The Sixth Stage of Tinder

Call me old fashioned, but Tinder is shallow, superficial, and distasteful. But these aren’t the software’s worst problem. Tinder’s worst problem is that it leads (and encourages) inauthentic meetings and moments that have zero substance to them, leaving the participants feeling empty and unsatisfied, even when it ends in a ‘sexy-times’ encounter.

Because of this, I feel the need to respond to a pleasant article penned by the incorrigible and quixotic Life and Style Sub Editor Beatrice Smith in last week’s Woroni entitled “The Five Stages of Tinder”, and also elucidate why authenticity is groovy.

“Lolz”, I hear you tweet, “he doesn’t understand our generation what uses internet.” I’m a person who, like the majority of human kind, finds the idea of swiping at people’s faces (which is how one finds a “match” on Tinder ) to let them know you like them, a tad weird. This town is full of grown people who do this.

Public servants, some students, whoever else lives in Canberra. They’re all on Tinder. About half of my friends are on it or have tried it. But to understand why my friends are misguided, and why Tinder and romance don’t mix, I might first dabble in what makes a good relationship in the first place.

Of course, if you’re only into Tinder for the sex and glory, then this probably won’t apply to you.

So what makes a good relationship, or at least, how does a real one begin? The answer is authenticity. Authenticity is something that, by definition, cannot be manufactured, faked, attempted, or produced. It must be spontaneous, and it must be incidental. It cannot be given to you, and you cannot get it from a program.

Think for a moment about the best friends you have. Now ask, how did our friendship start? Did you meet them accidently, did you begin talking and hanging out with no other aim than being in each other’s company? Do you enjoy their company just because? It’s probably something like that right? It was a spontaneous, by chance meet? This is how an authentic friendship begins.

It makes me happy recounting stories about my mates and how we started hanging out, the trouble we got up to, the stories we can tell looking back. Why? Because those stories are authentic, they happened not because I planned them, but because they just happened, and their spontaneity is their main feature. Stories that don’t go to plan are always better than ones that do, especially if they make you a better person in the end.

Consider the alternative. Did your friendship begin through a pre-planned arrangement where both of you entered into a prefabricated (a friend date?) arrangement to judge one another and decide afterwards if you wanted to be friends? Would your besties have become your besties if you actually tried to set up a prefabricated meet from which you’d judge each other?  I would at first say yes to that, because my mates and I would just take the piss out of the situation. But therein lies the rub, as neither I, nor my mates, would ever put ourselves into such an inauthentic situation.

So to your relationships. The best relationships I have had have been based on a terrific “how we met” story. This does not have to, as Beatrice Smith presupposes, begin at a bar, with the intent to meet someone. However bar meets are a good example of the difference between inauthentic and authentic hook-ups, and they’re familiar, so let’s use them.

For example, you’re a woman (for argument’s sake) at a bar, you look good, you’re out with your friends, that Rihanna song has just played for the 6th time, and you’ve got that Saturday night buzz.  Sitting there, flanked by your friends, a guy (for argument’s sake) walks across the bar and interrupts politely, and begins to talk to you. You realise he is hitting on you.

As soon as you come to this conclusion, you immediately become excited yet slightly defensive, you’re aware that there are at least some set rules for this stuff. You understand he is making good on a plan to talk to you, and that you are expected to respond in certain ways. You’re slightly tense, tense because you don’t want to fuck up a situation that can be fucked up. Now one-night stands are one-night stands for this exact reason, the person you end up with was usually a fling or turns out to be a loser. They were interested in your looks, and there was nothing special about meeting them or your interactions. Alcohol is usually involved so we can forget this fact.

Now the counter example. You’re at the same bar, the same friends, the same Rihanna song, the same buzz. But this time, instead of that guy hitting on you, you meet spontaneously. Let’s say his group of friends are incidentally sitting next to your group, and you get chatting.  He says something that catches your ear, and you start talking, and you begin to enjoy the sound of his voice, and what he is saying, and how he is saying it, you like his smile. Attraction forms and you become interested in him as a person.

You’re not dealing with him as some sort of entity, like a shelf product, that has walked across the bar and begun a plan to hook-up with you based purely on your looks. The two of you begun talking without any preconceptions, freeing you from the padded shackles of an inauthentic encounter where one is hitting on the other based purely on physical characteristics that they want to experience. You’re being real, and you both know it.

You have begun your relationship, however brief it may be (the night or forever), on authentic grounds that are exclusive to the two of you. It’s your moment, and there is no way anyone could ever replicate it. You’re two humans enjoying one another, you’re not two products considering the other’s pros and cons. Worst-case scenario, you walk away having a good chat. This is certainly not the worst case scenario should an “hit-on” scenario go south.

And here we return to Tinder. Tinder is the ultimate extension of the inauthentic approach I have written about. Your voice, your mind, your personality, are all entirely removed from the scenario. In Tinder, you are a product on a digital shelf, to be swiped away dismissively like a bug from a table. If you and your potential match both “swipe” each other, and you do meet, it will always linger that the other person is there for no other reason than your looks, nuts to that. The relationship germinated through inauthentic means, and that will always be the case, you will never ever change that.

The “Five Stages of Tinder” as delightfully described by Woroni’s lifestyle editor Beatrice Smith are “Curiosity, Validation, Over-Confidence, Addiction, and Boredom.” Well I’m going to add a sixth, Emptiness. Like a tin man trying to love, a Tinder relationship will always lack heart. It will always lack spontaneity. It will always lack authenticity. So put the phone down, hold your beautiful head up, and start talking to that cute person next to you.

Life’s too short to swipe at people’s faces in hope.