Warning: this article may contain triggers for those who have experienced sexual assault or harassment.
“We were in the stage where we couldn’t make serious eye contact for fear of implying we were too invested. We used euphemisms like ‘I miss you’ and ‘I like you’ and smiled every time our noses got too close.” -Marina Keegan
I joked about making a Tinder account for college at a party over the summer, eyeing my ex across the room. I didn't think I'd actually do it, but just a few days into school the app was downloaded on my phone, and matches and messages started streaming in.
I wasn’t really sure why I was making a Tinder account at the time, but knew that meeting guys as a straight girl at a historically women’s college would be a little harder than in other places. After hearing that a girl at my college got invited to parties at nearby schools through Tinder, I decided to give it a try. I didn’t want to just hookup with random people (which the app is notorious for) but wasn’t sure how serious I wanted to be either, and felt hopeful that the app could help me meet guys in person.
Almost everyone I know has a Tinder account, whether they use it regularly or not. Making an account was really just going to be experimental for me. I didn't date much in high school, instead subjected to "talking" to and kissing people because I could, hoping it would eventually turn into something. More often than not it didn't.
Since making an account four months ago and using the app sporadically, I have amassed over 250 matches. I did not think that would ever happen to me. Since then, I have deleted and redownloaded the app several times. After a brief relationship ended, I decided that I'm done, and haven't used Tinder in nearly two months.
Meeting people from Tinder in person is incredibly nerve wracking, and for women often means meeting in a public place, sharing your location settings on your phone with someone you trust or having a friend nearby in case anything happens. It's also difficult to tell upon meeting them if people are looking for a relationship, a hookup or something in between (although a good indicator of a hookup is to look at his pictures; if many are of him shirtless he's just looking for sex).
Online dating is often heavily focused on looks, sex and very little else. Messages focus on these things, and rarely move on to anything substantial. Sometimes the attention felt nice, but most of the time it felt demeaning and frankly disgusting.
Initial messages can be incredibly explicit:
“You look perfect to hookup with and never really talk to again.”
In reference to one of my pictures on my profile, “You’re so f***able holy shit.”
“Does it ever cause problems to have a name that close to anal?”
“I f*****d your mom.”
“You go to a women’s college…are you sure you’re straight?”
“You’re just fishing for compliments.”
Along with a picture of his abs: "Just image this on top of you, bending you over and pounding away at your p****y."
“Can I get nudes?”
"You seem like more than just a f***."
“Seeing you makes me hate wearing clothes.”
“I’d fake drown like in the Sandlot if I saw you as my lifeguard.”
“Dtf?” (Translation: “down to f***?”)
“Hmu if you want a great casual f*** sometime.”
These are some of the worst. I have also gotten cheesy or weird pick up lines and lots of “Hey”s. One guy asked me to send him my favorite TED Talk after seeing that we had both liked the video series on Facebook. Unfortunately the conversation didn’t get very far after that.
The worst part is that these types of encounters occasionally transfer over into offline life and even have a major presence in popular music. For instance, at a recent hockey game at a nearby college, the group of men behind my friends and I talked about their boners and how they wished we could take care of them. It's becoming harder to get away from hookup culture, whether online or in person.
In some ways, what you put on your profile determines what kinds of matches and messages you'll get. One of my friends noticed that the messages she received were much more lewd when she added a photo of her at the beach. After that, she added more "bookish" photos to her profile, and noticed a real change in the people she was swiping. As for me, none of my photos were provocative, and most just focused on my face.
I have also tried a similar, more feminist dating app called Bumble, that only allows females to message males first and only gives twenty-four hours to message them before they disappear from your matches list. I didn't have as much luck with this platform as I did with Tinder, but I didn’t use it nearly as often and was nervous about messaging people first. I didn't really want to date someone and have to tell people that we met through a dating app.
There were a few weekends where nine guys were messaging me at once across four different platforms. Every time I wrote back to one I got a message from another. It became hard to remember who was who, and I felt so guilty, but that didn't stop messaging any of them.
For now, I'm going to go back to being old fashioned and meet people in person.