Adventures in Tinder-land

If there’s one thing I love, it’s hearing about my friends’ love lives. I’m always the first to want to know who went out with whom, what they did and how it went. You know that obnoxious female relative at family parties who always wants to know if you’re dating someone? That’s me. But there is nothing like living vicariously through your friend’s dating successes and blunders.

One of my friends, who frequently entertains me with his many tales, told me about some of the apps he used to meet people. He encouraged me to try one, just for fun. He recommended Tinder.

Tinder is a social media app that quickly became a popular forum for online dating. You sign into the app using Facebook and it transfers your basic information, such as your first name, age and interests, as well as your photos. You choose which photos you want to use and add a brief description of yourself. The app then finds your location and will find potential matches within a certain radius that you set.

Using the app is simple. If you like someone, you swipe right. If you dislike them, you swipe left. If you and the other person both swipe right, you have a match and have the option to message them.

The original aim of the app was to help the user meet other people. It has since evolved into a hook-up app. Yet, friends assured me that I could find people on there actually interested in just meeting new people. Still, I was hesitant to even try it. Using an app to find a suitable guy seemed like going to Forever 21 to find investment pieces: you are simply not looking in the right place.

Still, I downloaded Tinder. Its orange flame icon beckoned to me as if I were a moth. I wanted to go in to see if there were people I knew on there. I had no intent of actually using the app to find a match. And yet, it happened. Infrequently, at the encouragement of my app-savvy friend, I found my finger going right. The key word is infrequently.

“Oh, he has facial hair?” Swipe left.

“Is that a girl in his photo? Nice try.” Swipe left.

“There is more than one guy in this photo and I can’t be bothered to figure out which one is him.” Swipe left.

Occasionally, I would swipe right. In these cases, the candidates would have to meet my clean-shaven, solo photo criteria and often have another appealing factor. One guy had a questionable style blog; another had several dogs in his photos. It surprised me when I began getting matches for every right swipe. Soon enough, I got my first message from a guy who I’d liked because he too had a black lab.

Mr. Comedian, as I called him, messaged me with a classic, if not frightening opening line: “Knock, knock.”

Oh, you have got to be kidding me, I thought to myself as I sarcastically replied:  “Oh boy, who’s there?”

“Noah,” he answered.

This was too much for me to handle kindly.

“Noah you, right?” I answered, thinking I had cracked the riddle.

“Haha noo, you’re supposed to say Noah who?”

Apparently, he did not catch my displeasure with the conversation and thought I didn’t understand the concept of a knock-knock joke.

“Fine,” I typed back. “Noah who?”

“Noah good place for our first date, Erin?” It came complete with a winky face emoji.

Excuse me? You haven’t even taken the time to get to know me and you want me to go out on a date with you? I simply could not help the sarcasm in my reply.

“I’m afraid I don’t know of any good places amidst the glaring dullness of American suburbia to go with a person who I just connected with on a mildly sketchy app based on a singular photo.”

My conversation with Mr. Comedian ended shortly after that. But there were others. I soon discovered that the turnover rate is high on Tinder. If it doesn’t work out with one guy, then there are several more lined up right behind him.

Following Mr. Comedian was Basketball Boy, a guy I had liked because one of his photos featured my former workplace in the background. I began to regret this impulsive right-swipe when most of the conversation revolved around him asking me basketball trivia and being amazed that I actually know something about sports, despite the fact I am not overly interested in them. He did not quite get my sarcasm and told me he felt like I was “writing a book with (my) words”. I tired of him quickly and the conversation mercifully ended once I told him I liked Glee.

There were others though with whom I actually managed to have engaging conversations. There was “Fitz”, a guy who I warmed up to when he complimented me on my Great Gatsby t-shirt. We ended up discussing F. Scott Fitzgerald, which led to a discussion of favorite books. I was impressed with him and we ended up talking for several days.

I also kept up a long-standing conversation with a guy I referred to as “Mr. Worldwide”. We had both just returned from studying abroad and lamented together about missing Europe.

The appeal of these random conversations quickly wore off and after just a day, I became tired of constantly having messages and worrying about what to say. After another few days the messages trickled down, as I stopped right swiping. However, Fitz and Mr. Worldwide continued messaging me, trying to keep up the momentum of our admittedly good conversations. I just had too much going on though to really care. I was working, travelling and spending time focusing on what was in front of me. I wasn’t interested in being on my phone and talking to someone I didn’t even know.

My lack of interest in conversing with strangers should have been a sign to end my Tinder career. But I simply could not give it up; I was drawn in to see the profiles of people I know and was determined to stay on just to do so. Things took a turn for the comical when I visited my friend one night and decided to lower my distance range so people we knew would start popping up. There is something oddly humorous about seeing people you know on online dating and getting to see how they present themselves to total strangers.

We sat on our phones, shrieking when we found someone we knew. It was all fun and games until I decided to swipe right on a guy we knew from high school, just to see what would happen. To my bemused delight and horror, we matched.  Oops.

I sat there, unsure of what to do as our little photos popped up in the screen while Tinder declared the match, encouraging me to message him. I was unsure of what to do. Do I message him? Block him? Pretend it never happened? What if he messaged me? What if he didn’t? I had no clue what the etiquette was for this sort of social snafu.

Later in the night, Mr. NAHS (North Attleboro High School, my alma mater) messaged me, acknowledging the match. I replied, also acknowledging the overall weirdness of the situation and haven’t heard from him since. Here’s hoping for no awkward home-for-the-summer run-ins.

Great minds think alike and sometimes collide on Tinder. At least, that’s what I’m thinking was the case when I matched with Mr. NAHS. Chances are he too was swiping right to see would come of it. But I also knew there was the slim chance that he swiped right due to actual interest and here I was, treating it all like a joke.

This was one of the problems that motivated me to go into Tinder retirement.  I was becoming too disconnected. This became painfully obvious when I got the most awkward match in the history of Tinder. I knew what could happen when I swiped right, yet here I was, shocked and confused when the match was made. It’s easy to say and do whatever you want and forget that there’s an actual person behind there, potentially feeling the sting of rejection and sass. It all became very real when my Tinder path awkwardly crossed with Mr. NAHS, a person who is more than just a few photos and words on a phone screen to me.

I also discovered that I’m not crazy about the whole idea of online dating. In fact, I think it’s really weird. What initially kept me off Tinder was the idea that someone chose you based on a photo and a brief description. It all seemed so shallow to me. I realized that what I want from someone I’m dating is for him to like me, not just for my looks, but for who I am as a person. Granted, there are guys on Tinder who do want to get to know you, such as Fitz and Mr. Worldwide. Even to connect though is based on whether or not they like one photo. What if they accidentally swipe left or just don’t like that one photo? There goes a chance to connect. The idea of my meeting someone being based off a photo and a finger swipe leaves too much up to chance for my liking.

Yet, the Tinder app remains on my phone for now. I still hop on occasionally, never swiping right, but only to poke around and see who I know who’s on there. Who knows though? Maybe someday, the orange flame will beckon me  and I’ll try my luck again; hopefully better next time around.

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