I Swiped Right on Everyone on Tinder (Yes, Everyone). Here’s What I Learned.
I previously began this project in my first year of college, I was 18 and beginning my studies as a theatre/biology double major at The Ohio State University. Shortly after reaching 1500 matches, I began to fear for my safety, and aborted the social experiment right after the beginning of my second semester. I had a nice time giving my phone away at parties and letting people message my suitors, but I found that the social impact did not outweigh the uneasiness I felt in my head.
Now, being in my third year and two(ish) years older, I thought it would be a good idea to restart my project in hopes of gathering information on interesting people and (maybe) even finding someone I like. I am a seasoned user of Tinder, averaging about seven dates, two casual hookups, and even a couple of possible relationships. I am writing this article at the milestone of my 2000th like, a phrase I never thought I would be writing in a Word document while sitting on my mother’s couch.
And yes, I swiped right on EVERYONE, minus a select few who were maybe going to compromise my safety (exes, past abusers, etc.). After almost a month of the project, I feel the need to talk about my findings and what this could possibly mean for the future of casual dating.
This project revival began just before the new year of 2017 after a stimulating conversation with my roommate about crazy dates and exes (Tinder or otherwise). I had been an on/off Tinder user for about 2 years, only rendering it useless when I was monogamous or having one of my “independent woman who don’t need no man” emotional bouts. My roommate, on the other hand, was a more recent victim of the hells of Tinder; finding it tough to convince herself to keep using the app for the chance of clicking with someone.
We discussed writing a Tinder episode for a small show we were collaborating on outside of our academics, a project we were using to showcase the actuality of college life. This was the catalyst for both of us remaking both of our profiles and PAYING for Tinder Plus. We both signed up for a one-month membership, opening a whole slew of new options for the app, such as, boosts during peak hours and unlimited likes.
We decided to make hyperbolic versions of ourselves, seeing how much a man could handle before questioning his swipe decision. Our pictures featured tasteful cleavage and good angles, all necessary for reeling in ~the perfect man~. My bio read, “0 in the pink, 5 in the stink”, a phrase that I do not remember the source of, but it seemed fitting for this version of Kelsey. I also had my preferences set to “men and women” since I am a bisexual woman, but none of the women matched me or never really bothered me. My roommate’s bio read, “hit me with the shocker”, so let’s just say that we were not setting ourselves up for success.
We began swiping and found ourselves reeling in the instant gratification and validation in our attractiveness. The only song that was completely applicable at this point was “It’s Raining Men” by The Weather Girls (I wish they made more music). We had men fawning over our photos and asking for dates in their first messages. We were quickly up to 500 matches after a few hours, and the messages were flowing in so fast that we had to put our phones on “Do Not Disturb”. Most of my messages were questioning the whole anal fisting thing, many others were ultimately willing and on board to participate in a night of intimate annihilation. I have included some mighty fine gems from my archive, just for you.
Let me just say up front, I matched with some real creeps, like people you see on the street and think “this person looks like they might murder me” or “I am getting a very strange vibe from you so I am hoping you can hear my thoughts and hear me say, you look lovely today!!”. The worst part was that men on campus began to recognize me; sometimes I would walk to class only to read a message later saying:
This began to make me paranoid; these men recognized me, but I would not be able to pick any of them out of a lineup. I walked around campus, locking eyes with people on my way to class and wondering if they knew me. My roommate had ceased her part of the project after beginning to feel freaked out by the sheer number of men who were actively trying to meet her. I did not judge her for this intelligent course of action.
After being picked out a few times on campus, I took a short hiatus from my swiping and did not message anyone back for a couple weeks. Some men were belligerent, insulting me and my attitude after a day or two of not messaging back. A few men were persistent, messaging days, sometimes hours, in a row in hopes that I would respond with some witty banter. With 2000 people, it was very difficult for me to keep track of who I was responding to and who was sending me new messages. Tinder’s infrastructure was literally unable to handle the amount of matches I had, showing that people had messaged me when they had not and losing some of my matches to the void.
After my hiatus, I was a little sobered to the whole experiment; I had lost my initiative to continue swiping and accumulating more messages for SCIENCE. Although, not everything was terrible with this project since it allowed me to get to some really cool people faster by bypassing Tinder’s match algorithm/design.
In total, I gave my number to and/or met three of the matches I accumulated during my second run of the project. I hooked up casually with one man, talk continuously with another, and casually dated the last one for a short time. The struggle with this is, how do you tell someone that you swiped right on everyone, even them? Does this emotionally compromise the other person? Does it bring to question your sanity and way of living when they find out that you have been messing with men on a dating app for over two years?
I have told two of the three men about my project, and they did not seem to have an issue with it, albeit maybe a twinge of judgment and pain at the initial reaction. And I feel bad, I really do. I know that many of these men are just looking for casual fun, or even serious relationships. One guy even told me that I was his first match after a few months of using the app, something I had never thought about over the time span of my experiment. But, it is hurtful, what I did and am currently doing. Something as simple as a right swipe is enough to be emotionally affecting to another person, and that sucks. BUT, a lot of these men are uncool, many of them making attempts to sexually harass me, ask for nude pictures, or find out where I live in their immediate messages. It does not absolve me of guilt, or give me a reason to continue my swiping extravaganza, and I know that.
The whole point of the experiment, for me, was to learn about the app, and the people on it. It is such a dark and mysterious topic, who uses Tinder, and what are they there for? No one wants to admit to using the app, but why? Why is our generation so afraid to admit that they don’t use “traditional” methods to find companionship? Is it because of past generations judging us for using these apps? Or is it because we feel ashamed or unable to find love in the ways our parents did? I still do not know the answer, and I do not know why most people use Tinder. Many men asked me, “so why are you here??” because there is no ONE answer to this question. Tinder is not defined in its usage as a casual dating app, or a serious one either. I have friends who have had long, fulfilling relationships from Tinder, and others who have vowed to never use the app again because of their experiences.
We have reached a new age of dating, there is more criteria than ever before when looking for a possible partner. Politics, religion, values, ethics, academics, feminism, emotional/mental health, these factors now play a role in today’s age of companionship that they may not have previously. My mom is a liberal Democrat from Northern Michigan, my stepfather a conservative Republican from Northwest Ohio. These two would most likely never be together today if their Tinder bios had been available up front with this information. I know, personally, I would never be able to date someone who was not a feminist or unwilling to stand with my social values. This information was not as in the foreground to past generations as it is to millennials. And that’s a good thing, being able to feel someone out before emotionally opening yourself up to them. We have immediate access to Facebook likes, Instagram posts, tweets, and other things that can help us determine the personality of the person on the screen.
Having access to this amount of social media can also be detrimental to new age relationships. It’s the missed texts, not liked Instagram pictures, read messages on Facebook, opened Snapchats, seeing them tweet but knowing they are not responding to you that can hurt. Knowing where someone is and what they are up to in today’s technological age can really…fuck with you. Meeting someone from Tinder can be a struggle, you want to stay casual, but how do you cross the line into possible monogamy? How can you occupy one’s thoughts when you see their daily lives on social media and know that they live outside of you and are not always dedicated to getting to know you?
We have a lot to learn about these new apps as means of finding love or friendship. And while this experiment may prove futile in the face of emotions and statistics, I have learned a lot about myself and what I want in a potential partner. I know that I need someone who is willing to deal with my past of being emotionally abused, and I need to be willing to open myself more to someone. I have found out a lot through reading messages from men who were outright asking me for naked pictures in their first message. I have learned that a lot of men in college are unsure, unconfident, yet, very willing to put themselves on the line. I hope, from this project, that we can all learn, together, how our new age of dating works; but, for now, we are all trapped in the hell of “no labels” and constant wondering if we are normal in our ways. Having no labels is absolutely fine, but where do learn to accept the labels we are given?
Let me be the first to say, there is NOTHING wrong with casually dating, hooking up, or one night standing it with someone. And it is OKAY to not want to do any of that, either. But, it is NOT okay to judge others in their search for themselves and their sexuality. We need to be understanding of each other as we move into the digital age of dating, and our first step needs to be erasing the stigma surrounding casual dating.