If yes, then what are the rules of swiping right?
There’s something about Tinder that’s always mystified me. Not the single people signing up, swiping, dating – that’s pretty logical and natural, and I look upon it from my conjugal cloud nine with the same curiosity as observing a social experiment. From the most idealistic of intentions to the nadir of sleaze, everything that goes into Tinder interactions is part of the gamut of human experience, condensed into an app which apparently has one paramount purpose: to facilitate the casual hookup. So on that level, fair game. What mystifies me, however, is married people getting onto Tinder.
These are no small or meaningless numbers. A global survey about a year ago revealed that 30 per cent of Tinder users were married, and 12 per cent were already in a relationship. If we apply that to the estimated user base of 50 million, that’s 15 million spouses, and an additional six million partners. That means, ostensibly, that for every 10 contacts offered, 10 matches made, and 10 racy conversations entertained, about every third one is with a married person.
Then again if you’re on Tinder, odds are either you, or the next user, or the user before you, is a married person getting on to a hook up. I’m the last person to judge, frankly, but I’m just curious about how it all works.
So I cast about me to see if there was anyone I knew in the game. I surmised that ‘married and on Tinder’ would be a bit hush-hush, so I expected denials. I eventually got a surreptitious confession from an adman, who agreed to bring a friend and discuss it over a drink, if they remained anonymous.
Varun, let’s call him, is married to an ad executive in another agency. His friend, whom he teasingly introduces as Tinderella, moved back here from New York recently, and is married to an investment banker. Both immediately assert that their marriages are fine, Varun a touch more slowly than Tinderella. For Varun, Tinder is something he does on the down-low. “It’s an okay marriage,” he says. “We’re like business partners. She takes care of her business, I take care of mine.” Does he feel guilty? “No, not really. Maybe a bit. But it’s not my fault. The marriage is what it is.”
Tinderella, on the other hand, is gung-ho about Tinder. “In New York everyone’s doing it,” she says. “Eve-ry-one.” She sweeps her hand around the bar. “Every single person here would be on Tinder. It’s hot.” But does her husband know? “He’s on Tinder too! I think we knew more or less from the beginning that we wanted an open marriage. I mean, we’re together in the long run, but we both want to have fun.”
What is Tinder like, for her? “I’m pretty clear about what it is and what I want from it. I indulge the fantasy, that second life, and then come home to my first life.”
I find the name ‘Tinderella’ suiting her more and more.
Coming home, I gave my wife a heads up, loaded Tinder, and began swiping. It was an admittedly odd experience to be ‘picking’ women out like this on the basis of their photos. Within the first five minutes I received a Super Like, which I found out later, is a valued commodity, since you can only do one Super Like a day. After about half an hour I moved on.
I realised that the app itself doesn’t promote superficiality – it merely underlines and facilitates the normal superficiality of casual human interaction, wherein we have a narrow window of time in which to make a particular impression. The interesting thing is that Tinder, like a lot of Internet tools, overloads this social mechanism created by the historical parameters of human experience. In human history the only people we have interacted with were physically present; impressions were made one to a few people at a time, and over a span of time. Today the value of time, of information, of human interaction has been massively affected by Internet tools.
I caught up with another married Tinder guy over the weekend, Sam the architect, who laughs about it openly. “Oh yeah, of course my wife knows!” he replies. Everyone we have in common vouches for Sam and his wife being completely into each other. “I just like to swipe and see who matches. It gives you that little high, that little feeling of sexiness, ‘She thought I was hot…’ I wouldn’t dream of interacting with anyone, though. That’d be weird.”
How would he feel if his wife tried it out? “She did, for all of one day! She got uncomfortable when guys started messaging her. One guy began propositioning her, said outright he wanted to do X to her and stuff.” Sam laughs uproariously. “She came to me, all distressed, ‘Sammy, look what he said!’ So I got on and messaged, ‘Hey buddy, this is her husband, stop messaging or I’ll do X to your face!’ You know what he wrote back? The peace sign, a smiley, and ‘All good, dude’”
All good, dude… Seemed like that was the general feeling about people on Tinder, married or otherwise. By then I had received several matches and a couple more Super Likes. Messages ranged from ‘Hi’ to ‘Nice pics’, pretty innocuous stuff considering Tinder’s reputation for conveying the epistolary nasty. I deleted my account summarily, having dipped my toes, but not wanting to wade the murky waters of being a Tinder pretender.
At the end of the day, Tinder does what any tool does. Like a shovel, a smartphone, or a computer, you can use it to empower or to undermine yourself. People will do what they do. Sure, some guy will send pictures of his junk, and some girl will pose with nude bits – but ultimately it’s democratic enough, for the single as well as the married people. Cinderella was still herself, plus or minus one glass slipper. I daresay Tinderella will inevitably prove to be herself, married or not.
The writer is an actor, model, author and a happily married man
From HT Brunch, August 21, 2016
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