Swipe right. Swipe right. Swipe right. Swipe left. Swipe left. That girl seriously has a cat as one of her pictures. I fucking hate cats. Swipe left. Is this the girl in the middle or the girl on the right? I can’t tell. Next picture. Still can’t tell. Fuck it, can’t waste time on this. Swipe left again. This girl is kind of cute. Kind of has this weird thing going on with her hair, but she also likes watching Family Guy. I can dig that. Ugh, but she also has a cross emoji in her profile. Never mind. Swipe left.
These are just some of thoughts as I stare at my phone on a drunken late Saturday…wait, make that early Sunday morning at 3:00 AM. Though the night was fun and the drinks were plentiful, I’m sleeping alone in my bed again holding my phone tightly as if it were a real human being next to me. And in reality, it might as well be. My phone is more important than any of my real relationships. Like most everyone, when I get a notification on my phone I stop my conversation with the person right in front of me to check if it’s somebody more important. If it’s the case (which it generally is), then John from accounting will have to put his story of his vacation to Florida with this wife and kids on hold (because in all honesty no trip to Florida is interesting anyway) so that I can send my buddy Jeff a reply about poker night even though it’s several hours away.
But let’s get back to the point. I’m lying alone again, staring at girls on my phone and making predictions on if they will be a good match for me. The irony in this scenario is that I talked to several girls at the bar that same night but left with no good prospects. Some of that is out of my control. Some have boyfriends. Some I didn’t get to talk to enough. Others just weren’t quite attractive enough, or maybe even too attractive to approach. For whatever the reason, there is always a reason to not talk to somebody. The best one, and perhaps my favorite reason, is that idea that there is always something better.
This is where Tinder comes in. Tinder was an app created in September 2012. The original idea behind the app was for singles within a certain area of each other to be able to “swipe right” or “swipe left” on each other based on a few pictures and short description of themselves in their bio. If they both swiped right then they would “match,” creating an opportunity for them to message each other on the app. Ideally from there they would message each other, go on a few dates, have the awkward on-again/off-again phase for a while, and then they would live happily ever after.
In 2017 things have changed quite bit for Tinder’s image. It has gone from obscure dating app to an everyday pop culture phenomenon. It’s used for all sorts of purposes. It’s used for people to actually meet and fall in love. Others use it to dip their feet into the online dating world. Several use it for the opportunity for a quick, casual hookup. However, what I’ve come to realize is that most people use it because it’s fun andor a self-esteem boost.
Not following me? What we crave most in this world is attention and affection. Tinder does this perfectly. It gives us an instant sense of inflation when we are “liked” by others, a reaffirmation that someone out there desires us. Though we like to think that the cute girl in the cube next to us at work likes us, we don’t actually know and are often too afraid to ask. Tinder has given us ability to skip this awkward “find out stage” and instead tells us: “Yes ,you are attractive. You are desired.”
Like most technology, the users don’t fully comprehend the consequences until long after they have been using it. You now have the ability to meet people you most likely never would have interacted with in other walks of life. The girl you swiped right on who is a barista at a coffee shop on the other side of town that you never would have went to is now available. That girl who was previously unknown to you is now in the realm of your phone universe.
However, I would like to explore the darker side of this equation. Tinder has given us the ability to meet with almost anybody at the touch of a button. Just think about that for a second. Anyone. You are inundated with hundreds if not thousands of options of people to choose from on your phone with only a few pictures and a couple hundred characters to decide if that person is right for you. Women are especially affected by this problem. If you are an attractive woman then you could match up with up to 70/80 people a day. No one has time to look through all those profiles to determine if that guy with the backwards hat and that cute dog in his picture is “the one.” Or even if it’s not the one, are they still good enough to grab coffee or a casual drink with?
This brings me to my larger point. They key to being unhappy, or, in a better sense discontent is having too many choices. Yes, I said too many choices. Not too few choices. Too many choices. I should clarify that also having no choices is bad. That would just be some kind of slavery or personal hell. But contrary to the American way, which would state that having unlimited choices is what makes America great, I theorize that having too many options is what makes us unhappy.
For example, imagine going grocery shopping ger. You’re nearly done buying all your groceries and decide to stop in the cold section to pick up some orange juice. When you get there, you see rows upon rows of different types of orange juice to choose from. There’s your basic generic store brand orange juice. Cheaper than others, but probably made from concentrate and high in sugar. There’s my favorite, which is Simply Orange—more expensive than others but they claim that their fruit is “picked by hand” and uses “100% juice.” One brand claims that they use California oranges as opposed to Florida oranges. Another says that they pay their workers above-average salaries. One has been family owned for the last three generations. The other pays 20% of all profits to a charitable organization. And the last one has Reese Witherspoon as its endorser. You are now flooded with several options of what to choose from. Do I choose the cheaper one to save money? But what about the one that pays fair wages? But maybe that money could be going to that charity for people who really need the money. After two minutes of internal debating you end up getting frustrated, say fuck it, and end up buying grapefruit juice instead because how many grapefruit juice options could there really be? Though this example may be a bit of an exaggeration, and most likely I’m the only who gets this frustrated about picking orange juice, this is a small microcosm of what is happening in the bigger choices of our lives. When we are given too many choices it becomes hard to be completely satisfied with the choices we make.
As millennials, our choices will never be that simple. We tend to complicate everything. A girl can be pretty and nice, but if she consistently goes to church on Sundays, that means that she’s “too religious” and will probably be a hard lay. Another girl could be decently cute but has an accounting job and likes to stay in on Friday nights. That seems too boring. The next girl you meet is a hair stylist who is absolutely stunning, but then you remember your buddy John saying that stylists are crazy, so you decide not to talk to her, either. My point is that no matter what positive traits you see in a girl/boy, the negative ones are always the ones that stick out to you first. If it makes you feel better, this is not your fault. This is the famous negativity bias. The brain is more likely to remember the few unpleasant things about someone than their better positive traits that make them up as a whole. This may not matter on a one night stand in the back of your Ford Cutlass Supreme9,but if you’re trying to have a meaningful relationship these are things that are hard to get by.
Don’t get me wrong. Not all millennials are like that. I know plenty of my friends who are in great relationships and will most likely marry happily with only a select few having a quick painless divorce. But for every one of them is another who is constantly looking for “the right one” or their “soulmate” and bypassing perfectly good people on the way.
For instance, I talked to this girl, we’ll call her Nancy, because who honestly names their kid Nancy anymore? Nancy and I got along pretty well. We had known each other for a few years but had just been causal friends. We eventually started talking and hooking up toward the end of college. After a while we were on the cusp of that infamous “are we dating or not?” phase. When asked about dating or not, I kind of avoided it. She was pretty but not stunning. Smart but not brilliant. But most of all she was boring. And we millennials can’t deal with boring. We talked for a little while longer and after about another two months of this we eventually stopped talking.
In another life, I probably would have settled for this above-average relationship, but I’ve grown up in a world where we don’t settle. We strive for perfection. For better or for worse.
Our grandparents grew up in a post-Great Depression era where the only concern was putting food on the table. If you were a man you needed to find a job. If you were a woman you needed to find a man who had a job. Our parents had a slightly different experience. They grew up in a world where financial stability was important but they were allowed to still search within that financial stability for a career and social life that suited them. Especially women, who were no longer ostracized for searching for a career on their own. Slowly marrying/partnering out of love instead of necessity was the new norm.
Now we get to my era. We have been told since day one that we can do anything we want. That’s both an incredible freedom and burden. The ability to chase after your dream, but with the constant doubtful reminder in your head: “Is this actually my dream? Is this the career I want? Is this the woman/man I want to be with?” Constantly looking over the horizon to see if the grass is really greener on the other side. With the potential of unlimited options also comes the unlimited potential of constant second-guessing. This is why we will have an average of four job changes by the time we are 32—nearly twice the amount as our elders. This is why we enjoy the idea of “FWB’s”. It becomes hard to commit when we think something else out there is better.
More Options = The Inability to Make Decisions
Barry Shwartz writes about this concept in his book The Paradox of Choice. The book summarizes that by actually giving people too many choices, we tend to diminish their satisfaction. Similar to the orange juice example I talked about earlier in the essay, Shwatz uses an example that involves 401k plans. He stated that, “The more fund choices offered by employers offering matching 401k plans, the fewer people actually selected any fund at all, even though that meant foregoing ‘free’ money.” That’s free money! Something that’s supposed to be simple became so complex for some people that they gave up extra dollars in their retirement plan.
Now that I’ve applied to other realms of life, lets come full circle with it on Tinder. According to an article on “Choice Paralysis” by Gian Gonzaga, a study about romantic dating sites stated that “One study (of many) found that increased exposure to options for finding a romantic partner actually yielded more choice paralysis, and online daters made worse choices about who they eventually picked.”
If I am constantly inhibited with a never-ending cycle of woman to choose from, how can I ever be certain that the one I’m with will be the one for me? In theory it would be impossible. But like many things in life, you sometimes need to ditch theory and logic for emotions and feelings. Millennials have always enjoyed the thought of being the smartest and most sophisticated generation ever, but in this case it’s actually a hindrance. This time ignorance really is a bliss.
So how do we solve this choice paralysis? Do we need to take a break from online dating completely? Do we need to just meet people who fall into our life naturally? The girl at work? Maybe the girl at the bar? That one girl who always coincidentally goes to the bank the same time as you to deposit cash, who wears maybe a little bit too much makeup but has a sublime shirt on that you really dig? Though those are all places we can meet people, it’s not always the easiest to strike up a conversation. Have you ever tried starting a conversation at the gym? You walk up to the girl on the leg press:
“Hey, you mind if I use this after you?”
“Sure,” she says.
“Thanks. Do you come here often? Your thighs look like they are really toned….”
And that’s all she wrote. Conversation over. Game over. Now she’s going to think you’re a creep. You’re going to have to get a new haircut. Maybe even start looking for a new gym. Hell, maybe even move out of the state. Yes, I’m being extreme, but what else would you expect out a neurotic 26-year-old?
The old fashioned way in some people’s mind is more romantic. It might be, but it is far less efficient. Emily from South Carolina seemed cute when you met her that one time inside the dimly lit bar, but when you meet her again a week later for coffee she seems less attractive than the first time you met her. On top of that you share virtually no interests, she isn’t much for carrying a conversation, and you find out she enjoys Nickelback.
People complain about online dating but in reality you’re much more likely to meet someone who falls into a similar attractiveness scale and also has similar interests. People also complain about the number of bad dates that they have to go on because of online dating, but in reality you would have the same problem that you met with people on the street.
There I go ranting again. So what has this whole rant been about? Maybe that millennials are indecisive? That too many options are actually a bad thing? Or maybe the fact that I’m currently single and will be alone forever? Though all true, it’s really to show that we need to take a different approach in how we do things. We can still do online dating, but maybe with a little more purpose. Instead of half foot in and half foot out like we do with most things in life, time to actually commit…I mean dedicate yourself to a real conversation, a date, or relationship with this person. Instead of swiping right for an hour and sorting through all the choices, maybe just do one at a time and try and strike up a conversation from there. Focus on the one in front of you instead of the next 300. Who knows—maybe that person will be the one, but even if they’re not, you can be satisfied that you spent the energy and time to get to know that person instead of chain-talking to 12 other women at the same time.
We’ve all been told that being a perfectionist is a good thing, and to some degree it is, but what I’m telling you is that in this case it’s time to let go of that. Like any great movie, book, or work of art nothing is perfect. Your career or relationship won’t be, either. But like most works of art, the flaws are what sometimes make the art more appealing.
So, next time you come stumbling home from a not-so-unsuccessful night out, when you get your first match on Tinder, just stop there. Start a witty, funny conversation and take a chance. Be open to something or someone that may have a flaw or two. Who knows, that may end up being your favorite thing about them… unless they like cats.