This is why we can’t have nice things: Adventures in Tinderland

It’s already a bit of a curse going on a date with a publishing student. I’ve judged how grammatically correct your messages are, and now I might be writing about you. It sounds like a Taylor Swift song—it’s okay, I’m not writing this to take a stab at anyone—but, ‘Look What You Made Me Do.’ Tinder, Bumble, Coffee Meets Bagel—cute names as well as a necessary evil. In an era where everything from television to food delivery is on-demand, it seems our need for connections and intimacy have also followed this instantaneous trajectory.

Speaking of Taylor Swift, remember when Joe Jonas broke up with her over a 27 second phone call? Doesn’t sound that bad now, but I remember the uproar from 2008’s teenagers and Ellen DeGeneres. Flash forward to 2016, however, Taylor seemed to think it was okay to break up with Calvin Harris over the phone.  But that’s interesting isn’t it? When ghosting is the easy way out these days, a phone call seems rather… courteous?

A few years ago, I would never have joined a dating website. I also felt this way about Ubers and AirBnBs—I was raised by overbearing parents who told me, ‘don’t talk to strangers.’ But as sharing economy became a thing, and networking making its way into the digital sphere, I decided to be more open-minded.

There’s an app for everything, including online dating. Remember the days of Match.com and OKCupid, when a dating profile resembled a Facebook page, and you had to complete an extended questionnaire which matched you according to preferred personality traits? Like us millennials would have the time for that! A couple photos and a one-sentence bio will have to do, and some people can’t even achieve that. How great are those blurry selfies? You just have new ‘first world problems’ to deal with. Apparently guys should know their height measurements; being well-travelled is attractive; ‘positive vibes only’ is a common criterion (is there someone out there who’s into negative vibes?) and a mutual addiction for coffee is enough to form a connection.

While apps like Tinder have essentially removed the social stigma from online dating, they have bred new behaviours that we would have condemned a few years ago. I feel like ghosting has always been around, and we’ve only just given it a name, but it’s somewhat been accepted as normal behaviour. If you’re wondering what ghosting is, the brutal definition is when you stop hearing from the person you’re seeing altogether, as if they’ve disappeared off the face of the earth and you’re left wondering if they ever existed. Happy face emoji. But thanks to social media, there’s also orbiting when they still stalk your social media even though they’ve ghosted you. And let’s face it, we all know who’s viewed our latest Snapchat or Insta story. Turn that into a power play—show them what they’re missing with some Gatsbying! It’s the millennial take on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic—uploading posts with the intention that ‘certain someone’ will see. Maybe they’ll suddenly decide they miss you and slide into your DMs. Who knows? It all sounds ridiculously stupid and slightly depressing, but that is the world single millennials must navigate.

There’s an undefined tension between reality and the virtual space of Tinderland. Do we subconsciously feel it’s okay to simply unmatch or delete someone, because all it took to meet them was swiping your phone screen in the right direction? It’s almost like we forget these are real people we’re interacting with, subsequently decreasing the value we place on others. You’re in an algorithm playing a game of left or right; your first point of contact is from the comfort of your screen rather than making a connection in person. And perhaps it’s easier to forget about people when it was so easy to meet them in the first place.

And what is Tinder without actual dates? I have, fortunately, not experienced any ‘horror’ dates that seem to circulate Reddit. But I have experienced enough to know a good online conversation does not always equal good company. I suppose they are self-inflicted versions of the traditional blind date! Here are a few personal favourites:

One guy insisted I pick a spot for dinner. I went with the safe option of a burger joint. ‘Oh, but I don’t really want to hold it, you know?’ No, I don’t really know…

Another guy had no objections to burgers but his answer to everything was ‘I dunno.’ Cue the cricket chirps.

There was lawyer guy who kept shooting questions before I could actually answer. This is a date, not an interrogation! Lawyers, right?

Someone who just wanted to harvest more followers. They said they were going to ‘delete Tinder,’ and I should ‘add [them] on Instagram to keep talking.’ We’ve never talked before.

Of course the guy who didn’t look anything like his photos—classic! Apparently this is also called kittenfishing, because misleading photos aren’t as bad as a catfisher who takes on a completely fake persona.

You know what’s insane? Matching with your dentist. This guy looked into my mouth but still wanted to ‘hang out’ at 2am—and he just wouldn’t agree to an earlier time. How I Met Your Mother taught me ‘nothing good happens after 2am!’

I met a very well-dressed guy who pulled out all the stops: played me a song on a street piano, showed me the ‘romantic’ view from his office, and suggested walking along the Yarra River on a warm summer’s night. Then he ignored me for three months, sent an essay of a text saying he was dealing with things at the time but wanted to meet up again, then proceeded to ignore me again. At least he messaged, right?

And then there were the many conversations that simply died, but Tinder guy tried to save it with ‘wanna sex?’

But seriously, it really hasn’t been all terrible. Shout out to these gems, that even though things didn’t work out, I didn’t lose faith in all men. There was the guy who bought me a chocolate bunny for Easter, the guy who had an adorable kitten to play with (as advertised), the guy who willingly let me drag him to the NGV, and the ones who drove me home so I didn’t have to pay for an Uber. It’s a needle in a haystack situation, even if it means sifting through A LOT of hay.

I hope you guys keep doing your thing, because online dating does have societal benefits. The research has certainly reflected a shift towards cultural diversity. Online dating correlates with increases in interracial marriage, potentially as a result of choosing from a randomised pool of people. We can expand beyond our immediate network of friends and colleagues, which was an important factor for young people in their twenties and older people who had been widowed or divorced.

I don’t regret meeting interesting people, with whom I probably never would’ve crossed paths with otherwise. How else could you possibly meet a financial researcher and a bowling alley mechanic within one month? Alas the single life continues, but with each bad experience I just ‘Shake It Off’ in true T Swift style and hope the next guy is a pleasant surprise.

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Image can be found here.

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Janice is currently a member of Grattan Street Press and completing her Masters of Publishing and Communications at the University of Melbourne. Her bios often read ‘coffee addict with an appreciation for good movie soundtracks.’

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