Swiping For Love Makes Me Feel Dead Inside

Sometimes I get into a zone on Tinder, swiping and swiping and swiping, and I don't know how much time has passed. Has it been an hour? Two? I feel like I've swiped left to the entire island of Manhattan but more potential matches just keep on coming.

When I recently saw this tweet that said, "Marriage is just texting each other 'Do we need anything from the grocery store?' a bunch of times until one of you dies," I thought, being single is just swiping right until you die.

But to even get to swiping right you have to swipe left. A lot.

In my almost two years on Tinder, I've swiped past a married man whose marriage was more of a "partnership" and was looking for someone who was understanding of his prior "commitments" and open to a "meaningful connection"; a man who was seeking a "discreet hookup"; men who blurred or cropped out their faces in their pictures; a guy wearing a wedding ring; and a man whose profile photo was simply an assortment of BDSM gear splayed out on the floor.

And then there are all the angry, women-hating men who proclaim:

No drama.

No chaos.

No crazy.

No baggage.

No tramp stamps.

And my personal favorite, the psychologically-aware guy who wrote:

Don't have problems with object permanence. Which I translate to mean: Don't be needy, don't have to be in frequent touch, and don't require any reassurance. Or even better  -- just don't have any needs.

And then there's:

No time for games.


Don't waste my time!

I'm familiar with the standard dating-site acronyms like FWB (not interested) or DTF (no thanks), but I often have to Google any others before swiping right on an otherwise appealing match to find out if it stands for a sexual proclivity or fetish that I don't know about. It always does.

Most recently there was the attractive, Ivy League-educated guy sporting business casual attire who was "GGG," which, I found out, is defined by Urban Dictionary as "Good, Giving, and Game. More specifically: good in bed, giving equal time and equal pleasure, and game for anything -- within reason." Their example of how to use it in context is: "I thought my partner would be reserved about my kinks, but he turned out to be GGG." So glad that worked out for you!

Early in my time on Tinder, I matched with a guy who, I could tell from our mutual Facebook Likes, had a shared interest in yoga.

"Hi!" I wrote, "Do you like yoga?"

"I like to f*ck," he wrote back, and immediately unmatched from me.

OK then! I thought, feeling like a Disney character who'd accidentally wandered into a porno.

Then there was the time a few months ago when, after a swipe-a-thon, I got a message right away from my cutest new match.

Excitedly opening the app, I saw it: "Booze + cuddles?"


Normally I would have just ignored his message. But I mentioned he was cute, no? I was feeling particularly open and generous regarding men's cryptic Tinder correspondence, and wanted to get to the bottom of this. And he was really cute. So I was holding out hope that this would turn into a normal interchange.

A quick Google search revealed that "booze + cuddles" was not a thing, so I wrote back: "Just wanted to clarify -- are you asking me out for a drink, or a cuddling (?) hook-up?"

"I'll bring the wine," he wrote back, capping it off with a confusing string of emojis, and clarifying nothing, other than that his preferred form of booze was wine. "You in?" he continued.

"I think we're looking for different things," I wrote, and he immediately unmatched from me.

Ah, courtship.

Dating no longer feels like a matter of the heart, but a convoluted business transaction where you have to decipher acronyms and emojis, and dodge fetishists, identity-obscured married men, and dick pics (which, thankfully, I've been spared from so far, but it's only a matter of time). The ability to swipe for love has commodified human beings and reduced people to a stream of photos, catchy tag lines, and icons of common Facebook friends and interests, of which, no matter how many hours upon hours you swipe, you will never, ever exhaust.

Obviously all the unfaithful spouses and men looking for a "no strings attached" partner in bondage can make a girl lose faith in love  -- and humanity. Or maybe it's the volume of options, flattened out into swipeable profile pics and far-removed from an actual living, breathing person with a heartbeat. But even when I've made it past the men who are clearly looking for something different, and am messaging with feasible potential matches, I generally still can't muster up any excitement.

One night when I was firing off flirty messages to several different guys, my insides were screaming, I FEEL NOTHING!!! Going through the motions by rote I texted some witty banter here and threw in some winky emojis there, but I didn't feel that spark of excitement I get when I'm texting with a guy I like who I've met in person. I didn't feel like a human being was at the other end of my messages. I didn't feel anything but numb.

So much so that, when a guy who was newly back to dating after being in a relationship for eight years, and had last dated "pre-apps," messaged me on Tinder and asked me what dating was like now, I responded, "Dating is kind of ruined." Maybe not the best strategy for securing the outcome of "date," but I just couldn't hold back and pretend I liked the dismal state of things.

But as many times as I binge on Tinder and collect a stack of matches to message and go out with, and then rapidly get discouraged and swear off all forms of online dating, I don't know if, these days, post-apps, there's any other way to date and ultimately, meet someone. If you're lonely and want to be in a relationship and longing for connection in 2016, you could try to meet someone IRL. You could go to bars and sign-up for activities. You could harbor a fantasy that someone from your past will contact you via Facebook and tell you they're interested in you (this actually happened to me, but as strongly and quickly as he came on, he bolted). You could go about living your life and hope that you serendipitously cross paths with that person you're supposed to spend the rest of your life with on the subway or at a wine tasting or in the stacks at the library. You could pray to feel that telltale spark of excitement sitting next to someone at a dinner party or standing across from them at a networking event as you sip a glass of Chardonnay and pop a cube of cheese into your mouth, feeling the warmth of a smile emanating from deep inside you, the recognition of a mutual connection felt.

But all that involves a lot of waiting and luck and disappointment, too -- there's unfortunately no way to escape that part of dating, on- or offline. So if you're lonely and want to be in a relationship and longing for connection at this point in time, it would appear that you can't swear off online dating altogether and delete Tinder from your phone -- again. You have to hang in there and believe that something will pierce the deadness you feel inside when you swipe and swipe and swipe and still haven't found love -- yet.

Occasionally, occasionally, a match will pop up in Tinder and messaging with him will cut through my numbness. And even though I haven't met him IRL I'll feel a connection, I'll feel excited, I'll feel like there's a real, live person with a pulse on the other end of my emoji-sprinkled banter. I'll feel something. I'll feel like hope, however flickeringly, is still alive.

This essay was originally published on Medium.

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