Maurice Saunders has a damn-near-perfect smile—so textbook, with teeth so linear, that it’d be grating if it weren’t so approachable. You must be strategic about the smile you display on the first picture of your profile, he says. (Lesson #1: Lead with a smile.) A closed mouth implies you have something to hide, like a snaggletooth or a Ponzi scheme on the brink of collapse. If you grin too wide, you’ll look like a used-car salesman desperate to hit his quota. “We’re in that generation where we process information so quickly,” says Saunders, twenty-four. Display the faintest whiff of inauthenticity and you’re done for.
Trust him. Saunders is one of the most popular men on Tinder. He gets more right swipes than 99 percent of the competition—in his case, straight men in the United States—according to the dating app’s number crunchers. We wanted to know why, so we asked. “I probably check Tinder once a week, if I’m being, like, 100 percent honest,” he says, laughing. (Lesson #2: Don’t overthink it.)
Saunders moved to Atlanta two years ago. He works in consulting, which means a lot of travel. But the pandemic grounded him (for now, anyway), and he seized the opportunity to introduce himself to his city and its women. “I created my profile to meet people,” he clarifies. “Like, to meet women. That was my primary focus. I was definitely trying to meet some new women.” (Lesson #3: Know what you’re looking for.)
Saunders’s profile is remarkable in its sparseness. Four photographs. Four interests, including “working out” and “sports.” A four-word bio: “Hit me on IG.” His alma mater and city of residence. That’s it. “I didn’t want to give it all up,” he says. “I already gave up I went to Penn State and I live in Atlanta.” (Lesson #4: Leave them wanting more.)
About those photos: Saunders says variety is key. A full-body shot is essential. (Lesson #5: Angles, plural.) With just four photos, Saunders captures the whole of his exterior, which, if you think about it, is more than anyone could get from across a dimly lit bar. And then there’s his je ne give a fuck demeanor, which comes from self-confidence. As Saunders puts it, “I love me some me. That’s what I always say.” That’s not so much a thing to be replicated as it is a thing to admire with bemusement and a touch of jealousy.
Matching is only the first step. For a while, Saunders used an opening line: Hey, big head. Then one match responded, You got a big head! Like, who the fuck you talking to? So that’s retired. (Lesson #6: Don’t neg.) These days, he usually opens with a nonsexual compliment, maybe a nod to her smile (the smile works both ways), then asks a few conversation starters. What’s the first thing you do in the morning? Who would you shadow for a day? Who’s on your personal Mount Rushmore? (Lesson #7: Ask icebreakers that’ll reveal the parts of your match’s personality that most interest you.)
If all goes well, the next step is a date. Yes, even in 2021. “I don’t take the pandemic into consideration that much,” he says, then clarifies: “Not to say I’ll be going out tonight.” (Lesson #8: Take the pandemic into consideration.) But the point of Tinder is to move off Tinder. First to text or Instagram, then to a neutral setting to see if you like the person as much as you liked their profile.
Seems simple, right? As anyone who has ever waded into the dating field knows, it’s not. Like Tinder’s algorithm, the true success of dating has an air of mystery to it, and trying to crack the code will drive you crazy. Then you’re single and crazy. Then you start talking to the yellow wallpaper.
Oh, there’s one more piece of advice that Saunders credits for his success after the right swipe: “Take the initiative and lead with love.” When pressed, he explains. “Just be positive. This person may not be the love of my life, this may not lead to a hookup, but it’s a connection that I’m making.” (Lesson #9: Sometimes the connection is enough.)
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