Between the ages of 13 to 21, it’d be fair to say that I was a serial monogamist, managing to rack up four relationships that lasted roughly two years each. I’ve had a few one night stands, but only ever with people I was already friends with beforehand, or shared a mutual friend with. I’d never had sex with a complete stranger whom I’d never contacted ever again. At the beginning of 2016, however, upon becoming freshly single once more, I decided to try and delve into a different realm of casual sex. I resolved to cannonball dive out of my comfort zone and embark on the magical roller coaster ride of cheesy chat-up lines and dick pics that is Tinder.
Even though Tinder has been around for almost four years, and even though I’m at ease with anything you can download onto your phone, the prospect of actually using the app terrified me. It’s completely revolutionised what it is to be single in the modern era. Sure, dating websites aren’t exactly a radical concept, but finding somebody to meet up and have sex with has never been easier. I’d hear stories from my friends who would describe the process of Tinder dates with the briskness of recounting a short grocery list. For a newly single person, this all seemed incredibly overwhelming, especially when you consider the fact that I have difficulty talking to people I see every day. How the hell was I supposed to woo somebody I couldn’t even see?
But of course, that’s everybody’s trump card when it comes to online dating: the ability to hide behind a screen. Shielded by an iPhone, I could pretend to be more confident than I really was. Nobody would be able to watch in disgust as I drenched with sweat or chewed my nails down to a stub whilst desperately pondering how best to respond to Mike’s incredibly thought-provoking opening line “how’s your evening?” Emboldened by this element of control, and disregarding the potential flaws it would invoke when I actually met with somebody, I downloaded the app and started work on my profile.
There’s something rather seedy about giving Tinder access to your Facebook account. I had an irrational fear that it would post statuses on my behalf, and I’d receive inquiring comments from my extended family. Obviously, that didn’t happen, and the only embarrassment I experienced was when I had to filter through my tagged photos and cringe at my past-self. Making a profile turned out to be a lot harder than I expected. Choosing the best photos of myself and tapping out a character-limited description made me feel a bit like an advertisement and not a human being on the humble quest to bang.
Eventually, after a lot of scouring and a little bit of internal despair over previous haircuts and fashion choices, I had my photo reel sorted. In order: current best selfie, next best selfie, a picture of me with friends to pretend I had a thriving social life, a full body photo because apparently height is a big deal to fragile men, and a half-naked mirror selfie just so we were all clear why I was on there. Done.
Writing a bio was even harder. If I had known beforehand that a majority of people don’t even bother with a description, and if they do it’s usually just their Snapchat username, I probably would’ve half-assed it. Instead, I spent an unnecessary amount of time on it. Why is it that whenever you try to talk about yourself, you suddenly feel as if you’ve only launched into existence that very moment? How do you make yourself as appealing as possible in just a paragraph? With some constructive criticism from my friend, I managed to craft a short description that probably had the cohesion of being put through Google Translate five times. My profile has long since been purged, so I can’t recall it verbatim, but it was something along the lines of this, complete with helpful annotations to assist you in making your own:
After almost two hours of creating a profile, I realised there was no point overthinking it. Tinder isn’t exactly renowned for having the most upstanding citizens in its user-base, ready to academically grade your bio. So I thought ‘fuck it, this will do’ and then hastily chose my person specifications. 20 – 25 years old, 10 mile radius. I debated searching for women, but my Shy Bisexuality got the best of me and I limited my availability to men. I had been with guys all my life, yet the possibility of encountering them on Tinder still intimidated me, so you can imagine how terrifying the prospect of having my first experience with a girl through it would be. It’s all about the baby steps! When everything was ready to go, I hit the search button and stared at that orange pulsating ring, my phone so close to my face it would probably have caused blindness if left long enough.
Finally, a litany of potential matches appeared. For a moment, I was ecstatic. Swiping was the most fun part! You were allowed to screen your own love interests, and cut all the bullshit that comes with real-life interaction! Technology is truly amazing. However, I very rapidly realised how annoying this process was. For context, I live in kind of a weird area. It’s one of the very last stops on the Central Line, and so has easy access to London, but it’s technically a borough in Essex, and it’s an absolute ball-ache to get to anywhere else in Essex without a car. This meant that a smattering of my Tinder matches were cool, trendy London types who were a half hour tube ride away, but a majority were from obscure Essex wastelands and would require a Tolkein-esque pilgrimage to meet up with. Plus, they were all the embodiment of ‘Essex lad’, monolithic white boys with iced gem haircuts and sour expressions, their photos consisting solely of them and their squad in the club (all wearing the same sweater, jeans and smart shoes combo) and bios completely empty aside from a link to their Instagram. Within five minutes, I’d resolved to only turn the search on when I was at my job in Central.
This proved to be a much more successful search tactic, and I combed through profiles and pictures with the dedication of a detective trying to solve a murder case. My right thumb could now enter weightlifting competitions with the workout I gave it from constantly swiping. While impossibly fun, searching through results made me realise how high my standards really were. No bio? Automatic left. One picture? Left. I quickly gathered that if I continued in this pattern, I would automatically disqualify 80% of the people on there, and so I loosened up a little. Eventually, I had a nice little crop of matches, and I revelled in the brief spasm of gratification whenever ‘So-and-so liked you!’ flashed up on my screen. Then came the difficult part: actually talking to them.
I made a real effort to initiate conversation with everyone, and I tried to be funny, relating my opening line to their profile if I could. My first message to a guy named Angus, for instance, was ‘If you were a steak, you’d be well done’ – he didn’t reply, for some unfathomable reason. It didn’t take long for me to understand that it’s actually incredibly difficult to maintain focus on Tinder. I didn’t even have that many matches – maybe 10 or so – and yet it was exceedingly confusing to remember who was who, whether I had replied to somebody or not, and so on. Combined with the irresistible compulsion to resume swiping, I felt overstimulated very early on.
Also, I’m fairly certain a lot people are on there purely to collect matches or numbers in some sort of bizarre competition with their Lads for The Bants. It was rare for me to actually keep up a conversation with somebody, but when I did, a lot of the time they would cease contact as soon as I gave them my number. Maybe they all had awful memories associated with a similar string of digits, who knows? If a chat didn’t abruptly fizzle out, it was never interesting to begin with. Here’s a genuine conversation I had:
Look, I know it might seem like I had unrealistic expectations for guys when, like basically everybody else on Tinder, I myself was only on there to have casual sex. However, I don’t think some semblance of personality is too much to ask for. If guys weren’t boring as fuck, they were weirdly specific about the kind of girl they wanted. I lost count of how many profiles I saw with extensive physical and behavioural requirements, exclaiming “I’M ONLY ON HERE TO FIND A GIRLFRIEND, DO NOT MESSAGE ME IF YOU INTEND TO WASTE MY TIME” as if this was a recruitment fair and not a hub for strangers to bang. Chill out, Jeremy.
After a while, I finally managed a successful convo transfer to Whatsapp with a guy I’ll call Alex. Alex was pretty cute, with wavy brown hair and the prettiest green eyes I had ever seen in my life. Plus, he only lived 15 minutes from me, which was closer than anybody else I had found so far.
He was pleasant enough at first. A little simple-minded, liked football and getting drunk with The Lads, didn’t have a huge vocabulary but he seemed nice. Conversation was fairly flirty, and he was persistent in wanting to meet up, but my erratic shifts couldn’t permit it at that moment in time, even though I was keen to as well. As time went on, however, he began expressing behaviour that turns me off men like a light switch being punched: calling girls ‘bitches’, making rape jokes and yelling the f-slur at his friends in his Snap stories, etc. So I let the conversation dwindle, hoping that he would take the hint, something which all men are obviously famous for doing. Then one night, on my commute home from work, apropos of nothing I received an image message from Alex. I wonder if you can guess what it was.
My first ever Tinder Dick Pic! I was as proud as I was baffled. I’d heard a lot of jokes about men treating dick pics as the equivalent of sending a bouquet of roses, but I’d never had it happen to me before. With absolutely no prior context, this guy had sent me a photo of his penis. Just try and fathom that mental process. After me not talking for a few days, he’s sitting in his room, wondering how best to resume our conversation. Should he send a casual ‘how are you?’ or ask how my night is? Or type out any of the other endless combinations of written word the English language has to offer? No, instead he lands on the genius idea that he should masturbate and then send me a photo of his erect dick. I mean, it certainly caught my attention, I’ll give him that, but at no point in the history of humankind has this tactic successfully wooed a woman, and I did not intend to be the exception.
Using Tinder swiftly morphed into a repressive cycle of endless swiping and dwindling conversations. I’m obviously heavily at fault for this – it turns out the whole online communication thing is almost as hard as the real thing when it comes to seduction attempts. Talking to strangers is tough, who knew? I have no doubt that I must’ve come across as a bumbling alien attempting to infiltrate human society. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, and as you should do with any mildly difficult situation, I began to give up. It was really bleak, absentmindedly flicking left on everybody, glassy eyed, while conversations just died or got creepy. The whole thing felt like a whole lot of effort with no real payoff, and I was pretty much ready to delete my account.
While I was debating whether or not to purge my phone from this curse, however, I noticed I’d been Super-Liked by somebody. His name was Cort, he was 23, and he was really cute. All he had in his bio was ‘Knows all the words to Downtown by Macklemore’, which is possible one of the least appealing sentences in existence, but something about him just caught my attention. He opened with a fabulous chat-up line (“Are you from the North? Because I just Winterfell for you”) and that was that. We started talking, and it’s all so annoyingly cliché, but I’d never felt that kind of pull towards somebody before, where you know virtually nothing about somebody but you can already tell that you like them a lot.
Soon, we were meeting up in the dinky little pub right next to my work, and it turned out he only lived round the corner. I think it goes without saying that I was incredibly nervous about the whole thing, but he put me right at ease. He had an infectious laugh, and was genuinely interested in asking questions and getting to know me. (Side note: the bar shouldn’t really be this low.) Honestly, he was just downright interesting, and within five minutes of talking to him I knew I’d want to see him again. I’m not going to bore you by waxing poetic about that first date (except to gloat about the fact that we played mini golf in a themed bar and I won) but you can understand how great it went, since four months later, we’re a couple. It’s official on Facebook and everything, the hallmark of a truly serious relationship.
In short, I went on Tinder for something casual after having a string of relationships…and the only thing I got from it is a new relationship. Apologies if you read this with the hope of finding seedy recounts of my many casual sexual encounters and are now feeling disappointed. To be honest, from what I’ve gathered since then, this is a fairly accurate representation of what it’s like on Tinder.You go in expecting clandestine sex with random fitties, but instead you’re forced to wade through a plethora of dullards and weirdos and creeps. If you persevere, though, there’s a good chance you’ll be surprised – by meeting somebody who could change your entire life, and not by a dick pic. But there will also probably be a lot of dick pics.