Dating Apps: A Masterclass

Our phone screens are modern mosaics.  Each app is another galaxy in the cyber universe, and dating is a huge one.  There’s Tinder, Bumble, OkCupid, Her, Grindr, Scruff, Hinge, CoffeeMeetsBagel, and the list trails on infinitely.  Find your flavor, pick your poison.

I sampled a few dating apps.  My bio read, “If you judge how many donuts I can eat in one sitting, this won’t work out”.  My photos were intricately curated: at least one where it shows I’m fun, a fierce selfie to exhibit that I am conventionally attractive, a photo where I look just ok to manage expectations, at least one full body shot.  About one-third of the messages, I received were “How many donuts can you eat in one sitting?”  I responded with the Mean Girls GIF where Cady says, “The limit does not exist”.

Just as the apps work on an algorithm, so do the users.  There’s a formula to this– the art of app dating.  It’s all choreography from the account creation to which profiles you select to the messaging.  Then, there is the cadence of messages– never too soon, never too long.  Social media established new socially learned behaviors based off of what our peers find acceptable. We consult our friends like a panel when creating these apps, navigating these conversations.  Some approaches are more successful than others.

With no data to support this.  I estimate the following:

  • 75% of people (men and women) will have a picture of them candidly smiling at a dog.
  • Sixty percent of men will have pictures of them playing with a kid, and in his bio, it will state “kid is my niece/ nephew”.
  • Eighty percent of women will have a fierce selfie.
  • Ninety percent of men will have a photo that literally makes you yell at your screen “WHY DID YOU PICK THAT?!”
  • Men will assume you are straight all the time.  Women will ask you how you identify 70% of the time.

In summary of all of these profiles: everyone loves dogs, everyone has a cute niece or nephew, pizza/ eating is important, we all go to breweries a lot, and “Trump supporters swipe left” is a very popular phrase.  Do Trump supporters have their own dating app in response to this?

Of course, there is an etiquette to these apps:

  • You don’t want to respond too soon to seem eager.
  • You don’t want to double message– DUH.
  • You keep exchanges light, funny, peppering in relevant GIFs to exhibit cultural relevancy and humor.  Maybe you send a fire meme.

Things that will get you swiped left/ unmatched by Marisa McGrath:

  • Unsolicited dick pics/ lingerie pics– You knew this was coming. It’s 2018, fam.  We know better.
  • If your bio says, “I’m really shy so I don’t message first. LOL! *insert monkey hiding face emoji*”.  That’s weaksauce and as a lazy as Mariah Carey being carried around because she doesn’t like walking.  You are not Mariah Carey.
  • A proposition for a threesome.
  • If you have guns in your picture.
  • Anyone who sends me an Infinite Jest-length novel as a message without any follow-up questions.  I’m not Barbara Walters interviewing you for “Average Profiles weekly”.
  • Asking for my snapchat because you’re terrified of getting Catfished.

You swipe and swipe, and it becomes a game.  You’re less engaged or maybe you never were in the first place.  I say “you” but I mean “me”.  I don’t currently have any dating profiles open.  I’ve dabbled in the past.  Mainly, they were intended to fish for compliments and get free food.  I was a rousing success at both.   I’m not proud of the free food part, but I was poor at the time. Still, anxiety jolts me enough without the dopamine rush of a match, the participation in an exchange, the feeling that I am beholden to give my time to a stranger from another screen.  With so many generic conversations churning at once, it becomes overwhelming and hard to keep track of them.  I felt rude for not responding, but I couldn’t keep up with the conversation in my inbox.  Also, a girl can only take so many dates forcibly making out with my face.  Seriously– WHO THE HECK TOLD YOU THAT WAS OK?!?!

I’m not saying I’m against dating apps.   Do not mistake me. I am pro dating app.  The interface offers an opportunity to meet new people or potentially connect with a crush you wouldn’t have had the chance to pursue with otherwise.  These apps can instill confidence in people who don’t get to experience being an object of desire as openly as others.  They offer people an opportunity to explore dating in avenues that were closed previously.  However, I am curious what our behavior on those apps says about us.

What you will learn after tripping down the cyber rabbit hole is the same as the morning after you awake next to the stranger from the bar or after the euphoria of the first few months together lifts– everyone is just a person.  Humans are a delicate species.  Evolution has yet to address this internal fragility, and we, as a species, have yet to embrace it.  We are all rattled by insecurity.  We inhabit bodies that ache to be touched with care and affection.  We long to be the sparkle in someone else’s eye but cringe at the potential tripping along the way to that point.  We want to feel special but don’t want to look foolish.  Feeling foolish signifies a loss of control, but isn’t love the opposite of control?

The appeal of these apps is having people literally at your fingertips.  It gives us the illusion of control.  Control is always an illusion.  The pursuit of the upper hand usually leaves us empty-handed, after all.  Eventually, the ruse wears off.  And who are we after the filters, memes, and GIFs are gone? We stand vulnerable in the hope another person will recognize the value of our rawness.  I think everyone hopes that in a world qualified by swipes and likes and matches someone will hang up their cleats for them.  The game is over.  No winning, no losing, no upper hand.  Ultimately, we know we cannot outsmart the human wiring for connection.  I don’t think we want to.  We want to make it easier, but most people are sappy, gooey romantics in cynics skin.  So, we go out on the dates where people think CPR training and kissing are the same things, and we endure collages of dick pics.  We swipe and we hope, and if that doesn’t evidence that we are all soft on the inside, I don’t know what is.  Because for as much as dating apps are proof that the game is afoot, it is also proof that people are open, that they are looking. I hope, my reader, that if you are one of those people looking that you are seen.



One thought on “Dating Apps: A Masterclass

  1. I have not tried any dating apps or joined any dating sites–though everyone tells me that is what I should do. Maybe it is because I hate lying–the truth is so much more useful/brutal. Maybe it is because I haven’t taken a photo of myself that I have liked in quite a while. Maybe I don’t want to get judged when I say Waterland is my favourite book. Maybe I am just scared…


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