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Tinder Ambiguity

A couple nights ago, I went to dinner with one of my closest friends in the city. Over a couple of amazing cocktails, we swapped stories of our current dating highs and lows. I shared my most recent dilemma with her: when meeting people through apps (especially on Tinder), it is really hard to know what someone is looking for. Rarely is it ever explicitly stated in a person’s profile, which makes every first date feel like some sort of psychological study; while chatting about our backgrounds, interests and lives in New York, I am constantly pulling for subtext. If he mentions an old girlfriend, does that mean he wants something more serious? If he picks a spot three blocks from his apartment, does that mean he’s only interested in the Netflix and chill part of the evening?

To be clear, I’m not looking for any sort of serious relationship right now, but I’m also not interested in a casual, one-time fling. I want to get to know someone to the point where I feel like I can trust them before anything physical happens; that’s just how I roll.

Sharing these thoughts with my friend, we realized we were in the same boat and came up with an interesting experiment. Rather than continuing to navigate this grey area, we decided to cut to the chase and see what happened. We each pulled out our phones, logged onto our respective apps (Bumble for her, Tinder for me), and typed the following to our most recent connections:

“Out of curiosity, what are you looking for on [name of app]?”

I blindly swiped right on at least twenty guys and asked them all the same question (maybe this will affect my Tinder karma… can someone tell me if Tinder karma exists and, if so, will I lose Super Likes because of this?)

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A tender on Tinder

The vast majority of responses fell into one of four categories:

  • the joke
  • Examples: “my ex-wife”, “free guest passes @ my local gym” “Lately? Well I’ve been in the market for a new duvet these last couple of weeks…”

  • the explanation
  • Example: “I’m definitely pretty career focused (starting somewhat of a dream job in a couple months) and was in a long term relationship until pretty recently, so I’m not actively seeking anything super serious…I just kind of figure when I meet the right person, they’ll change my mind, ya know? But I’m also not the type to sleep with strangers off the Internet without getting to know them first. So long answer short, I’m here to meet cool people and see where it goes.”

  • the blunt
  • Examples: “Nothing serious.”

  • the undecided
  • Examples: “I’m open minded, what are you looking for?” “I’m looking to meet someone and see where things go.”

While I didn’t get any straight out explicit or inappropriate responses to my question, their answers did little to put me at ease. Tinder has yet to develop and implement a bullshit monitor; even the seemingly genuine responses couldn’t shake my skepticism.

And now this is the part of the post where I do some explaining about my dating habits. I am either 0 or 180, and rarely anywhere in between. When I’m “in,” I’m dating all the time, on at least two apps, and my calendar is packed with plans to get drinks.

When I’m “out,” all of the aforementioned apps get deleted, and I opt to channel the energy and time spent meeting new people back into myself and my friends.

Each cycle usually lasts 3 – 4 months, and I’m hitting the end of my current “in.” Tinder Burnout is a thing and I am experiencing it firsthand. Symptoms include cynicism, distrust, despair, and exhaustion. The cure? Kick the habit and go cold turkey for a little while.

While I’m not treating this post as my official resignation from my current Tinder cycle, I know I will be scaling back. The face-to-face meetings, free drinks and social experiments can only get me so far before I decide that all I want is a night in with people already familiar to me.

If you follow my posts on this blog purely for the next juicy dating tale, fear not: I plan to keep ’em coming.

And if there’s one nugget of wisdom you can take away from this post, it’s this: no one should fear being up front with another person, especially on dating apps. If you have a question, ask it, because what do you have to lose? When choosing between ambiguity and clarity, clarity should always win. Attempt to get on the same page early and you’ll waste less time searching for what you want.

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