“You should really make a blog about your Tinder experiences,” a friend told me once. “They’re hysterical, I can’t believe that actually happened.”
Meeting anyone for the first time is going to have its bumps, but something about Tinder heightens the weirdness. Maybe it’s because the transition from chat log to conversation over coffee isn’t quite as seamless as we expect, and without memes and GIFs as conversational crutches, we’re left wobbly-legged in the real world. Or maybe dating is just hard, whether you use Tinder or some fabled real-life technique like eye contact to meet someone.
Still, Tinder is really, really fun. No matter who you’re using it to find — a significant or not so significant other — there’s an inherent appeal in window-shopping. I first started using Tinder a week after a serious breakup just to remind myself there were plenty of fish in the sea. I never had any intention of meeting someone off the app. It was kind of like visiting the aquarium, where nice thick Plexiglass walls separated me from any real interaction with the wildlife.
Funny enough, during this time period I met who would eventually become my current boyfriend, rejected his offer of coffee, and then decided to fall down a rabbit hole of online dating shortly after. I probably could have saved myself some trouble by saying yes, but I’d be several funny stories and a few life lessons poorer.
Tinder is gross and messy. People will send you crass messages, and if you use it long enough, you’re bound to get your feelings hurt. But isn’t that kind of like every other part of life? Tinder may be a millennial tool, but I don’t know if that necessarily makes it or the connections made through it any less valuable.
I’ve made some friends, lost some friends, and even joined a study group with a match. I also learned a lot about what I want and don’t want in a relationship. It was around that time when I should have cut ties with Tinder, thanked them for all the fish, and said see you later.
Somewhere along the line, Tinder stopped being so much about meeting new people, and instead became about updating my friends on the latest date-turned-disaster. I was becoming adept at navigating through a sea of mixed signals, even though I was pretty sure I’d lost half my rudder somewhere around the “let’s just be friends” rock.
What I loved best about Tinder was its easy reset, which is great if a date goes bad or you make some horrible faux paux. Ten minutes later, you can be at home and setting up a date with someone who has no idea about that weird childhood story that you’ll definitely never tell on a first date again.
But that easy reset means it can take a while to unlearn a fear of commitment, in which the only reset is a hard and painful one. Tinder is so easy that it can be hard to convince yourself to try something else.
I don’t regret my time on Tinder, and I still recommend it to friends who need a reminder their ex isn’t that great, but I’m a little more cautionary now. Use Tinder like it’s a tool to get you back out in the real world, otherwise it’ll become a tether to a meaningless one. Tinder is a great crash-course in dating, but it can also be vicious cycle if you use it for too long.