While some people take solace in the expression “there’s plenty more fish in the sea,” it leaves me thinking one thing.
There is a lot of fish in the sea.
And with so many of them swimming about you’re pretty much guaranteed to reel in some duds. Throw ‘em back, this is catch-and-release here.
And when it comes to online dating, you’re already casting a pretty wide net! But you don’t want to waste your time on the minnows when your white whale could be around the corner…
Okay, okay – enough of the fish metaphors. I’m already skirting dangerously close to a major online dating red flag (nobody likes a fish photo!).
That being said, knowledge of red flags is important – not only are they a handy tool for sorting the good from the bad and the bad from the bots. In some circumstances, they can also keep you safe.
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What Are Online Dating Red Flags?
Although we may not want to admit it, online dating can be tiring. Once you’ve summoned the finger energy for that swipe right, and you’ve made it through the small talk, going right back to square one isn’t appealing. Sometimes, though, you have to!
So, what is an online dating red flag? It’s an unambiguous sign that your match isn’t right for you, and the conversation needs to end. Knowing the online dating red flags gives you a tool for staying in your comfort zone.
When a conversation makes you uncomfortable or a question makes you uneasy, you have a quick system for identifying whether it’s time to get out of there.
Red flags can be found at every stage of the online dating process, from bios to photos to first dates.
It could be something they say, or something about a reaction they have in a conversation. A red flag could even come down to a bad vibe – you have to trust your gut.
Let’s find out where to draw the line.
Bio and Profile Red Flags
Building a successful online dating bio is a minefield – that’s why we’ve assembled a complete list of do’s and dont’s to help you craft the perfect introduction to your unique personality.
The online dating bio is also a hotspot for dating red flags. So want to know what bio and profile red flags look like?
They’re anything that tells you this person isn’t ready to be in a healthy relationship and can be signs that your potential match is unkind or even potentially abusive.
Here are the bio and profile red flags that should have you swiping left without delay.
- No Bio At All
So you’re on a dating app, representing your best self and you’ve got nothing to say? Riiiight. Having no bio is a total red flag – this person is either a creep, a fake, or a flake. And if you’re struggling to write your own Tinder bio, look no further.
- Demanding Certain Traits
We’ve all got our perfect partner in mind – but some people let perfection get in the way of… anything else. You’ve seen the bios:
- “No vegetarians!”
- No Jesus freaks!
- Don’t bother if you’re under 6 feet.
Even if you find yourself falling into this potential match’s arcane and niche categories, someone this highly strung is going to be a disaster down the road.
- They Say They’re “Not Looking For Drama”
Why would you have to specify you don’t want any drama? Is it because drama is, somehow, always finding you? Most of the time, this type of person is a magnet for drama because of their own problems. Avoid at all costs!
- They Say They Never Message First
When guys say they never message first, it’s usually a sign that their crude pick-up lines have gotten nowhere. Come on dude, try harder.
And it’s so culturally embedded in online dating that guys send the first message that if a woman says this I just facepalm – especially if it’s on Bumble. I mean, that’s literally the way contact is made. Have they copy-pasted from Tinder?
- An Obsession With Sarcasm
We like to see a dash of wit in our bios. But sarcasm is a poor substitution and often reveals a fragile personality underneath a cool veneer. I’m talking about things like:
“, because apparently, that matters.” Or…
“No, I’ve never heard of the Beatles. Please tell me more.”
Okay, we get it – you’re edgy. And similarly, anyone who insists that being “fluent in sarcasm” is a necessary personality trait of a match is just soooo cool in my book (not).
- Vague Job Descriptions
So they’re an “entrepreneur” or an “innovator”? What exactly does that mean… Usually, behind the big words is an individual living in their mom’s basement while their plans to take on the world are percolating. It’s not gonna happen.
Red Flags in Conversation
You’ve done it! You’ve matched. Now it’s time to see if sparks fly. A conversation is your chance to get to know someone better, so it’s no surprise that this is a prime time for red flags to emerge.
And whilst sometimes conversations just fizzle out, at other times there might be a red flag to stop you in your tracks.
We’re often trying hard to impress our matches – but are you looking out for Tinder, Hinge, and Bumble red flags in conversations with your matches too? Red flags in conversation can tell you that your match is too superficial, not over their ex or maybe not even a real person!
There’s a balancing act here between open-mindedness and naivety – here are some conversation red flags that should get alarm bells ringing.
- Getting Way Too Intense Way Too Fast
Openness and honesty are valuable traits in the online dating world and they’re all too scarce – which is why a personalized opener is a great choice in the online dating world. But when somebody gets deep and personal in the first few messages, it’s a sure sign that something’s up.
Similarly, “love-bombing” with instant emotional intensity and affection might feel great at first, but it’s a dangerous signal that your match might just be a manipulative narcissist.
- Being Cold And Evasive
At the other end of the emotional spectrum, if your match can’t give you a straight answer then you know something’s up. Whether they’re hiding something or just playing a virtual version of hard to get, we already know this person isn’t ready for a healthy relationship.
- Sending Strange Links Early In The Convo
It’s digital common sense to treat any unknown URLs with suspicion. If your match starts sending you unrecognizable websites, apropos of nothing, then it’s more than likely that you’ve got by a bot.
- Asking For Gift Cards Or Money
Even if you think it’s love at first sight, sending money or gifts early in a relationship is a no-no. If someone asks you for a material display of your interest, alarm bells should ring. This could be a bot trying to scam you out of your credit card details, or just a gold-digging chancer. Either way, you’re outta there.
- Inviting You To A Cam Site Or OnlyFans
Although we’ve got no issue with the hustlers out there making bank on cam sites or the ubiquitous OnlyFans, Tinder is not the place to drum up some business. If they’re promoting links to paid sites, then pal, it’s not you that they’re interested in.
- They “Warn” You About Them
Bad boys might have a certain appeal to them in the movie theatre. But wannabe bad boys on dating apps – not so much. Anyone who’s eager to tell you that they mean trouble should probably be taken seriously.
And similarly, when a girl warns you “I break guys’ hearts” it’s a total red flag. Avoid – these guys and gals are just looking for a get-out when they treat you badly.
- Waiting Way Too Long To Arrange A Date
Some people are just shy, sure, but if you have been chatting for months with no date on the horizon? Red flag. This is total catfish vibes, like, what are you hiding? On top of that, there will be so much pressure when you do meet it’ll be weird.
- Talking (A Lot) About Their Ex
This traditionally unappealing habit turns into a red flag when someone goes on and on. They’re not over their ex, they’re not ready for a healthy relationship and chances are they have some unresolved guilt about what went wrong.
- Pushing Their Social Media On You
At some point you’re gonna wanna connect on your socials – that’s a part of life now. But who wants to start following every random stranger from Hinge? If someone’s pushing their social media on you then they’re more interested in likes than you. Be a leader, not a follower.
Picture Red Flags
A picture is worth a thousand words – and without being superficial, in the world of online dating, a picture is enough to write someone off completely. I’m not talking about a hairstyle you’re not in favor of – I’m talking about serious red flags.
Picture red flags will give you a sense of whether this potential match is a real person, some kind of bot on Tinder, or a catfish looking to lure you in. Often, if it’s too good to be true, it is.
Don’t waste your time matching with someone with picture red flags. Here are the biggest things to look out for in online dating profile pictures.
- Pictures Of Celebrities
Wow! You matched with Megan Fox on Tinder? Come on guys, you’re better than that.
- Only Professional Photos
A professional headshot might stand out on someone’s profile, but we’re also looking for insight into someone’s real life. We need action shots too! Hosting exclusively professional photos doesn’t mean that they’re for sure a bot or a fake, but these are catfish signs that I consider a red flag.
- Only One Picture
File this alongside one close-up and five long-distance beach pics. Part of the fun of online dating is choosing the best picture set to represent you, so we start getting sus when someone hasn’t done the work.
- Pictures That Look Like Different People
Some people change their hair every other week, but if she started out a real-life redhead and now she’s a blond then that’s going to raise eyebrows. Top detective tip: examine their earlobe shape to see if it’s the same person… or just swipe left and move on!
- When He’s Holding A Fish!
The fish pic is universally detested and, if nothing else, this red flag tells you this guy doesn’t have his finger on the online dating pulse. If there’s a fish, there’s one thing you know: he’s not the catch of the day.
When To Worry About Red Flags
Red flags can appear at any stage and unless you’re saying “I do” there’s always time to perform a U-turn.
But you need to know when to worry about red flags to protect yourself. And different red flags can appear at different moments. In the early stages of a conversation, you should be looking out for red flags that this person is a Tinder bot or looking for catfish signs.
What To Do If You Identify Red Flags
So now you know the online dating red flags. Nobody’s catfishing you today.
But what do you do if you identify red flags while you’re online dating? If these were amber warnings, maybe you’d give someone a second chance. But guys, these flags are red for a reason. When you identify a red flag, it’s time to cut and run.
But let’s get serious for a minute – some red flags indicate that a user poses a danger to the community. Should you report a user if you find a red flag? Well, it depends – as much as everyone hates a fish pic, the user probably has a right to exist online.
If you suspect someone of being a fake account – either a bot or a catfish – report away. And if you feel like someone is manipulating you or using abusive language, then it’s time to let user support step in.
Reporting someone on Hinge, for example, is completely anonymous and the same goes for Tinder and Bumble, the latter of which has a dedicated safety center. These apps will always protect the privacy of the user doing the reporting so you have nothing to lose and you’re helping to keep the community safe!
Whilst there are plenty of pitfalls with online dating, once you know the red flags to look for you’ll be one step closer to finding your match.
Not sure where to start? Try my dating app quiz to find out which app is a match for you.