What if Tinder has so nearly got it right?
Let’s start with the elephant in the room: I have never used Tinder, or any online dating service, and have no desire to do so, having been married now for a couple of years. But a conversation with a friend a couple of weeks ago reminded me how hard the process is. And every once in a while H and I will go and see a film or talk to friends or do something that will be all about the complexities of making relationships work, and we’ll both be reminded how lucky we are in just not needing to spend a huge part of our lives devoted to that. (H, on reading this, of course said “Well, now you’ve cursed us…”) That line from When Harry Met Sally: “Tell me I’ll never have to be out there again”. When I was single I was constantly asking myself: is it always this difficult? And now I’m not, I feel like the answer is: for most of us, most of the time, yes. But yet… I really feel it shouldn’t be. This conversation with my friend fell on dating apps, and I mentioned I’d never used one — more out of cowardice than any principle. Specifically we started talking about the Tinder principle of two people ‘swiping right’ when they see a picture they’re attracted to. Until that point, Tinder was something for Other People. (Sidenote: I was listening to a podcast which hit unintended hilarity when one of the three podcast dudes asked his friends how one might go about being on Tinder, just to see what it was like. And they both said, “Dude, you’re married… you don’t!” And he said, “No, not to hook up with someone, just to… you know, just out of curiosity.” And they said, “Dude, you’re married… you don’t!” And he said, “No, I mean… just… to see if people find you attractive!” And they said, “Dude…”) But it struck me that there’s something very nearly amazing about that system. One of the biggest emotional drains about being single, I always found, was “Is that person interested in me?” Not ‘do they find me attractive?’, because it’s possible to find someone attractive and not want to be in a relationship with them. But are they interested? Is this just flirtation, or is this potentially serious? And so there’s this endless dance of trying to pick up signals, and constantly interpreting hidden messages. And one of the toxic and dangerous things about your brain on romance… if you don’t have clear evidence that they’re not interested, and you really want them to be… you’ll end up supplying your own. And heterosexual men particularly are terrible at this, as I think we all know. Not only are heterosexual men not subject to the kind of flat-out-fucking-evil-confidence-eroding-media-brainwashing that women are, but they always tend to misinterpret “Please like me, because it will make the fact that I’m the only woman in this environment so much easier for me” for “I find you sexually attractive to the point of obsession”. And if there was some system where men particularly could find out if she really is (or isn’t) interested without making her difficult situation even more difficult, that would save a lot of unnecessary pain on both sides. Where I think Tinder gets it wrong — or at least, where it’s doing something completely different from what I’m talking about — is putting you in touch with strangers. Particularly when it’s mainly based on how they look. Or… I mean, I’m probably missing the point there, because I’m sure that works for a lot of people. But where I think it could really work is for people who already know each other. So if you’re single and you really wanted a relationship with someone you know then you could ‘swipe right’, or whatever, to express your interest, BUT… that person wouldn’t even know you had done that, unless they did the same. And then the app would let you both know in some tactful and subtle way. (Apparently Facebook is going back to its roots and getting in on the dating game: maybe it's something they might try?) Because if you could do that, it would take away so much of the bullshit justifications. You wouldn’t be able to say “Maybe they’re too shy to tell me”. “Maybe they’re interested but not ready to commit, because they’re still getting over someone.” When it’s that easy to let somebody know, with something as simple as a swipe on your phone — and also, crucially, if doing so doesn’t mean “I plan to marry you and have a list of baby names I think you should consider” but merely “I like you enough to consider it a possibility” — then you have no excuses. And maybe it could create a new piece of dating etiquette. If that person hasn’t swiped right with you, you are expected to put aside all of your “never give up hope” instincts and Back The Fuck Off. What has all of this got to do with music, and why am I writing it? Well, initially I was just going to say: Nothing! It’s my website and I’ll blog if I want to… But actually, so much of what makes music important to me is that it’s about deconstructing emotional problems like these that we perhaps don’t talk about honestly in the way we should. And I suppose my point here is that… well, I could write a song about this problem, or someone could come up with a solution. Either is good, but I’d actually rather it was the latter.