In a Strange Land: Dating Apps

I’ve been on Tinder a lot recently, swiping through a lot of people which got me wondering: Why am I spending so much time swiping? Why do I like this person but not that person? What makes it so that we can choose partners, and why do we choose at all? How can I get inside HER (or his, but men are SSSOOOO much easier than women) pants?!? And why am I on this dating app, instead of meeting people the “old fashioned” way?  While I certainly don’t have the answers to all those questions, I believe that I have enough insight that I should at least get you to think about these questions by the end of this piece.

Online dating apps are weird.

Don’t get me wrong, they are a great way of bringing people who otherwise would never cross paths together, albeit in a way that leaves a funny aftertaste. I don’t blame the users for this weird feeling. After all, we’re all just people looking for someone to share our lives with, or at the least, the next few hours with. To find an issue there would be to have abandoned any notion of basic human decency and common sense. I think the funny aftertaste has more to do with what behaviors are incentivized by these apps, and what parts of our human nature are being brought into play.

If you’ve ever been on Tinder, Grindr, OkCupid, or any other variant, you’ll immediately notice one thing: the focus is on appearances. You look and see someone’s pictures long before you ever get to know about them and generally before even seeing their name. On Tinder, you have to physically swipe down to read whatever three words the person’s chosen to write about themselves. If these apps were really so focused on bringing people together, on creating personal relationships, wouldn’t they start with just the profiles?

Of course not, because humans are visual creatures, men more so than women. Whether we like to admit or not, we are shallow, men more so than women. We focus on looks because that is the first thing you get to notice about someone when meeting them for the first time. How many among us would date someone they found physically repulsive, especially without a financial incentive? Probably no one, since we evolved to like those we find attractive and avoid those we don’t.

Speaking for myself: I have an insane amount of difficulty connecting with a picture and a few lines of text. Call me old-fashioned but I need to see someone in front of me to feel anything other than lust or disgust. I need to see a smile and if it reaches the eyes, I need to see reactions, I need to see the person’s quirks, I need to hear how they talk and think, how they treat others they aren’t trying to impress. If I don’t, I just don’t even feel like connecting or that a genuine connection could even be made.

My technique in using dating apps is as follows: swipe right until some match is made, look at the photos and text for something that can be used to make an original comment. If I don’t have enough information to come up with something, I usually go with a hail-mary approach and just try whatever ridiculous thing comes to mind. This is the technique I use on Tinder and OkCupid when looking for women because online dating for straight men is a numbers game akin to baseball. We have to go through a thousand profiles for a hundred matches, to get ten actual conversations and end up with one date. I don’t blame anyone in this, because I know what it’s like.

I am bisexual so I get to experience women’s end of things when I log onto Grindr (or my Twitter and Instagram), becoming instantly bombarded with more attention than I could ever use in a lifetime. On Grindr, I have my pick of the pricks and can get pretty much anyone that I desire, with only some exception. I don’t pursue anyone, because I have so many pursuing me already. I simply set out a baited hook as it were, and wait for someone to bite (only metaphorically, don’t bite my hook).

It’s a very different experience than what I find on any other dating site. I am still a handsome man, so I have no problem getting the attention of women, my own problem lies in finding a connection with someone. I know that the pictures have an accompanying person, I know that that person has dreams and aspirations, things they hate and desire but I have trouble caring about them without seeing them in flesh, in movement.

I need a human in front of me, pure and simple. Without one, I just find myself not giving a fuck. With one, I can be more charming than any devil. But I need to know that someone’s there, how they’re like, how they would likely react to what I’m saying. It’s one of the reasons for me slowly ceasing to use Tinder, OkCupid, and Grindr.

I have found that the hunt is just so much more enjoyable in-person, face-to-face. For better or worse, approaching someone in real life carries with it a series of risks, running from rejection to accusations of harassment. It’s a game of high-risk, high reward, one whose victory is seconded by none.

I may not entirely be done with online dating since I had a wonderful relationship of 3 years with a girl I met on Tinder but I certainly am taking a break from swiping. I think it isn’t the right tool for someone like me to meet others, that I am much better off interacting in the real world. I for one much prefer to be hated in person than to be ignored (ghosted) online.

What are some of your thoughts and experiences of online dating?

I want to hear your horror stories and about the times it worked out in the comments!

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