Saturday, May 9, 2015

The Terrible Triumph of Tinder

I was an early adopter when it came to dating online.

Being somewhat malaligned with societal values, and those of my age bracket specifically, it was an obvious choice. I groomed-up my first dating profile in 2010, and for five years I've been casting my net, on and off. I've tried OKCupid, EHarmony, Plenty of Fish, How About a Date, and in unspeakably dark corners of the basement of my soul, Craigslist. I know there are more, but I can't for the life of me recall them now.

Teetotaling twenty-somethings are rare. Moving around constantly also meant no permanent friend base, or social group - having to restart from scratch again and again. I am the member of no church, society, or organization. There's always work - but there's been a dearth of nice young ladies, thanks to historical caprice, at the places I've worked. So online dating has account for almost all of my interactions and encounters since I left college.

Online dating works. I've had some good relationships on there. I've made friends on there. But the dynamics are shifting. It's no longer just the early-adopters on these sites, who were similarly inclined to put themselves out there, meet up irl, and share a clearly compatible view of dating.

When I moved back to the Bay Area in August I was excited for dating again. Connecticut had been okay, but a little rough. Yale grad students are great, but you start running into people after a while...

Unfortunately, the last nine months have not been kind. Why this is, I don't know. Maybe I'm too old, now, at 28. Maybe it's 'cause I'm in the outer Bay Area - and not in SF proper, or Berkeley. Maybe I've grown uglier. Who knows. At any rate, the old sites weren't pulling their weight.

So the other day I gave up and got Tinder.

For most of my online dating I've used OKCupid as a default. It has a short page where you fill in your stuff - favorite books, what you do for a living, what you're good at, etc. Tinder, by contrast, gives you something like 500 characters.

And there's no percentage system. You just swipe right if you like them based on their pics and a paragraph.

Now, with such a simple (and from my experience so far, horribly flawed) system, you may think most people would master it really quickly. Nope! Not at all. In fact, a great many are astoundingly bad - and this is the curse of the increased popularity in online dating, and Tinder especially. I almost want to make a fake profile just so I can tell girls what they're doing wrong:

1) In the first photo, make sure it's just you. If there are two girls in the photo (or more!) then I don't know which one is you. This is highly annoying, because now it's detective work to discover which one you are, scrolling through your pics, usually with a bunch of girls in each. I am not psychic. If I was I wouldn't be on a dating site. Just because you know who you are in the pic, doesn't mean anyone else does.

2) That said, have at least one pic with friends. I'll swipe right, regardless, if you're attractive. But if they are all just you - and especially if they are all just selfies of you - I will assume you have no friends. Limit yourself to, let's say, two selfies. Max.

3) You must have at least one body shot, and one face shot. The wearing of sunglasses/an over-sized hat, being totally obscured by shadow, or wearing a Halloween mask disqualifies as counting for your face shot. Tinder is shallow. If you're not a looker put that out front and look for quality guys who got turned around and ended up on this wretched application. Otherwise some dude will message you, you'll go on a date, and there'll be mutual disappointment. No one wants that. That's the worst. I've been there, on both sides. Same goes for the body shot. It can't be from more than three yards away, either.

4) In general, have varied shots. Six shots in a row of you at the bar? Six shots in a row at the beach? Six shots in a row of you in front of awe-inspiring vistas? Please. Show off that you do more than one thing with your life. Unless you're a Mozart-type who is, in fact, totally obsessed by a single aspect of the world, in which case, great. And keep them up-to-date - when we meet you, we will be able to tell. Tigers, the Grand Canyon, and the shooting range are henceforth outlawed as being too unoriginal while still desperately trying to be original.

5) If there are small humans under the age of 12 in the shot you must declare that you are not a mother, or be honest and say you are, if that's the case. Parenthood is a deal-breaker for the vast majority of men. So if the guy is looking for a relationship, and then finds out you have a kid, will he stick around - especially when you kept such a big and important secret from him? Likely not. And if he's not looking for a relationship, but just a wham, bam, thank you ma'am, then he won't care if you have a kid or not, 'cause he'll be gone by the end of the week, or even before pancakes. So be up front.

That covers the photos. Now onto the words:

6) Say something. I grant you, if you're attractive, dudes will swipe right anyway. But come on. Do you want cheesy pickup lines as an opener? What else have you given us to work off of - especially if your photos are basic. "So... I see you like the beach..." And don't be wrist-slittingly depressive! "I fucking hate my life" is not getting me jazzed to meet you. Further, "I don't know why I'm on this site..." and the like are also not winners. Be confident, dammit! Guys like it too.

7) Avoid the basic stuff. You like FUN? HOLY SHIT - I LIKE FUN! That is in no way subjective, and totally unnecessary to state! Seriously, think about it. What do you like doing - more than once a year. A couple of tips: 1) If you mention God, Jesus, Christianity, [your denomination - unfailingly Catholic] thank you. We are also going to assume that if you put it in your 500 characters you go to church weekly and are really into it. 2) Don't say you like to drink X. More than likely there's a photo of you drinking, right? You're wasting words. 3) Show it, don't state it. Can't believe I'm giving out high school English advice, but it creates more of an impact in writing when you demonstrate rather than state. Classic case in point: don't say you are funny - prove it. Don't say humor is important, show me. Tell a joke, a pun, a bon mot, some sarcasm, whatever.

8) No male cares about your sign.  No one, no one, no one. The one's who say they do are liars and brigands, or are of a weird, small minority that wears dreads and drinks kombucha.

9) I don't know why Tinder is height obsessed, but whatever. Since everyone else is doing it, I guess we all should. Maybe it's because people take stupid pictures with no frame of reference by which to gauge their real height... Hmmm...

10) Avoid the fucking emojis. As an Android user this is especially true - I can't see any of them. Also: vast majority of guys won't think it's cute/care. I WILL wonder about your powers of communication and speech. This goes along with all the usual decrying of poor grammar, punctuation, etc. You will be judged as unintelligent and incoherent if you can't write sentences. Oh! And make it coherent, topically, as well. I've seen too many weird profiles where it says things like "I am studying in Utah" or "I am new to the Tampa area". Who or what are you, and why are you posing as a Bay Area girl?

But that's more than 500 characters,

I'm not sure what's next. Swiping, as many have said, is addictive. And it feels silly to cut oneself off from any means of finding people, especially after nine months of nothing beyond a second date.

God, it's depressing, though. It's everything we feared online dating would be - and it's going away no time soon.

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