating profile?

New AI writing services can help you write a dating profile. Many of the artificial intelligence writing tools have entry fields to input background context or starter information. Use an AI tool to help write portions of your dating profile and edit the final output carefully.

You’ll be surprised at how good AI composition has become. In fact, parts of this article were written by an AI program with my input and guidance. They’re getting good at writing sales copy, too…which, again, is what a good dating profile is.

Focused Purpose = Better Privacy?

Dating app companies are aware that they hold very private information, more so than social networks. There’s a problem, though, as users sign up on dating sites.

On the big-name social media sites, newcomers are simply there to hang out and share photos or videos. On most dating websites, however, people have an actual goal: finding love! 

This primitive, base-level drive to attract a mate often overrides a logical inspection of the privacy policy or the terms of service presented to new members. The result can be disastrous for those who don’t read all the fine print before signing up.

Dating apps, primarily those free of charge, will hide language in their terms of use, giving the company the right to market your profile without your consent. This means that even if you delete your account, they may still continue to exploit your private information and most of the data you voluntarily posted to their platform. 

A couple sitting closely together looking at a smartphone with the social media dating app they met on

Bottom Line:

Consider dating apps as a social media service that has a lot more sensitive and private information. If you choose to sign up:

  • Use a paid dating service
  • Falsify slightly some of your base or demographic information
  • Compartmentalize your contact data like phone and email
  • Ask some friends to help you build a good dating profile 

4 Alternative Ways To Find A Match

The best way to avoid dating apps altogether is to meet a date in real life (IRL). Here are some no-tech alternatives that still work today:

  1. Word of Mouth: Believe it or not, your network of friends can be an excellent way to find a date. In casual conversations, chatting about your interest and availability can lead to word-of-mouth matches. You just need to make sure you’re keeping the creepy factor down.
  2. Find Singles Events or Sports Teams: Before I met my partner, I played GO Kickball. In this adult co-ed kickball league, I met many other singles. A shared experience is a great way to take the pressure off the specific task of finding a romantic match.
  3. Look Where You Already Are: Where do you spend a lot of your time? Keep an eye out at school, work, church, or wherever you regularly go for possible matches. Typically, you’ll find similarly-ilked people with whom you can strike up conversations and start a relationship. Warning: Always end these relationships in a friendly manner so you both can continue to see each other without drama. 
  4. Volunteer: Find local organizations whose mission you support and volunteer there regularly. This will give you plenty of chances to mingle with others who share similar interests. This option gives you the advantages of number 2 above without the disadvantages of number 3.

Mike Chu

Mike is a web developer and content writer living as a digital nomad. With more than 20 years of devops experience, he brings his "programmer with people skills" approach to help explain technology to the average user. Check out his full author bio by clicking here.

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