About two weeks after I moved to Boston, my friend and I began coauthoring an online document together. We had a grand vision. This document would be a new platform for story sharing. It would be a sacred space of truth and honesty, but it would also be playfully sarcastic to give it some edge. It would be about love, belonging, rejection, despair: all of the trending topics of the twenty-somethings. After a surprising amount of thought, I finally decided on a name for this soon-to-be-coveted guide to romantic success:
“What Tinder Taught Us”.
Yes, Tinder: the infamous smartphone application that markets itself only as a “connection maker,” but if you ask the users, they’ll give you the real rundown.
Tinder is used exclusively for chatting, dating, and/or sex. First, you “like” or “dislike” someone based on how attractive that person’s pictures are to you. If they “like” you back, then the Tinder gods bestow the gift of “chatting” upon you while they laugh in Tinder heaven at the chaos that’s bound to ensue.
At this point, you may be thinking:
Ok…but I still don’t really understand the appeal….
You’re not alone! The popularity of Tinder—referred to as The Tinder Effect—is becoming a contemporary topic of study and debate because of its mystery (I encourage you to check it out). While I won’t pretend that I’m an exception to the research-based theories of why this application has become uniquely successful, I can say that from the beginning of my online dating endeavors, I’ve always had my own conscious motivation.
I wanted an adventure.
Taking risks, meeting strangers, sharing meals, stealing kisses, cutting ties, breaking hearts—it was a new world for me, and I was its Columbus. And finally, with the help of a friend, we had created a place to write of our journeys for new immigrants to this online dating world: a coauthored document of Tinder tips.
After only a few moments of reflection, the advice began pouring out.
Some advice was funny:
Lesson 1: Always assume that people you’re meeting will cross-dress. That way, you might still stand a chance—however small—at looking more fabulous than they do.
Some advice was unsettling:
Lesson 9: If a guy says he doesn’t read and you’re a writer, don’t make fun of him. Turns out, he does read, but only Guns and Ammo….
And some advice was crucial:
Lesson 17: Once the overly aggressive, Pokémon-themed pick-up lines start to come out—i.e. I’m gonna catch you in my Masterball and never let you go—you’ve gone too far. Put down the phone, and walk away slowly.
But all advice was based on our adventures, for better or for worse.
It’s safe to say that our document turned out to be more for the benefit of the writers than the readers. As you might also deduce, our tip sheet leans more towards satiric inside-jokes than heartfelt self-help. We generally don’t start adding to this document after we’ve met people who stir up an addictive nervousness in us, making us feel unworthy of their attention (but still wanting it more than anything). Instead, we write with a quickly disappearing bottle of Moscato at our side, uncontrollably cackling as we review our latest travesties of dates.
But even still—despite all of my whining—I can’t erase the invaluable experiences that this journey of online endeavors has awarded me. My first date, my first heartbreak, my first relationship, and my first breakup all resulted from dating applications. In fact, my current Tinder pursuits have elicited dreamlike rewards: a Puerto Rican hip-hop dancer, a late night walk on the South Side of a new city, a meal beginning with ginger-tequila shaved ice and ending with green apple cotton candy covered in Pop Rocks, and a disco-themed dance party performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
(Alright, so maybe I’m the only person who has dreams like that).
The point is that I got what I was looking for: no, not the perfect prince at the end of my Tinder fairy tale, but rather a journey of growth that’s taken me out from the monotony of the ordinary toward somewhere that’s almost fantastical, but more wonderful because it’s real.
The question still remains I guess. What has Tinder taught me?
To be honest, not too much. But it helped me to take a risk. To fight against complacency. To turn fear into hilarity. And to strive for something better.
To keep in stride with what I’ve learned, I’ll end with this request: come out on a date with me! Let’s do it for the story. Meet me at the Shakespeare disco.
(I’ll be in the hot pink pants.)
Michael Kelly (’14) graduated from Calvin College with a double major in psychology and writing. Shortly after graduating, he began his graduate level study of educational research, measurement, and evaluation at Boston College. When he is not studying learning and teaching, Michael learns and teaches through stories and writing—fiction and nonfiction, comedy and tragedy, and everything else in between.