clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Stop looking for ‘the one’ on dating apps, Hearst executive Joanna Coles says

In her new book “Love Rules,” Coles argues that apps like Tinder have a dark side we need to think about more.

If you buy something from a Vox link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

Dating app icons on a smartphone screen Leon Neal / Getty Images

If you want to meet and date more people, then dating apps are a great “arrow in your quiver,” says former Cosmopolitan editor in chief Joanna Coles. But after the introduction, you need to do the rest of the work.

“If you swipe, have an exchange and think you’ve met ‘the one,’ you are going to be sorely disappointed,” Coles said on the latest episode of Recode Decode, hosted by Kara Swisher. “The question you should be asking when you meet someone offline for the first time is not, ‘Is he the one? Am I the one for him? Am I the one for her?’ It’s, ‘Can I add this person to my actual network? Could they be a friend? Could I introduce someone else to them? Do I want to see them again?’”

Now the chief content officer at Hearst (the publisher of Cosmo), Coles is the author of a new book, “Love Rules: How to Find a Real Relationship in a Digital World.” She told Recode’s Kara Swisher that her research for the book turned up story after story of prolonged digital flirtations that ended after one in-person meeting.

“One of the things I heard repeatedly from men and women is that you would meet this person that you’d had this flirty [text] exchange with, that you thought you knew,” Coles said. “They came in, they didn’t look at all like you’d expected them to look, because you’d filled them with positive attributes over this weird, spectral exchange. And then, one or the other would frequently say, ‘It’s great to meet you! I think we can both tell this isn’t going to work.’”

“You’d spent a month, wasted, fantasizing about who this person is and that you might really get on when you eventually meet,” she added. “It’s such a waste of time!”

You can listen to Recode Decode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Overcast or wherever you listen to podcasts.

On the new podcast, Coles also talked about a complaint she frequently heard from women who are currently dating or in relationships: They felt they were competing with online porn. Although she described herself as “not anti-porn,” Coles said it has unsettlingly become the “default way of learning how people have sex.”

“What works for the camera doesn’t necessarily work in real life,” she said. “Men expected them to behave like porn stars, so they wanted them to look like porn stars — so no pubic hair — and they wanted them to moan and say the things that porn stars say. A lot of that is really clichéd and it almost always involves the man at the center of things.”

A related trend is the hookup culture that has sprung up thanks to dating apps like Tinder and Grindr.

“It’s difficult to have good sex with strangers, especially if you’ve had very little communication beforehand,” Coles said. “Good sex is about good communication.”

If you like this show, you should also sample our other podcasts:

  • Recode Media with Peter Kafka features no-nonsense conversations with the smartest and most interesting people in the media world, with new episodes every Thursday. Use these links to subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Overcast or wherever you listen to podcasts.
  • On Too Embarrassed to Ask, also hosted by Kara Swisher, we answer the tech questions sent in by our readers and listeners. You can hear new episodes every Friday on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Overcast or wherever you listen to podcasts.
  • And Recode Replay has all the audio from our live events, including the Code Conference, Code Media and the Code Commerce Series. Subscribe today on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Overcast or wherever you listen to podcasts.

If you like what we’re doing, please write a review on Apple Podcasts — and if you don’t, just tweet-strafe Kara.

This article originally appeared on