Love Me Tinder

Your swipes tell all – no-one knows you like your Tinder does.

Words: Kim Feldman | Illustrations: Lucy Rose Currie

Tinder. It's innocuous enough. You shallowly filter through hordes of potential mates. Whether said mate is defined as ‘friend’ or ‘fun’ is immaterial – you still perform the same continuous scroll function used on Facebook. Go fast, go faster and only pause for a split-second if something catches your eye. But this is for the old hands.

When you first signed on, you took the time to open each profile, carefully analyse each of the pictures posted and read through the written bio before answering Hamlet’s modern day depression – to swipe right or not to swipe right, that is the question. You were kind and thoughtful. You gave them the benefit of the doubt. But after a while, things begin to change. The more time you spend Tindering, the less time you spend giving a shit about the anonymous person who doesn’t have any clue you exist yet. And so we swipe, gathering speed as we gather matches we’ll never message.

After opening countless profiles, matching and chatting – maybe even going that step further and meeting in real life – you realise that Tinder isn’t about being nice or polite.

This is my time – and in today’s world we’re all so boastfully busy – and I don’t want to waste it cringing through an hour of grating small talk, drinking more than I should and trying to find an exit strategy. I want to know that, at the very least, I won’t be wasting my time. There will be interesting banter, there will be eye candy, and there will be intelligence. They will look like their pictures and if they don’t, they better be able to hold my attention in other ways.

Yes, if I meet someone in real life I will listen intently and engage in witty banter, because if you meet someone in real life – be it a bar, work, the promenade or standing in line at Pick n Pay – you’ve already checked them out, deemed them worthy of further inquiry and swiped right in your mind. When someone chats to me at a bar and there’s nothing there, the awkwardness dissipates quickly and you leave neither worse for wear and with everyone’s dignity intact. That’s the magic of real life: all the subconscious cues, body language and tone of voice. It’s how we’re meant to meet.

But in this day and age, we’d rather find suitors whilst sitting on the loo, instead of actually brushing our hair and changing out of PJs. And so we swipe. We gaze through the meat market, our eyes moving quickly over the goods until they settle on what we deem the most prized cut. We’re not always sure what that is. It often looks different to what it looked like yesterday. It might be taller, darker, hairier, curvier, better-dressed, completely dishevelled or more distant and dreamy than ever before. Our preferences differ depending on mood, depending on sobriety, who we last spoke to and who last broke our hearts or pissed us off. And so it is with Tinder, too. Or at least that’s what we think.

But we hardly bother to open a profile anymore. Photo, age, mutual friends and current work or education – a tiny thumbnail, that’s what we look at. 4 milliseconds to decide if they are worthy. And with this speed and perfunctory glance, your true personal politics and preferences emerge. Depro-drunk at home on a Saturday night, our standards might drop but our prejudices fly free.

We were once eternal students and debated getting our PhDs (like that was ever going to happen), but now the only people proliferating our chats have mildly interesting-sounding corporate jobs or have an MBA under their name. None of this ‘CEO of Self’ crap.

We’re feminists, pay our own way and can make the first move, but we’re also lazy and underinvested: we can’t even be bothered with a ‘hi’ when our screen goes dark and Tinder sticks a ‘SEND MESSAGE’ button in our face. F*** you, Tinder, we don’t even know why we swiped right.

We say we despise mirror selfies, but there are plenty we’ve swiped right on. We say we’re open to everyone but our matches are about as interesting as a blank page. We ‘defs got no type’ but our stream looks like a creepy catalogue of the Barbie doll collection you amassed in the 90’s - before they introduced their diversity range for millennial pre-tweens. The kind where everyone looks identical, bar a slightly altered tan, eye or hair colour. We know it’s all the same damn doll.

We hate the shameless half-naked torsos and yes, generally we do skip straight past them, but what about those four 6-packs sitting in our matches stream? Same for duckface, dress-up and fancy cars. We’ll happily go for someone outside the norm, so long as they are a traveller from a foreign land and will be gone in a week.

As much as we hate to admit it, we’re not quite as progressive as we seem. Our age range might be 22 (for the old souls) to 45 (Salt-N-Pepa was only ever bad as a name for a hip-hop trio, you tell yourself) but the only people you’ve ever right-swiped were within a 4-year stretch. Similarity is important – and god knows I don’t want to be the embarrassingly drunk uncle at a rando’s 21st.

So, if you want to know what intrigues you, see who you swipe right on.

If you want to know what turns you on, see who you chat to.

If you want to know where your prejudices lie, just look at who you’ve actually agreed to meet, and then with how many escape routes possible.

Let’s be honest, your personal politics were established as a pre-teen – cultural, societal and familial influence abounds – and your taste in mate hasn’t changed much since then.

But acknowledgement of the problem is the first step to recovery.