Tinder isn’t the dating apocalypse, but maybe that’s what’s called for


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The Dawn of the Dating Apocalypse is nigh. Everyone panic and stock up on canned goods accordingly.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 20/08/2015 (2721 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The Dawn of the Dating Apocalypse is nigh. Everyone panic and stock up on canned goods accordingly.

At least that’s what Nancy Jo Sales’ much-discussed piece on Tinder for the September issue of Vanity Fair would have us believe. It’s a keenly depressing read: human beings being ordered like fast food, disappointing sexual encounters, skewed expectations thanks to porn culture, objectification of women, numbers being procured with emojis instead of conversation, and a whole lot of dead romance. Instead of zombies, this apocalypse is populated by vacant-eyed millennials, endlessly swiping left.

But take away the tech — and the moral panic — and what Sales’ is describing sounds a lot like, well, dating.

Tsering Topgyal / The Associated Press Files If we want tools such as Tinder to be better, we need to shed some of the cultural baggage that comes with hooking up.

Let’s take a breath to remember dating was demoralizing long before Tinder came on the scene. It’s rough out there for the single and looking. Dating is allegedly great for some people — we’ve all heard someone, at some point, wax on about the thrill of the chase — but more often it’s objectively terrible. Boring-to-bad sexual encounters, misguided but well-meaning match-ups, too-small dating pools, waiting by the phone, gross pick-up lines — these are not app-specific experiences exclusive to the Tinder age, as anyone who has ever dated before well knows. The details might change — we wait by the phone for text messages now instead of calls — but generally speaking, dating is as fraught as it ever was.

And dating as a means to finding a lasting relationship — regardless of platform — is particularly frustrating. “I’ve been dating since I was 15. I’m exhausted. Where is he?” said Sex and the City’s Charlotte York, and legions of heterosexual women looking for The One nodded in recognition. Back in March, I talked to a few Winnipeg singles, in their late 20s and 30s, who were trying — in vain, mostly — to “use the most shallow dating app to find true love and not just casual sex,” to quote Lauren, one of the women I chatted with at the time. “I think I’m doing it wrong,” she added. Perhaps ascribing ideals onto Tinder is unfair; Tinder is, at its core, a hookup app — swipe left to reject. Swipe right and see what happens.

But not everyone is looking for a relationship and, while we’re generalizing and putting women into Which Sex and the City Character Are You? boxes — I’m a Miranda — it’s important to note that for every Charlotte there is a Samantha Jones, a woman who isn’t particularly interested in settling down. Samantha Jones would have been Tinder’s earliest adopter.

And that’s the thing: blaming Tinder for the “dating apocalypse” means that we’ve accepted certain ideas as truths — chiefly women don’t want to participate in hook-up culture (some do) and that hook-up culture is inherently bad for women (depends on the woman).

In 2012, Hanna Rosin, author of The End of Men, posited that hook-up culture may well be the great equalizer, offering young women a chance to assert their sexual agency. “For college girls these days, an overly serious suitor fills the same role an accidental pregnancy did in the 19th century: a danger to be avoided at all costs, lest it get in the way of a promising future,” she wrote. Women are getting married later, prioritizing their careers, passions and goals over relationships. We are no longer basing our self-worth on our “purity.” A recent study suggested that although millennials are seeking more casual arrangements, they have fewer sexual partners than previous generations. Teen pregnancy rates are steadily declining thanks to improving sex ed and access to birth control.

To Sales’ credit, the way some men choose to treat women on Tinder is indeed concerning — that’s why the Instagram Bye Felipe, which shames bad behaviour on online dating platforms, was born. But men have been disrespecting women long before Tinder. If we want tools such as Tinder to be better, we need to shed some of the cultural baggage that comes with hooking up — particularly pernicious slut/stud double standards. Tinder may amplify these issues, but it didn’t create them. We did.

To that end, maybe a dating apocalypse is exactly what we need. Burn it down and start again.

Jen Zoratti

Jen Zoratti

Jen Zoratti is a Winnipeg Free Press columnist and author of the newsletter, NEXT, a weekly look towards a post-pandemic future.


Updated on Thursday, August 20, 2015 12:29 PM CDT: Adds video

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