I hate Tinder.
Like, hate it.
I’m not shaming anyone who uses Tinder, or any other online dating service. I have so many friends and people I know who have used it, and even some who have found amazing relationships through it. I have nothing against people who find success in the online dating scene — actually, I think it’s fantastic.
But from day one, I knew it wasn’t for me.
I got Tinder for the first time in January 2020, when I went to Mexico with a close friend. She and I were spending the week on the beach, at a nice resort on the east coast of Mexico. She had had Tinder for a long time, since June 2019, and she had been pushing me to get it for months. Finally, feeling open-minded and free in Mexico, I thought, Why not? I actually was excited about it.
I spent a little while filling out all of the information to complete my profile. I didn’t have really any good pictures of myself, so it was kind of hard for me to do the photo part. When I finished, I was half-satisfied. I wasn’t expecting any matches.
Actually, though, I got a few more than I expected.
For a couple of days, it was fun. I got to talk to random people who were also vacationing in Mexico, or people from Mexico who lived nearby. I got to have conversations with people who lived miles away from the midwestern town that I was from. And on top of all that, as shallow as it felt to admit, I liked the attention. I liked the excitement that I felt when a match popped up on the screen; when someone had chosen me, thought I was good-looking, wanted to chat with me.
But that excitement soon turned sour.
Something about Tinder made me sad. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but I was definitely sad after a few days of having it. It felt overwhelming to go onto the app and see the chats and look at my matches (or the lack thereof). Plus, I wasn’t serious about any of the people I was matching with. I was only there for five days, after all.
On the airplane on the way back home, I deleted my Tinder account and thought nothing of it for a few weeks.
Then, in February 2020, I got it again while I was visiting my friend out of town. We were partying at her place and my friends, again, convinced me to get it. Feeling carefree again, I figured, All right, why not? I had forgotten how weird it felt in Mexico.
I didn’t like it then, either. I deleted my account soon after.
Then, when quarantine started, another close friend talked me into getting it again. I was talking to her about how much I wanted a relationship, and how quarantine was making me awfully lonely. She said a good way to curb my loneliness was Tinder. At least I’d know some people found me attractive, right? I could start chats with a few people, get to know some of them, feel validated.
But nothing about it made me feel validated. I ended up deleting my account for one final time, and I will never, ever be getting Tinder again.
I had to think about it, though. What was it about the app that bothered me so much? It certainly wasn’t anything about the app itself, or even Tinder. It was about the concept of online dating apps.
First of all, I realized, I didn’t like being reduced to a few profile pictures. As someone who has struggled with body dysmorphia and severe insecurity for my whole life, I’ve never felt confident posting pictures of myself, let alone pictures to seek out potential partners. And while I was using Tinder, I realized how important those photos truly were. Even me, when I was swiping through people, would rarely look through the rest of someone’s profile or photos if I didn’t find their first or second photo attractive. In fact, in many cases, it took me all of two seconds to look at a photo and decide if I was going to swipe right or not. And people were most likely doing the same for me — looking at my photo for a few seconds and then deciding if it was attractive enough to either swipe or look into my profile more deeply. I hated doing that to people, though, and I hated the idea of them doing that to me. I didn’t feel good about the photos I was posting and doubted that anyone would really find them cute enough to swipe on. And more than that, I wanted to share myself with someone emotionally, intellectually. How was I supposed to do that if someone was reducing me to a picture and making a decision about me based on that?
And secondly, I realized the bigger reason behind why dating apps are not for me.
It’s because I love authentic, interpersonal interaction. I like meeting someone at school and flirting with them in class and deciding to date them. I like running into someone at the grocery store and thinking, Hey, I haven’t talked to them in a while, and calling them the next night. I like the idea of traveling somewhere and meeting someone at a diner or a park or some random place in the city and we both feel attracted to each other and we strike up a conversation, and something clicks.
Authentic interaction has been a favorite thing of mine ever since I can remember, and it goes for friendships as well as relationships. Actually, I think my love language could be quality time, though I haven’t really explored that enough to know yet. In any case, it’s very important for me to spend quality time with people, getting to know them, having in-depth conversations, and establishing relationships face-to-face, one-on-one.
And sure, I know Tinder isn’t really meant for long-term relationships in every case. And I understand that Tinder is for assessing someone’s attractiveness and potentiality, not necessarily every aspect of their personality. But I have recently come to learn about myself that I am virtually incapable of being meaningfully attracted to someone unless I can know a part of them first. Of course, I see people in movies and on social media and in public who I look at for a second or two and think, Wow, they’re attractive. It’s possible for me to find someone handsome or cute or pretty without striking up a conversation with them. But in order to actually be serious about someone or be excited about the prospect of dating them, I need to have those genuine experiences with them first. When I talk to someone or laugh at their jokes or find them interesting, that’s what makes me truly eager to go out with them and get to know them better. That’s what keeps the spark alive for me, and ignites the spark in the first place.
My best friend seems to feel the same way. We talk about this all the time. It seems that the world has been so overtaken by technology that it’s more difficult now to build an authentic relationship with someone without technological interference. Even if a relationship isn’t built online, there’s still interference — whether it’s using your phone during a date, Snapchatting someone every night instead of calling their landline, or FaceTiming when you can’t see them. Of course, the advancement of technology has brought us so many wonderful things, probably many more good things than bad. I’m incredibly grateful for how far we have come. But there are still things I miss. Some of them even have to do with technology, like IM-ing on a laptop, but even IM-ing is outdated now. Technology used to be a bridge. Now, sometimes, it feels like a barrier.
My friend and I talk about how much we miss grade school, when you’d be placed next to someone and gradually, you’d start to think they were cute. You’d flirt, maybe they’d laugh at your jokes or you laugh at theirs, and you’d stare at them across the cafeteria hoping they wouldn’t notice. Or in tween and early teenage years, when you’d call someone’s landline and experience the feeling of nervousness when one of their family members (usually their parents!) picked up and you’d have to say, “Hey, umm, is _______ there?”
We miss not having cell phones. Flirting with someone at school or staring at your crush all day and not being able to wait until you could get home and sit on your computer and IM them on email. And even then, maybe they wouldn’t be online, so you’d have to deal with the suspense of waiting for them to come online and answer you.
We miss having “dates” with people, calling them on the home phone before you left the house and deciding on a meeting place, and leaving the house (with no cell phone, because you didn’t have one) to meet them at the corner so you could walk together without your parents questioning you.
We miss walking home with people and spending time outside without a phone notification interrupting time together. We miss sleepovers, when we could play cards and watch movies or play Wii before everything could come on a smartphone. We miss when school would get out for winter break or even the weekend, and you’d have to wait what felt like eternity to see your crush again. You couldn’t pick up your smartphone and Snapchat them to see what you were doing. Sure, that’s convenient, but it was more fun to wonder sometimes.
I know this narrative has gone far past Tinder. But that’s exactly my point: it’s about more than Tinder. This is about my life. It’s about the fact that as much as I love and cherish technology, sometimes it feels like an obstacle to establishing meaningful relationships. And maybe I’m in the minority. In fact, I hope that I am, because I like when people can find their person through social media or online dating or when someone gets excited about some guy who added them on Snapchat. I will always be happy for other people’s victories. And most of the people I know think technology has been a wonderful way to connect to each other, much more deeply and conveniently.
So that’s why I hate Tinder. I don’t have any criticisms against its users, or its founders, or the idea behind it. I just don’t jive with it.
And there is something inside of me that still misses those simpler days. There always will be.
Previously published on medium
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Photo credit: Unsplash