Given that smartphones have encroached on every other aspect of our lives, it was only a matter of time before we sunk low enough to surrender our most base instincts to our palm-held masters.
Well, congratulations humanity, you’ve gone and done it: you no longer have to leave your house to casually survey eye-candy and make that silent personal decision on first sight — would you or wouldn’t you? You no longer have to pay for a drink before scanning a nightclub, compiling a mental list of those around you: ‘yes, no, no, no, yes, hell yes, no, no, both at the same or neither’, etc. Instead of the joy of chatting up a total stranger in public, welcome to the seedy world of Tinder, the iPhone app that’s been lowering sexual standards since 2012 in the US, but has recently swept London.
The concept is painfully simple. You choose a picture of yourself, indicate your sexual preference, and you’re away. A pictures of a girl, her age, a bio line and her distance away immediately popped into my screen. If I liked what I saw I could swipe the picture to right, if I never wanted to see that person again I could swipe to the left. My picture is out there popping onto girls’ phones and if we both swipe right, then, ta da! You are matched, which fills you with a warm sense of satisfaction approximate to about an eighth of the feeling you get when you catch the eye of someone pretty and just know.
Once you are matched, the painful private conversation can begin and the rest is up to you. Tinder claims to have made 100 million matches so far, and says that there have been 50 proposals of marriage, though let’s not pretend it’s all chocolate boxes and roses. The seedy side is never far away. Female friends who are regular users report grossly impertinent demands for nude pictures and/or sex almost as soon as matches have been made. Luckily — and unlike in real life — there is a block -button.
Late to the party, I open a bottle of red and kick back for a merry evening of swiping. It immediately becomes clear that Tinder is horribly addictive, like a very aggressive, sleazy game of snap. Side effects: ‘Tinderitis’, a repetitive strain injury from too much thumb swiping. Also a deep sense of self-loathing.
Little black dresses: good. Right swipe.
Girls in Barbours and wellies: good. Right swipe.
Bungee-jumping or photos of you stroking a drugged-up tiger on your gap year: bad. Left swipe.
The bikini shots often seem wildly misleading when you click on the additional photos, but who has time for that? Right swipe.
Group of four girls, three of whom look pretty? Right swipe: worth the gamble it wasn’t the ugly duckling.
That amusing photo of you in fancy dress? Left swipe.
And is it just me or has every girl in London been to that festival in India where everyone throws paint about? Left swipe.
You had me at the picture of you with Michael Portillo. Right swipe.
The generic blurred picture of you in a nightclub with a cocktail that was clearly so expensive you thought you better record it for posterity. Left swipe.
My adventure into the Tinder vortex taught me many things. Not least that the British gap-year student appears to have done more cultural damage to -Vietnam lately than the Americans ever achieved.
An hour or so later, I want out.
It wasn’t the ‘look at sensitive me with African orphan’ pictures that annoyed me the most. Nor was it the beach star-jump action shots; nor the Machu Picchu/-facing away from the camera scenery shot. No, what it comes down to is that Tinder confirms your own worst fears about yourself. When it comes down to it, I am a bit of snob and a bit of slut.
There is an argument that Tinder is a progressive social construct which is helping to make online dating acceptable and that that is a good thing. I disagree. If you are not capable of holding real-life conversations in the hope of eliciting romantic outcomes, then you should not be allowed to use technology to cheat. If you are looking for casual sex, that is one thing, but anything more and you are building a relationship on a lie. In bypassing your own failings by using your phone, you are only heading toward disappointment.
By swiping your thumb, you can ‘meet’ 500 potential partners in an hour — more than our ancestors would have met in a lifetime. Just because there is way to make something easy through using technology, it does not mean that it’s necessarily a good idea. Tinder is another nail in the coffin of western civilisation. And with that, your correspondent would like to say that he made his excuses and left… but it is very, very addictive. Left swipe.
This article first appeared in the print edition of The Spectator magazine, dated 30 November 2013Tags: Winter 2013