I will always remember the night it started. It was last Sunday, around 1 a.m., and I was sitting at a poorly-lit desk in the main reading room of Olin. I had just downed a large coffee from Espwesso, and I had every intention of channeling my near-lethal energy levels into my 150-page reading for the following morning. Instead, I took out my phone and made a Tinder account.
If you don’t know what Tinder is, I will now quote from its website in order to make you feel like a total loser for not knowing: “Tinder is how people meet. It’s like real life, but better.”
Where have you BEEN?
Basically, Tinder is a matchmaking app. You set up a profile that includes a picture of yourself along with your interests, drawn from your Facebook account. Then, you check off the gender(s) in which you are interested. Not reductive or normative at all. Tinder uses this information, as well as your geographical location, to find people in the area who fit your criteria.
I had seen other people use Tinder before, so I already knew the basics: the app presents you with a photo of someone, along with their first name and age. If you like what you see, you swipe the photo to the right and a fun green stamp that says “LIKED” pops up on the screen. If you’re not into it, swipe left, and an even more satisfying stamp that says “NOPE” appears in red.
So there I was at Olin, hunched over my phone and contemplating the new world of romantic prospects that had just opened up to me. I examined the first few people carefully. All of them were a flat-out NOPE, but I felt weird about swiping them to the left and out of my sight forever.
Soon, though, I got into a groove. There was something liberating in these moments of split-second rejection. Left, left, left. I was barely even looking at the faces of the people I was rejecting. What was I really looking for, anyway? What was I hoping to find? I felt like that cat on YouTube: “Nonononononono!”
But then, suddenly, it all came to a halt. The screen went white, and all that was left was a circular thumbnail of my profile picture, underneath which read the words:
“There’s no one new around you.”
This was the most profoundly depressing sentence I had read in a long time.
I decided to take a break from my rejection spree. I still had an entire book to read for class, and I had already flipped through more photos than pages. The caffeine was wearing off and Olin was about to close; I had obviously timed my priorities perfectly.
I didn’t revisit Tinder until later that night, when I was back in my room. At that point, I was feeling a little more magnanimous, so I even swiped right a few times. Almost every time I did this, a congratulatory notice popped up immediately: “It’s a match!” I guess I’m pretty cool. And good-looking. It’s no big deal.
A few interesting conversations arose out of these matches. These interactions ranged from pleasant to mildly creepy, but there was one common thread: most of them began with the other person complimenting my music taste. I had a really great discussion with one guy about songwriting, and with another gentleman about Debussy. A trend was emerging: the only people I was talking to were musicians. I found these select few people endearing—that’s why I kept up the conversations—but I could tell that most of them were probably unbelievably awkward in person. My Tinder life was shaping up to be eerily similar to my real life.
After flipping through stranger after stranger, I found myself in an unexpected situation: I had stumbled upon the face of a fellow Wesleyan student. A face I recognized. It was the face of someone with whom I had—how shall we say this?—a history.
If you’re in need of a Social Sciences GenEd, check out WesMaps for President Michael Roth’s brand-new course: The Past on Tinder.
After my freshman year stopped flashing before my eyes, I resumed swiping. Tinder was growing on me. It was kind of cool to be able to have conversations with these random people and to catch these minute glimpses into their lives, with the option of cutting off contact at any time.
I should probably explain my motives for joining Tinder: I had none. If I wanted to let fate spark a new romance in my life, as Tinder claims to do, then I’d have more of a success rate if I hopped onto The Ride at 2 a.m. What we really need is The Ride’s GPS tracker to also include photos of every person on board. Nobody attractive in the vicinity? Just shout “NOPE” at the driver, watch him make a left turn, and wait for the next van to come around.