I know you’re curious

I’m writing this for two reasons.

1) to educate. 

Many friends of mine have been in long term relationships (LTRs in online dating parlance) and are fascinated by how single people find other single people in 2021.

2) to vent.

I have come to the conclusion that nobody really enjoys online dating, and this is a way for me to complain about it. I think my complaints are weighed appropriately and not entirely baseless, but I encourage conversation!

How Tinder Set the Fire (Sorry!)

Tinder was invented as a normie version of Grindr. Much lamentation is made about “hookup culture.” I can’t help but read some of this consternation as coded (and maybe unintentional) homophobia, since the “hookup” we twist our pearls about was, for most of modern western history, the only way our gay brothers and sisters could be anything resembling their true selves. I won’t do the gay plight the disservice of trying to summarize it, so I will stick to what I know.

How Grindr Revolutionized Dating

Grindr was uniquely suited to the traditional bathhouse culture that gay men cultivated through centuries of persecution, finding mates in private underground clubs where they could be pretty sure the people they encountered were looking for the same thing they were. 

There was no depth. Nobody was there looking for a relationship because relationships were punishable by death. They got what they could when they could. The digital version of this is a photograph and a few sentences of demographic information, maybe with some light contextualization. 

Grindr was a way of simulating that process in a way that the traditional hetero apps simply weren’t doing. If these big dating websites weren’t outright banning same-sex relationships, they weren’t exactly endorsing them, either. Grindr allowed gay men to connect to other gay men. I doesn’t matter whether they used these connections for sex, as far as an external observer like me is concerned, because any relationship was (and in many cases still is) illegal. 

How Tinder Ruined What Grindr Invented

As happens so often, the hetero breeders like me saw how much fun everybody else was having and tried to replicate it. Tinder began with the premise of Grindr (photo, a couple sentences, looking for sex) but for heterosexual men and women. There were other features of Tinder that gestured toward equality between the sexes—for example, both people had to select the other before any messages could be exchanged. Other apps try to limit the ability of men to be awful (because hetero men are always awful) by using a similar mutual matching, with an additional layer of security: a man cannot message a woman until she messages first. 

What Online Dating Looks Like Now

If you approach these apps with a deep certainty of your own inadequacy then you will be rewarded with constant reinforcement. 

This reinforcement does not come from anybody intentionally. Nobody is being careless with your feelings. But it feels like it.

Online dating has become a literal version of judging a book by its cover. The old adage also included the word “don’t” but online dating proudly and enthusiastically encourages users to judge the books only by their covers. A book cover gives you basic information: a title, an image, maybe a blurb. Tinder does the same thing. 

To continue the metaphor, you can flip the book over and see a little more information. You might get a few more photos, or a whole paragraph. Don’t expect more than that, though. You won’t get it. 

How Tinder Works 

You swipe. You are presented with a photo and a blurb. You can immediately swipe left (reject) or right (accept). If somebody you accept also accepts you, that is a “match” and you can move to step 2. 

For most men, this is rare. 

I’m not complaining! This is how it’s always been, for a long time. Men are granted vast privileges by society, and one of those is the permission from society to be horny. Men are allowed, and expected, to approach women and initiate the conversation. There are many, many exceptions to this. 

If you ask most men on online dating (OLD, in the parlance of online dating) what their experience is like, they will tell you that it’s a lot of right-swiping (thumbs ups) with very few matches. 

Women will largely report the opposite. A woman on OLD gets a huge number of likes and it becomes their unenviable duty to sort through the masses of suitors for one that they find desirable and/or not a creep. This criteria is different for every woman, despite what some male users of online dating like to pretend. 

That sounds fun, like a game, you might be saying. Sure, it can be. Except

Every App Does This Now

Even Match.com, the old, reliable, venerable boomer of online dating, has succumbed to swipe-fever. If you use their app on your mobile phone, you’ll find the familiar interphase of Tinder, Bumble, Hinge, OkCupid and all the others. Every app does this, now. You might get more context from an app like Match or OkCupid, but the fundamental method of selecting mates is consistent across all platforms: here’s a photo, here’s a sentence they wrote about themselves, now decide. Left or right, you swipe. If you reject them, you never see them again. 

This is the way of things in 2021. 

Some Canards of Celibate Losers

Forgive me for the strident tone against these men, but their complaints are offensively reductive. Even a casual perusal of message boards dedicated to such expansive concepts as “relationships” will show you that these men are hopelessly cowed by the perceived superiority of men with abs. 

Because these men lack imagination or, apparently, empathy, they are obsessed with the men they perceive as better than them. They see tall men with muscles and flat stomachs and think that these are the reasons why those men are successful and they, short schlubs, are not successful. 

They attribute their success to physical characteristics because that’s all they see in the women who interest them. Attractiveness is all that matters to these men, so that means only men they perceive as attractive are successful in getting the girls they also think are attractive. 


Rax King is a good follow on Twitter, and she’s a great writer. You can read the whole thread to get context, but I think this tweet gets to the larger point I’m making: none of this shit matters to most women. She’s agreeing with me—it’s the rare grown woman cares about abs or muscles. Some might care about height, but if a woman rejects you because of how tall you aren’t, why would you be interested in them? I would apply this logic to every rejection: why obsess over somebody who rejects you? 

Even the word “reject” feels too harsh to describe the action. It’s much harder to reject somebody than it is to swipe left on them. You can’t engage the feelings part of yourself in the process of using these apps, because if you do, you can all too easily interpret a casual swipe in either direction as far more than it is. A swipe feels like a slap. It isn’t. 

I think this is why so many people hate it. I say that because I think that’s why I hate it.  

Swiping is Great (for What’s it’s Good For)!

The swiping method is great for its original intended purpose, but because every online dating app uses it, people stop using these apps for what they’re useful for (hookups) and try to bend the paradigm into a relationship-finder. This is bad. This is a mistake. It’s also inevitable.

The curve of dating apps in the hands of heterosexual westerners always bends toward finding meaningful relationships.

These apps aren’t good for that for all the same reasons it’s good for finding a casual hookup. If all you care about is one night of fun, you probably don’t care about their thoughts about having children, their religious preferences, or even what they do for a living. These things all matter tremendously when you’re looking for more than that. You can get that information on some of them, but it takes a few taps. This is not a process that rewards tapping. 

Yet still, nearly every profile I see has some version of the statement “I’m not looking for hookups.” I’d say they’re using the wrong app, but since they all do the swipe thing, I would be wrong. 

These Apps Don’t Play to My Strengths

I had the most fun and the most success on Craigslist. This was many years ago (14?) and I could just write weird things that would get people to email me. I had a lot of success with that approach, for obvious reasons. I define success as a lot of first dates and a few relationships that I value. This is a great example of the stupidity I was posting. I was young and foolish then, I feel old and foolish now. But still, that foolish idiot had a dating app where being a creative idiot was rewarded. 

Complaining is Pointless

When you’re faced with a situation you don’t like, you have two choices: participate or opt out. If you want to get a date online, you play the swipe game. That’s just how things are right now. 

The Third Option: Wait

Dating online now is not how it always was. People will reject the swiping thing eventually because it just isn’t conducive to the pillars of strong relationships: sharing, affection, mutual understanding, chemistry. If your only criteria for the people you date is how they look, you’ll always end up disappointed. It’s fun at first. But it doesn’t last.

After the swiping thing runs its course, something else will replace it and we’ll have something new to complain about. 

Wait Jim, I Thought You Weren’t Dating

It’s true that Fiona Apple radicalized me against the myth of a forever partner, but I wrote that over a year ago and maybe I’m ready for something else. I dunno. Life is short and I am simply trying to enjoy it. 

It’s been working for me so far. 

Tell me I ain’t got no chance, I say “screw it” 

Suddenly I’m not sick

Won’t you be and bring me home

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