Did Tinder Ruin My Love Life?

by Meagan Dion
woman, somber
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I'd never really thought too much about how dating worked until I graduated from college and realized that meeting a guy was no longer going to be as simple as showing up for our shared 8 a.m. class. During my college years, I was either in long-term romantic relationships that developed out of friendships, or I was having drunken one-night stands. The thought of using Tinder to find a boyfriend was foreign to me then.

And I still didn't give much thought to how dating worked when I said goodbye to my college campus and settled into the corporate world, where I enjoyed a few years of the unpredictable, uncommitted, single life. I liked the independence of moving from place to place and job to job while being responsible for no one but myself. I was so busy trying to figure out how to make yoga pants look business casual (the answer is to pair them with long cardigans and tall boots) or remember to pay my electric bill on time, that the thought of considering someone else's feelings was daunting. I was trying to build a new chapter of my life, and I knew that meant I needed to be selfish for a little while. But sometimes, being selfish got lonely.

Once my life settled down a bit, I was comfortable; but my routine felt mundane. Birthdays passed with no special plans. Every holiday included "Where's your boyfriend?" questions from my family. I pointlessly searched Groupon for weekend ski getaways that I already knew my girlfriends would never join me on. (Weekend getaways had, at some point in the recent past, become "boyfriend things" within my social circle.) So, I started to entertain the idea of a dating a guy for real.

But I'd just moved to a new city, and I didn't know where to begin. I had a few flirtatious prospects at work, but I didn't love the idea of making awkward small talk with the guy I was sleeping with while we waited in line for the copier. I went out to bars on the weekends, but I was always there with my friends, which didn't really facilitate talking to anyone else.

My guy friends ended up introducing me to Tinder. I was attracted to the simplicity of the app and the fact that it was free. I liked that I didn’t have to pay $30 a month or fill out lengthy survey questions in order to be matched with single guys my own age.

It seemed pretty perfect, but I still had my doubts. Though I worried about accidentally matching with a murderer, or, even worse, one of my high school classmates, what I feared most was the way Tinder made me feel. As I swiped, I felt a bit desperate and ashamed. I mean, I was intelligent, I was charming, I was hot — why should I have to use an app to get a date? Using Tinder made me feel like I was giving up on the Nora Ephron romance I'd always planned in my head. I liked meeting men organically. My boyfriend was supposed to be a charming barista who'd memorized my morning drink order, or the guy standing next to me in the produce section at Trader Joe's, not someone who was bored on their phone in the same moment that I was.

Using Tinder made me feel like I was giving up on the Nora Ephron romance I'd always planned in my head. I liked meeting men organically.

But despite my many doubts, I decided to give Tinder a chance. I chatted with army veterans and bartenders and guys who were in their neurosurgery residencies. I was flattered to have so many men from so many different walks of life interested in me.

I rarely messaged someone first, but I made a point to respond to everyone who messaged me. I wouldn't ignore someone who approached me in a bar, so why would I ignore them on Tinder? Soon, the date (and sex) propositions started pouring in. Even after weeding out the guys who weren't my type, and the ones who were just looking for a booty call, I still had enough Tinder matches to go out multiple times a week if I wanted to. And I did.

Tuesday, I got drinks with Drew after work. Thursday, I took a walk on the reservoir with Bryan and his black lab. Saturday morning, I enjoyed a hungover brunch with Matt. I wouldn't dare waste my Friday or Saturday nights with Tinder dates, but if plans with my friends fell through, I'd spend my Friday and Saturday nights drinking and faking love on the dance floor with whichever Tinder dude I'd been keeping at bay during the week.

It was fun at first, but it got confusing. I was studying my dates' Facebook and Tinder profiles before I met up with them just so I could remember who they were. You went to Temple right? I meant Boston College! You're the one who realllllllly hates cats...or maybe you reallllllly love them? Aren't you going away this weekend for your little sister's graduation?

When I talked to guys on the app, I always gave them the benefit of the doubt. But after meeting them in real life, I only considered maybe one out of every five of them for a second date. One time I had a fun, meaningful conversation with a veterinarian before finding that his Facebook profile picture was one of him and his fiancee. When I called him out on it, he swore, "She's cool with it."

The magnitude of conversations I was having on the app that didn't end up turning into real-life interactions was discouraging. It was like being in a room with 100 (mostly) eligible bachelors all shouting over one another. I found myself dismissing them in a Seinfeld-esque manner. He's a close-talker. A cheek-kisser. A cellphone-during-dinner-user. One guy, who I'd liked enough to go on multiple dates with, wouldn't let his dog on the bed. Another guy would never let me meet his roommates. All of these were deal breakers for me. I was quickly discovering that, in my life, a perfect Tinder match didn’t equal real-life compatibility.

One time, I accidentally overstepped a boundary with one of my Tinder dates. We'd been having great conversations for weeks, but when I showed up to his house (invited) with groceries so I could make him dinner during a snowstorm, he complained that I would wake his roommates up by trying to find the right pots and pans. I thought I was engaging in a grand romantic gesture, but to him, it was an annoyance. He insisted on making dinner himself, so I was left sitting uncomfortably in his room with the door shut as he prepared my chicken and Brussel sprouts in the kitchen. I was disappointed and confused that someone who I had really hit it off with online could be so different in real life.

I found that my standards became increasingly more uncompromising with every match I made. It was too easy to stop talking to a guy for any ridiculous reason, because I knew there would be plenty more guys for me to talk to. I felt justified — I was looking for someone who could potentially be my husband, so naturally, I was being selective. But no matter what, there would always be someone who was a little more affectionate or a little more attentive or a little more charming just around the corner.

I justified my behavior by scouring Pinterest for quotes about never settling. Every move a guy made could be a fatal mistake, and I was watching intently. I was always anticipating the next guy, instead of appreciating the one I had in front of me.

In the nearly two years I've used Tinder, I've yet to gain any sort of serious relationship from it. I never intended to so effortlessly run from one guy to the next, but Tinder makes it easy.

Perhaps I'm looking at Tinder from the wrong perspective. Maybe it's not a place to find love, but rather a useful tool for determining whether someone's a good fit for me. And maybe I'm not really a monster for passing on so many guys, either. I mean, it takes me two seconds to make an off-putting guy disappear on Tinder, but a whole army of my girlfriends to help me carefully escape him if he starts chatting me up when I'm waiting in line for the bathroom at a bar. And for the guys I do arrange to meet in real life, if I know they don’t fit my needs right away, that's OK, too.

Each conversation or date I've had because of Tinder has, in some way, helped me to solidify the qualities I find necessary in a mate. As discouraging as it can be to find so many "Tinder matches" that aren't really a good match at all, I'm still generous with my time and feelings on the app. I know it's doubtful that I'll come across my "soulmate" on Tinder, but it's totally possible that I could. If I do, I just hope I swipe right on him.

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