One headache-ridden Sunday last month, while bored and hungover, I decided to throw myself headfirst into the pit that is online dating. I had been binge-watching Peep Show, which despite its suggestive name is not a form of voyeur porn, but rather a show about two loser roommates living in South London. Their troubles often involve misadventures with the opposite sex, so I got inspired to try to get into some scrapes of my own.
Back in 2010, during my last prolonged stint as an ‘eligible’ bachelor, online dating was a way for lonely fat men in basements to meet crazy purple-haired spinsters who lived in crooked houses with a ton of cats. But in 2015, online dating has become a game for hip young singles, played on overpriced, Chinese-made smartphones.
There are many different apps out there, and I was curious to explore what each of them had in store, so I downloaded every one mentioned in a BuzzFeed article entitled “You won’t believe the success rate of these dating apps!!”*
Most of them had no users nearby, and one meant for ‘quirky’ dating had only three. So even before I had begun, I felt once again betrayed and abused by BuzzFeed’s infernal click-baiting.
I had already heard of one of the apps, Happn, from a friend who had posted screen shots of messages from dozens of men, all of whom wanted to know if she was “enjoying her summer”. I’m still confused by that opening line. The answer can either be “yes, obviously,” or “No my dog died / I contracted lupus”. Either way, it’s not a conversation starter.
Happn is confusing, and I’m still not sure what to do with it. For those of you that don’t know, it basically allows you to see pictures of other people with the app whose paths you have crossed. It’s a kind of meta-gawking, probably most useful for hitting on the cute girl in the building across the street who never pulls the drapes when coming out of the shower. My naked neighbours are all quite unattractive, so I couldn’t find any use for Happn.
There is, however, an undisputed king of the dating apps. It is so mainstream that last Christmas I even heard my mom talking to her friends about it. Tinder. I have a dear friend who met his boyfriend through Tinder, and as a statement of their seriousness, they decided to delete the app from their phones together. Love in the 21st century.
For my own profile, I started by finding pictures in which I thought I looked most handsome, settling on four that I felt best showcased the person I believe myself to be: good-looking from a certain angle and in a certain light, enjoys coffee, has friends and is somewhat offbeat. I then made sure to ‘like’ the pages of my favourite cultural icons on Facebook – The Smiths, Kylie Minogue and Wes Andersen movies. If women were equally culturally astute, I would see it on their profile.
Tinder is simple. You’re presented with the profiles of potential matches one at a time. You can examine more of their photos if you wish, and if you like them, you swipe their profile to the right. If they also swipe your profile to the right, you are informed of the match, and you can start chatting.
Rejects are swiped to the left, and there were many. Automatic left swipes for me include boxy fake eyebrows, bathroom selfies, gym pictures, mentions of CrossFit, inspirational quotes, and most importantly, posing with drugged-out tigers on trips of self discovery to Southeast Asia.
My aesthetic and moral requirements eliminated large swathes of the Tinder population, but I did manage to get a few matches. I invited the most appealing on dates, and proceeded to go on three over the span of five days. It was exhausting – like a series of job interviews where you are also trying to maintain sexual tension with a prospective employer.
I thought the dates went quite well, but the women didn’t seem to agree, as there were no second dates. Maybe I’m just terribly boring. Maybe my Tinder profile was just too good, and my real self couldn’t compete. Or maybe treating your love life in the same way you select movies on Netflix – rapidly flicking through short descriptions and trailers –promotes a fast-paced gratification culture of short attention spans and disposable enjoyment. Who knows?
Despite my lack of success, I did learn a lot. Little is more fitting for the slacker generation than being able to flirt with strangers with the TV on, unpresentable and hung over. I learned that constructing an online dating alter ego is quite fun, and even provides interesting quasi-psychological insight into your own ego. But most importantly, I learned that despite the fun, at least for now I’ll just stick to the tried-and-tested method of awkwardly approaching girls at bars while safely drunk. Swipes left. M
*Ok, not an actual BuzzFeed article, but could you really tell?!