by Molly McGinn

Let me guess. It goes something like this:
You install that new dating app. Kick it up and swipe. Flip through pics.
“Why is that dude posing with a gun?”
Swipe left. Swipe left.

“What’s with the trucker hats and duck lips (are duck lips still a thing)?”

Swipe. Swipe.

Swipe right. A match!

Then, they ghost. Or you ghost (you know you’ve done it). They use more emoticons than actual words, you say. They misspelled something. Or they just want to like, text. Forever. Ugh.

That’s a whole lot of newbies. And we’re still in the awkward phase.

You uninstall the apps. Put the phone down.

Spend the rest of the day hiding, on a Netflix binge.

Sound familiar?

Look — just because you use Instagram and can show your mom how to use that cool new Snapchat filter doesn’t mean you know how to app date. And there’s an uptick in app dating use.

“The share of 18- to 24-year-olds who use online dating has roughly tripled from 10 percent in 2013 to 27 percent today,” a recent online post from Pew says. “Today, 12 percent of 55- to 64-year olds report ever using an online dating site or mobile dating app versus only 6 percent in 2013.”

That’s whole a lot of newbies. And we’re still in that awkward phase according to Rebecca Newton, a Durham-based expert in online human behavior. But we’re getting better.

“Pretty soon, you’re going to have kids whose parents met on apps,” Newton said.

Until then, we need a little help. So this Valentine’s Day, we pulled together a few experts. A sex therapist. A relationship therapist. An online behavior expert. Plus, a few real-user tips from various genders and points of view.

Interestingly, no matter who we’re searching for, all of us in the app-dating community have some similar gripes. We want to be treated with kindness and respect. We don’t want to be confused about who you — the potential object of desire — really are. We want something real. Which begs the question: Why do so many people act a fool on these things? Who knows.

So reinstall Tinder, or Bumble, Scruff or whatever gets your groove on, and remind yourself, this isn’t about dating; it’s about joining the human race. Love isn’t a thing you lock down. It’s a thing you become.

Swipe.

THE APPS

If you’re gay, straight or queer, the old saying rings true: There’s an app for that.

Bumble

Just like Tinder, but made for women. Easily hackable for same-sex searches. Connects to your Spotify and Facebook accounts. When there’s a mutual match, women have 24 hours to make the first contact. The paid version has a bunch of nifty features, like time boosts allowing more time if that 24-hour period runs out.

HER

If you’re a lesbian and love trucker hats or duck lips, this fairly newish app for the LGBTQ community is more than just a photo gallery — it also shares articles and info about local meetups.

Jack’d

A dating app for gay men of color who want to find other men of color, and is a little more geared towards finding a relationship, rather than a hook-up.

OkCupid

A great option for a wide variety of seekers because it’s so customizable. Trans and poly couples like it for that reason.

Plenty of Fish

Sits somewhere between OkCupid and Tinder. For the folks who want a little more personality information than Tinder, but not as much as OkCupid, which features some pretty lengthy profile and personality questionnaires.

SCRUFF

The bear equivalent of Grindr. The founders set out to make it a safer experience for gay men travelling in countries where homosexuality is illegal and authorities used the apps to trap gay men.

Soul Swipe

Let’s not call it “black Tinder” because that sounds really ridiculous (even though that’s what everybody calls it).

Tinder

Every new dating app is some sort of Tinder copycat in terms of user experience. You can find thirsty singles within a certain mile radius, or if you travel a lot this is a great way to connect with people in the immediate area.

(Read more by clicking Page 2 below.)