From the ugly to the beautiful, the scantily clad to the overdressed.
For as far back as I can remember, I’ve been highly skeptical of the micro-planned relationships born out of the digital era. Don’t get me wrong; I think it’s great when it works. I have close relatives who have met their spouses through online dating.
For me, personally, I’ve always enjoyed the individual charm and rhetoric that come from real-life coincidence.
But, there I was, 30 years old, proudly single and on the verge of new and exciting beginnings. I held a steady job, made decent income, worked out regularly and combed my full head of hair every single day.
And, yet, for all that merriment, all that glamour and mystique, traditional dating habits in LA seemed as absent as ever.
What happened to meeting people in familiar settings? How did that suddenly disappear? Where did everyone go?
Apparently, my institutionalized, real-world-void, app-based socializing had brainwashed the entire culture and taken over. Swiping was now the new black, and relationships as we once knew them were being challenged by an array of new communications.
Without much of a choice, I did what any self-respecting, early-stage Millennial would do. I painfully and regretfully assimilated to digitized dating.
Enter Tinder: the greatest and most addictive form of digital miscommunication on planet Earth. It’s virtual people watching, unobstructed at the most crowded intersection of loneliness and seduction. It’s glorious, unsophisticated and mindless beyond its years.
I took it upon myself to do a six-month tinder trial, or so, that’s what it’s become. Over that time, I’ve seen enough to know I’ve seen it all — from the ugly to the beautiful, the scantily clad to the overdressed.
From women with children and women with guns, all the way down to women who may not be women after all. I’ve bumped into dear friends, friends of friends, people who used to be my friends and those who I wish were my friends for a night.
I’ve encountered hysterical profile photos, spiritual musings, bible passages, movie quotes and quick-witted one-liners. Truly, the commentary is more memorable than the people.
I know the height of at least 20,000 women and have grown to accept the fact that apparently no one — not a single female — is on Tinder looking for a hookup. Funny how that works.
I’ve discovered names I never knew existed, found names I couldn’t pronounce and learned innumerable ways to spell common names, like Lindsey. I found that pretty much all women have a tattoo or piercing and that without them, we’re merely unidentified objects wandering aimlessly on God’s watch.
I learned that racecar spelled backwards is race car — perhaps the most implausible palindrome that one could think up. And, every pizza can be a personal pizza if you just try hard enough. Love that one.
The app itself is endless. It’s like Words With Friends all over again — multiple games being played simultaneously, all to the detriment of work/life productivity. It’s a black hole of amusement to combat our greatest fear: boredom.
From every nook and cranny of the application, I’ve been sucked in by the absurdity. Without question, so much of the experience is Seinfeldian in nature. Every facet and every detail is analyzed down to its core; it’s literally a show about nothing.
But, even with all of the amusing, useless knowledge and fairly obvious observations, up until a few weeks ago, I wasn’t fully engaged in the Tinder game. I was merely a bystander, assessing everything from the peripheral.
And, then, less than 48 hours after a meaningless birthday, I matched with a girl who singlehandedly changed my perception. Maybe there was something to this after all.
After months of low expectations and meandering flirtations, I was genuinely and instantly interested in this girl. Putting aside pure physical attraction, she seemingly possessed all of the innate qualities I look for in a partner.
This wasn’t just another match from inadvertent swiping or drunken hijinks; this felt authentic. She was the type of girl you hoped to sync up with. I quickly engaged conversation and learned enough about this girl to know that I liked her. Or rather, wanted to like her.
And, therein lies the problem: I invested emotion in an emotionless app. How could I feel such connectivity with a person I barely know?
And, so, it became my downfall. I got too caught up in the Larry David-esq minutia and forgot to remind myself that this isn’t a preexisting friendship.
Tinder is nothing more than a digital neighborhood, linking people together through a combination of geography and profile recognition. There is no whimsical romance or divine intervention; it’s just a friendly suggestion from a stranger. How often do we take those seriously?
In fact, Tinder’s greatest asset may be simply enabling conversation amongst strangers. But, it’s up to us to dictate whether or not any conversing takes place. And, that is where we revert back to our digital selves.
Choosing non-confrontational texting and errant swiping for the mere sake of matching with no real intent. It’s part of the fun, part of the game.
As a dear friend recently pointed out to me, we’re not creating relationships anymore. We’re not even crafting friendships. We’re barely being neighborly. We’re just talking, entertaining, catching feelings and ending up in what she perfectly described as “situation-ships.” Gotta love that.
She’s right; maybe all we’re looking to do is put ourselves in better “situations.” You know, make some sort of connection in a fragmented digital world. We’re all human; we thrive off of acceptance. We can’t change our desire for reciprocation.
And, to me, that’s what’s missing. It’s the unique ability to grasp something tangible. With Tinder, we don’t need to go out to meet other people; we can interact in the comfort of their homes, with no humans in sight.
Wherever we go, Tinder is right there in our pockets, waiting to be summoned.
I dealt with it firsthand. My experimental Tinder obsession included dozens of matches, hundreds of words exchanged, three instances of phone numbers being dished out and only one true connection. There it is, my inconspicuous declaration.
It was fun while it lasted, but ultimately a letdown. I’m not completely jaded. The app itself is a complete riot, and I encourage anyone to try it. Had this been around back when I was in college, I can see all of the glorified mischief it would’ve caused.
But, it bears no significance on the personal relationships I cherish today.
Maybe I’m too old, too reserved, too bullish and too sensitive to have a “situation-ship.” No matter, it simply reinforced my forgone affirmation.
With the new year in high gear, I’m ready to shut it down, start fresh and re-explore the offline world through a more refined lens. You know, the ominous “in-person” domain.
Maybe I’m old-fashioned, or maybe I’m hopelessly romantic. Whichever it is, I opt for less Googling, less assumption, less non-communicative behavior.
Drinking in bars and meeting people is my greatest pastime. I miss the glory days with the excitement of the unknown. Regardless of the culture around me, I’m going back.
So, for those of you interested in having a real-life conversation about anything whatsoever, you can find me at my favorite local watering hole, Jones Hollywood.
Ask for table 35. Any takers are welcome. Thank you, Tinder, for all your glory and global dependency. Like all of your random matches, perhaps, someday, we’ll meet again. Until then, just know this: It’s not you. It’s me.
by Beau Michael
This post originally appeared at Elite Daily. Reprinted with permission.
Beau Michael is an entrepreneur, writer, contributor, music lover, and bourbon enthusiast residing in sunny Los Angeles. He loves the ocean, but refuses to go in. There are friggin sharks with laser beams in there.
Photo: Pedro Ribeiro Simões/Flickr