Dating Apps — Another way to approach your swipes
On a cold and dark evening, in lockdown, a moment of weakness and a bit more gin than the usual (which is none) made me install a dating app.
Don’t get me wrong: I wasn’t a newbie. My initiation happened three years before, after an abrupt and unexpected divorce. At that point, I was hungry to understand what happened to my life by finding out the stories of other people. I was looking for correlations and causations. This particular app that I have just logged in now was actually one of the many that I have tried out at that point; was also one of the better ones in terms of quality of interactions. Back then, after around a year, I decided I didn’t have the grit to stick around any longer till my dream partner would stand out. Also, I’d come to the conclusion that I was pretty bad at reading people from their pictures: my expectations based on their profiles were quite different from how they seemed in reality.
But, here I am again: Do I swipe left or right?
We are visual creatures and pictures are the main focus of any dating apps. Yet, how do I judge a person from a picture? He looks nice — confident, smiling, open, friendly, groomed, travelled. The easy way out: don’t think at all, don’t involve your consciousness, use only first instinct. For some guys, as I was told, the easiest is to swipe right for everything and then see what sticks— I can relate to this to a certain degree as a mechanism for being detached, but it doesn’t really work for me. I know myself a bit better after 40 years and I also know time is precious. I can’t swipe right without proper consideration. I would only push away a decision that takes up more time.
Do I like the first picture? The decision is easy when I don’t feel attracted to the person I perceive from the picture. When I feel I don’t have much in common or what I see gives me some chills, swiping left happens in a blink of a second. I don’t have any second thoughts.
But when the first picture triggers curiosity, things get tricky. I read everything there is on the profile, consider the rest of the pictures, and, just like in an interview, I’m looking for reasons to swipe left: smoking regularly, doesn’t want kids, less tall than I am, doesn’t speak English, is looking for something casual or is in an open relationships. These criteria make the decision easy. Might sound bad, but I feel good when I find something that helps me quickly rule out “an image” and overcome any feeling that I’m missing out on somebody special. Special for me. I know they are special in their own way. However, there are also some exceptions: criteria is not ticked, but a comment that I consider witty, a value that he seems to share or an experience that looks interesting makes me curious enough to swipe right and write the first message.
So, I’m looking at many pictures and I’m reading many descriptions. I say “many”, because as a new user you are exposed to the whole database in a short time and you end up having lots of matches in the first days, then fewer and fewer and probably very few after the first week. At the same time, I know from last time that the number of matches was not a predictor for meeting somebody that I could see as a partner.
Three days in, I’m in information overload. I’m able to roughly estimate that more than 300 blurred pictures liked my profile. Assuming it is not a marketing trick to get me to pay for the app, the people at the other end of the screen probably liked my first picture, that is taken by a professional photographer. I feel a bit guilty for using it, as I don’t look like that every day: the light was nice, the mood was right, the angle was complimenting and I should thank my friend one more time for taking that perfect picture. By comparison to the past, when I had only my normal selfies, now I get likes from people that I feel wouldn’t have swiped right last time. On a superficial level feels good to know that other people swipe me right — a boost for a self-image that has its moments of doubt. And I manage the guilt by having some normal photos as well.
Is it my picture or is also online dating different now?
I perceive one difference in profiles: as opposed to a few years back, now many say that they are looking for a relationship and very, very few are looking for something casual or state that are in open relationships. I’m also somewhat shocked to see “marriage”, but filed it under “strategy to get matches”.
Still speaking about differences between normal times and covid-times and taking into account the interactions, this time only two matches introduced sex in the first conversation as opposed to many more 3 years ago (I had no provocative pictures in either case). Also, a few hours after I joined, I received a call in the app, that turned out to be a pleasant conversation with an architect. However, I still have no idea who the person at the other end really is.
After three days I have so many matches that I feel overwhelmed. But no worries. Things haven’t changed that much. Out of around 70 matches, 30 reacted in the time-window set by the app, of which 20 wrote more than one line of conversation. They are pleasant, but also mostly trivial, and I start to question again my choice of spending time. There is nothing to really look forward to discussing - how was your day, what do you do over the weekend, what do you cook, what do you do now, what do you work, what movies do you see. And yes - I know there is need for these to get to a more interesting part, but everything feels superficial. None of my matches reacted to the pre-set funny or values-related questions. As a result, I decide to delete the account.
Mystery is one of “the most beautiful and deepest experience” we can have. But there is no mystery when you get swiped right and everything is focused on “let’s see if and how we can have sex”.
My first impulse is to skip all explanations for my disappearance - I don’t feel I owe any to the people I’m talking to. I had already been unmatched by two users without any explanation, so this is the moment to get back at this situation, to feel I have power. However, I decided to do things a bit differently. I don’t have to be an a** just because others were, so I write to each of my current matches that I’m deleting the app and I wish them good luck.
What reactions do you think I get?
It was unexpected and very interesting to see the reactions. I must say that I expected all to be interested to swap numbers and then never write anything. Turns out not all fit this stereotype and further filtering was done without my energy.
- Some unmatched me straight away.
- Some appreciated the message and wished me good luck as well.
- Some expected me to tell them what to do — “what now?”, “do you want my number?”.
- Some gave me their numbers or a way to connect on another platform.
- Some didn’t respond for the next 3 days (at the end of which I deleted the app, so they probably haven’t received the message).
All reactions make sense when you consider the position that the other persons are in. Men, as well as women, end up feeling hurt for being ghosted, unmatched or rejected and they react in a way that shows the pain. Some also use dating apps to boost their self image with the least effort or as an escape to boredom. In the end, we don’t feel a connection, because it takes more than a picture and a few words to make it interesting.
I was very happy with my course of action which yielded nine connections. How do the online impressions translate into real life, I’ve yet to find out. I’m curious, but I don’t have any hopes high.
Depending on your motivation for joining a dating app, you might consider the following ideas:
- Set a deadline — Being under time pressure should speed up your interactions.
- Don’t do what they do —Be above what others are doing and don’t transform yourself into exactly the person you won’t like to talk to.
- State your non-negotiable values in your description — It’s a favour to be swiped left because of them and avoid a relationship of misery.
- Be prepared to endure — The anonymity makes people behave quite bad and dump whatever they are unhappy about on you without any context.