By Jen Eason
Tinder and Bumble and Hinge, Oh My!
Dating apps, in and out of quarantine
By JEN EASON
My first conversation on Tinder, I learned how to say “fuckbuddy” in Spanish. Well, Argentinian. I was in Buenos Aires this past summer and had downloaded the app thinking I could use it to meet people. But my first match wasn’t interested in cultural exchange, per se. The second match only wanted to discuss Argentinian politics, and wouldn’t meet up with me in person despite several invitations. And that conversation started with the typical, “Are you really from Harvard? Yes, I’m from Harvard.” Except in Spanish. I took Harvard off of my profile after that. Not trying to be a sugar mama. Despite that limited success, when I studied abroad in Barcelona this past fall, I thought I’d try it again.
Maybe because it’s a much larger city, I had slightly more success. I met up with one guy, a skydiver, for beers once. We played two truths and a lie, mostly, and then he walked me home. He was sweet but I just never got around to calling him, so I pretty much ghosted him. My bad. One of the favorite profiles I saw was a guy posing with his chainsaw, which, honestly, I encourage. If you are a chainsaw-loving maniac, please, tell the world. Makes my job of figuring out who the psychos are much easier. I was also chatting to a guy for a while—much too long, in fact—who opened the conversation by asking how sexually “restless” I was. Some might wonder why I didn’t stop the conversation there, but I was honestly just intrigued. He then proposed watching a movie. In his apartment. And that was the point where I cut it off. I wasn’t trying to die that day.
During all this time, my search settings were set “Everyone,” but, given there are about twice as many men on the app as women, I hadn’t had as many chances to match with girls. So after my encounter with the sexually restless man, I switched my settings exclusively to women. And it was wonderful. I chatted with a bass player about music and met with a half-Scottish girl for coffee. Unfortunately, I made the switch too late into the semester and didn’t really have time to make lasting connections. If only. Now, I don’t want you to come away from this thinking, “Wow, Jen has an irrational fear/hate of men.” Because it’s not true. Well, it may be true. However, as a young, beautiful (in my opinion), American girl in a foreign country, swiping through guys just made me think about Taken. And Taken 2. And Taken 3. (Bet a lot of you didn’t know they made three, did you?) Maybe it was unfair to guys for me to think that, and I’ll own a little bit of that. But I wasn’t sex trafficked, so I won’t take all of it.
Also, there are a lot of guys who don’t know how to make a Tinder profile without looking somewhat psychopathic. I’ll go over more tips later, but just some general guidelines, don’t use photos that you took just looking down in the camera like you accidentally took the photo. They’re not flattering. And don’t have sunglasses on in every photo. Who are you? Why are you hiding your identity? Those kinds of things make me think I will not enjoy meeting you in person. At all.
Once I got back to Harvard, I kept the app because, well, it was fun. I did a little swiping during the lull of shopping week and got invited to a naked dinner at one guy’s apartment, and a home-cooked vegan meal at another guy’s apartment. One invitation was more appealing than the other (Vegan food is disgusting. Just kidding!), but I didn’t accept either. It wasn’t because they were men. It was because, man, woman, non-binary, etc., I am not secluding myself in the house of a stranger on the first date. That’s just Stranger Danger Safety 101, friends. Maybe it’s just me, but I will be meeting all of my matches in highly public spaces for at least the first few dates. I also readjusted my settings, again, to better reflect my gender and sexual identities. I don’t know when Tinder rolled out these features, but they are not as binary as before. There’s also a setting to “Show me people with my same orientation first,” which makes it a lot easier to find what you’re looking for. I did a little more swiping until I came across an old acquaintance and one of my TFs. Then I decided to take a break. For a while.
I had started being a little more active in the first few weeks of March (you all know where this is going) when I suddenly found myself back home in Iowa. I wish I had made this up for dramatic effect, but the instant my plane touched down in Kansas City, a beautiful non-binary person whom I had matched with messaged me “hi.” I heart-brokenly had to tell them that I was no longer within the five miles I had been before and was about to be quarantined for the next two weeks. They replied, “I’m sorry, you deserve better than this fucking world.” And that, my friends, is a pick-up line. I told them I’d get back to them if we ever return to campus. I swiped a little bit just to cheer me up as my parents drove me home. But after maybe five profiles, Tinder informed me that “There is no one else in your area.”
I downloaded Hinge in the first week because my sister had said she preferred it to Tinder. I swiped and chatted a little, but every day it became clearer that I wasn’t going to be seeing any of these people in the foreseeable future, so I deleted it. Meeting up with lots of strangers is on the social distancing no-no list right now. But! The world will open again someday! Maybe! And despite my relatively brief experience with the app, I do have some tips for those of you who want to up their post-pandemic game.
Illustration by Lucy Hamilton ’21.
To be successful, you first need to define what that success looks like. Are you looking for hookups? Serious dating? Friends? Nothing? That’s a much more popular option than what you might think at first for a supposed “dating” app. According to the Tinder Revenue and Usage Statistics for 2020 posted on BusinessofApps.com, 45% of college students say they use Tinder just for “confidence boosting procrastination.” I know I’ve personally fallen into that trap a few times. It’s quite far from where I started. A friend actually made my Tinder account last spring when she was going through a breakup. But I didn’t use it because I just didn’t understand how you could pass judgement on someone from a few pictures and maybe a line of bio. But once you start swiping, every new match is a little ping that says, “Ya girl still got it!” If that’s you, then throw up some photos you like, and let the matches roll in. The second most popular reason, at 30% was “Other Reasons,” followed by “Looking for a Hookup” at 22% and, lastly, “Looking for a Relationship,” with less than 5%. So, if you’re looking for something serious, this might not be the app for you. But that’s just college students, and there are Plenty of Fish (another dating app) out there.
Once you’ve decided your purpose, the bio can be pretty easy. If you’re looking for a one night stand, say that, and maybe throw in some particular sexual preferences, if you care. If you’re like me, in the weird zone of maybe looking to date, but also finding finding friends is cool, then the bio can be slightly trickier depending on how flirty you want to be. I’ll never discourage you from being direct and saying exactly what you’re looking for and maybe throwing in some important facts about you, but if you want something a little more fun, it takes some thought. What I did is make a short list of central and/or interesting facts about myself, and then think of playful ways to say them besides in a list with emojis. For example, from the fact that I always talk during movies I wrote, “If you also make continuous commentary while watching movies, the two of us can never watch a whole film ever again together!” And from my craft-lovingness, “I once got tendonitis from knitting too much, swipe only if you can handle my intensity.” I wrote a lot more because I was having fun. Shame I’ve only had one Tinder profile.
I mentioned some photo tips before, but, again, the main advice is to think about your target. If you’re looking for something more serious, your sexiest photos might not attract the right swipers. Personally, I prefer candid photos where people are smiling, and looking into the camera. I need to see your face, or it’s “to the left, to the left.” You can be wearing sunglasses only if it is the only photo of you standing next to Beyoncé. That is the only exception. And unless you only want one night stands, keep your shirt on. Please.
In these times, Tinder swiping can be a fun pastime while staying six feet apart from the rest of the world (as long as you don’t live in the-middle-of-nowhere Midwest). You can even chat up some cuties if you are desperate for human contact outside of your quarantine crew. If you’re looking for true love, it might not be the best place to shop, but, should the pandemic never end, this is probably how we’ll find all romantic partners in the future. So follow these tips, and, if nothing else, I’ll swipe right on you 😉
Jen Eason ’21 (email@example.com) uses Tinder for the Independent.