There’s a point in your early twenties when hooking up with that guy from your university halls and holding onto that rapidly withering school romance is replaced with “dating”. With 9-5 days and nightmare commutes, romance is no longer spontaneous but scheduled.

I entered the world of dating bright eyed and optimistic. I was going to be courted, meet wonderful men and have movie-worthy stories to tell. However, I soon learned that everyone is operating by different rules.

I’ve learnt a lot in my short time of dating so here are some tips to help you navigate the wasteland that is modern romance.

Guide to dating

Don’t expect too much

I’m a huge advocate of dating as something fun to do, a way of going to cool bars and meeting people you wouldn’t ordinarily mix with. However you must remain in the moment; mentally planning your wedding after a successful trip to the pub is a big no. Excitement is fine but unrealistic expectations will always lead to disappointment- take each date as it comes. Equally if you find yourself trapped in flat conversation, don’t despair. It’s not your fault and just because one person out of six billion people doesn’t find you irresistible, you are not on a fast track to die alone.

It is okay to date more than one person

Dating someone is like getting a Netflix free trial or test driving a car. You’re not going to commit to a subscription or purchase a new vehicle until you are 100 % convinced it is the one for you.

Dating can hover uncomfortably in a grey area in between singledom and being in a relationship – but it doesn’t have to be this way. Honesty is key. Remaining on the same page is vital to keep dating free from dramatics.

Early on, it’s normal to date many people as you are merely socialising and testing the water. It is good to assess what is a reasonable number. A maximum of 3 seems sensible or you’ll end spending your time juggling. Be respectful: never see more than one a night, don’t text another while you’re with one and don’t flip out if you find out your date is doing the same thing. Hypocrisy is never sexy.

Never assume exclusivity. If you have been seeing someone for a few months you are well within your rights to ask where you stand. If they say no and you’re not okay with that, you are equally in your rights to explain this. Although, don’t force them to change their behaviour, if someone is not ready to commit you cannot back them into a corner this way. Similarly if you want to continue to date multiple people but your date doesn’t like this, it’s best to cut it off before feelings get hurt.

Apps should be used as an extra

We are the instant gratification generation, so naturally dating aps are popular, with Tinder being the McDonalds of the dating world.

Quick and based on instant attraction I can see why it is so prevalent. Although it has gained a reputation for sleaze, everyone has that friend of a friend’s sister’s cousin who met their soulmate on Tinder. So on we scroll.

My problem is I don’t think people can be reduced to a selection of carefully selected photos and wittingly crafted characters. Everyone has met that one person, who is not traditionally their “type” but there is an inexplicable attraction. Chemistry, even. Meeting someone for the first time in a physical sense can be much more telling, whereas on Tinder you may swipe past your possible soulmate because you don’t like the colour of their shirt.

There is also the issue of having too much choice, with every person presenting their best possible self, you’re never really satisfied and always on the lookout for something better.

By all means use it, but try meeting people organically too. Attraction cannot be planned.

Go outside, look people in the eye, rather than through a screen. Have a conversation that you haven’t spent ten minutes trying to compose.

If not for anything else, wouldn’t it make a much better story if you sat next to that cute guy at the park? Rather than sent him a charm on Happn?

Avoid social media stalking

Social media is the death of the first impression. Stalking has become almost socially acceptable. I have a friend who went on a date and asked the guy lots of questions, despite the fact that she knew most of the answers already due to her pre date “research”. I understand you want to check he’s not a serial killer but how would you feel if someone made a snap judgement of you based on your twitter feed? Dates are supposed to exciting and mysterious, don’t kill this but getting a half-baked digital impression. If you want to know something, find out the traditional way.

Do what feels right

Who decided you shouldn’t kiss on the first date or that sex must be saved for the third? Or that the man should pay? Or that dates have to be simple drinks or dinner?

It’s 2015 – follow your gut and as long you’re protecting yourself emotionally and physically, you’ll be fine. No one wants to look back at their twenties and wish they’d had more fun.

Don’t be reserved

Finally, be forth coming with what you want. People don’t have time to wait around and agonise for 3 days about whether the person is going to accept their date invitation. You want to go? Say yes or you’ll end up being replaced with a swipe.