Nice to meet you, I’m a slut amongst many other wonderful things including (but not limited to): a certified East Midlander, a kebab-van-frequenter, an LMH-er, a Fever-regular, a divorce-survivor, and a shameless self-lover. You might now be wondering why a “slut” from the “East Midlands” (wherever the fuck that is?) has been granted the privilege of writing a weekly column for an up-and-coming student newspaper. Although I do not consider myself an absolute authority on all hot and heavy matters concerning “love” (whatever the fuck that is?), I do believe I have something to offer in the way of addressing the not-talked-about-enough issues that don’t necessarily find their way into our everyday conversations.
If Tinder were a place, it would be Fever. Specifically, Fever on a Tuesday night , a time when we almost certainly have better things to be doing with our time than dancing the night away to Akon remixed with S-Club 7, or idly swiping the night away from the comfort of your own bed. Much like Fever, Tinder is a frenzy of first and second glances set against a soundtrack of questionable ‘anthems’ amidst a crowd of sexually frustrated 18-24 year olds, and, for many of us, is a bit of a guilty pleasure.
But, of course, under the current climate of Covid19, a night out in any club is postponed until – uh – further notice. And I can’t be the only one who, in response to the harsh reality of Libidinal Lockdown, has fled back to the open-arms of Tinder as a virtual substitute to a blessed evening in Fever.
Online dating generally has a special brand of embarrassment attached to it. Possibly because by spending time creating a profile and scouting potential ‘matches’, you are openly admitting to being involuntarily single – a relationship status which unfortunately still comes with some level of social stigma. I am of no shame (none) whatsoever when it comes to the cultivation of my Tinder presence and have even spent extensive periods of time helping friends create their optimal profile, from choosing the ten photos that strike the balance between ‘definitely attractive’ and ‘not above having a laugh’, to selecting an anthem that both appeals to a wide audience and isn’t cliché, and writing a bio that demonstrates wit and intellect without seeming try-hard or desperate. An impossible task. We spend this time trying to represent (or invent) the most dateable versions of ourselves within the strict parameters of ten photos, 500 characters, and a handful of ‘top Spotify artists’. We then judge others in a less-than-a-minute glance through whatever snippets of themselves Tinder has allowed them to offer us. The sentiment that we “shouldn’t judge a book by its cover” is almost entirely done away with on Tinder which makes gap year highlights, club photos, lads holidays, and 35mm mugshots centrepieces to any profile. Although, at times, I consider Tinder an outlet for a creative kind of vanity, I also find it somewhat depressing that it reduces real human people down to a handful of images captioned with a sentence or two.
I admit that my experiences of Tinder have rendered me a cynic. It’s not that I’ve had any overwhelmingly unpleasant encounters via the app, but that it eventually left me feeling underwhelmed. At its most basic level, Tinder is simply a means to connect with new people and that’s great when many us may not have the time or resources available to socialise much beyond our degree and the college bar. However, the rate at which *new people* are allowed to come in and out of your life (whether it’s through online exchanges, a couple of dates, casual sex – whatever) is down to you, and if you’re as prone to impulsive behaviour as I am then, well, you’re in for a wild ride. I had little success in making it to the date stage with my matches, mainly because I found myself more likely to indulge in the short-term-gratification on offer through relentless swiping, than I was to pursue anything beyond all the superficial bullshit I spent the above paragraph criticising. To break these weird habits, which were essentially rooted in vanity, I deleted my account and rid myself of Tinder “for good” early on in Hilary term. My disenchantment, I think, came more from my own ignorance as to what I wanted from the countless interactions with strangers than from the platform itself. So, this is not to discourage others from venturing into the Land of Opportunity that is Tinder; it could be where you meet The One!
Beyond the doom-and-gloom of neglected matches and unanswered messages, there are some people who do stumble upon their fairy-tale ending. In fact, I can think of at least five examples of “Tinder Success Stories” whose romance began with a right-swipe. That said, I do not want to limit the definition of a “Tinder Success Story” to finding a long-term partner. We can learn as much about ourselves (and others) from the brief online interactions, the awkward dates that reveal the stark differences between someone’s online presence versus the nervous wreck you see before you, the special brand of fleeting validation derived from mutual attraction from strangers on the internet, or just … from the general chaos that Tinder never fails to provide us with.