I don’t always go to OccCiv but when I do, I look for ways to pacify my boredom. Recently, I discovered Tinder.
Today, I decide to share my angst with Carla, 22, with whom I have two mutual friends and three shared interests — enough, I posit, to warrant an unsolicited conversation without seeming sketchy. To my credit, though, the Tinder frontier is still fresh and, if only by virtue of it being a semi-anonymous dating application, lacking a precedent on what exactly qualifies as sketchy and what doesn’t. Besides, she matched me too: this is how the app works.
“This class sucks,” I type, send. A half-hour passes. “I go to Hopkins, by the way.” Another hour.
This is more or less par for the course.
I’m not particularly upset. For every unrequited attempt at a connection, there’s always two or three — though I’d imagine my numbers would be higher if I hadn’t gained six pounds after getting my wisdom teeth pulled over Christmas — that see actualization. I do not know her last name, where she lives, how she spends her weekends or if she likes popcorn. All I know is that she’s within a 50-mile radius and that at some point, accidentally or intentionally, drunk or sober, we expressed a carnal interest in one another with the rightward sweep of a fingertip.
Most of my matches aren’t Hopkins girls. My menu is dominated by freshmen from Towson and Loyola, with a peppering of some particularly colorful natives; Brittinee, 31, appears to have three children. I liked her. It gets particularly interesting after dark, when Shenice, 28 invites me to The Get Down, or when I find myself developing a vaguely passionate sense of trust with Princess, 24.
When I do encounter a girl from Hopkins — about one in fourteen — I’ll usually throw her a bone. I can recognize her from the dangerously scant information provided by a Tinder profile: the user’s first name, age and photograph, chosen at his or her own self-serving discretion.
Yes, it’s creepy, but it finds redemption in the fact that the creepiness is mutual. It cuts through the crap and accepts that social media comes down to sex.
The premise is wonderfully Darwinian: natural selection with a fingertip’s sweep across a screen. Those with unimpressive connections will presumably grow bored of the Tindergarten and go play elsewhere, abandoning the gene pool altogether and leaving the more appealing users to find one another with greater efficiency and then be fruitful and multiply.
There’s one fatal flaw with that theory, though, because the interactions on Tinder so very rarely culminate in sex. If my first three weeks with the app are at all telling, it’s unlikely that I’ll ever meet any of my matches in person. Late-night solicitations usually go ignored or downright rejected: “I’m too far away” is common, as is “I thought you were the other guy in your profile picture.”
This is apparently counterintuitive to the concept of a dating application. But I’ll argue that Tinder is first and foremost about the user’s relationship with himself. It’s an ego-booster, or deflator, depending. A match is only as rewarding as the ensuing self-confidence of the matched. You flip from girl to girl, you press the green heart for one of them, and then there’s that momentary lag. You become conditioned to associate it with the congratulatory announcement that yes, you have a match. And in that fleeting moment, you feel good.
This is why Tinder has enjoyed its remarkable recent success. It gives us the affirmation that Facebook likes or drunken dance floor makeouts can only ambiguously suggest: people aren’t completely averse to sleeping with me. It’s about self-satisfaction in various shades of pettiness and brevity. Darwin and Freud can still have their say in the matter, because maybe self-satisfaction is all casual sex itself is really about, too.
This is among the few reasons why it doesn’t particularly bother me when my attempts to converse with a stranger fall flat. I probably wouldn’t want to talk to me either — I’m not especially charming in mediums other than news articles — but Tinder simply isn’t about conversation, because the conversation isn’t going to get you anywhere.
Glancing down at my phone, I see a message: “Congratulations!”
Kelly, 19. I turn away from myself and look at the girl: blonde, slightly hokey sepia filter on the picture, probably Towson. If insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting new results each time, maybe I’m crazy, then, driven temporarily nuts by the temporary cultivation of my self-esteem.
“Hey,” I write. “This class sucks.”