A couple of months ago whilst catching up over cocktails with a few of my nearest and dearest friends, I came to the realisation that I was the only person in the room who’s phone wasn’t continuously buzzing with the arrival of a new Tinder ‘match’. Tinder, in case you didn’t know, is a mobile dating app launched in 2012 which has pretty much dominated the UK dating scene ever since- by 2014 it was registering around 1 billion ‘swipes’ a day. It has been so successful in fact, that even celebrities are now openly admitting to joining up to the free application.
Anyway, sat in this bar listening to the continuous ‘ping’ of my friends phones’, I began feeling quite nostalgic, my thoughts turning back to those days at school when I hadn’t quite make the cut for the cool-kid group of girls with perfect hair and a trail of hormonal boys lining up to date them. However, after completely zoning out and then spending 5 minutes trying to remember the name of my year 5 dinner lady, wondering wether or not Justin Bieber has a more feminine face than me and trying to figure out if I had actually eaten the last cornetto ice cream in the freezer or if id hidden it in a secret spot… I eventually recognised that, unlike my childhood, this time it was in fact ME who was making the decision not become a part of the so-called ‘group’.
Now up until this point, the thought of joining Tinder had never even attempted to make its way into my overactive and erratic brain. Between 3 seasons of The Mindy project, travelling, blogging, freelance writing, university work and AAA batteries (y’all ladies don’t act like you don’t know what I’m talking about!), I barely had the time to check my emails in the morning, let alone set up a profile and scroll endlessly through photos of random men, cross-analysing them to make sure they were legit dating material and not secret serial killers/stalkers. And yet suddenly at this moment, surrounded by a bunch of my girlfriends who seemed to get an almost euphoric feeling whenever they were matched with some 6’1 rugby player who’s interests were Nando’s and Dan Bilzerian (why does EVERY guy on tinder have an interest in Dan Bilzerian?).. I began to feel a little bit left out.
And so, I caved in, proclaiming to myself that this would be more of an anthropological ‘case study’ as opposed to me actually having an interest in meeting guys or (shock horror) really dating.
Oh how wrong I was.
Tinder quickly became very addictive. I have never been the kind of gal to judge someone based on face-value (male or female) and I’ve never found that aesthetics were particularly important to me when it came to matters of the heart. And yet, here I was curled up in bed on a Saturday evening, surrounded by chocolate wrappers and 3 weeks worth of laundry, swiping past the faces of guys that didn’t immediately strike me as ‘attractive’, or ‘my type’ (honestly, I don’t even know what my ‘type’ is). How very judgemental of me. But thats the beauty (and in some ways the selling-point) of Tinder. Not only does it give the user the power to be picky, critical and narcissistic of others without having to do so face to face but it also delivers a form or immediate gratification and a confidence boost that we don’t really get when we’re not in a loving, committed relationship. Added to this that it enables you to bypass all the awkwardness that comes with meeting someone face to face for the first time and you’re pretty much onto a highly addictive and successful winner.
Thankfully, I’m not the only one to find myself relishing in my new found Tinder glory. New research shows that there are 50 million active users on Tinder, many of whom check their accounts 11 times a day and spend an average of 90 minutes per day on the app. Thats a lot of time spent staring at a screen, forming opinions of people based solely on their physical appearance and then trying to make small talk with them. Its also a lot of time spent away from the real world.
For me, the thrill of the initial week or so (okay, maybe 2-3 weeks) of continuous strokes to my ego from overly-complimentatary guys soon faded. This was in part due to the fact that for 4 days straight, I had been inundated with the most sexually explicit and frankly, derogatory messages from ‘overly-keen’ young men who obviously lacked any form of social etiquette. But I also stopped ‘swiping’ because I began to feel as if I were losing touch with real life and missing out on the opportunities that you get when you don’t spend 2 hours a day glued to your phone. You know, like meeting REAL people?
Although I can understand how for many, apps like Tinder are a positive tool and in some cases may even be the only way to enter the sometimes frightening and overwhelming world of dating- for example, individuals who lack the confidence to approach potential dates face to face or who just don’t have the time to meet people in their daily lives. I also feel that for the majority of us, these dating sites and apps have become more of a form of escapism from the real world. A platform where they can create and present a specific (and sometimes false) image of themselves and through which there is continuous reinforcement that judging people based on looks alone is a ‘normal’ thing to do.
Personally, I think its a shame. Long gone are the days of being introduced to hopeless idiots through friends, striking up conversation with beautiful strangers in coffee shops or chatting up the office hottie before grabbing a drink after work. Now its all, swipe this, swipe that, fill in this form of your specific interests here, do you like cheese? Tell us what kind of man you’re interested in here, do you have any allergies? Do you have a preference for black or white men? Would you be willing to date a vegan? How many km away from your current location should we be looking?. Don’t put in any of the hard (but fun) work here because we’ll find you the perfect match if we know your height, weight, whether or not you have pets here…. The list goes on and on and in the process it takes all the realism away from meeting someone face to face. Call me old fashioned but I prefer it the traditional and perhaps now out-dated way. I don’t want to start talking to a complete stranger through a screen after seeing a few photos of him and thus forming my own opinion of what kind of person he is. I want to see them for the first time, face to face (yes this is in part so that I make sure our future children will have a perfect nose to cheekbone ratio) but its also because I don’t feel that I can make a ‘real’ connection with someone unless I’m right there with them, away from technology and in the ‘real’ world.
I’m not suggesting we cut all ties with dating apps such as Tinder, like I said before, there are some of us for whom it is the only way of striking up any kind of relationship. However, I do think we need to keep in mind that away from our phone screens, there is a whole world full of amazing people who we might just not meet if we continue to rely solely on online dating. So go meet them!