Zoe Strimpel recently shed light for The Spectator on the jaded men of Tinderland – the ghosters, the gaslighters, the only looking for one-nighters.
But in an era when men are expected to package themselves up with a million others on the dating app production line, can she really blame us? If single men are getting swipe-weary, it’s because we just want to put the selfie-stick down and step away.
Because in this brave new world of Insta-stars and sexting, if you don’t have a photo of it, it never really happened. All the nights you went out with your mates on a jolly till two-in-the-morning, that time you drove a rented convertible across the glistening highway of Route 66, the endless stream of peak-a-boo’s and row-your-boats you’ve had with your cutesy nephews and nieces. Gone. None of it matters anymore.
All that matters is the six photos you’re going to post on Tinder or Bumble or Hinge that show your future suitors who you’re meant to be. And six is your lot. Except it’s really one. Because if your profile picture doesn’t get them hooked, then you’ll be cut and thrown back.
On dating apps, you have to condense your whole life, the entirety of the sum of all the experiences, all the victories, all the heartaches, that made you, into one flash moment. You’re no longer a real human being, wrapped up in intractable contradictions and faded dreams, you’re just an image on a screen. And so is everyone else.
This isn’t liberating. It’s dehumanizing. Us men are expected to compress ourselves down into a single freeze frame and we’re not even the fairer sex. Is anyone surprised that we seem detached from the modern dating game?
And then there’s the “about me” section. This part was really designed for the Baby Boom Generation. They were the ones who invented the “self”, the endless self-questioning, the will to define, the belief that if you’re not in therapy, you’re doing it wrong.
My generation, the Tinder generation, the Millennial look-at-me generation, invented something even more self-involved: the selfie. The selfie was borne out of a desire to replace all forms of coherent conversation with a single snapshot of us gilded in perfect light. Now dating apps want us to spell it out in plain English and we don’t quite know what to do. Even the greatest writers of all time would recoil at having to boil their entire existence into two hundred characters, because nothing you say will ever really be you. Like our selfies, we are simply presenting highly curated versions of ourselves.
If we’re disillusioned, it’s because we just want to be us again.
And what of the put-upon women in this charade? The relentless tirade of bikini-cleavages and thousand yard stares and lean-in group shots. A million false smiles from people who secretly wish they could ghost their own lives and disappear back into a different time – a time when you met your future love through a mishap in a train station.
We jaded men crave connections but the relationship between swiper and swipee isn’t really a relationship at all. It’s dating retail. It’s walking past a shop window when you don’t really know what you want. Except you’re in the window too. Dating apps are the ultimate free market, because this time, the product is you. So better get snapping, we’ve got selling to do.