When I wrote my book (Gay Dating, your guide to finding love) back in 2010, dating apps were really in their infancy, but today they are the main way that gay men meet (in this article I am refering to dating apps as a way to meet men to date, not to hook up). In our stress-filled, fast paced modern world you don’t need to visit a supermarket to get your weekly shop, you don’t need to visit a bank to do your banking: it can all be done via your smart phone. So when it comes to finding a mate, we also expect to avoid the physical ‘dating’ action and effort and get an instant boyfriend from Tinder or Manhunt. These apps should be a good, efficient way to meet a huge pool of potential mates. After all, it’s much more comfortable to relax on your sofa while you swipe the screen rather than making the effort of getting ready to actually go out and chat people up, arrange to go on time consuming dates or (shock horror) actually converse with somebody face to face and get to know them. A few taps with our fingers and voila! If only it were that simple.

It’s true there is a huge pool of potential mates on these apps but many (or most) of the guys are looking for hook ups. Despite their intentions of finding a mate or dating, the distraction of all these naked torsos and offers of sex is too much and they end up switching their ‘looking for’ field from ‘relationship’ to ‘right now’ then complain that it’s impossible to meet anyone for more than sex as that’s all that anyone wants.

So, the first step to making dating apps work for you is to stay true to what you really want. If you are looking for a partner then it doesn’t matter that so many other guys are desperate for sex. Let others do as they please and focus on what you want. We are hot blooded so there will be times when our hormones get the better of us, so maybe you could have a second profile which you occasionally log into for sex. The important thing is not to get confused and to hold firm to your principles; be consistent with your true desire. It’s inevitable that you will still get other users asking for sex and not bothering to read what you have written but just ignore that. If you are only getting offers of sex then think about how you are coming across on your profile. If you are posting near naked pictures of yourself, this is not in tune with your desire to find a bf. If you use any words like ‘hot’ ‘horny’ in your profile description or name, you are giving other users the impression you are looking for sex, so you will not attract the guys you want nor get the desired results. In fact, if you are on an app specifically created for sex then see what other apps are on the market. It’s true that sex sells but you also want to sell your personality, your beautiful smile or your charisma as well as bulging biceps, as these are the things that will attract a mate as opposed to a sexual partner. There is no harm in showing you have a great body (under the t shirt you are wearing) but you cannot expect someone to invite you out for coffee if you are posed bent over your bed, in a leather thong.

Which brings us to the subject of photos. Dating apps are very harsh and users are judged on one single photo. It has to be this way as we are all so time and attention short. Tinder users will scan each profile for a millisecond before deciding whether to swipe left or right. So your photo needs to have impact (it’s unfathomable why so many people put up a photo of a cartoon character or a sunset.) Try not to choose photos where you are drunk or standing with one or more people (users will not spend time trying to work out which one is you – they will just swipe no). Get a friend to help you pick a good photo which flatters you. On the other hand, the photo has to be realistic and recent and actually look like you or you risk an abrupt rejection if you do meet in person.

When you do actually get to the stage of arranging to meet someone, it’s very important you do not plan to meet at your place or his as this will inevitably end up in sex and, when sex happens on a first date, no matter how perfectly matched you are, its 98% sure that you will not see that person again. So don’t ruin things before they even begin and arrange to meet in a cafe etc. No matter how tempted you are, do not ask how ‘hung’ he is and don’t go down the route of asking what he likes to do in bed; as this is giving off signals that you just want sex. If you find that idea alien, you are not alone; gay men have difficulty separating sex and dating. If you don’t try a different path then you will keep going around in circles, getting the same results. The idea is to get to know each other and build rapport, trust and have fun, all of which will be constantly underpinning any potential relationship. Hard-ons come and go but the real underlying connection in any relationship cannot  be solely sexual.

The only tip for when you do finally meet is to make sure your phone is not buzzing with new Grindr messages when you are with him! Give this person the respect they deserve and forget your phone. The app is a tool to help you to meet other guys but it should not be an addiction or constant fixation. Once you are dating someone, these apps should be deleted from your phone. If it doesn’t work out for whatever reason, you can reinstall your app, but if you keep using them then it’s a distraction and a temptation that is unhealthy and could sabotage your chances at maintaing a relationship.

All these types of dating apps can become addictive and guys can end up spending hours and hours with little or no result so it’s essential to develop strategies to avoid wasting your precious time. No photo on a profile? Move on. If somebody wants to keep chatting with you for weeks on end without actually arranging to meet: move on. If someone has filled out all their profile stats except their weight or height, what are they trying to hide? Get wise to avoid disapointment and wasted time and energy.

Dating apps can be great tools to enable you to meet likeminded men who are looking to date if you stay focused.So, find a great(fully clothed) photo of yourself, state what you want and stick to it, keep the conversation clean and you are half way there. That may sound like a foreign language to you but it may also be worth a try if what you are currently doing is not bringing the results you desire.