Where is the joy of longing?
May this year be kinder than the last for all of you. I don’t know about you guys, I ain’t making any resolutions this year. I will just take it as it comes. Okay… I am trying to be like Ted Mosby from HIMYM - trying to lower expectations so that everything that happens is only an upside. You think it’ll work? We’ll have to wait and see.
Over the last two weeks, I’ve had the privilege (or is it?) of experiencing dating apps first hand. I’d tried the web version of OKC back in 2015 to run some experiments, but that was mostly it. Recently I downloaded Bumble to help out a client who was too shy to make the first move. Then, on a whim, I decided that I must get on it as me. So, in this edition of the Shapely Gal, I want to tell you all about that.
I must confess that there was a little part of me that was worried about people getting “the wrong idea”, especially when I got to the bit where I had to upload a picture. I rationalised by saying, oh well, worst case, this should be a nice growth hack as pointed out by a friend.
So, here I was - 33, F, Bangalore putting myself out there.
As any self-respecting female swiper, I started swiping, LEFT of course. One of the first things I realised is this - the left swiping action very closely resembles the “na na na na na” gesture used (in India) to tell people that they can’t get you, or that you got them. Don’t you think?
After a while of swiping, I was super excited to spot men who I’d seen on matrimonial apps earlier. You guys won’t get it - it’s a very auntie thing. But… if I had to break it down, it meant several things:
Maybe I am like a Chennaite as described by the comedian SA Arvind getting excited about just learning who is on dating apps rather than trying to date.
I have additional information about intent, saving my clients’ delayed heartburn.
Could these guys be my future clients?!
After some contemplation around whether I must make the first move, or allow the leads to be inbound, I carried on without attempting to sell.
Then I started swiping again, kept swiping and I just couldn’t stop. It was too addictive - the swiping I mean. After a while, I forgot this was Bumble, and ended up swiping right on someone because the previous person was someone I knew. Like you would with Instagram stories - know what I mean?
I realised that I was being an auntie for not knowing how to swipe properly, but I was more annoyed that my swiping had been interrupted by a stupid message prompt. Now, I had to make the first move and say something to someone I didn’t want to engage with in the first place.
Damn you, right swipe.
Anyway, it took me a few minutes to figure out that I need not say anything. I could go ahead, match and then unmatch even before the other person finds out (if I were quick enough). Does this explain anything to some of you when you match with someone, but the match vanishes pretty quickly for no reason?
Rummaging through the pile
Have you ever seen these guys who sell fake leather jackets on the sidewalk? They have this huge pile of clothes that you need to rummage through. Crazily swiping on people’s faces felt a little bit like that. I couldn’t tell one from the other after a point because I just wanted to get through the pile real quick.
I had no idea what I was even doing.
So, I decided to slow down, read bios and then swipe left or right carefully. Except, the problem with reading bios, scrolling up and down is that the movement of the thumb scrolling up resembles swiping right very closely. So, I ended up with more instances of having to unmatch real quick.
Screw it. I will just left swipe everyone, I thought.
Soon enough, I discovered those swipes that come with little notes where people say “hey sugar, looking lonely…wanna chat and see where things go?”. Yes, people still say shit like that in 2020.
But this seemed like a good starting point - I decided that in order to get the full experience, I could start by responding to these notes whenever I find them interesting. And along the way, I found the right pace and I began right swiping on a few people.
You either have an instant match if they’ve already swiped right on you, or you don’t, when they’ve either not seen your card yet or if they’ve left swiped on you. After swiping for a while, I realised, I hadn’t got any matches from some of my right swipes.
I had been rejected. I felt sad. But who rejected me?! I couldn’t even remember. Now, is that a good thing? How does that affect my self-image? Or does it? I was confused.
When I was 15, I had a crush on this guy who lived in my neighbourhood. Every time I saw him, I felt this huge rush of emotions, and I didn’t quite know what to do with it. It progressively grew so intense that it was almost unbearable, but in a good way.
I knew that he saw me too. I was hoping he felt the same too? Or maybe he didn’t? There was no way to know how he felt because I didn’t personally know him or talk to him. I wasn’t even sure what would happen if I ever told him how I felt - was the crush supposed to be reciprocated? were the feelings supposed to die? were we then supposed to date? I had no clue.
In fact, I didn’t even think about it. All I knew was that I loved the rush of emotions I felt inside of me every time I saw him. This longing had become a whole other person in itself, and had a very special place in my life.
When I think back to that time now, that longing is really all I remember. The guy no longer kindles such feelings in me, but seeing him brings back memories of that longing which was oh, so sweet!
Some of you know what I mean. But in a few decades, you may find that people will no longer understand this. Technology has definitely eased up anticipation but in the process, it is robbing us of this joy of longing.
Continuing the experiment
I was talking about my experience on Bumble with Urvashi, and we decided to exchange notes on one Insta Live session. She suggested that I try the other apps (Tinder, Hinge, Aisle et all) to really get the full experience of navigating dating apps.
My review (if it matters?)
My favourite app was Hinge. Most people on Hinge were very decent, and civil. There was something about the product that made it so engaging, apart from the fact that they have a nice classy monochromatic UI. You are allowed to have a few prompts on your profile where you answer random questions about yourself. The app encourages people to like very specific things on your profile including your pictures which make for good conversation starters. I had a couple of conversations with a few people, but mostly it felt like a drag.
Now, if I were single, may be I’d have a bit more enthu and it could lead to something interesting? I’d like to think so.
Aisle was also interesting because of its fairly high overlap of users with matrimonial apps. So, this definitely gives you some confidence in terms of intent of the users if that matters. A lot of women have told me that they really struggle to find men on dating apps who are genuinely interested in a serious relationship, potentially resulting in marriage. So, if you are a woman who is looking for a serious relationship, Aisle may not be a bad place to start.
But…irrespective of what these apps have to offer, I must confess that this whole thing was an overly exhausting experience - I didn’t last two full weeks. I am unable to say for certain if it’s because of the design of these apps, men who you never swiped right on reaching out to you or the fact that I am actually not motivated to find a partner here.
The most concerning bit though was the thought of someone approaching me in person just because I am on this app and in their vicinity. I have been on tonnes of dating and matrimonial apps, but I have never felt unsafe. There was something about Tinder that made me very uncomfortable, and I was glad that this was a limited time experiment and it was ending soon.
Like most social apps, dating apps have been designed to optimise for a shot of dopamine. You can pick and choose who you want to date. It appears as if you are in complete control of your experience and you can fall in love with anyone you want, except you can’t.
Your joy is now tied to getting a new match, receiving a new message and being able to hook up with yet another person. There is no more longing, no more waiting to have your love reciprocated or experiencing the pain of rejection. Everything is frictionless today. Almost.
As we allow technology to take over our lives, it is beginning to shape the way we love. Modern day dating apps have changed human behaviour irreversibly to the point where not turning up/ ghosting happens more often than dating. Technology is making us a little less human. Don’t you think?
If I haven’t said this before - my heart goes out to you, if you are trying to find love through these apps. It is hard. Initiatives like Dinner Club are meant to help break this cycle, but unfortunately there aren’t enough people who value this experience enough to make it economically viable.
Sneak peak into what I’m reading/ watching/ listening to:
Uttara Kaanda by S.L.Bhyrappa: Having only listened to the kid versions of Ramayana, I am very excited about having picked up this book. Also, I generally like S.L.Bhyrappa’s style of writing. It’s very raw, and very real.
Food & Faith by Shoba Narayan: This book was more about faith and less about food, but I enjoyed being part of Shoba’s personal journey with faith. I could relate to a lot of things she said having grown up in a Hindu household myself.
The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Dare: I found the language so incredibly cute. I have this weird thing for English spoken in different accents. This is a very powerful story of a Nigerian girl, simply told.
Many Lives, Many Masters by Brian Weiss: This was long overdue. I’ve been wanting to read this book since my aunt went through past life regression sessions, but I was recently inspired to pick it up after a strange conversation with my 4 year old daughter one night. Whether you believe in re-incarnation or not, it’s a fascinating story.
Shapely Gal song of the month: Love your voice by Jony.