Love can be an inconvenience. And for career driven young professionals, dating can be the last thing on their minds. This is where online dating comes in. In the growing age of technology, hastags and @s, likes and follows, people can meet virtually anyone and everyone on the internet. Sites like OkCupid, Match.com,
and apps like Tinder and Grindr have flourished, encouraging dating that is convenient, when and where you want, with no strings attached. And yet, even though social media plays a growing role in our lives, some have found online dating not quite acceptable for something as ‘organic’ and ‘authentic’ as true love.
When I asked my proudly single, not ready to mingle friend if she would ever use Tinder, she yelped an explicit, resounding “no!” This wasn’t a demonstration of her antediluvian ways, no, it was something that many friends, when pressed, demonstrated the same repulsion, embarrassment, at the sheer thought of using social media to find love. These were friends who regularly Snapchatted me, who vocally questioned governments on Twitter and posted (sometimes) embarrassing updates on Facebook. These were people fully, and wholly ingrained into the social media net, so much so it became a norm for communication. And yet, they were hesitant about using such norms to find love, and to be precise, unironic, genuine connections with other human beings. Why?
My friend said, quite bluntly, “It’s love. Something as artificial as tinder isn’t going to work for something as natural as love.” Her implication was, love was supposed to happen naturally. She wasn’t showing an abhorrence with technology, but an abhorrence to the well-orchestrated connection technology created with two individuals. There was a machine behind that program, calculating the likes and dislikes of individuals, and pairing them up. Yet at the same time, how natural was love to begin with? If you liked someone, you found reasons and common ground to talk to them. You, in your own calculating way, orchestrated a connection between yourself, and the object of your affection. Two people did not simply fall together, in the way Hollywood romances showed it, but met each other depending on well-orchestrated variables of mutual friends or mutual classes. Love, in this way, could never be as coincidental and “natural” as people presumed it to be. How was that any different to Tinder finding mutual friends for you, and orchestrating a connection between an individual and yourself?
My other friend admitted that what stopped her from using Tinder was the subsequent story she would have to tell to friends, if it turned to be a success story. “We met on Tinder,” didn’t have exactly the same ring to it as, “We were stuck in a lift and one thing led to another.” How did a successful tinder couple negotiate their tinder going history? These were questions I posed to friend, and regular Tinder goer Allison *(name changed). For her, telling peers that she had met her date on Tinder wasn’t awkward at all. Sure, it didn’t have the same undertones romantic comedies had, but Tinder was still, to some extent, normal. It was the older generation, parents and relatives that she revised her history for: “I will always say we met through mutual friends – either at a party, or bumped into them at the club,” essentially, the acceptable, conservative way. As for Tinder conversations, these can actually help meeting in person for the first time. “I always bring up stuff we’ve talked about…it gives you a springboard for conversation.” *It’s less painful than a blind date, because at least you know what they’re interested in. What scarce conversation you had, may be useful material for face to face conversation. However, this can backfire when conversations on Tinder are simultaneously happening, and one is going on said numerous Tinder dates. People can mix up conversations they’ve had with the wrong person, which happened to Allison when she mistakenly brought up a different person’s conversation, who was not the one she was on the date with. “I’m like, ‘oh yeah, you won that swimming competition,’ and they were very confused.” Apart from being a fantastic anecdote, did any of these dates turn into real love? Allison actually met her ex-boyfriend on Tinder. She also met a really wonderful person “which could have kept being something really special,” if there weren’t other factors like distance and university. What I get from Allison is the insistence that Tinder is used for fun. This is what she knows Tinder is infamous for; drunken hook ups and late night ‘fixes.’ But between the gaps, I hear a longing for real, meaningful connection, for things to progress further into a “real relationship.” She knows of people in long term relationships, who met on Tinder. There is a certain layer of façade involved. Tinder is ‘just a bit of fun,’ but at the same time, there is a possibility it could evolve into something more.
I felt there was only one thing left to do. I signed up for Tinder, and deleted it shortly after. For me, Tinder was like op shopping. You had to sift through a lot of crap to find some gems. And as crass as it sounds, people became objects. I knew nothing about their personality, about their dreams and failures, what made them tick at night; I knew nothing except the pixelated 4 pictures I saw of them in house parties, and trekking in the outback. There was an animalistic shopping in Tinder, at the range of choices, at the sizing up of some (did they fit?) and the brutal rejection of others. There’s also the fact New Zealand can sometimes be uncomfortably small. Meeting singles in a metropolitan city like New York may offer a plethora of exciting, unknown prospects. But in New Zealand, there was always a danger that my neighbour, childhood friend, even tutor, may pop up next. There’s also safety concerns behind online dating. Allison herself admitted that safety measures were in force whenever she went on a Tinder date. She often asked to meet in a public place, she told her friends where she was going and for how long, and she would ask for a photo of the person to match their Tinder pictures. The same dangers women face in reality; misogyny, harassment and abuse are the same dangers Allison, and other online daters are constantly aware of online. These may differ to men’s experiences of Tinder, and what they fear in online dating. As Margaret Atwood said, “Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.”
It would have been interesting to go on a Tinder date, but there was something innate in me (too romantic? Too squeamish?) that bulked at the thought. There was also the additional factor that I was a young, Asian woman. “Yellow Fever” is an oriental fetishism pervasive in online dating, which affirms skewed ideas of the sexual appeal of Asian women. The assumed stereotype of Asian women as exotic, docile and subservient have rendered them the “most popular” race on OkCupid (AYI Survey, 2015). In contrast, African American women were seen as feisty and argumentative, and were statistically the least desired ethnicity. Bias and prejudice are hugely influential in online dating. I didn’t know if some “super liked” me because of who I was, or because of the delusional ideologies I represented. Allison, and other Tinder success stories show the appeals of online dating; its convenience, its comfort (as opposed to a blind date), and its accessibility. But for me, Tinder was like a game; and I would be always questioning the rules.
*Note: *JAGGAR understands that a great many people have found great and true love on Tinder, this is an opinion piece and is not intended to offend either the application or the people who have found love through it.