It started out as a game, basically. I’m pretty sure that’s always how it starts.
Kristen and I were curled up on my bed one cold night last winter, drinking craft beer and complaining about our love lives. We were both between boyfriends and frustrated with the lack of hygienic boys on campus who cared about something besides how many grams of Purple Haze they had in their mason jars, we started talking about online dating. The conversation quickly drifted to Tinder, the smartphone dating app. How did it work, I wanted to know?
“Swipe right on the hot guys,” Kristen said, “and swipe left on everyone else. If they swipe right on you, then you match, and you can message each other. If you swipe left, they can’t talk to you and they never see you again.”
It sounded like a fun way to spice up the night. So we cracked open another beer and downloaded the app.
Spoiler alert: it was the worst idea ever.
Now, finding someone who doesn’t make you want to vomit after 30 minutes of conversation is hard enough as it is. You would think that using a dating app might make it easier to weed out the bad apples, but no. It actually makes it much worse. Before long, we were floundering in a sea of bad pickup lines and jokes about butt sex.
Raenen was the first boy with whom I talked. Actually, we didn’t talk, because Raenen didn’t bother to say hi. He just sent me a picture of his disco stick, to borrow a euphemism from our hallowed goddess Lady Gaga.
Kenneth told me I looked like Old Dirty Bastard from Wutang Clan. (“But in like, a good way, you know?”)
After about 20 of these conversations, I started to get really depressed. So I decided to test the limits of exactly how insane I could act and still get propositioned for sex.
I told John I beat my dog with a frying pan. He replied: “Lol. So wanna come over?”
I told Kyle I put my cat through the dryer on purpose. Same response.
Shortly thereafter, I uninstalled the app and Kristen and I proceeded to get really, really drunk on whiskey because it was the only way of emotionally coping with whatever had just happened.
That was a year ago. Since then, I’ve gone through several phases of downloading and deleting the app, and still can’t make up my mind on how I feel about it. Part of me loathes the idea of using a dating app on my phone, since I would much prefer the people I know in real life to be attracted to me in the first place. On the other hand, Tinder provides a self-esteem boost. It is also an easy way to expand your pool of options and maximize dating efficiency: Do we have common interests? What kind of music do you listen to? Oh, you don’t have an ax in your closet? Cool, maybe we should get a drink later.
However, there’s far more to a successful relationship than ascertaining that the object of your desire fulfills an arbitrary list of traits. Not that common interests and values aren’t important, but it’s so easy to be attracted to the concept of a person, instead of who they really are. I call it the “Bullet Point Boyfriend.” I had one once. On paper, he was perfect: president of his university’s photography club, DJ at a local radio station, well-dressed, loved surfboarding, and was vaguely hip in all the right ways. It took me an embarrassingly long time to figure out that we were actually not compatible whatsoever, and that I never really liked him. I just liked the idea of him.
And that’s what I think the problem is with Tinder. And it’s not just the app either. Apps come and go. It’s about social media. It’s about how we can so easily log on to Facebook and waste hours clicking through someone’s profile, and come away feeling as though we really know them. It’s about the meticulous curation of one’s image via Instagram, how easy it is to confuse someone with their online persona.
Exactly how social media has affected the way we relate to each other remains to be seen. When it comes to dating, I can’t help but wonder, isn’t there we’ve forgotten? Casual conversations with baristas, cashiers, that cute person that’s always in the library. While we are sitting around in coffee shops and bars, sending Snapchats and swiping left or right, what are we missing?