There are two ways you can meet a potential romantic partner these days: introduce yourself, in person, to someone you find desirable; or swipe through pictures of people like an online shopping catalogue until you find the right fit.
After years of trial and error in the former, I decided it was time to go digital. It was time to try Tinder.
It took a brief conversation from a female friend to spark an interest in the dating/hook-up app.
As a smart, funny, professionally successful, and physically attractive young woman, she said using a service like Tinder was not the exception anymore for people in their twenties, it was the norm. If she was on it, why wasn’t I?
For those who don’t know what Tinder is, it is a matchmaking mobile app that uses your current geographical location to find people near you who may be keen on… making new friends, shall we say.
The app is linked to your Facebook account – but does not post to it – and you specify the age range and gender you are interested in, and how close they have to be to where you are.
I had known about Tinder for a while, but was adamant I did not need the app. I could meet a nice girl through a friend, or at a party, or – and this was last on my list – at my squash club.
Alas, my predilection towards getting “out of hand” when I party, and the fact that I only have five friends in the province, meant the traditional methods had failed me.
As for the squash club, well, the guys I play with are a nice bunch, but not really my type (read: they are men).
You need good Facebook photos
Once you download Tinder, which is free, you need to link the app to your Facebook account.
Tinder pulls your first name and your age from Facebook, allows you to select six photos which you are tagged in for your profile, and gives you the option of writing a 500-word bio.
While a lack of photoshoot-quality pics is not a problem for most people using social media, there was a shortage of photos of me on my timeline that did not look completely rubbish.
Fortunately, I managed to find four which I thought were suitable and put them up. Next was the short bio – here’s where I would excel.
Born in Durban, living in Joburg. I write, edit, and occasionally weigh chocolate bars for a living. I enjoy watching movies on a Friday night, keeping physically fit, and paying people to do my laundry for me. My bonsai recently died, so please avoid the topic of small trees in conversation.
A perfect balance of serious and funny – women would be swooning.
Once you have set up your profile, you start Tindering. You are presented with a screen which has a photo of a person and their name.
If you have any Facebook friends in common, or shared interests or likes, it shows up just underneath their picture.
If the initial picture is to your liking, you tap it, go into their profile, and see the rest of their max-six-pic album. Some people, like me, write a bio. Others rely on only photos to do all the persuading.
If you like what you see, and read, then you swipe their profile right – a like. If not, you swipe left – rejection. If you swipe right on a girl, and she swipes right on you, you are matched, and the option to message one another through Tinder becomes available.
Let the games begin.
I have no idea what women like
During day one of swiping I saw a profile of an ex-girlfriend who I am still in contact with. I swiped left – didn’t want to make things awkward – and immediately messaged her to ask for advice about Tinder.
We’re still friends, so she was honest with me after I sent her some screenshots of my Tinder setup: my profile sucked.
My main picture was me with two female friends, to show I am not a lonely serial killer.
“Never put a pic up with a girl in it, ever,” I was told. You can’t have photos with guy friends either, apparently.
“Never put other bros in your pic,” she said. It is “too much effort” for girls to work out which one you are, and they will just swipe left.
Also, no selfies, no shirtless photos (I had one of me in a swimming pool on holiday), and no snaps of you with a lion/tiger/cheetah cub – that’s cliché.
To really drive the knife in, she ended off by telling me I was trying too hard in my bio, and it was not that funny.
I took the criticism, cropped the friends out of the photos, and reloaded slightly off-centre pictures of me all by myself. I considered resizing and editing the pics in Photoshop – perhaps even removing the friends artistically – but that was way too much effort, and my image editing skills are at a decidedly “intermediate” level.
Next was the new bio, which would be a ripper.
Many people use quotes on Tinder, so I thought I would parody that trend to show how funny I am.
Kevin is the funniest, smartest, and coolest guy I have ever met. If I could, I would name an aircraft carrier after him. – Barack Obama.
“It’s too much,” said the friend. “Change it.” The pictures, though, were acceptable.
My first match
So after after customising my digital self, and deciding to leave my bio blank, I started swiping in earnest.
There are a lot of young women out there – 18 to 30 years old – who like showing cleavage, taking selfies which looked airbrushed, and telling everyone they are “fun loving” and “easy going”.
There was even a profile which used a family photo – husband, wife, and two kids – as the main picture. Some people are into that kind of thing, I guess.
Eventually, I got my first match.
Two years older than me, blonde with a stunning smile, and only a few kilometres away – perfect.
Despite the knowledge that she had “approved” of me, the thought of messaging her was no less nerve-wracking than walking up to an attractive stranger and introducing myself.
I decided to give it 24 hours before messaging. You know, play it cool. It would seem that was a mistake.
It has been almost a week now, and as I write this she has not replied.
A colleague, who is also on Tinder, told me that some people only use the app for validation, and just want to be matched. They have no intention of messaging.
Another colleague said Tinder may have an algorithm which only displays my profile based on how many swipes I make, if they are left or right swipes, and how often I use the app. This would affect future matches.
These kind words helped to ease the pain.
During the week and a bit I was on Tinder before writing this, I had a grand total of zero other matches and tried to write another four bios.
In my defence I swiped left 90% of the time, so the pool of potential matches would always be shallow.
But I think the overriding reason for my lack of success is obvious: I have no Tinder game.
The only way I will meet that someone special is in person, where I can give my Barack Obama quote some context.
Or I could just spend more time at work, at least I get paid after being told how unfunny I am.
Note: A premium version of Tinder is available for R36.99 per month. This allows you to rewind your last swipe, change your location, and turn off adverts. I stuck with the free version.