This is an article I wrote for The Spectator on the vacuity of online dating and how apps have devastated the old fashioned idea of the meet-cute. The published article can be found here: The Spectator
Zoe Strimpel recently wrote an article in The Spectator on the jaded men of Tinderland. The ghosters, the gaslighters, the only looking for one-nighters.
But in an era when men are expected to package themselves up with a million others on the dating app production line, can she really blame us? If single men are getting swipe-weary, it’s because we just want to put the selfie-stick down and step away.
Because in this brave new world of Insta-stars and sexting, if you don’t have a photo of it, it never really happened. All the nights you went out with your mates on a jolly till two-in-the-morning, that time you drove a rented convertible across the glistening highway of Route 66, the endless stream of peak-a-boo’s and row-your-boats and this-little-piggies you’ve had with your cutesy nephews and nieces. Gone. None of it matters anymore.
All that matters is the six photos you’re going to post on Tinder or Bumble or Hinge that show your future suitors who you’re meant to be. And six is your lot. Except it’s really one. Because if your profile picture doesn’t get them hooked, then you’ll be cut and thrown back.
On dating apps, you have to condense your whole life, the entirety of the sum of all the experiences, all the victories, all the heartaches, that made you, into one flash moment. You’re no longer a real human being, wrapped up in intractable contradictions and faded dreams, you’re just an image on a screen. And so is everyone else.
This isn’t liberating. It’s dehumanizing. Us men are expected to compress ourselves down into a single freeze frame and we’re not even the fairer sex. Is anyone surprised that we find it hard to commit to the unwritten rules of dating apps?
And then there’s the “about me” section. The auto-bio for a life-not-yet-lived. This part was really designed for the Baby Boom Generation. They were the ones who invented the “self”, the endless self-questioning, the will to define, the belief that if you’re not in therapy, you’re doing it wrong.
My generation, the Tinder generation, the Millennial look-at-me generation, invented something even more self-involved, we invented the selfie. The selfie was borne out of a desire to replace all forms of coherent conversation with a single snapshot of us gilded in perfect light. And now dating apps want us to ignore our evolutionary breakthrough and spell it out in plain English. Language uncropped, without a filter.
Even the greatest writers of all time would recoil at having to boil their entire existence into two hundred characters, because nothing you say will ever really be you.
If we’re disillusioned, it’s because we just want to be us again.
And what of the put-upon women in this charade? The never-ending parade of pick-me’s, poseurs, and pouters. The relentless tirade of bikini-cleavages and thousand yard stares and lean-in group shots. A million false smiles from a generation that never wanted to be here, wishing they could all just swipe left on the last ten years and see it vanish into the ether. A people who wish they could ghost their own lives and disappear back into a different time, a time when you met your future love on a mishap in a train station. Who just want to turn off, time up, tune out.
We all crave connections but the relationship between swiper and swipee isn’t really a relationship at all. It’s dating retail. It’s walking past a shop window when you don’t really know what you want. Except you’re in the window too. Dating apps are the ultimate free market, because this time, the product is you. So better get snapping, we’ve got selling to do.