I Got a Tinder for Anthropological Purposes. This is What Happened.

One of my friends, ever the bad influence (just kidding–if you’re reading this, I love you) convinced me to download Tinder and make myself a profile. I’m a little too paranoid for full on online dating, but in this instance I decided what the hell. I included one picture from like three years ago and a sentence fragment of a bio, yet I still got a fair amount of matches. I learned some things, too. So here, in no particular order, are the things I learned while using Tinder.

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So many people are named Mike, Nick, Matt, or Chris. At least 75% of the men I flicked through had one of those names. (On a related note, did you know that 84% of statistics are made up on the spot?) Okay, so I didn’t count, but the point is there were a lot. Maybe “Mike, Nick, or Chris” can be this generation’s “Tom, Dick, or Harry”? (Or “Tom, Dick, or Stanley,” if you’re more of a Disney buff than real human being. To be honest, that’s what I thought it was before I looked it up. It just has a nicer ring to it, don’t you think?)

Pictures of a man holding a fish while wearing a cutoff t-shirt are not very attractive. And are far, far too common. The same goes for four-wheelers, drunken poses and Red Solo Cups, hunting rifles, and cigars without a three-piece suit. The fact that you like craft beer and sports above all else is not even remotely interesting or attractive and, judging by the amount of people who claim it, possibly not true. I very much don’t want to see a picture of you with an ex-girlfriend, prom date, or bar hookup, and there is absolutely no point to having six other people in all of your pictures. How can I properly judge you by appearance alone if I don’t know which one is you?

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On the other hand, yes, your adorable golden retriever will make me more likely to swipe right, as will the cute child you’re playing with, as long as you specify it’s not yours. But that’s enough about generalizations and stereotypes. (I wonder if they’re different in different cities. Don’t know that I care enough to find out of my own accord.)

On a personal level, Tinder is a great confidence boost. No, really. I know you’re not supposed to get your self-worth from what other people think of you, but you can’t deny that sometimes it’s nice. Every time you get a match, a little part of your brain goes off, saying, “Hey! This person likes me!” And, while that not may be entirely true, at its barest form, you can say, “Hey! Look at all these attractive people who want to bang me!” (Thank you, Emma Stone, for letting me know that word was still relevant, at least circa 2011.)

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It’s also a great way to practice flirting. I had no intention of ever meeting anyone I met on Tinder, for multiple reasons. (All of which I will keep to myself, lest you judge me.) But that didn’t mean I couldn’t chat with anyone. I’ve been told I’m terrible at flirting. (Don’t feel bad; it’s true.) I even once had a friend take me to the mall with some of her friends so I could “practice flirting.” That turned out about as well as you would imagine. Honestly the only thing I remember from that day (aside from someone getting a date at a Wendy’s) is this comment: “Ooh, sass. Boys like sass. You know what else boys like? It rhymes with sass.” And then he winked. Words of wisdom to live by if I’ve ever heard any. So I figured Tinder would be a good way to practice flirting. After all, it wasn’t real.

Eventually I started swiping right on players and jerks, just because I thought it would be fun. If his bio contained the phrase “I usually won’t message first” or had anything cocky and disparaging to potential swipers, he was the one for me. My favorite was a body-builder who thought very highly of himself and demanded pick-up lines from anyone he matched with. I gave him a pick-up line (which to be honest, I’m not sure he fully understood), and then made a bet with my friend how many messages it would take for him to stop talking to me. Even without trying to sabotage it, I was right: three. He just didn’t understand the rare pleasure it was to be speaking with me. Hah. But this pattern repeated. I got pretty good at flirting over messaging, actually, so bonus. But I, for some reason, felt bad when I just stopped talking to them when I got bored. Maybe that means I still have a conscience?

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If you’ve stayed with me through this partial Tinder commercial, it all goes downhill from here. But I’ll pause for a confession first: I never actually swiped left or right. I couldn’t ever remember which was which, so I just hit the little heart or x, depending. Unless I dropped my phone and accidentally swiped one way or the other, which happened a few times. But I’ll continue to use the swiping terminology, because that’s what most people know. If you’re anything like me, right equals yes, left equals no. Oh, and confession number two: Yes, all of these gifs are going to be Emma Stone gifs, because she’s wonderful and lovely and I want to be her. Anyway.

Tinder is a cesspool. It’s a who’s who of the underside of humanity. With a lot more filtered pictures and bad pick-up lines.

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(Except this one. Because it fit.)

If you could take the concept of objectifying people, and boil it down to one of its most basic forms, you would end up with Tinder. You’re shown a picture or three of a person, maybe a few sentences describing their personality, character, likes, or dislikes, and asked whether or not you find them attractive enough to talk to and/or hook up with. A couple of the bios I found said something along the lines of “I don’t expect you to read this,” which made me indescribably sad. Are people really that shallow and pathetic? I refused to swipe right on someone until I read their bio. Even if they didn’t have a bio, that in itself said something about them, something that I needed desperately to know before agreeing to anything.

Anyway, if you both find each other attractive enough, you’re then subjected to stupid pick-up lines or infinite varieties of “hey.” Seriously, infinite. There’s the typical hi, hey, hello, sup. There’s the double, triple, quadruple y (i.e. heyyy). There are multiple pet names, all with varying degrees of familiarity and degradation. There’s the colonparenthesis, semicolonparenthesis. And emojis. So many emojis. And the cream of the crop? Well they mix and match these options and still somehow end up unoriginal. It’s pretty much magic.

So you get past the painful intro, the useless small talk, the “You like coffee? I like coffee!” and… there’s literally nothing else. Very, very few people were interested in having any sort of legitimate conversation. I would ask a question, hoping to maybe get to know someone or at least engage in some witty banter, and I would get some half-assed answer, a winky face, and maybe a “haha you?” So boring. I’m pretty sure the collective IQ and social ability of Tinder is the approximate size of a pile of dog crap. If Tinder had encouraged reaction gifs (and if anyone there had half the sense of humor they claimed to), I would have gotten this on a daily basis:

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But alas, people are not that creative. I would have actually appreciated the thought put into that one. I was talking to one guy (he had a kid; he accidentally slipped past my filtering system) and asking him about his life, about his kid. He responds to one of my questions with the completely unrelated statement, “I’d be good to be friends with benefits.” (That was me paraphrasing. The original was not nearly that grammatically correct.) But really? If there’s a lull in the conversation, maybe. If it actually addresses something I asked, sure. If you start with that, you’re awful, but okay. But to respond to a completely unrelated question?

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And, see, the worst part of all of this, to me, is that people do it voluntarily. If humanity was forced to sign up for this dating service as some kind of big brother mind control thing, then sure. But people legitimately think that it’s a good idea.  They make a profile with the pictures that flatter them the most (at least, I hope they do. I had my doubts for some of the profiles I came across), they do what they can to make themselves agreeable to strangers in a bite-sized piece, then say, “Hey! Catcall me! Hey! Judge me! Hey! Objectify me and reduce my life and emotions to how attractive you find me, agreeing to me not even as you would a piece of meat, but as you’d agree to take a flyer for a band you’ve never heard of forced on you by a stranger with too many piercings!”

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I think the idea was that people could present themselves as a fancy dish from a nice restaurant–pretty, unique, desirable, and in an incredibly small portion that leaves you wanting more. But they all come across more as a two-piece chicken nuggets or a Whopper with three bites already taken out of it: pointless and kind of gross. Do you remember that scene in Crazy, Stupid, Love where Steve Carell is trying to channel his inner Ryan Gosling and every time the woman tells him something, he cries, “BORING”? That’s what I felt like doing to almost every single person I talked to, and not even because I was trying anything. They were just legitimately boring. The most interesting guy I talked to, in his main picture, was wearing a bed sheet toga. I don’t know what that says about me, or humanity, but I don’t think it’s anything good.

Tinder is a fascinating idea, to be sure. It plays to the microwave generation’s need for immediacy, and it’s efficient. And the name is brilliant, really. Tinder: All you need is a spark. (I should work for their marketing department.) But it is the epitome of inauthenticity. The fact that it links to Facebook should have been my first clue, now that I think about it. There’s nothing real, nothing meaningful, nothing even remotely authentic. People are pictures and pick-up lines, no more. I didn’t take it at all seriously, but it still drained my energy, my happiness. I want to believe there are still good people in the world. Tinder gives you proof after proof that that’s not true, and you have to constantly remind yourself that this is only a lonely and pathetic subset of the population, not exactly the winners, the stars, the stand-up citizens. It’s seriously exhausting.

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I didn’t even really learn to flirt. I picked up a few phrases and emoji placements that work better than others, but nothing incredibly helpful. The slightly degrading, sort of flirtatious phrases and pet names were a crowd favorite (e.g. oh come now, darling) and a properly placed winking kiss emoji can make anything tempting. But that’s not a lot of help when I come across an attractive man in a Barnes&Noble. Still totally clueless there.

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Actual picture of me flirting.

All this to say, don’t get a Tinder. Even if you don’t take it seriously, it just shows you how awfully sad humanity can be, the depths it’ll sink to if given the chance. If you want a date, go to a coffee shop, a bookstore, a bar. Be original. Be interesting. Be authentic. Treat people like they’re human beings, like they’re worthy of time, effort, and respect.

But if you’re just looking for a meaningless hookup and you don’t think you’re attractive enough to find one at a bar, by all means, use Tinder. But whatever you do, keep it classy.

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1 thought on “I Got a Tinder for Anthropological Purposes. This is What Happened.”

  1. Love your writing style! This line: “Treat people like they’re human beings, like they’re worthy of time, effort, and respect.” YES.

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