I’m not sure when the professional curiosity ended and the personal investment began. Thank (or blame) a few naughty but well-meaning friends, but the morning after an intoxicating night out, I unwittingly found myself juggling a few “matches” I didn’t make on this dating service that I’d never even known about until I saw it on my phone.
I was told that Tinder is a popular social networking app that has quickly gained a reputation as a dating/hookup vehicle all over the world. It uses your Facebook (FB) information as a basis for your profile, so whatever gender, age and profile photos you’ve posted on FB will appear on your Tinder account.
Short of strangling my friends for literally putting me out there without my permission, I thought of just deleting the app in question. But the writer in me could never resist a good story, and Tinder was a gold mine as far as I was concerned. Might as well check it out.
For research purposes only, I hastily told myself. Research, my foot. Who was I kidding?
The more I tried using Tinder, the more curious I got. It was so simple, it was actually bordering on pure genius. To start “playing,” you just had to swipe right or up (or hit the heart icon) to “like” a person, or swipe left or down (or hit the X icon) to move to the next person. If a person “likes” you back, the screen will either darken and say “It’s a match!” (if that person swiped right first), or appear as a glowing orange blip on your in-app messaging screen (if you swiped right first).
The best part? People you’ve “liked” wouldn’t know about it unless it’s a match, so that gives you absolute freedom to do some guilt-free “shopping” under the convenient cloak of anonymity.
Apart from the profile photos, where you can choose to upload about six from your FB albums, you can see how many common friends and interests you have on FB (if you have any).
The app also allows you to tweak your preferences by gender (interested in male, female or both), location (in kilometers) and age; that way, you’ll see only the potential matches within the range you’ve set.
I didn’t even realize it until my first real match that I’ve somehow started changing. Before Tinder, I was this frigid snob who couldn’t even smile at a guy she finds attractive. Now, I was confidently swiping cute guys to the right, chatting up potential dates and, on that rare occasion, asking them out myself. I actually learned how to flirt properly using my brain.
What’s even more bizarre is that I’d actually met more potential dates in three days than I had in the last three years. That, and my overnight “transformation,” prompted friends to start calling me “Tinderella.”
Then my knight in shining humor came along.
Never in a million years would I have believed that it was possible to be attracted to someone this quickly, much less someone I hadn’t even met in person yet. But in just a few days, Tinder turned this incorrigible cynic into a reluctant believer. He was funny, whip-smart and incredibly articulate, not to mention decent-looking. For every quip I’d toss at him, he’d effortlessly fire back a better one within seconds.
Tinderella has finally met her match in more ways than one, and she couldn’t be happier. In a rare moment of weakness, I’d allowed myself to entertain that, maybe, just maybe, he was it. If the shoe fits, why not? But I couldn’t shake off that nagging feeling that I should wait for the other shoe to drop. And it did.
Sadly, like all things that seem too good to be true, that was all it was. After all that mind-blowing intellectual intercourse, he confessed in the kindest (ergo, the worst) way possible that his ex wanted him back, and he had to make a decision. He chose the ex.
There you have it, folks. Prince Charming finally appears and saves the day, but ends up riding off into the sunset with the Evil Queen instead.
In retrospect, I think it was my ego that took the hardest hit. For all I know, I’d just been played by a seasoned sapiosexual predator, even though my usually reliable gut tells me that it wasn’t the case. I can’t deny the experience left me a bit brokenhearted, but you see, the guy didn’t break my heart; the universe did. Why set me up for a whirlwind, fairytale romance, only to snatch it from my fingers just as quickly?
Screw the universe, I thought. This was reality; it was either play or get played. If nice guys really did finish last, I sure wouldn’t bat for the losing team.
So, for solace, I turned to the self-proclaimed “bad boys”—the ones who are all washboard abs and pogi selfies on their profiles, and who want only one thing. Against my better judgment, I even hooked up with the first one available, which was by far the most reckless thing I’ve ever done (I used to blush at naughty jokes and get offended by indecent proposals.)
But in the end, he (or anyone else, for that matter) couldn’t get it from me. It wasn’t because I was still a prude; I just realized that, no matter how much you crave for physical satisfaction, it simply wasn’t worth the time and effort to get intimate with someone you feel absolutely nothing for. Anyone with common sense could’ve told me that, but given the rebound state I was in, I doubt I would’ve listened.
Needless to say, this chapter had a not-so-happy ending, too.
That’s it, I was done. I deleted my account, the bad matches and the me I didn’t want to be. The moment I allowed myself to open up, love shut me down again.
My friends pleaded with me to give Tinder another shot. Don’t let a couple of cosmic curve balls throw you out of the game, they said. Besides, your story isn’t finished yet. What a sneaky, underhanded tactic that was. If they couldn’t appeal to the hopeless romantic in me, they could always threaten the overachieving workaholic who never leaves a job unfinished.
So I relented. But this time, I played by my own rules. For my new account, I carefully chose which photos to put and what to mention in my profile without giving away too much or selling myself short.
Days passed, and not a single new match was made. I tried to soothe my ruffled ego by rationalizing. Maybe I wasn’t within their age range, or maybe it was because Mercury was still in retrograde and my “likes” weren’t somehow getting through. Or maybe it was karmic payback for all the times I’d snickered and swiped left. Deep down, I was already resigned to the fact that maybe I just wasn’t their type at all.
But then my friend suggested I broaden my age range, which I’d stubbornly set at plus/minus five years. “Not everyone posts their real age on FB,” she argued.
She was right. Sure, there was the occasional awkward moment when I’d spot a friend’s younger brother, or worse, someone’s dad. But it did cast a wider net, and I suddenly had a whole new batch of potential matches to keep me busy.
This is all for a good story, I kept telling myself as I swiped away in rapid-fire succession while fending off a few persistent perverts (thank you, “unmatch” button). But in truth, I was becoming hopelessly addicted. Early on, I’d usually check my account in the privacy of my own room. Now, I’d check it almost anywhere and any chance I’d get—discreetly, of course, since for me, Tinder was still something you don’t usually talk about in public.
After all, seeing colleagues and familiar faces on Tinder felt like running into someone you know at a motel; there’s that certain amount of sheepishness coupled with an unspoken understanding of the “I won’t tell if you won’t” kind.
Before, my friends would join in on my “shopping sprees” and have a good laugh over my choices. Now, I’d be buried in a corner while they’d hold real, face-to-face conversations. I’d jump every time I’d get a message or a match, and get frustrated the next moment when I run out of guys to choose from.
In my mind’s eye, I wasn’t even seeing real, potential dates anymore. All I cared about was making as many matches as I could to feed my ego, whether I genuinely liked them or not. Before I knew it, I had become this jaded, insecure, antisocial hermit whose life revolved around a tiny orange blip on my phone’s radar—a far cry from the glowing, confident Tinderella I’d started out to be. I didn’t have to ask my friends to know what they were thinking: “I think we’ve created a monster.”
Thankfully, that realization soon woke me up. If anything, these crazy past few weeks with Tinder had been a valuable learning experience. As Guy No. 1 showed me, instant sparks really do happen, but they can fizzle out just as quickly. I also found that wit and a wicked sense of humor can only take you so far if they don’t translate into actual interaction. That satisfying one’s need for intimacy just isn’t complete without physical and intellectual attraction. Attraction takes only a split second to happen.
That online matches can’t be substitutes for real-life, real-time connections.
I can’t keep blaming Tinder or the universe for not giving me my fairytale endings, because I can’t even tell where my fantasies end and reality begins. Sometimes it’s not who you want that’s the issue; it’s what you want that’s a little harder to figure out. But now, I think I have.
A friend told me you have to be prepared to kiss a hundred frogs (and a few horny toads) to find your prince. But I don’t need a hundred frogs or a prince, and I no longer dream of fantasy scenarios or matches made in heaven. At the end of the day, I just want what everyone wants: someone to share reality with, here on earth.
Tinder and other dating apps are great stepping-stones for people who are painfully torpe, but they shouldn’t keep you from actually going out and meeting new people.
I’ve learned all I can from it, and despite the occasional lapse in judgment, I’d like to think it changed me for the better. No more waiting for happy endings; it’s time to create new beginnings.
I’ll start by logging out of Tinder, putting my phone in my bag and mustering the courage to smile back at the cute guy at the next table whom I would’ve noticed earlier, had I actually bothered to look up every once in a while.
Maybe I’ll find my happily-ever-after. Maybe I won’t. But I won’t stop looking for it, with or without the help of an app.
After all, who needs fairy tales when real life is so much more interesting?