A little over a year ago, I conducted my own teeny tiny social experiment. I set out to explore the ever-so-scary dating realm of Tinder. It was research, of course, for a blog post I later wrote, and it was just as entertaining as it was frightening. I say frightening in the sense that my interactions with the application’s tactics and the users were both addicting and appalling. I attested to this in my discussion of why the app was so popular, noting the convenience aspect in particular. I was conflicted by my experience and decided that I “couldn’t handle it,” understandably overwhelmed with both the constant access and the uncertainty of users’ motives.
Looking back now, I don’t necessarily disagree with my original analysis; I believe what I felt and openly reported is still accurate to this day. HOWEVER, and this is a big however, I think there are more positives than I realized at the time. Upon quitting Tinder—and typically, I’m no quitter—I removed myself from the dating pool. Now, although people announce that they are “taking a break from dating,” we can’t actually do that unless we go to extreme measures to remove all temptation and completely shut ourselves into our apartments, FOREVER. Nobody really does that, or you definitely shouldn’t. That would be unhealthy, and some might begin to label you as a hermit. But that’s beside the point. In any sort of online dating, we have that ability: simply uninstall the app. Just “Log Out.” And we’ve washed our hands of it.
For me, merely turning off the application did not turn off the temptation in my head. I returned to my normal dating habits in the face-to-face realm. And still, I found myself wondering about that “stupid app,” and what it would have been like if I’d conducted a more thorough study and actually met up with someone. I was concerned about the implications of a meet-up, and after some of the conversations I had, I had a right to be. Even then, I was still curious. Was I too quick to judge? Did two days of being on Tinder really give me the insight to shut down all future online encounters? After months had passed, and I’d consumed two strong cocktails one later afternoon—it was almost dinnertime, okay!—I re-downloaded the application.
I swiped a lil’ right, a lil’ left. Okay, a lot left (that’s yea and nay, respectively). I was enjoying myself, and I refused to play any of the games that I’d experienced before. Some users made a point to ask what they thought to be “original” or “unique” questions to start what they also believed to be an “engaging” conversation. This did not always deliver fruitful discussion, but I suppose I appreciated the effort. I was determined to weed out those who were lacking what I consider to be genuine, decent intentions.
Playing around on the app for less than an hour—it is still very much a game to me—I matched with Leopold. I figured he was Italian based on his looks and his not-so-common name. Trying to break those gender molds in whatever subtle ways I can, I reached out first, “How’s it going?” Nothing creative or fancy, just throwing some feelers out there. I heard nothing back from him that night, and I went to sleep.
The next morning, I woke up to a message from Leopold around 5:30am, saying something along the lines of “Hi. I’m good, how are you?” Once fully awake, at a normal, civil hour, I replied, “Well you are certainly an early riser J.” (I always add a smiley face. It says, “Hi. I’m playful.”) And his reply was one of the first signs (of many) that this guy could be someone special: “I fell asleep early, and I didn’t want you to think I was blowing you off or something.” Boom. There it is, the transparent honesty that is the key to my heart. That one line revealed that he was sensitive and also unafraid to admit that he went to sleep before 9pm on a Thursday. So freakin’ cute.
The conversation was flowing from that point on. I won’t bore you with the details of how the two weeks of constant texting led to an amazing first date, where we talked until 4:00am, or how we are still dating 7 months later, and I’ve never been happier.
And that brings me to my overall point, and my newfound belief that online dating is highly effective. Many of the happy couples I know have found their partners online, ranging from Ok Cupid to Match to Tinder to Grindr, etc. And I think there’s something to it. Our lives are often cluttered with distractions. And while some may argue that our technological dependency is at the root of this problem, I’m making a case for the focused dating that comes out of that technology and accessibility.
In many ways, online dating has its advantages over traditional dating. Whatever be the application or site, the first interactions you have are uncluttered. There’s no muddled confusion about why you both are there; there’s no body language to distract; there’s literally no one else in the conversation. The interaction is stripped down to raw communication, organic conversation produced out of thin air. You are not out at a bar with your friends, drunk; you are not leaving the gym, sweaty, leaving you nervous and unprepared; you are not grocery shopping; you are not at work. When you open that application or account, you are 100% present. You are clear, focused, and decidedly trying to get to know someone. Of course, there’s always room for interpretation of any communication, we are different people with different perspectives, BUT—and this is a big but—the likelihood that a strong connection via text will carry over in person is very, VERY high.
So this is my official, “I’m sorry I judged you too quickly, Tinder” post. I’ll admit, I was semi-wrong to doubt an entire application based on a two-day user trial. I was semi-wrong to make generalizations about the users. I was semi-wrong to think I couldn’t handle it; it was me, not you. I just wasn’t ready. And I was definitely wrong to uninstall you oh so many months ago. That was rash.
Lastly, and more importantly, Tinder, I guess I owe you one big THANK YOU. It feels a little like fate.
*TBL JOURNAL NOTE: Events dated on this post are from October of 2015. Things may have changed since then! FYI. However, the experience remains THE SAME.