After several failed romantic attempts during my sophomore year of college, I gave in and downloaded Tinder.
Dating apps were extremely popular in the network of universities in my area, and despite being staunchly against them, I succumbed to the swipes. Several of my best friends used dating apps frequently, including one who had met her boyfriend through Tinder. So I thought, why not? Not much else has worked so far.
I carefully crafted my profile, obsessed over selecting a variety of five different pictures that I looked good in and best showed my personality. I linked my Spotify account to show my music taste and added in a cheeky bio. After hours of scheming and brainstorming, I looked down at my handiwork. I hardly recognized myself, a foreigner with a couple of posed, artificial photographs. This is who guys would see, who people would make snap judgments about. I felt sick but continued to activate my profile.
I became infatuated with the attention and the swiping.
The matches slowly rolled in, followed by cheesy pick-up lines, awkward gifs, and heart-eye emojis. Despite my lack of interest in several of the people I matched with, I became infatuated with the attention and the swiping. Tinder felt like a game where I could talk to as many people as I wanted to, ghost them, flirt with them, and more. The people I was matching with began to feel just endless, disposable pixels. As a result of that, I too started to feel replaceable and hollow, like I didn’t matter.
Finally, one guy and I made a connection. He seemed witty, kind, and we had great banter, so we exchanged numbers and set up a coffee date later that week. I was ecstatic and felt like my roller coaster emotions about Tinder finally had paid off.
A few days later, I took the train into the city to meet up with him. I had all the usual first date butterflies and arrived at the coffee shop a bit early to ease my nerves and find a table. I waited and watched people migrate in and out of the cafe. He was late. At last, after about 20 minutes, he gave me a call, apologized for running behind, and that he would be there in a few minutes. When he sat down, something immediately seemed wrong. It was like all of the pixels that I had swiped left and right on were facing me at once. The eyes I was looking at felt empty. I wanted to throw up.
Tinder felt like a game where I could talk to as many people as I wanted to, ghost them, flirt with them, etc.
The date went fine. It was short, lasting only 30-45 minutes. We made small talk, he told some funny jokes, and while I so desperately wanted to like him, I didn’t. He walked me back to my bus stop, we hugged awkwardly, and he said he would text me later to set up another date, and I agreed. I cried quietly the entire bus ride home while staring numbly at his Tinder profile.
My friends encouraged me to go on a second date. You just need to get to know more, they quipped. There’s nothing wrong with him. They were right. He seemed perfectly nice, but there seemed to be something wrong with me. I grew more and more anxious after he tried to set up a second date. I sobbed for hours every time I looked at Tinder, and felt like a physical embodiment of my manufactured profile: expendable and unimportant. Just another profile. I didn’t like how Tinder made me feel and how it allowed for me to judge others without considering their humanity.
I didn’t like how Tinder allowed for me to judge others without considering their humanity.
With my anxiety and depression worsening, I sought out the counseling services on campus. There I was able to work through my feelings about love, dating expectations, and self-care. I realized that I needed to stop forcing myself to date just for the sake of finding the one. And that I needed to love myself and take care of my mental health before investing in someone else.
I canceled the second date with the coffee shop date, stating that he seemed like a great guy, but I wasn’t emotionally ready to be dating right now. Then I deleted Tinder profile and the app, and a sense of pent up relief consumed me.
Tinder works for plenty of people, and that’s perfectly ok. I know plenty of people that have found their significant others and spouses on dating apps. Coincidentally, I had matched with my current boyfriend of almost a year and a half but had ignored his messages on the app. A few months later, some mutual friends introduced us.
Love shouldn’t be forced.
Whether it’s through Tinder or real life, dating can be horrible and/or wonderful. Regardless of how you are meeting people, make sure you feel comfortable and emotionally ready to put yourself out there.
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