Every few weeks while I am diligently swiping left and right on Tinder, perusing the women of the internet, the sweet dames of cyberspace, the app will suddenly disrupt my window-shopping with a pop-up that asks if I would like to rate the application. Bugged though I am, I recognize that it is a lovely little tool for meeting coeds, so I give it five stars. Then it asks if I would like to leave a review. Does anyone actually do this? I know I always feel like stopping my swiping and messaging to inflate the ego of a billion dollar company seems like a poor use of my time. But it has made me think. Each time I am asked I reflect, even if subconsciously, on my time on the app. Has it been worth it? Has it helped me? Has it hindered my progression towards love, has it made me view women as a never-ending rolodex of disposable possibilities? Honest and full answers of these questions are difficult and multi-layered, but I think it’s worth exploring.
Sometime in 2012 my roommate came home and asked if I had heard about Tinder. I was in the dark, but once he broke down the premise for me I was on board without further questioning. So I could meet attractive women just because they liked my pictures and I liked theirs? It seemed like such a beautiful and simple concept. At least now I would know the person I met was surely at least moderately attracted to me. I got to work immediately.
I still recall my very first “Tinder Date” (the ubiquitous use of this name I despise by the way, I mean do you say Met Organically at Coffee Shop Date, or In The Same Class Date, or even Hoping to Hook up Date?). She was cute and we hung out at her place, watched a dumb movie and made out on the carpet because the couch was small and I am not a short person. If my memory holds up, we never talked again. Now I know what you are thinking—no wonder this guy loves Tinder, he’s just like all the other sleaze weasels out there, just wants a piece. But relax for a second and hear me out. I have always dated a lot, and have always kissed a lot. This started in middle school and has nothing to do with online dating and everything to do with my own issues (of which do not concern the purview of this essay). With that being said, I did enjoy Tinder immensely and met women often. In my mind it was just another way to meet someone. I still met girls organically, it just added another medium. And though there were not a few paramours and ill-advised decisions way too close to dawn, I actually dated with a certain amount of seriousness a few girls that I met from the app. A few of them didn’t live especially close, but were otherwise so amazing that we even attempted long-distance (within the state) relationships. Though a couple burned out in horrible fashion, I counted myself lucky to have met these girls that without Tinder I would never have come across. It was like whatever force was behind destiny and kismet and cosmic matchmaking all of the sudden recruited an army of invisible warriors of love to help me meet the right person. I know that sounds tremendously dumb, but it’s more or less how I felt.
Let’s fast forward to 2017. I am still single. I still use Tinder and other dating apps. I am now done with college and am a debatably less appealing age, 30. So, all in all, has it been worth it? Often on the app girls will ask questions like, “What are you looking for on here?” or “Have you had much success on Tinder?”. It takes a lot of self-control at this point to not dive head-first into why I think those questions are asinine. So I usually respond with honest brevity, “Girls” or “Yes”. But given the space and time we have here (assuming you are still reading), I will tell you how I feel. When asked why I am on a dating app, I feel like telling that person that it depends greatly on what they want, on how attractive I really find them in person, and how well we connect. No girl wants to hear “I am looking for a super hot girl that I fall deeply and maddeningly in love with and that will one day bear me 3-5 children.” They also don’t want to hear, “Well we obviously have nothing in common and hold diametrically opposed views of the world, so maybe we should just briefly hookup, but in a fun and tender way that you will both enjoy and cherish as a memory and certainly not as a shameful and regrettable act that leads to further self-loathing and cynicism.” So you give them a stock answer: “I am just looking to get to know someone and see where it goes.” That seems to pacify most concerns. As far as the question of if I have had success on the app, again, I am not sure they really want the truth. Should I say, “Well I would think so, I have been out with hundreds of girls, had girlfriends, kissed countless (that’s just an expression, I actually have the exact number written down), and have overall just been crushing it for nearly half a decade.” That’s gross, no one wants to read that. Is the equally truthful alternative any better, “Well, no I haven’t had success because I am still single, and I still get dozens of stunning matches that won’t respond, and have been stood up multiple times and bailed on hundreds of times, and I say I don’t have commitment issues, but I probably do, and the use of an app based wholly on relative hotness likely exacerbates the condition, and the paradox of choice might be crippling my ability to settle (a word I disdain in dating contexts by the way) on one female, and on top of that, the myriad of fake accounts and unattractive sludge I have to wade through is taxing and at times disturbing.” No, in no way can you ever say something like that. So again, you revert to more generic rejoinders like, “Oh I suppose I have had a little success, but nothing amazing.”
I am tempted to get into long comparisons of competing apps like Bumble, Mutual, and OKCupid (my knowledge of Grindr being cursory at best), but to me it just depends on the demographic. Certain cities, age groups, and religions tend to lean towards different models of the same concept, which is to meet someone you think is hot who apparently also thinks you are hot/interesting as well. I currently favor Mutual over the other apps, but that has little to do with user experience, design, or algorithmic qualities. I prefer it because it seems to have more girls that I am interested in that match with me. It’s that simple. And if a better app comes out tomorrow and all the cuties in town jump ship, I’m sure I will be there.
We could argue over the pros and cons of online dating ad nauseam, but the point is (at least for me) that it’s another way to meet someone. It might encourage vanity, it might objectify the opposite sex, it might promote promiscuity, and it might retard emotional growth. But all of these maladies existed pre-internet and will continue on until the planet has melted or imploded or been wiped away by space matter. So we might as well focus on the good of it—it enables the uber-busy to date more. It avails persons to you that you otherwise never would have come in contact with, and it allows the timid and the dating neophytes to work on their patter at any time. It gives hope to people that have lost hope. Sadly, there is no elixir we can sip that will rid the world of crappy people, and there is no formula or recipe for avoiding heartache. Dating sucks and always will, it is and always has been what we make of it. May we make diamonds where there was nothing but tiny particles of carbon in the earth’s deep, swollen mantle.