Where have all the good men gone? And where are all the gods? After a combination of a first term’s attempt at half-hearted self-loving and failing to fi nd the requisite ‘streetwise Hercules’, I have made the executive decision to join Tinder. The theory: what a lark! What a joy! The ability to choose people I find attractive, go on dates with them, live happily ever after. Tinder is weighed down by none of the late-20s desperation of match.com: a light-hearted essay distraction.
The reality: I didn’t expect Tinder to be what it is. I wasn’t prepared for the feeling of power. The premise is deceptively simple: a clear and easy-to-use interface masking a complicated algorithm which sees your inputted preference, your swish of the finger left or right, and ‘matches’ you with others in the local area. I become the maker of my own destiny. I am the playwright and the protagonist. I am the alpha and the omega. ‘With great power comes great responsibility’, I think to myself, as a scroll through Oxford’s ‘finest’ with increasing speed. The trouble is that the power is simultaneously wielded in the hands of the individual and the masses. Really, I’m not special – someone else has the power to reject me just as equally as I do them. Egalitarianism in online dating – who would have thought it?
And so comes the anxiety – which version of ‘me’ will promote me best to potential mates? Funny and irreverent, or a little more serious? A picture of me looking arty and wistful, or a club photo with aggressive flash to prove that I not only have friends, but also have left the library this term. Extra kudos for the ‘SE10’ logo to up the #edge. Self-selecting tells one a lot about oneself; when boiled down the absolute primacy of attraction, it’s easy to see trends in our attraction, and our prejudices too (shamefully, I haven’t yet swiped right on a Brookes student). Economists love Tinder for its almost perfect randomized controlled trial-like ability to test people’s preferences, and its creation of a marketplace for romance. Indeed, with or without Tinder and its compatriots, we are all consumers of romance – Valentine’s Day’s relentless capitalism infiltrates our consciousness more and more each year – so why not capitalise on the fi rst stages of attraction?
As a semi-failing economist with far too little time on my hands, I decided to set up a social experiment on Tinder. One particular specimen tells me that I have a ‘delicious face’, and another that I am the emoji for ‘bomb’ and the emoji for ‘shell’. Top class emoji play; I salute you.
Frankly, though, I’m disappointed with the men Oxford has presented me with. Horror stories from friends at other universities prepared me for the worst. There have been no unsolicited photos of the nether regions, few horrible pickup lines, and most fundamentally, no acts of aggression or sexism towards me. But also no conversation. Or very little at least. Perhaps I’m attracting the wrong type of men. Perhaps telling people that I’m only on Tinder as a social experiment may clue them up to the fact that I’m not entirely serious about who I swipe left and right upon. The most exciting moment was when I matched with popular reality television star Jamie Laing from Made in Chelsea – it was an ad, of course. My advice for the Tinder rookie? Prepare for disappointment.
What one does notice, is that when confronted, nobody is seriously on Tinder in Oxford. Oxonians, never willing to be caught dead conversing via a medium so direct and (dare I say) louche, are all ‘joking around’, or ‘procrastinating for collections’. It’s the handy get-out clause for those moments when you recognise a match in lectures, or on a night out, or realise that they are your college mum’s college dad. I suspect that this is a bashful cover-up for a real desire for love (or sex). Not for me, of course – I only downloaded it as a joke with my girlfriends. You may well wonder what Tinder says about modern romance. Who cares? In my opinion, it does not require much strenuous thought. Like many other irrefutable technological aspects of our day-to-day living which did not exist in the golden years – Instagram, mobile banking, cyber-bullying – there’s little point theorising. Tinder is here to stay for the foreseeable future. Its magnifi cently swift appearance in nearly all of the iPhones and Androids in my friendship circle is staggering. A hackneyed cynic would have mind to say that Tinder’s reduction of romance into the bare minimum is symptomatic of the modern consumer’s short attention span and insatiable desire.
This is probably true, but is so much the voice of a disheartened Generation X-er who mourns the loss of vinyl to synthetic princess pop. We are no stranger to human attraction stripped down, words on a page, a snapshot of a life and an imagined future together – lonely hearts columns have been going for as long as there have been newspapers. Tinder replicates this in a form easier to digest for the technically literate, and goes further to mimic the real-life ‘hot-or-not’ aspects of face-to-face dating.
Yes, oftentimes the onus is on sex rather than love, and I will concede that it is probably not a route for mating for life. But perhaps when all you want is another warm body in your bed for the night, Tinder is all that is required. For now though, my foray into mobile dating has been fun. Viva la Tinder!