You can’t Tinder your way into a long-term relationship. So said Michelle Obama on her podcast last week, in a long gab with Conan O’Brien about the hows and you-what-nows she considered the cornerstones of maintaining her 28-year marriage. There was a lot about teamwork, a basketball analogy, something about winners, the long slog and the price of sometimes wanting to hurl your president husband out of a window.
But Tinder! This was the line that flew, provoking an online contagion of fury and indignation as the couples of Tinder rose on social media to prove that yes, actually, they had met their beloved by swiping through a carousel of humans until luck, lust and a quick dopamine fix coalesced.
Still, of course people meet and fall in love on the apps. We don’t have the data yet – beyond a decade – on how long it lasts but clearly this is classic mum advice rebranded: to “Tinder” in this sense is surely a reference to the fact that you can’t forever trashbag your way through people and also find it easy to spend half a lifetime being annoyed with your partner’s habit of, I don’t know, breathing, and stay in it for the long haul. Maybe you wouldn’t even want to. But Obama touched a nerve because, for all the freedom the apps have gifted us, they’ve also given a trolley-load of additional stress.
Everyone has a friend whose dating app horror stories are their own telenovela; a car crash of drama to dine out on that you have to laugh about or else you’d cry. A litany of ghosting, breadcrumbing, benching and orbiting – all current-world dating behaviours; please look them up if you’re unsure – that we swallow down, side order of eye roll, because you could meet someone hot or clever or nice.
Sometimes, it might just be fun for the night or for several. Maybe you saddle up and buy a sofa and paint the walls together wearing cute dungarees as if romcom cliche depended on it. Possibly you find a person to run away with and set up a commune in the Welsh valleys. In any case, the infinite possibilities presented by dating apps have almost definitely expanded our capacity to be awful. More careless with feeling, easier to disappear on someone, but surely quicker to find someone new. A waking nightmare and total dream.
How much do you want the world to progress versus how much do you want to be seen as someone who wants the world to progress? It was a question asked by the art duo the White Pube a few months ago of a young graduate who had wondered how to make the arts a more inclusive place. But it’s a question I come back to, looking at the dire mess made by cultural institutions – the Southbank, the National Theatre, the Tate – that claim to be progressive, forward-thinking, dynamic, and yet have recently made decisions disproportionately affecting their most underprivileged staff.
Times are undeniably tough for the sector. Job cuts are savage, but they’re not always an inevitability and the lack of sensitivity shown to employees has been stark. It should be possible for these organisations to treat their people as they do the art. Anything less isn’t creative enough.
I can’t get off the Nextdoor mailing list. Partly because it’s impossible to unsubscribe but really because I can’t stop reading it. Think Facebook group meets Neighbourhood Watch and multiply it by the street WhatsApp. Horrifying! I never have any need for the tips on it, I haven’t lost a cat and I can’t remember why everyone cares so much about a local business meeting I wasn’t invited to. However, as a thermometer check on the state of your borough, it’s delicious. I refer you to the complaints about “the cackling witch on Tilia Rd” or the approximate 78,999-long message thread about a litter clean in the local park. If you haven’t signed up for your local branch, I urge you do so immediately.
• Nosheen Iqbal is an Observer columnist