The online world can be a scary place at the best of times, for the uninitiated, it can be downright confusing but then, I think it is safe to assume that everyone reading this is initiated, so perhaps that is not the best opening line. Ironically, something I never struggled with on Tinder as a user. Online dating has exploded in the last couple of years with many apps such as Tinder, Bumble, Plenty of Fish and Grindr coming to the fore. Each with different variations on the scene but ultimately follow the same format, you like someone, you swipe, you say hello and see how things progress. Seems simple, doesn't it? For men, and especially Irish men, it has been a gamechanger, for better and for worse.
The majority of women reading will already know this, but Irish men are just absolutely horrible at walking up to a girl, saying hello and creating conversation, for whatever reason, 95% of Irish men just lack this gene compared to almost any other nationality in the world. There is nothing scarier in the entire world than approaching a group of slightly intoxicated women and saying hello, I speak for most men here when I say I would rather holiday in Syria than expose myself to that terror. Irish women are no better at playing the game mind, if they are going out Saturday night, preparation begins on #tanthursday (including the arse, just in case 😉) and the goal of all this preparation is to probably get dressed up and feel good about themselves after a long week.
It also might be to catch the eye of the lad she fancies down the local and wants to get more acquainted with. Of course, he's not going to notice the new outfit from Pretty Little Thing, and she is never going to go say hello, instead, her plan in its entirety, is to simply pretend he doesn't exist. Solid strategy. Bet those lip fillers were worth the money. Both genders are equally bad at the whole courting scene but as men are traditionally the shapers here, I think it is fair to say we are a lot worse.
For example, take the typical American 28-year-old man, he has no problem approaching a woman in his local supermarket and asking her out while she is happy to have the conversation. Imagine if I walked up to Sarah in Dunnes and asked her to go for a drink, she would think I am a fucking psychopath. Enter the solution to fix all our problems and probably the main reason the Irish race as a whole has not died out: Alcohol.
As a man who has been known to frequent a public house from time to time, I am fully aware of the role alcohol plays in our mating rituals, there is a good chance the majority of us would not be here if it wasn't for county championships and 18 pints of Beamish but as we are here now, we have found ourselves keeping the alcohol fuelled courting going. Think of that person you fancy but don't have the nerve to speak to. Alcohol. Have an ex you still have feelings for but don't want to bring it up. Dutch courage. Want to make a show of yourself in the local chipper by telling a woman (loudly) you'd love to ride her? Pints. Want to shift a lad you know you have no business shifting? Get 4 gins into you, no bother.
My point is, alcohol is the social lubricant for all these scenarios, and I think it would be a safe bet that if you were to line up all your friends that are in relationships, I would be amazed if they didn't all meet in a pub/nightclub/night out. While this was once the normal routine, online dating apps have now become the norm along with basic social media creeping. I have spent around 15 months working with Tinder and as part of my developer role, I have both been on it (as myself) and I created a catfish account as a woman.
Now I am not going to bore you with the details of the development/code review role at Tinder (who by the way are fantastic to work for), what is much more interesting is my experience with online dating as a man whilst pretending to be a woman. As Aidan, I found myself in a unique position on Tinder, matches were not an issue and I had a pre-requisite to match a certain number of girls to keep with my developer needs. I curated my profile accordingly and hinted at the Avalanche angle, combining this with my Instagram which features lots of travel etc and it was working well for me in terms of matches.
Around 90% of opening lines I got from women were either about money or if I was looking for a travel buddy/new employee (some of which were basically prostituting themselves for a free trip). What I did not anticipate is how deeply people would investigate my life as a result of my Tinder profile. I knew to an extent as it is not my first time to the dance but when you have women finding out your full address, phone number and sending you links to interviews you have completed, asking how I know Lady Gaga & Harry Styles, it just gets plain creepy. Therefore, I took up the option of ignoring all the messages I would receive. It's a work gig after all and to be honest, I found it boring from a social point of view. My phone is almost always in my hand replying to some message and I didn't need another app that I had to keep on top of.
Far more interesting, I have found is the ladies' point of view and this was much more of an adventure and eye-opening experience. As I setup my Catfish profile on Tinder (as a woman), I created a clever little piece of tech that I am really proud of, it actually ranks among some of my best developer work. It would take the 5 most searched women on any mans Instagram and make a composition of their faces, so they would be immediately attracted. It would then take 20 random interests and 20 random friends from Facebook and add them as mutual, so the profile looked completely legit on paper, matching Spotify and Instagram profiles to go with. Each image was then automatically edited based on these interests so if John was into sports, my profile would reflect that etc. This was all done individually & instantly to each Tinder user and if you are a man in Ireland, I can guarantee you have matched my catfish profile.
Sidenote: My artificial intelligence (EDEN) was used to build this technology and I am beyond excited for what it will grow into in the next 6-24 months.
Now I grew up in a male environment, I have two brothers, both of which only have sons as well so there isn't a whole pile of female influence in my life besides the matriarch of the family. As a result, my mother decided long ago that I was the closest thing to a daughter she would ever have due to my caring about my appearance/clothing choices. She always wanted an Amy, so an Aidan was as close as she was going to get. Given this, I have always thought I was more "woke" than most men when it comes to understanding the unique psyche of women. I was drastically wrong.
Being a woman on Tinder is pretty much hell on Earth, all social etiquette goes out the window and if you ever doubted men are horrible and the world is a nightmare, I recommend you try Tinder in 2019. Women are subject to constant messaging and somehow men expect them to be walking sex crazed maniacs who are just waiting for that DM and looking for someone to hook up with. As my Catfish profile, If I received one more message asking me: "What would you like to do to me?" I would need a chemical shower, they were literally in the hundreds. It's the online equivalent of that lad whose method of charm is to grab a girl by the arse in a pub and always leads me to wonder: What part of you thinks this will work out and this girl will just swoon at your rapey charm? Idiots.
Talking about the eggplant emoji in the room, I received so many dick pics I actually had to recode my app to filter them out, clearly as a straight man, this was not an ideal situation. One guy was so repetitive with them, I hacked his phone and relayed his message to go directly to each contact in his address book. Strange, that he didn't message my Catfish profile again.
The second worst thing about "being" a woman on Tinder is the amount of passive aggressive weirdos who message twice a day, will unmatch and match again, somehow thinking that you didn't see their message. They will rinse and repeat this until the end of time until they call you a bitch for not responding. Somehow, all of this is normal behaviour in 2019?
LADS. TAKE A FUCKING HINT.
Hands down though, the single worst part of Tinder regardless of what you are looking for from the app is the amount of people you will see in a long-term relationship. This is just sad and is an indictment of how much social media has invaded our lives. I have received obscene messages from a host of men that I know for a fact are in long term relationships (The hacker in me has saved them because you never know when you have to blackmail someone 😉) and blatantly don't give a shit. Some of whom have partners for years and I see them playing happy families on Instagram (Even on my own personal Facebook as it goes that deep). Nice lads. Just have the balls to make the jump or don't. Stop wasting time in a relationship you're not happy in because you are afraid to be alone, it's pathetic.
Some people may not even be on these apps to hook up with someone, but social media has messed with our heads so much, they just want the confidence boost of being matched. It doesn't matter if they are even remotely interested in the other person, it's about having the strongest possible "social" score. It's all about that little boost of having that pretty girl "like" them or send a message. Human beings are complex creatures and social media only further complicates the issue. On one hand, social media allows us to control our identities, at least online. We curate ourselves, carefully selecting words and photos that express ourselves as we want to be seen. It can create fantastic opportunities for people worldwide.
Through social media, we can easily interact with people from all over the world. This abundance of choice makes it easier to connect with new people with similar interests. However, unlimited options and complete control comes at a price. There is this notion of "selling yourself" online and so we only show the best parts of ourselves. I'd argue that while there is a creation and expression of the self through the Internet, it is a shallow projection of our full being. People are multidimensional, but you wouldn't know it by checking our Instagram as we all put forward the version of ourselves that we want the world to see. This leads us to idealise one another, putting our "social media crushes" on pedestals without ever really knowing who they are, instead manufacturing a personality for them based on what they want you to see which is just ridiculous. Anyone who is active on Instagram is guilty of this, me included.
That is before you even measure the impact social media has on each gender. Gone are the days where you get someone's number, now you get their Insta, their Snapchat etc. Men are looking at images of other guys in ridiculous shape and it is giving them body issues thinking that they need to look like this. Same story goes for the ladies, these impossible to reach standards are having a major impact. Once upon a time, it was a case of getting ready and going out. It's 2019, teeth whitening, lip fillers, cosmetic surgery, spray tans and getting the hair & makeup done each night is now the norm before stepping outside the door with an hour spent getting the shot for the gram.
It has become such a problem rooted in our culture that "influencers" who are now a large part of the marketing we see have somehow become experts in areas they have no business even contemplating. For example, Bloggers Unveiled and the like did some absolutely fantastic work and I am sure that I am not the only one who was glued to their updates. They called people out for shitty business practices and the majority of people responded with claims of "bullying" or that this was "causing them anxiety". Fuck off. As if they were somehow a victim for their own bad decisions? Heaven forbid people actually own the shitty choice they made for a few Euros.
Now you may think this is no big deal, but it has led to these influencers somehow being referred to as experts in "how to deal with anxiety" because someone said something about them on the Internet one time. How many articles do you see about [INSERT INFLUENCER]'s top tips to deal with anxiety in 2019? It is incredibly unhealthy, and the seriousness of the term has been lost. It has led people to misrepresent normal nervous reaction to life scenarios as anxiety and as such our generation is almost paralysed by this perceived anxiety when really it is just normal day to day problems. You are supposed to be nervous about getting a new job, sitting exams, big games etc. This is normal and the readiness of people happy to throw the term" anxiety" around to get out of things is indicative of our generation. I think it is one of the biggest problems facing us today with the victim role being preferred to someone actually taking responsibility.
These are all problems that social media has created but as the online dating scene started (in my own experience) with Bebo, we have become less and less aware of how impactful our online profile has become and as such it has allowed toxic masculinity to flourish which is the main problem facing dating apps and the huge market it has become. The catalogue nature of dating apps has allowed men to just grind it down to a numbers game, so if someone doesn't respond accordingly it is easy to just move on to the next person and do the same. This kind of "boys will be boys" behaviour is only going to escalate from phones into the real world and cause real harm to innocent people. Don't believe me? Try watching You on Netflix.
This is not just a problem symptomatic of Tinder though, it is present on all dating apps (possibly excluding Grindr as people are much more straightforward about their intentions given the stories I have heard from friends regarding meetups organised through Grindr), and it really needs to be addressed by the people who are in charge of these apps. There have no doubt been meetups organised through Tinder and other apps that have led to many successful relationships and are a great help to those who are poor at the traditional method of finding a partner/soulmate but like all great leaps forward in technology, it has been corrupted by the people using it.
So, if I were to wrap this up tight with a bow or whatever, I would recommend people to try Tinder/Bumble/dating apps for themselves and make up their own mind as to how they are impacting society. I would recommend the ladies to use Bumble as they have more control over who they actually speak to online and who is worth their time. At the same time, as only you can on Bumble, you know, start the conversation, do it. Men like this. Trust me on that. For the men reading this, I would recommend learning how to speak to women in the real world, chances are you swipe right for just about everything with a pulse, slow down and actually only swipe for people you want to speak to and hang out with. A good rule of thumb is to only swipe right on someone you'd introduce to the lads, you will find yourself actually reading bios and being selective for a change.
Overall, dating apps are a good step forward and are great for getting people out of their shell. For those, in rural areas, it may be the only way to meet someone new but if you reach for your phone every time you need validation or feel a desperate need to find love, it's officially a problem. We need to reconnect physically and redirect our expectations back to reality. Social media as a whole is the problem here, dating apps just seem rawer, given the unrealistic expectations we place on them.
There is always the tried and tested method of getting drunk on a Saturday night, just don't expect miracles to happen even if you end up getting too drunk to actually speak to a girl. Ladies, say hello, or else get used to tanning the arse every Thursday.
PS, regardless of what your sexual preference is, the sexiest thing in the world is being smart and making an effort, try that!