What I Learned from a Week on Tinder

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Originally published in January, 2013 on mommyhasapottymouth.tumblr.com, the mouthful that is my former blog.

Author’s Note: I was introduced to Tinder by a male friend a couple weeks ago after a long night of drinking, and we spent a good half hour swiping, judging, and laughing at this obvious train wreck of a dating app. Being a married woman, I was fascinated by the absurd, attention seeking photos that some of these girls were posting. I was equally fascinated by the reactions and thought processes of my guy friends on the other end of it all. I thought, “THIS is perfect material for a quick blog post. This shit pretty much writes itself.” I created an account and planned to stay on just long enough to make some humorous observations and provide some witty tips. I titled my post, “What I learned in 30 minutes on Tinder” and started writing. But then I found that MY experience… the process, the story, and the people behind those Tinder profile pictures… was equally as entertaining, if not more so, than the casual observations that got me here in the first place. Who is using this thing? Why? What are their expectations, or do they have any? What happens when a married woman jumps in the mix? The answers to these questions and more may or may not surprise you, but I hope they at least serve to entertain you. This is Part 1 of the Tinder Saga: What I Learned from a Week on Tinder.

Send me a Candy Crush or Farmville invite, and I will defriend you. Wear clothing featuring an Angry Bird character, and I will assume that you’re the byproduct of a romance between your father and his second cousin. But show me this crazy game all the cool kids are playing called “Tinder” on a Saturday night after a few drinks, and I will be hooked.

While technically a dating app, Tinder truly feels more like a game… an addictive, soul-crushing game. The speed at which you can scroll through potential candidates, assigning “yay” or “nay” based solely on looks, seems more like Hot or Not than eHarmony. That spike of dopamine you get when your frantic judging is briefly interrupted as “It’s a Match” takes over your screen is the same, addition-causing spike that occurs when you see that little, red Facebook notification pop up on your phone. And the fact that you’re quickly able to slip into a mind numbing, time wasting, comatose state sure feels more like playing Candy Crush than dating.

And though the company has never specifically claimed to be a dating app, the choice of the word Tinder would suggest they intended otherwise. Images of “sparks flying,” “fire starting,” and “kindling” are the same used to describe the beginnings of hot, romantic flings. It primes the user to feel optimistic about his or her chances of experiencing some special chemistry with an attractive match. But given the obscene amount of narcissism, hedonism, and instant gratification that accompany this “game,” I feel that the “easily combustible,” “blazing inferno,” and “up in flames” qualities of tinder could easily apply, as well.

So to test out this match-making, people-meeting, disaster-waiting-to-happen game, I did what any normal, married woman would do… I created an account and fully submerged myself in the world of Tinder.

THE EXPERIMENT…

Step 1- Set this Bitch Up

Now, despite how horrendously awful Apple searches are, the correct Tinder app came up as the first suggestion. The other app recommendations that pop up when you search for Tinder were surprisingly accurate, as well. Vanity, mindless addition, narcissism, juvenility. Yep, that pretty much sums up the entire Tinder experience.

APPS

To set up your Tinder account, all you do is log in via Facebook and give them access to all your information, your tooth fairy money, and naming rights of your next born child. NBD.

PROFILE1

Step 2- Glimpse, Judge, Swipe, Repeat

Seriously?!!! Okay this is just ridiculous and depressing. Out of the first ten or so pictures to pop up, at least 80% were under the age of 30, half were dumb enough to post pictures of themselves with other girls, and one guy was photographed with his boyfriend. And they call it Tinder? I’m starting to think that Fire Extinguisher, Wet Towel, Airtanker, or Thoughts of Grandma in Her Lingerie would be more appropriate names for this blatant waste of my time. <think of baseball, think of baseball, think of baseball…>

ROUND1_blurred

Oh. Wait. I can change the settings. Phew! I was starting to feel like a pedophile, and let me tell you, it is not all it’s cracked up to be. I set the minimum age to 30, remove my kid’s names, and explicitly state that I am married.

Game on, Garth!!! Ok this is way better. I don’t have any set criteria for “right swiping,” per se, but I like to positively reinforce those who have a decent profile pic. A picture of yourself (solo) flashing a good smile will automatically get you through. Pics with half-naked girls, your mom, your biceps, or (sorry, single dads) your kids, will automatically get you “left swiped.” I’m sure you’re all lovely people, but it’s not my fault. My finger is the one doing the swiping, and my finger thinks your picture is awkward for a dating app.

Then your screen fades to black, and you barely make out the words “It’s a Match!” because your heart starts beating 1,000 times per minute and your dopamine levels spike as if you’ve just freebased a bowl of pure Blue Sky. I don’t care if you’re married, single, gay, straight, Elven, canine, whatever. That shit just makes you feel good.

Wait. There’s another one. And then another.

MATCH

Can we pause for just one fucking second? What the hell is going on here?!!! Seriously. That’s three out of three. Did they completely ignore the fact that I’m photographed with another man? Or not read the tagline that explicitly says that I’m married? Or do they not care? Ok this just got extremely interesting. Now I need answers…

My phone dies, and I don’t have the right charger with me. Fuck you, Apple, for changing the dock connector. Will resume later.

Step 3- Start Completely Fucking with Tinder

Tinder, you have my attention. If I was able to get matches with pictures of my husband, what would happen if I posted a picture of myself solo? OMFG what if I posted a picture from my wedding day?!!! Hahahaha!!! Done and done.

EXPERIMENT

Step 4- Say a Sweet Farewell to Your Dignity

I found myself starting to talk to a couple of these matches, most (if not all) of which had read my tagline and were fully aware that I was married. I already had all the material I needed to write about my experience- observations, snarky comments, tips- but I stumbled upon something completely unexpected. These guys were actually talking to me. I came up with some questions on the fly and took these opportunities to collect qualitative data. They shared their impetus for joining Tinder, their love stories, their own observations… and they did it all without being creepy or weird. Of course, there were a few sweethearts who gave me their phone numbers (unsolicited) just in case “I’d like to fuck” or “explore findings and make inferences together.” What was supposed to be a 30-minute trial run of a hedonistic, shallow dating app ended up turning into a week-long exploration into the psyche of the Tinderizing male.

SOME CASUAL OBSERVATIONS…

1. People come here for a variety of reasons, not just to hook up. I read somewhere (Wikipedia, duh) that 1 in 5 people actually meet up with their Tinder matches. This is far lower than 66% of other mobile dating users, suggesting that either Tinder users have really horrible closing skills or that it truly is more than just a dating app.

WHY

2. Guys don’t give a shit if you’re married. To be more specific, there is a distinct subset of Tinderizing males who don’t give a shit if you’re married and will explicitly tell you as much. This may or may not come as a surprise to many of you. The one exception seems to be if you post a picture of yourself from your actual wedding day. I assumed this was because it was too blatant and “in your face,” but one of my new Tinder friends thinks it’s because I was giving off the vibe that I am “freshly, happily married” and that guys may “interpret that as an open threesome invitation.” Well, if that’s so, then no one on here seemed to want to have a threesome with my husband and me. Rude!

MARRAIGE

3. As with any game, there are strategies. In hindsight, my “strategy” was to right swipe based solely on a good (i.e., not effing awkward photo), sense of humor, or potential for an interesting conversation. It seems that the males on Tinder take a slightly different approach.

STRATEGIES

4. I HATE Ke$ha. I was a little ambivalent about her before, but slight annoyance has turned into pure, unadulterated hatred. As if developing Tinderitis wasn’t enough, I literally couldn’t fall asleep the first night because, “It’s going down. I’m yelling TINDER!” was stuck in my head on repeat. On repeat. I don’t know any other fucking lyrics. And I’m fairly certain that it is now stuck in your head. All I can say is that I’m really, really sorry. Shit. Sorry.

5. I now look at every male between the age of 18-50 when I’m out in public and wonder to myself, “Did he see me on Tinder? Oh, fuck. Are we matched on Tinder?!!!” You know that feeling when you trip and fall on your face in public but can’t tell if anyone has noticed? And it’s just awkward and awful? Well, I now have that feeling approximately 50% of my day, every day. So if you’re reading this, and you see me somewhere, please make it less awkward for me and just call me out on it. I would literally prefer for you to point and laugh at me than knowingly say nothing.

TO SUM IT ALL UP…

Despite the obvious debauchery and hedonism that accompany the use of a dating game such as Tinder, I still managed to find some real humanity buried in there somewhere. I discovered guys who on there simply to sit back and witness the shit show, grown men who aren’t above having a real conversation with a stranger, and sweet souls who are actually looking to find someone special (in the wrong place, of course)… even the ones who were blatantly horrible people still managed to provide some head-shaking entertainment.

But when all is said and done, I will be deleting this app for good. I am surprised to find that it will actually be hard to let it go. Meeting new people- kind people, interesting people, weird people, horrible people, all of them- has always been a fascination of mine. And if Tinder does one thing really well, it is giving you access to these crazy people all in one accessible, low-commitment, highly entertaining mobile app.

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