Jenny Block declares: Love me, Tinder — dating in the age of apps

JennyBlockSome argue that Tinder will be the demise of love and dating — that the ease and speed of swipe-right/swipe-left makes it too easy to both accept and dismiss a seemingly endless supply of dating possibilities.

I can see how that could be the case. But it certainly hasn’t been my experience. Tinder, like any other social media — or any technology, for that matter — is as good or as bad as you allow it to be. Use it wisely, it can serve you well. Use it with abandon and, well, it’ll likely abandon you.

I can speak with some authority on this subject. My girlfriend and I have been together for more than eight months and we met on Tinder.

I’ll admit: I was cautious when it came to swiping right. I looked at each picture carefully, searching for clues about who that person really was. Where are they? Who are they with? What are they wearing? Holding? Doing? If all signs point to trashed, I don’t hesitate to swipe left.

Then I’ll see what Facebook friends we have in common, then go to Facebook to find those mutual friends and then find the person’s last name so that I can Google them. I know what you’re thinking: “This girl is cyber-stalking people she doesn’t even know. She cray.” But I have been down Crazy Street — heck, I owned property on it, dating someone who, in my non-professional opinion, suffers from Narcissistic Personality Disorder. And I met this girl through a mutual friend whom I adore. So I’m a little gun shy now.

We are talking about meeting strangers here. So even though it might sound a bit creepy, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with doing your homework. And that little vetting ritual is precisely what I did when I met my now girlfriend. I was amazed at how many people we had in common and how close I was to many of the people.

Googling her allowed me to discern two things: 1. If she did indeed do what she told me she did. 2. If she indeed was who she said she was. We started out by messaging on Tinder and, when that became too tedious, which happened relatively quickly, we exchanged numbers and began texting by phone.
Although her Tinder profile was short, as most are, it became readily apparent to me that she was indeed who she said she was and — don’t laugh! — I was already starting to fall for this girl.

Or, at the very least, the idea of this girl.

Here’s a bit of our earliest exchanges:

Me: So other than a good conversationalist, what do you look for in a girl?

Her: Someone smart. I try to go after people who will I think will keep me in line if I’m about to do something stupid or bad for my career. I have to go to a decent amount of events in Dallas, so someone isn’t intimidated by conversation with strangers and who can hold her own is a plus. And someone who believes in philanthropy and using her powers for good. A woman who not only doesn’t mind chivalry, but actually enjoys it. I’m a little old school, growing up in the south so I hold open doors, bring flowers, and just generally try to make a person feel special. However, I know that isn’t what some people want. What about you?

Me: Wow. Sorry. I think you just swept me off my feet. Just do you know, there is quite an age difference between us. Is that an issue for you?

Her: I don’t care about age as long as we have things to talk about. Without that, I wouldn’t care if you are a fashion model biologist working for Chanel to find a superhuman DNA strand. It would just be boring.

As you might imagine, we quickly made a date after that conversation, meeting for a drink at the Black Tie Preview Party. Things went so well that we ended up going to Black Tie together the next night. And the rest, as they say, is history.

It’s fascinating to me that in a world where we are so overly connected, it can be very difficult to make real connections with real people. So it should come as no surprise that apps like Tinder would appear.

But like every other app, Tinder, despite any and all of its intentions, is still just an app. It’s just an application. It is still just a computer program. And it is still only as good as its creator and then its users, which means that it can be used as well as abused.

So for as much as Tinder worked for me, I get why it hasn’t worked for so many others. The problem with Tinder is the same problem that plagues any virtual means of meeting someone — it allows us to disguise ourselves and it allows us to put forth only a fantasy self.

The problem with doing that is that once we then meet the person in person, we are unable to be that fancy version of ourselves and we are often disappointed by the lack of fantasy version of the person who we are meeting.

So the only way to use Tinder — or any other virtual medium — effectively is to be our true, authentic selves, warts and all, and that is something most people have a difficult time in the real world, let alone in the virtual one.

The problem remains. As an adult, it is difficult to meet people to become friends with let alone to date. The virtual world can help but only if we help ourselves by using it cautiously and honestly.

There is a very funny meme going around now, something to the effect of “my face when I see someone on tinder whose profile says not looking to hook up.” The accompanying photo is of Tom Cruise laughing maniacally.

The truth is, Tinder has become known as a hook up app and if you are looking for anything more than that, you may not be taken seriously. Whatever the intentions are when it comes to an app’s creator, the bottom line is that once it’s in the hands of the public, the public will use it as it wishes, and you end up with dating sites filled with people looking for hook-ups and hook-up sites filled with people looking for relationships. In other words, you can’t really win but you still have to play.

To my mind, all we can do is continue to put ourselves out there and be honest about what we’re looking for and then hope that the other person is doing the same, knowing that the likelihood of that is, well, sometimes better than others. I do think that vetting a person is a teeny bit creepy, if someone doesn’t want you to Google them, you have to wonder what it is that they have to hide.

So, Tinder on with caution. You never know. There’s no guarantee that you’ll find “the one” on an app. But I can guarantee that you won’t find her if you never even bother to look.

Jenny Block is the author of the new book O Wow! Discovering Your Ultimate Orgasm.

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This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 31, 2015.