Here’s something you should know about me: I hate Tinder. I actually say so in my Tinder bio – it’s supposed to be ironic, you know, and intriguing and a little cute. Am I a cynic or a flirt? Do I drink red wine or French Martinis? (Hint: both.)
Until recently, I completely despised Tinder and would argue at length about it with anyone who was willing, mainly citing the collapse of moral decency and the death of romance as the reasons for my abhorrence. If you take this standpoint it is very easy to bemoan the popularity of dating apps with the excuse that you are just too ‘romantic’ or ‘traditional’ or ‘old-fashioned’ (I am all of these things). But that’s just it: encountering potential dates/partners in ‘real’ life, and even the whole idea of gradual courtship, are old-fashioned. A lot of the time, things just don’t work like that anymore – though, contrary to what I had previously screeched at well-meaning friends whilst clutching a copy of Pride and Prejudice, that does not mean that romance is dead.
Jumping back into single life after a year-long relationship, I was just a little bit too shy (and, if I’m honest, too much of a loner) to ask people out face-to-face, so having made myself a goal to go on as many first dates as I could this term (and following an intense moral struggle and several critical discussions with friends) I finally caved in, abandoned my principles, and downloaded the app. A couple of glasses of wine and some hours later I was ready to admit that Tinder was actually kind of fun.
Yes, there are plenty of awful chat-up lines, and yes, inevitably not everyone is looking for the same sort of connection, if you catch my drift… but even though it may feel like playing a game, Tinder is really just a bunch of people mingling somewhat pathetically at a virtual singles bar.
Real life isn’t like the movies, obviously, but people still met and fell in love (at first sight, in some cases) before Tinder et al came along and changed the game. The consensus is that it would be weird now to ask someone out on the street or in the queue at Costa (totally not the sort of super cute thing I have fantasised about whilst listening to Chet Baker…). But is this weird because online dating is the norm, or is online dating the norm because this is weird? Have we changed: can it all be explained by our busy schedules and constant exposure to every tiny detail of everyone else’s life, making us simultaneously more open than ever before, and yet strangely isolated? Perhaps it’s because a lot of millenials are overachievers, or maybe it’s just down to laziness but, as with most aspects of everyday life, dating has been made quick and easy. You can almost imagine some kind of twist in the future where a Tinder/Deliveroo/Uber hybrid drives hook-ups chosen from a menu direct to your door.
Those sort of questions, though, and that sort of thinking, feel very clichéd. And things haven’t really changed that much: a 2015 survey by Mic.com found that just under 10% of the 18-34 year olds who participated met their significant other on a dating app or website, with the most common way of meeting being through mutual friends.
I’ve spent a long time looking down on Tinder mostly because of how convenient it all is, and how apparently superficial. There is maybe an idea that having to put more effort into finding a relationship will somehow make it worth more, which is totally unfair. And with Tinder the focus is, primarily, on image; but of course it is, that’s nothing new. “Did my heart love till now? forswear it, sight! For I ne’er saw true beauty till this night” is clearly a 16th century superlike.
And as it turned out, all the people I went on a date with from Tinder were lovely. 10/10 would swipe right again. Except not now because one of my matches has ended up as a relationship – who would have thought!
We should probably just accept that this is what dating is like now – if you find someone where there’s some mutual interest to spend the evening, or the night, or the next five years with, does it really matter how you met? Though having said that, we’ve still agreed on a suitably romantic backstory just in case any over-zealous relatives ask how we met. I may have changed my mind about Tinder, but I’m not over old-fashioned romance just yet.
Whatever your motivations, since it’s cuffing season, and Christmas (so love actually is all around!), brush up on your puns and warm up those thumbs for optimum Tinder chat… it may be love at first swipe.