Monday, August 24, 2015


Sometimes when I'm swiping around on Tinder or Bumble or whatever, searching for my own unique kind of diamond in the rough, I feel like I'm wandering through the Sahara Desert convinced that sooner or later I'll rustle up a stately Douglas Fir.

That is to say, utterly and ridiculously misguided.

But you know what? Every now and then, after coming across mirage after mirage... I'm right. I wander over a dune and find myself sipping a mezcal cocktail by candlelight across from a delightful, genuine Douglas Fir.

Maybe I'm just lucky, but I suspect that's not it. And perhaps I am optimistic almost to the point of being delusional—that really might be true—but it's working for me. In my mind, if I'm doing this (and I consider myself to be a pleasant, well-adjusted, generally good person), then there must be likeminded men out there with the same idea. Like I said, I've been right about this. More than once.

And I'm not the only one.


Once again, someone wrote something divisive about modern dating that makes me feel like I have to respond. This time, I'm a little up in arms over Nancy Jo Sales' Vanity Fair article, "Tinder and the Dawn of the Dating Apocalypse." I have a hard time believing this is anything more than a bunch of selectively chosen anecdotes and statistics used to paint the picture this journalist set out to portray.

In the article, Sales chats with millennials aged 19 to 29 about mobile dating and hookup culture, and makes the case that thanks to apps like Tinder, youths have basically devolved in to sexual heathens (especially the men) with no concept of romance or courting.

Sorry, is it 2013 again? Following in the really uninteresting footsteps of The New York Times, VF is serving up a hefty injustice to the audience it so desperately wants to capture.


I think the problem here is that the real story is boring: People on dating apps are all using them in different ways. Articles that make sweeping generalizations about "kids these days with their sex and their casual dating" are nothing new and are mostly sensationalizing something incredibly normal. Young people have always always been incorporating, adapting to and evolving with technology and cultural shifts as they arise. We're young, that's what we do.

These evolutions and adaptations include online and mobile dating, obviously. And indeed they have changed how we meet people and how easy it may or may not be to "get a girl over before midnight," or whatever that knucklehead claimed. Fear mongering is nothing new, and hookup culture seems to be one of the media's favorite targets of late. But again, without it there isn't really a story.

To me, what is most lacking in stories like these is the acknowledgement of choice and agency. That whole "It takes two to tango" idea still holds true. If you are the woman or man who chooses to use mobile dating apps to access quick thrills, that is your choice. In the context of this article, every encounter is consensual as far as we can tell. You match with someone, you engage with them via messaging, and then you either advance the situation or you don't. And sure, you'll occasionally get a rude idiot who succeeds in portraying dramatically misleading intentions. But for the most part, I am not afraid to put a huge amount of agency on the women and men who end up involved with these idiots. They're not that hard to spot.

Despite the sometimes strangeness of judging and choosing potential mates through words and photos on our phones, humans are still humans. We are varied, and we all have complex, diverse motivations behind the things we do. Unimpressive people have always, always existed (and let's be honest, they're not all male).

Tinder et al have just put more of these fools in our close proximity and given them more opportunities to flex their less-than-admirable qualities. All this makes the Douglas Firs harder to come across. You don't need me to tell you this, but by becoming easier, dating has gotten a lot harder. And that, I will freely admit, really sucks. I will also concede that the shear availability of people to date and fool around with has caused a somewhat pronounced shift from considering romantic partners a priority to perhaps just an option.

In my observations and experiences, this has lead to a more pervasive—and arguably much more interesting—trend that goes something like this: two people enjoy three or four dates, nudge up against the edge of intimacy, and then one person runs like hell in the opposite direction. (Even the Douglas Firs.) Like I said, the motivations are diverse, but that doesn't make it any easier for those who are left standing in the dust, as it were. Those are the scenarios that point to something a little more psychologically complex than it's-pretty-much-always-been-there promiscuity within our generation. (Read thoughtful essays/articles related to that here, here and if you've got an hour, here.)

To be fair, I'm definitely guilty of that kind of "more is more" attitude when I'm in the throws of my singleness and determined to really get #outthere. Having options is empowering and exhausting at the same time. And I think that's totally fine to a point, especially when you're honest with your dates and partners about how you're currently navigating dating.

Personally, I'm mostly grateful for the existence of online and mobile dating. More and more, we youths are leaving our hometowns for college, for jobs, for adventure... Dotting the world with a constellation of new places and new people to navigate. And that means that the whole prospect of meeting romantic partners through friends or family can be pretty much shot to hell. And sometimes, you meet all those connections and none of them are right for you anyway!

While it can be reassuring to know that your date has a "preapproved" stamp on their forehead from someone else you know, I rather revel in the thrill of unearthing a treasure so new and exotic to me that their whole world adds an entirely new dimension to mine.

We meet these kinds of people—the people who elicit sparks and palpitations, the people who send our minds flying into the future imagining all the adventures you'll have together—everywhere. On the street, at a bar, through a college roommate, in our phones. And we meet idiots everywhere, too. That's just where we're at right now as a society.

Go with it—or get over it.


I'm actually willing to cut Nancy Jo Sales a fair amount of slack here, because it's hard to tell every side of a story and come out on the other side with an article that anyone wants to read. And just look at how much of a stir she's caused! However, I think it's important to highlight the more complicated and sometimes hopeful side of this coin for VF readers (like my parents) who might not ever find smart and sassy counter-articles on sites like The Cut. Luckily my parents read this blog, so we're in the clear for those two.



  1. I have one friend who met her now husband on match, and another who just moved in with her boyfriend of over a year that she met on tinder. Singles are not doomed! It's still about meeting the right person who wants the same things. And it's very possible to find that person online.

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