Old-school bar romancer discovers the matching app phenomenon Tinder
“Meeeaaap – wrong answer??!” – twenty-four hours after not replying to Hannah, this message angrily pops up on my smartphone. My first Tinder match had reported she was “interested in me,” even though her heart was “shut at the moment.” This confession stopped me cold; I was uncertain what it actually meant, much less what my next move should be. Viennese girls are hard to read sometimes, on- or offline.
Love for download
The evening before, I had decided to take a dive into the world of Tinder, the infamous dating platform. For those of you who have been living under a rock or been in a monogamous relationship for the last couple of years, Tinder is the number one online dating app in the world. As of last year, nine billion matches have been created on Tinder, for couples in all variations, straight, gay, lesbian or transgender. For many, a smartphone app has become the deciding factor of whom they sleep with next weekend or raise kids with a couple of years later.
Creating an account is easy enough: (Remember when we were anxious about sharing even our first name over the Internet?) In 2017, I now happily give Tinder the permission to take whatever it wants from my Facebook profile with just one lazy click. Choosing my profile pictures, however, has turned into a scientific process and, as everybody online seems to be faking it, I only select photos taken at least five years ago, when I still had a little more hair.
After a couple of swipes (left means no, right means yes – the app is so easy to navigate, even a child could get lucky) I got matched with said “Hannah”, whose profile displays her performing insane yoga poses in various outdoor locations. Being fit and outdoorsy seems to be a thing on Tinder at the moment: I swipe through girls carrying massive backpacks through some God-forsaken desert, hiking through a rainforest or standing on top of a mountain looking into the bright sunset. My profile photos were exclusively taken in shady bars and suggest I have an alcohol and nicotine problem.
While chatting with Hannah, I scored four other matches, so decided to give up on her for lack of common ground, and start chatting with Rachel. According to her profile, Rachel is from Wisconsin, likes beer and teaches English at an international school in Vienna. We end up having a surprisingly pleasant conversation about books we both like. Unlike the Viennese girl Hannah, who left the initiative all up to me, Rachel soon took on a flirty tone and gave the impression of a woman who knows what she wants.
While many rules are different in the online world, intercultural differences seem to hold up. Just to test this assumption, I asked her if I could come over; to my eternal disbelief, she said yes, and that I should bring a bottle of wine.
Fast Food Romance
Confession time: I actually have a girlfriend and have used these poor young women as research subjects. After making it through high school and university without the magic of online dating, I am one of those old-school romancers who thinks that a real man goes to a bar to pick up a girl. After all, nothing can beat the excitement of a Friday night taking the last metro to Pratersauna, Chelsea or some other notorious pick up spot, or the anxiety of standing on the dance floor and awkwardly shaking your hips around while building up the courage to walk over to a pretty girl. And best of all, that butterfly moment when she sends over a brief smile.
None of this exists on Tinder. Of course, it doesn’t in online dating in general. The anonymity of the Internet deconstructs the complex process of getting laid – aahhemmm, I mean, of finding love – and reduces it to a formal transaction, similar to ordering a perfectly prepared-to-your-taste Lammkotlett in a posh restaurant. Back in the day, you went to McDonalds and got the same Big Mac as everyone else. Nowadays, at every Mickey D’s, you can customize your burger.
That’s Tinder: a feast of fast food in the world of dating. Don’t like blondes – swipe left. Don’t like skinny girls – swipe left. You can’t create your perfect partner, but you can keep swiping until you hit gold. And if the attraction isn’t mutual, it’s somehow not nearly as devastating to get rejected by your trusty smartphone rather than a living and breathing human being you met in real life.
So Tinder can be a fun and efficient, and it seems to work for a lot of people. But it also has its downsides: The app gives you the illusion of a never-ending parade of potential partners, raising the temptation to keep swiping, always looking over that proverbial online shoulder for the ever-hotter, ever-wittier person waiting in the shadows somewhere in the endless corridors of cyberspace.
But when a guy walks into a bar…