If you worried this would be yet another smug essay written by a white girl sipping an overpriced Flat White at a cafe in a gentrified neighbourhood somewhere in the Western Hemisphere, writing about how she managed to pull herself together and delete all her dating apps for good, and start a new, healthier life with much more time for self-reflection and self-love, then don’t despair. This is not that sort of article. (And if I ever order a Flat White, I promise to drink it ironically).
No. This article is for you, fellow Tinder Addict or Swipomaniac. This is a safe space. You don’t have to feel ashamed here. I’m not going to spend the following paragraphs subversively telling you that I’m a much better person than you, and that I have got my shit together and you haven’t. No. This is an article where I tell you what it’s really like. Out there. On the Apps. Or should I say in there. Because that’s more what it feels like. Like being sucked into a narrow maze. Or falling down a rabbit hole. Falling further and further down like Alice in Wonderland. Except the rabbit is not a fuzzy, white thing in a waistcoat, but a thirty-something shirtless man holding a beer can in one hand. You grow tinier and tinier by the second, except you never reach the bottom, but just keep on falling, with no safe ground beneath your feet.
Perhaps you’re new to the Tinder Game, or whichever of the other countless apps where you can presumably swipe yourself to love, or at least to some semi-decent sex at six PM on a Wednesday evening. Perhaps your skin is still aglow with the freshness of “newly arrived in Tinderland”. Perhaps you’re thinking to yourself while reading this: “It’s not really that bad, though. Is it? Surely she is overreacting.”
There are two reasons why you would think this.
One: You simply haven’t been in the game for long enough.
Two: You don’t have the mind of an addict.
I do. For people who are not good at doing things in moderation, a dating app can be a dangerous place. And I am not good at moderation. I like copious amounts of chocolate. Copious amounts of alcohol. Copious amounts of work. Hence, I can’t use Tinder in a “moderate and casual way.” I can’t have a Tinder profile and only check it once a week. I’m a Tinder addict. And I know I’m far from the only one.
I first downloaded Tinder on Valentine’s Day 2017. Ironic, I know. The only reason I remember the exact date is because of the clear irony attached to it. Since then I have been on and off Tinder and a variety of other dating apps like a Yo-Yo. Sometimes I’ve been off because I’ve met someone and we’ve dated for a while. Other times I’ve deleted the apps because I really, really, REALLY needed a break from them. The breaks have lasted everything from three months to three days (make it one day, actually).
I follow a similar pattern every time I end up deleting a dating app. It is a sort of natural cycle, much like the waxing and waning of the moon, only a lot less harmonious. The cycle goes something like this:
1. Protagonist (me) downloads Tinder.
2. Protagonist is filled with excitement at the endless possibilities of love, promiscuity and adventure that lie before her.
3. Protagonist swipes on multiple people, gets multiple matches, many of whom never initiate or respond to messages.
4. Protagonist begins to chat with various matches who in fact respond to messages. Sometimes there seems to be some sort of chemistry and a date might be proposed. The dates might go well for a while, until chemistry fades or something else unexpected occurs.
5. Protagonist continues swiping, now with less attention to detail and less fussiness. This leads to more matches, but fewer conversations of interest. Chats fade out quickly or lead nowhere.
6. Protagonist becomes progressively more restless, bored and craves more attention.
7. Protagonist swipes more and more fiercely through the app, now barely even looking at the profiles before swiping right (saying “yes” to a profile/potential match).
8. Protagonist’s blood pressure, cynicism and irritability increase steadily.
9. Protagonist no longer knows why she is using the app despite feeling a compulsion to check it every fifteen minutes or so.
10. Blood pressure, cynicism and irritability reach an all-time high, and protagonist in a fit of fury, deletes app and exits her abode for a long stress-releasing run, swearing to never return to that time-eating, soul-crushing device ever again.
11. Circle begins anew after a certain cool-off period (length of cool-off period may vary).
That’s the cycle. And it is extremely hard to break.
I have read my share of articles and blog posts stating why it’s a good idea to take a break from dating apps. Many mention how Tinder and other dating apps create an illusion of there always being something (read someone) better waiting around the corner. Hence the tendency to keep on swiping instead of settling for someone. I do agree with this point. But, as a self-diagnosed Tinder Addict, I mean there is something more that makes many of us overuse these apps. It’s the attempt of trying to fill a void that can’t be filled, at least not through the act of swiping.
For me, Tinder is a bit like a Monster. It is a patient Monster. You don’t see it as a Monster at first. It’s an exciting distraction. It opens up a whole world of possibilities. It has endlessly changing faces, metamorphosing always into something more tantalizing, more sexy, more alluring. It promises to take you by the hand and pull you out of the crushing sense of boredom, monotony and loneliness that has been lining your bones for some time now, and which is the reason you downloaded the app in the first place. Then, slowly, but not so slowly that you can’t notice, the Monster changes its shape. You can see it growing and turning into something ugly from the corner of your eye. But you’re so engulfed in the distraction it feeds you, that you don’t manage to act in time. You know you are being trapped, but you can’t move. All you can do is swipe.
Now I know I sound dramatic. But at it’s worst, that’s what using a dating app feels like for me. And yet, I don’t manage to stop. Not for good.
I don’t like what dating apps do to me. I don’t like the way they make me feel about the external world around me, about other people. They fill me up with cynicism and irritability. And they make me feel numb. When you’ve been on enough first dates, you don’t feel anything anymore. I mean, you don’t feel the excitement of going on a first date. You don’t have to pace the floor of your bedroom for half an hour, convincing yourself to go on that date, to just deal with the fluttery sensation in your stomach. Your heart rate doesn’t sky rocket as you approach your date who is waiting for you on the street corner. You’ve become rounded down to a smooth pebble that nests quietly at the bottom of a slow-flowing river. You don’t have any sharp edges anymore.
I miss the terrified excitement of a first date. I miss genuinely caring about what first impression I am giving to the person opposite me at the table. I miss real life encounters. The possibility of failure. I miss the sense of plunging off a cliff face, suspended in mid-air, holding your breath while you wait to see if the guy whose number you just asked for, will give it to you or shake his head and walk away. Because at least in real life, you eventually hit the ground, you get an answer. You don’t keep on falling and falling like Alice down the tunnel.