2:30AM. You’ve left Bridge before closing. Some reptilian part of your VK-addled brain sparks up and before you know it, you’re in bed swiping left on the eighth person whose ‘tall, if it matters’, and swiping right on someone just to exercise some other muscle group in your thumb. Of course, that happens to be the one person you match with that evening. Your eyes roll, and you’re immediately met with the race to un-match before you get hit with some variety on ‘hey, seeing as we’re both up…’
There is something about spending time on Tinder (other dating apps are available) that feels akin to awkward, sexually charged eye contact on the District Line. The moments/hours/days between the millisecond dopamine rush and the first message being sent leaves you in an odd limbo where you both know you’re equally interested/bored/drunk, but not quite enough to actually engage in conversation. If you finally do take the plunge and decide to talk to each other, the vast majority of conversations take one of two routes:
‘How you doing?’
‘Ahaha is that a Friends reference’
Or, perhaps more entertainingly,
‘I would love to suck your toes.’
This is not to say Tinder is always the technological equivalent of taking someone home after a club night just to look in the mirror and ignore them whilst they sit awkwardly at your kitchen table, but slowly that Black Mirror episode where Bryce Dallas Howard gets arrested for the human equivalent of a low Yelp review seems to make sense the fifth time someone opens with the James Franco wink gif. At least ‘lucky for you I’m a pervert’ was an original conversation starter. And just like a club night, the urge to shower is overwhelming and you’re probably disappointing your parents. Swiping on Tinder feels like an acceptance that you’re bypassing any kind of slow blossoming genuine connection– no one writes songs about being superliked by Chris, 25, Brookes Uni.
So then when you’re standing outside the tube station, somehow recalling every single sex trafficking story ever reported, thinking back to a more innocent time where only silly people got into strangers’ cars, you catch the eye of the collection of photos you’ve been chatting to walk towards you and in a weird uncanny valley moment realise this is a complete stranger you’ve been talking to for three weeks. Only then does it cross your mind that those photos were probably picked for good reason, and their height definitely does matter. Do you hug? Shake hands? Fist (bump)? They’re paying, right?
At the risk of mixing modern-day metaphors, we’re able to treat people in the same way we treat a box set of Killing Eve. It’s on-demand attention where you can, quite literally, turn people off. The ghost in the machine has a name, and it’s Molly, 22, Beautician. So why not delete it? Why not, you know, leave the house? Get out a bit? Firstly, at least it’s not meth, but secondly, there’s perhaps something reassuring about such a vast group of people all choosing to download an app that we can collectively agree is basically a technological purgatory where lost souls wait around for something better to happen. If one extreme of social media is seeing someone from the year above you in primary school get engaged on Instagram whilst you’re still shimmying away from a nonce on the Park End cheese floor, the other is on Tinder, where we’re all just shimmying away from toe-suckers and hoping we’ll bump into someone who knows how to use deodorant.
A brief translator’s guide to Tinder:
“6’0”, because apparently that matters”
I’m 5’10” and bitter.
“Why match and not message?”
I’ll message you “hey” eight times at 3:30am, then call you a slut when you don’t reply.
“Your mum will love me.”
I smell like dark fruits.
“New to this.”
I’m 57 years old and hang about at clubs.
“Not on here much, add me on Instagram.”
I’m not actually a human being.
“Dark sense of humour.”