Nov 30, 2014


A lot has been written about Tinder, so much in fact that I don't even feel the need to include an explanatory clause after first raising the subject. I'm a little late to the party (you know you are late to a party if the Wall Street Journal is already there when you show up, and WSJ brought an oddly specific story about professional football players in New York looking for love).

But I'm here now nonetheless, and I've brought some personal stories from the trench, which should serve nicely as a warming digestif.

My thoughts about the app are mostly negative in the abstract, while generally positive in the personal case.

In abstract: Tinder is dating commoditized. There is something discouragingly close to online shopping about the endeavor. And I am opposed to anything that treats people like things. People, as you might know, are ends-in-themselves.

But I'm not convinced that dating itself is a useful construct (disclosure: I am bad at dating, in any traditional sense of the word). Dating is romance socialized. Deep meaning, true companionship, self-actualization all bundled up into a series of charged pseudo-casual interactions with near-strangers.

I'm sounding cynical. That's not good. Nobody likes a cynic.

Enough abstraction.

In the personal case: I have been using Tinder for about 2 months. Actually, I reactivated my Facebook account so I could take part. The market offered was too large and too alluring to refuse, despite my principled objections.

And the market was larger than I imagined. My first weekend on the app was an orgy of sorting, swiping, right right right left right left left right left right right right left left left left right ... and on and on. I thought I had run out of candidates; I thought I had sorted them all. Then I returned a couple of hours later to find my queue refilled. Right right right right left left right ...

In the torrent, I got some matches. My first attempts at casual banter were non-starters (to a cute girl that whose text box described her as Russian: "are you from Russia or from a Russian family?"). But I got into the groove of it, and maintained some exchanges. Words are what I'm good at, after all.

Eventually, I was carrying on extended conversations with Y and Z. Y was a student at SF State; Z had just graduated from a college in the South and had come back home.

Last week, I set up dates with both of them. Back-to-back, actually. Y: coffee at noon in the Mission. Z: coffee at 3 at an Italian café in North Beach. It was a busy Saturday.

The dates went reasonably well. A lot of banter with Z, more serious "get to know you" talk with Y. I had another date with Z this weekend, though that might be the last. And Y and I have plans later this week. I still don't know these girls in any meaningful way. But that is a dating problem, not a Tinder problem. Tinder served its purpose – we were able to transition from packaged photos to packaged experiences. And I was able to swoosh through hundreds of pretty faces in the interim. Not a cure to chronic 20-something loneliness. But a salve, definitely.

[rereads: 3, edits: added "charged" before "pseudo-casual", "this" to "the", "and" deleted before "bolder", "chronic" added before "20-something"; fairly heavy redactions to the personal case, at the suggestion of two friends; capitalized title]