I I first joined Tinder when I was 18. I was alone towards the end of my freshman year of college and couldn’t believe everyone was spending their summer revising in a library. I wanted to meet normal people – which seemed to irritate my friends, who didn’t understand why I wanted to “go out on hikes”.
Their skepticism stimulated me. Deep down, they were surely jealous of the freedom granted by Tinder. It wasn’t shame – it was validation. There were really hot singles in my area, who mostly thought I was attractive and were nice enough to relate to. Since then, I’ve been a dating app evangelist, constantly haranguing my friends to broaden their horizons and spin the digital roulette wheel.
Consider the alternatives. When Tinder was born ten years ago, I was 15. I’d never had a girlfriend, and I was already vaguely resenting the fact that finding “the right one” seemed to involve having exceptional luck, or running a campaign targeted at a woman of her own. workplace, gym, coffee shop or independent bookstore. The Inbetweeners and Seth Rogen films had made it clear that you didn’t have to be toned, fancy, or even washed to get the girl, but it still felt like a relentless wave of graft and rejection. Sure, dating sites existed, but they were for crackpots and divorcees — and according to the late 2000s, tabloid hysteria was awash with “child predators” and “Thai brides.”
Despite what you may have thought, people on dating apps are just like you and me. They just don’t know you yet, which to me is a key part of their appeal. Who doesn’t want to start a romance as a mysterious stranger, someone who gradually reveals their flaws rather than feeling the need to explain them from the start?
This year I’ve had 20 first dates, the majority of them with women I’ve met on apps. Some went wrong, but most went well – it’s fun pretending you have your life together for a few hours, and rubbing regularly and trying to put my best foot forward has been a form of immersion therapy after the lethargy and agoraphobia of the last months of the pandemic.
But what about entrusting my romantic prospects to an algorithm? Shouldn’t some things be done the old fashioned way? Call me a cynic, but I’ve long since accepted that algorithms dictate my fashion sense and musical taste (I’ve had Spotify since I was 11). Worrying about which partner the algorithm will provide seems almost strange now that the lines of code determine where people live, if they go to college, and who lives and who dies. And hasn’t there always been an algorithm? We simply called it fate or luck, while pretending to ignore the role that race, class, and geography have always played in romance. Really, marrying the boy you lived with in your freshman year of college should sound weird, not marrying the boy you carefully selected after vetting 299 others.
For all that dating apps allow for the racist, misogynistic, and superficial tendencies prevalent in mainstream society, my main caveat is that apps have given us too many choices. In the same way that I spend most evenings browsing Netflix (and Prime, Apple, iPlayer and Now TV) in search of something decent to watch, I am unable to commit to women, knowing that There are so many choices. . It’s overwhelming and exhausting. And like the Netflix menu, the more time passes, the less sure I am of what I’m looking for. Meeting people has become the easy part – but there’s no app for building a lasting connection with someone.
It’s okay to be indecisive, but it’s important to be honest with people – and with yourself. Just because you can find someone else doesn’t mean you haven’t found someone good. And there’s a fine line between having the confidence not to settle down and ghosts, flakes, shoals, breadcrumbs and just plain old folks treating people like crap because you can.
I quit Tinder a few years ago when it seemed like the people I wanted to date were moving to other apps. Now you can find me on Hinge (another app under the Match Group umbrella), just one of hundreds of apps promising to connect people based on their stated preferences. On a recent trip to the US, I was bombarded with ads for BLK, an app geared towards “black singles”, and I suspect my invite to Raya, the celebrity dating app, is on somewhere in my spam folder.
By giving people agency and expanding their circle, apps have made it easier than ever to find love. But I hope people don’t become blind to chance encounters and spontaneous connections just because they have half a dozen matches waiting for them at home. We may have spent a decade getting worked up, going home, and settling down with strangers, but just because there’s nothing wrong with meeting “the one” on your phone doesn’t mean you don’t have to either.
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