I’ve never been one for online dating. I have a hard enough time using social media accounts; mine are often relegated to the last app page in my phone, left to collect dust. On top of that, the amount of free time I have during the semester is minimal at best, and I’d rather use that time strengthening existing relationships, or working on hobbies. Having said that, I’m not one to say no to making new connections; I love meeting new people and trying new things, whether that be finding a new coffee shop downtown, or taking an impromptu road trip to the Oregon coast.
However, Tinder fascinates me. It’s a way to connect with anyone in your area, many of which you’ll have never known to exist before. You could meet someone who’s so perfect for you that you’ll wonder how you never met them before. Or, you could meet someone you wish you’d never met. It’s kind of like Russian roulette, but less dangerous. (Probably.) So, for the sake of journalism, I decided to dip my toes into the vast ocean that is Tinder.
But before I leapt in, I asked a few acquaintances what they’d experienced. Andrea, a 24-year-old UFV student, said that though she had numerous matches to choose from, most of her interactions on Tinder were either “horrifying,” with potential dates bombarding her with messages when she didn’t reply for several hours, or lackluster, with the conversation “fading out as quickly as it began.” Leah, a 21-year-old UFV student, called her experience with Tinder “mediocre at best.”
Drew, a 22-year-old UFV student, had a different experience. Though he swiped through hundreds of potential partners, he only matched with “about 10 per cent of them, maybe 15.” Those whom he did match with were too shy to message first, and often replied with only a few words, not appearing to be invested in the conversation at all. Noah, a 25-year-old UFV student, experienced a similar situation as Drew.
Unfortunately, Andrea, Leah, Drew, and Noah weren’t the only ones who expressed these views. Nearly all of the people I asked had comparable experiences. Why is it that so many people use Tinder, and just as many report having little to no luck actually connecting outside of the app? Many people, myself included, cite that we are “too busy” to bring another person (or people) into our lives. So, why are we using Tinder, then?
I think Tinder is turning into no more than another social media app for us to scroll through. Like Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat, we like and scroll unconsciously as a way to distract ourselves from our daily tasks. It becomes habit, a way to shirk responsibility, and to let ourselves “relax.” But what’s relaxing about mindlessly scrolling through something we have little to no interest in? All we’re doing is wasting time, procrastinating from our next assignment or task. It’s a passive way to placate ourselves, and to check out when we no longer want to be in the present moment.
Our habit of mindlessly scrolling can be linked to how many people treat relationships now — as a passive way to drift through life, or as a distraction or time filler. By taking the timeless practice of dating, and turning it into another social media app that promotes unconscious scrolling, we’re turning relationships into a peripheral activity, something we do when we have 10 minutes free before class. We are diminishing the importance of relationships, and the amount of time and energy we put into them. We don’t often commit or form attachments; these are challenging to do when you’re toggling your attention between the dozens of matches you have.
Another problem that Andrea had, as with practically all of my female friends that I asked, is that many found themselves the target of unwanted sexual attention instantly upon matching with someone. Instead of a simple “Hey, how’s it going,” or commenting on something in their profile, the match decides to open with lewd, unwarranted remarks, some of which are blatant sexual harassment.
What makes a person think that it’s acceptable to bombard someone with unnecessary, troubling messages online? Is it the anonymity, or would they be like this in real life, too? I’ve heard people say that creating a Tinder profile is an invitation for creeps to wedge themselves into your life, as though this welcomes them to send concerning messages to others. To an extent, anyone making a Tinder profile has to expect that they will meet some people they wouldn’t interact with on a day to day basis (and that’s what it’s about, right? Meeting new people), but it’s not an invitation or a valid excuse to be a creep, and no one is “asking” for harassment.
On that cheery note, I forged ahead and installed Tinder. I’d used it intermittently throughout the years for same-sex partners, often using it for a couple days and then forgetting about it for weeks (or months) while I focused on university. My old profile was still there, but I changed it to fit better with my current situation: “Poly, pan, writer, avid reader, lover of cake. Let me take photos of you and drag you to local shows.” It was simple, but it covered all the bases.
As I said, I’d only ever used Tinder for same-sex partners, but this time (for journalism, and my ever-curious mind) I switched my preferences to include male and female. The people I’d had conversations with in the past were always kind and considerate; we shared stories of trips abroad or failed cooking recipes, traded favourite book titles, and bonded over our love of cats. Everything I’d experienced up until this point had been encouraging and exciting. No one ever questioned why I was polyamorous or pansexual, or made accusations about my life choices.
Unfortunately, this time was different. I had several people (all male) argue with me about why I was wrong for being polyamorous, that I was a tart (seriously), and one even said that I was pansexual “just to get attention,” or that I was “confused.” Cool. I was also called a few undesirable words, including but not limited to bitch, whore, and “see you next Tuesday.” And you know what the best part of it is? They didn’t even open with a “hello” or a “how are you,” they wasted no time telling me what they thought of my life choices. I have to wonder, did they only swipe right on me so that they could share an opinion of me that I definitely didn’t ask for? Again, this comes back to the question of anonymity: would they have said those things to me in person, or do they feel safer because they’re hiding behind a screen?
As an article from Learning Theories shows, anonymity plays a huge role in how people act and react online. There’s even a name for what spurred these inappropriate outburst: online disinhibition, which is the phenomenon of absence of restraint when speaking with others online. This occurs because both the person lacking restraint and the person receiving the result of this are relatively anonymous. Really, they are dehumanized; there is no tangible person in front of them, only a bio and strategically chosen photographs behind a screen.
Because of this unfavourable experience right out of the starting gates, and due to unfortunate events that I know many of my female friends and acquaintances share with me (ie. men not respecting boundaries), I was a little wary of actually meeting men in person. Even if they seemed to be an okay person from our minimal online interaction, I was worried that we’d meet in person and they’d be dangerous. Maybe it isn’t fair to pigeonhole men into this category, but by how often problems with boundaries arise, I think it’s fair to be cautious.
Having said that, I did go on two dates with men I matched with. One date, Andrew, was relatively enjoyable; we hung out on the UFV campus and ended up talking about LGBT+ rights, and deep sea creatures for an hour, and still, as we parted, I felt no more than a friendly connection with him. The second date did not go nearly as well. I was supposed to meet Scott at Cactus Club at 6 p.m. He showed up half an hour late with no explanation and proceeded to talk at me about his job (business), his ex (a hag), and himself (wonderful, apparently). I also learned, through no desire of my own, that he thinks feminists hate men, and shouldn’t go to university because they belong in the home, cooking and cleaning for “their man.” I, of course, informed him that I have a double major in psychology and creative writing, and that I have no plans of being a stay-at-home wife. The date quickly ended, to our mutual relief, I’m sure.
Luckily, I matched with some wonderful people as well. Amazingly enough, I matched with several women that didn’t live 30 km away, and went on dates with three of them. I met the first one, Leah, for coffee at Oldhand. We talked for hours about everything: books, writing, baking, embarrassing childhood memories. She’s currently working on a creative writing degree at UFV, and enjoys photography in her spare time. I met Rose, my second date, at Little Saigon, and we bonded over horrible movies; she also enjoys movies with bad acting, and we were thrilled to learn that we both loved The Stuff. (If you haven’t seen it and enjoy bad movies, give it a watch.) Jessie, my third date, and I went to Hemingway’s. We sifted through the bookshelves together for nearly two hours, and I came out of it with a new friend who I can trade poetry and short stories with. Overall, I’d say these dates were highly successful, and I’d love to see each of them again, whether on a date or otherwise. They were all really cool people, and I’d love to get to know them better.
One problem I had with switching my Tinder to include both men and women is that the matches with men far outstretched the matches with women. For every hundred men I swiped through, there were about five women. Granted, I know from past experience that there are not a plethora of women seeking women on Tinder based in Abbotsford, but this is ridiculous. Of course, this was only a problem because, as I realized through this experience, I’m really not interested in connecting with individuals who identify as male, at least not through online means. I’d rather meet men organically through school or events in the community, where I can feel out their personality for myself, not having to guess at who they are by a short bio and some photos (which can be very telling, mind you, but nothing beats in-person interaction). At least I was learning from my experience.
Another problem I had with using Tinder is that it’s absolutely draining. After even 10 or 15 minutes of swiping, I felt wiped. Incidentally, the same way I feel when I’ve been mindlessly scrolling through Facebook or Instagram. You’re bombarded with dozens of matches within a matter of minutes, many of which you will then have a mediocre conversation with that doesn’t always get past the initial back and forth of pleasantries. Of course, there are the conversations that are interesting and meaningful, but slogging through the majority that aren’t is exhausting.
I think that one of the biggest misconceptions about Tinder is that it’s “just for hookups.” However, swiping through potential matches, I noticed that many, if not all, of the bios stated that they were looking for anything from friends to long-term, serious relationships. Of course, that includes hookups, but out of the people I matched with, I don’t recall any stating in plain terms that they were looking for hookups. Of course, they may have opted to leave that out of their profile and bring it up in conversation instead, though I never encountered that.
So, what did I learn during my time with Tinder? You’re going to connect with a lot of new people with different interests, values, and beliefs than you have, but you’ll also find people who you share everything with, and that you’ll feel you’ve known your entire life. Depending on how you handle social interaction (and social media in general), it might be a completely exhausting experience, or an exciting adventure into the world of relationships. And no, it’s not just for hookups. If you’re lucky, you’ll form new relationships, friendship or otherwise, with wonderful people you’re glad to have met.
I’d say my experience on Tinder was positive. I met many interesting people, several of which I plan to keep as friends, one who may turn out to be an excellent travel buddy, and one I’m growing quite attached to. For someone who was so resistant to committing to a weeks-long trek into the world of dating apps, I came out the other side (relatively) unscathed, but now, I’m more than ready to see the flame icon flicker out.