There ain’t no hope in outsourcing human attraction to an algorithm.
Could dating apps such as Tinder take Luke's dire love life, turn it around and bring a little romance into his world? After several months and thousands of swipes, here’s what he found out…
When Narcissus gazed upon his own reflection in the waters of a Grecian pool, he immediately fell in love with himself. Granted, he had been cursed by the gods, yes - but it was still vanity at its purest.
It’s this level of self-obsession that comes to mind when I see someone pouting at their own phone and snapping a selfie. Let me get a photograph of wonderful little me. Next comes the obligatory painstaking process of deciding which photo editing tools will best plump the lips, thin the hips or emphasise the guns. This will just make look in-cred-i-ble! Incredible, lovely little me! Around these selfie-obsessed, would-be Narcissi, real life, with all its natural beauty, slips by, unseen. It’s a travesty.
So, fuck you, Narcissus.
And fuck you, selfies.
The problem is, in setting up any dating app profile, one is forced to take selfies – the more
the better, apparently. Unless you’re the kind of person that has a vast back-catalogue of perfect images ready and waiting to go for just such occasions (in which case, fuck you) then this presents some challenges.
Now, I don’t feel like I’ve ever been very photogenic. It’s not that I’m particularly bad-looking, it’s more a case of feeling like the camera has some sort of peculiar grudge against me. I just don’t like taking selfies. Picture Narcissus again: what did folk think of that vain little douchebag when they spotted him ogling his own reflection in the pool? Wanker, that’s what. And that’s how I feel whenever I’m taking a selfie – like a wanker – which isn’t a very nice feeling. So, my ventures into Tinder dating wasn’t off to the best of starts.
Additionally, unlike many, I don’t have a stock, ‘go-to’ facial expression that guarantees a semi-decent snap (besides, using the same facial expression in every photograph just makes you look like a wheeled-out mannequin-headed twat).
Bottom line is: I rarely like how I look in pictures. Yet, now, in a world where love is orchestrated by dating apps, taking photos of yourself, like a 21st century Narcissus, is a necessity.
Feeling like a prize bell-end, I started snapping away, staring up at the indifferent lens of my Google Pixel 2. I soon found that taking a selfie is hard. It’s a real science. Never mind the angle and the lighting, just making basic, acceptable faces seemed beyond me. Smiling made me look psychotic. Remaining straight-faced made me look corpselike. In the back of my mind was also the knowledge that these images would be the first things upon which hundreds, perhaps thousands, of single women would soon be judging me. I felt a little sick.
I finally settled on six pictures I found to be tolerable; and, would you believe it? In most of the snaps, I was pulling very similar facial expressions! My very own ‘go-to’ mannequin facial expression was being born! Fuck you, mannequins.
Of the six photos I would eventually upload, I was genuinely pleased with only one of them. I thought I looked handsome and well-dressed, something of a cheeky-charmer. I was comfortable with two of the others; apprehensive about two more; and downright miserable with the last one. According to the online advice (courtesy of some elfin-faced, dirty Converse-wearing millennial Vlogger who knows everything in the world just because they have their own podcast), I needed that last picture, the one I hated, because it showed me socialising with mates. The guidance was clear: Potential partners want to see that you aren’t a loner! What, like some kind of sad twat that spends all day taking photos of themselves and then scrolling through endless pictures of the opposite sex praying that one of them might be up for marriage?
I’ve never had the urge to capture every waking moment of my life in photograph format. Thusly, most of the pictures on my phone that involve my friends and I are either: a) blurry, sweaty bar pics, b) idiotically laddish, or c) show either me or my mates ‘mansplaining’, or ‘manscaping’, or ‘manspreading’, or – God fucking forbid – doing anything remotely masculine at all; because, women want contemporary men. Men comfortable in their masculinity but without ever feeling the need assert it. Yeah, I bet they fucking do. And how about a man without a penis? Perfect, no? I get the impression that a woman’s idea of the perfect male partner in this day and age is a mannequin that features a detachable dildo. Oh, yes – I shouldn’t forget – a mannequin with a dildo that has friends. So, up went the pic-with-pals, along with the other five, and down went my self-esteem.
Gathering and uploading the photos was unenjoyable but, job done, I thought the worst of it was over: soon Tinder’s love algorithms would be whirring their gears for me and propelling me inexorably towards the arms of my true love.
The sense of romantic possibility was short lived.
Next, I had to complete my personal bio. You are given 500 characters. Not words, but characters. 500 characters to explain everything you can about yourself in an appealing and interesting way. Easily done, if you are an amoeba. 500 characters would be decent for a chicken. But for the summarisation and encapsulation of an individual human being’s worth and value, in 500 characters? Fuck you, Tinder. Fuck you too, amoebas.
This meagre bio malarkey is par for the course too. On Bumble, alongside your bio, you can go into a little more depth by providing answers to questions. Imagine how exhilarated and philosophically moved potential suitors will be when they read your answers to such profound questions as: Netflix or nightclub? Eat out or takeaway? If you had a famous person over for dinner, who would it be? [Note, on the final question, there’s no space to explain why you’d have Churchill and Joey Essex around for chicken kievs and peas; no, just pop down a name and crack on. What’s this? She’d have Pitbull at a dinner party!? She’s the one!]
Fuck you, banality.
The rise of algorithm romance is ceaseless. Every day, more and more dating apps pop up like polyps on a promiscuous pecker. As well as Tinder, you could find that special someone on: Bumble, Badoo, Jaumo, Plenty of Fish, and Hinge. Just listen to that nomenclature. It couldn’t sound less romantic. ‘Badoo’ sounds like something a survivalist might try and fashion from twigs and vines, when stranded in the depths of the forest; ‘Jaumo’ sounds like the nickname of an Aussie paedophile. As for ‘Bumble’ – why? 'Bumble' like a fucking bee? Bees to the honey? The birds and the bees? Fuck you. More like 'bumble' aimlessly and hopelessly lost in the soulless mire of modern-day dating. What about ‘Hinge’? It sounds the name of an app for carpentry. No, you’ve misinterpreted the name. You see the name ‘hinge’ represents the bringing together of two people, romantically… like two pieces of wood… that have been joined together… by a metal bracket that has been screwed into both parties. Feel the romance? Imagine the conversation with your hypothetical future child:
‘Dad, where did you and mum meet?’
‘We met on a dating app called Hinge, son.’
‘That sounds stupid, dad.’
‘Yeah? Well, we were both carpenters at the time, so fuck you, son.’
And fuck you too, Hinge.
After swallowing down my self-decency like a shot of shite, I uploaded my utterly demeaning 500-character bio and was ready to immerse myself in the passionate and sensual waters of Tinder, Badoo, Bumble, Smasher, Valve, Cleft, Heap, and Bottom of the Barrel.
Soon, I was live, up and running!
Then, I started swiping.
And the world became an instantly darker place.
When the swiping begins, the worst in us is brought out, and immediately so. I swiped woman after woman onto to the digital trash heap that is ‘the left’. At an alarming rate too. With ease you can swipe left, twice, every second. That is a hundred and twenty women deemed unappealing every minute. More shocking was the reasoning behind each dismissive swipe: she’s ugly; she’s too tall; she’s referred to herself as ‘pretty as a pixie’ in her bio; she’s wearing a bin bag, and so on, and so on.
Swipe left, swipe left, swipe left, swipe left.
I was discarding human people the way one might discard fruit in the supermarket. I was also becoming increasingly aware that out there, in the real world, real women were also tossing me aside like a slightly overripe banana or a marginally misshapen mango. There was no doubt that I will have been deemed: too wonky-faced, too grungy-looking, not grungy-looking enough, too short, too tall, not muscular enough, not enough like a meerkat, not enough like a mannequin with a detachable dong… and so on and so on and so on.
It breeds a sense of shame that could easily become self-loathing. Mental-health practitioners be warned: online dating app based psychosis is coming soon to a clinic near you!
There is also a sense that you are being looked upon by callous and judgemental eyes. So, in return, you callously and judgmentally toss a few more humans to the left in some kind of act of petty revenge. It’s a perpetually worsening cycle. Eventually, after wasting hours swiping left and right and getting no matches at all, an existentially disturbing question rises in the mind like a leviathan from the depths: what the fuck am I doing?
Every part of it feels grubby and degrading.
Because here’s the thing. Real human attraction occurs when people notice each other, in real life. Perhaps a serendipitous moment of eye-contact. Perhaps a fortuitous brushing of the arms. Then, from there, magic might happen. Granted, it most often comes to nothing. But you have to be out there, moving amongst other humans, if you want it to give it a chance. You have to be in it to win it. Because sometimes that eye-contact might lead to a smile. It might lead to a conversation. A mutual interest. A desire to see one another again – the rest might be, as they say, history. But – and here’s the thing – this kind of connection and attraction happens regardless of the odd shoes he’s wearing and in spite of her confusion over ‘prostate’ and ‘prostrate’. This kind of connection allows for humans to be human, foibles and all, and it lets attraction work the way it should.
Dating apps do not allow for this. They reduce a person down to their smallest flaw: a slightly protruding tooth, a small mole, the incorrect usage of ‘practice’ and ‘practise’. Dating apps lure folk into believing that they should swipe right only on someone that resembles the absolute living embodiment of their dream partner; a dream partner that does not exist. I am sure that I have swiped aside many a woman with whom I could have enjoyed a wonderful relationship, all because I was too fixated on locating my perfect woman.
Furthermore, back in the halcyon days of dating during my youth, it was a case of manning up and personally asking her out. I got shot down so very many times. Even though each rejection sucked, the thrill of the hope, the adrenalin rush of actually asking the question, and the feeling of conquering your nerves made it all worthwhile – this is lost on fucking Badoo.
Because there was direct human-to-human interaction in these antiquated courting rituals, people talked it through, even if the answer was ‘no’. I’m seeing somebody. I’m really sorry, you’re just not my type. Let’s just be friends. This process of letting a person down gently was, nine-times-out-of-ten, something of a tender experience, and something completely lost in the Tinder experience.
‘Swipe left’ did not exist back then. In those days, I guess the comparative action would be to simply shove your admirer out of the way, to the left, and then silently move on. No words. No humanity.
This act of swiping is dehumanising. It’s like swatting a fly. Fuck you, swipe left.
Worse still, dating apps are breeding a generation of people that are comfortable in demanding the unattainable.
If I come across a girl on Tinder that I fancy, before swiping right, I’ll read her bio and then perhaps swipe right (before desperately crossing my fingers and hoping that we will match, knowing full well that we won’t). Recently, more and more often, instead of reading anything about who they are, I find myself subject to a demented list of their romance do’s and don’t’s:
· Unless you are at least 6” tall, keep swiping
· I’ll only match with guys that have model good looks
· We won’t match if you have long hair
· We won’t match if you have short hair
· I like bad boys that have a sensitive side
· We’ll only match if you are super-ripped
· I want a man, not a boy
· Game-players may need not apply
· If you can’t make me laugh, keep on swiping
· If you introduce yourself by saying, ‘Hi, how r u?’ I’ll delete you, ‘cos I need something deeper
· Own car, own house, great job – that’s me, and unless that’s you too, then I’m not interested
· I have three amazing kids – if you’ve got a problem with that then you can go fuck off
· I’m looking for a 24-hour party guy who enjoys spending all day watching Netflix
· You MUST be intelligent but not too smart, witty in a dull way, sensitively aloof and masculine but with a stronger feminine side
· I’m looking for a man that doesn’t have a penis but isn’t a woman – if you are a mannequin with a detachable dildo and you have friends, then you could be the one.
It is terrifying.
How can I meet such ridiculous expectations? How can anyone? In this world of dating app perfection, many women (and I'm sure, men too) would rather bluntly highlight every trait that make a potential partner less desirable and already inferior than detail their own interests and what their own values are. It’s hard to fend off the feelings of self-worthlessness that arise from reading this kind of stuff: None of these women find what I have to offer attractive; these women are not looking for someone like me – a normal human man – because they are holding on for Mr. Does-Not-Fucking-Exist-Fairy-Tale-Right.
Lately, how many television adverts depict a woman meeting up with a guy that she has met through a dating app? There are loads and they all go the same: woman arrives only find that the guy looks nothing like his picture, or looks way older than the images on his profile. Yes, I know – dirty, pathetic, immature, conniving, shitty-arsed bastard men, they’re all the same, I know; but I’ll tell you, the women are just as adept at filling their profiles with misinformation. From pictures taken with a full studio-lighting setup and then layered over with 3 or 4 filters; to taking photos with their phones right in front of their faces so nobody has a fucking clue what they look like; or posting ten fabulous pictures, each of them featuring at least six different women – which one is actually you then? Then there are the extreme close-up snappers that reveal only one feature at a time – an eye, a tattoo, a thumb, an oily tuft of what is hopefully head hair. Looking at a profile and having no idea about a person’s appearance is part and parcel of this modern-day romance game. Farcical.
But it gets worse.
In the real world, Snapchat filters do not exist. However, on dating apps, almost every girl that floats on to my screen has rabbit’s ears, or cat’s whiskers, or a mouse’s nose, or a smattering of cutesy-fucking-do freckles on her cheeks, or gargantuan anime school-girl neon eyes, or stars shooting out of her ears, or glowing haloes of spectral radiance dancing around her head. What the fuck are you doing?
I have had to swipe left on many a lass because instead of resembling a human female, she looked more like a barely-humanoid, multi-coloured, all-shining, alien-headed, quasi-animal, starry-faced knobhead.
Maybe I’m being mean. Maybe a long dog’s tongue really does flop out of her mouth every time she opens it – still, all the more reason to swipe left, right? And I suppose your date would be really easy to recognise if she walked into All Bar One with giant glowing eyes and a huge fucking pearlescent rainbow shooting out of her arse.
In the interest of equality, I’m sure there are plenty of men out there that try to make their normal, beautifully mediocre, human appearances seem snazzier by using Snapchat filters; and if you’re one of them, then fuck you.
And fuck you too, Snapchat filters.
I’ve been on Tinder several months now. Where has it got me? In a nutshell, fucking nowhere. According to Tinder, 99+ women like me. 99+ women have swiped right on me! Don’t get too excited. Of those 99+, I have matched with only maybe 10 or so. Of those 10 matches, very few reply when I’ve messaged them. 4 did message back. Of those 4, 3 of the conversations were so inane that they fizzled out to nothing.
The 4th match didn’t reply, at first. At that point, I was feeling beyond disillusioned with the whole experience, so I decided to reach out to her again: If you do ever fancy grabbing a drink together, drop me line.
She replied. She said she’d like to meet for a drink!
It was on!
My first Tinder date!
It was dreadful.
Why would it have been anything else?
Take two strangers that know each other only through a few random photographs, a 500-character bio, and a clunky, sporadic burst of texting, then plonk them in a bar and hope that they fall in love? Really?
There was nothing particularly bad about the date. It just felt aimless. There was no spark or chemistry. Nothing.
Of course, I had to shell out for the drinks because I have a penis and, as such, I am responsible for all the horrors of the world and that’s just the way it is – if you don’t like it, keep swiping. But I didn’t mind.
We parted ways, both of us knowing that we’d never see each other again.
So, Tinder had failed me.
I’d uploaded photos. I’d filled out the laughable bio. I’d made matches… and it didn’t work. The algorithm didn’t work.
Tinder tells me I’ll do much better if I upgrade to Tinder Gold for an un-fucking-acceptable amount of money per month. Which, in case you hadn’t gathered, I can’t afford. You see, Tinder only properly works if you have the money to pay for its premium services. Because love is only for those that can afford it. The poor should just stay single, mope about a bit, and then die. That premium service idea goes for all the dating apps too: pay money, then we will find you love.
Fuck you, capitalism. You're easier to read than a pop-up picture book.
And why would anyone pay for this bilge? Well, Tinder tells me that I would have instant access to the other 99+ women that have liked me. But, in this horrifying new world of romance, this does not sound appealing. It sounds like 99+ women that will have scared me off with all their demands before we even speak. It sounds like 99+ women whose appearances are a mystery because they don’t really want to show themselves or have replaced their faces with those of cuddly-wuddly squirrels and love-heart lightning. It sounds like 99+ women with whom it is very unlikely I’ll have anything in common. It sounds like 99+ experiences that will very likely give my self-esteem a kicking and make me less confident when dealing with real actual living humans.
And that’s at the heart of it: dating apps, just like social media, are removing the need for humans to interact with one another. It breaks my heart.
No multi-billion-dollar tech company has figured out the rules of love; there is no algorithm for helping potential lovers to meet. There’s just money: money being taken from lonely folk and ending up in the pockets of some Zuckerberg-like-twerp somewhere. Every time a person uses a dating app, they outsource their own love life to a third-party that isn’t even human, it’s software and coding and data and bullshit. Nothing to do with love.
We are human. We are each of us hard-wired to seek a mate; attraction is the life-force of this hard-wiring. If we have faith in ourselves then we can find love – even though it may be a long and difficult journey. It can’t be as degrading and bleak as using dating apps.
So, fuck you, Tinder.
And you want to know what the truly ironic thing is? I haven’t deleted my profiles. I’ll still have a good old swipe sesh now and again. It’s addictive. It draws you back. Like playing the lottery: despite the odds, despite the persistent loss of money, you keep on submitting those lucky numbers. It’s because – just like the lottery – dating apps need only one thing to thrive: hope.
Hope that you’ll win big.
Hope that your next right swipe will bring love into your life.
Hope that there is purpose and meaning and rhyme and reason. Which, of course, there isn’t.
And with that in mind: fuck you too, hope.
PICTURE CREDITS: “Narcissus” – businessofstory.com ; “Swipe left” – The Undateable Girl’s Diary, haileyjaderyan.com ; "Swipe left - Video" - @l_3_m_s_l_3_y (Instagram) “What might you miss” – msn.com ; “Pwettee Bear” – me ; “Men” – quora.com