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Tinder and life, same difference

chandigarh Updated: Nov 30, 2014 09:38 IST
Aarish Chhabra

Tinder is a match-making mobile app.Tinder is a confidence-killing mobile app. It takes two months of endless trying and several cold sparks to travel from the first sentence to the second. I have made that journey, thanks to my smartphone that just does not let go of me.

If you’ve been living under a rock all along, let me first explain how it works.You need a smartphone. You need internet. You need to be on Facebook. You need to be alive,basically.

Download Tinder and your phone GPS tracker helps it find your location; it then uses your basic Facebook information (first name, age, some profile photos of your choice), and any pages/topics you’ve ‘liked’ on Facebook to make a profile. You’re set to roll.

The app then shows you photos, first name and age of potential matches after you’ve narrowed down the gender, age (18-55+) and distance (up to 161km) preferences. It also shows if you have any mutual friends on Facebook. If you like what you see, swipe right to ‘like’; if not, swipe left and ‘pass’. If the other person too has ‘liked’ you, it’s a Tinder match, and you can start messaging each other. After that, you’re pretty much on your own.

It’s shallow, yes. You swipe people mostly based on looks, yes. People are primarily looking for hook-ups and casual sex, yes. A scruffy beard can be an asset as well as a deal-breaker, yes. It is much like meeting a stranger at a party. You have no detailed Facebook profiles to comment on, no phone numbers to call at odd hours, and no other means to impress the ‘match’. It is all down to what you say. Can conversation sustain a potential affair, or even itself?
This is where the trouble begins. I’ve learnt from experience.

After shamelessly swiping right at the speed of light, the first ‘match’ I found was an advertising professional from Mumbai who was visiting her hometown, Ambala, around 50km from my house. She was in my catchment in many ways. Only hitch: She was pretty; I, me. She obviously ignored that, and was interesting to talk to. That was on my off day. Since then, our relationship has fallen victim to my job. She, like normal people, works 9am to 5pm, sometimes longer. I, like abnormal people that journalists are, work in the evening, night, and sometimes in the morning. I sleep when and where and in whatever position I can. She sleeps early. End of story, sort of. We do share an odd ‘What’s up?’ once a week.

There have been other ‘matches’; like a 23-year-old from Sector 22 who started talking about her husband. She had a husband. She had no clue what Tinder was for. There was another girl from Mohali who looked like an ogre and talked at length about Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Ramachandra Guha. We would have met too, and it would’ve been the prefect Tinder story. If only she was pretty. If only I hadn’t said I don’t hate Chetan Bhagat. Sigh.

But my biggest disappointment with Tinder, so far, has been a guy.

I’d set gender preference to ‘both’ just for fun. And we ‘matched’. He was clearly gay and thought I was too. I am not disappointed at that. In fact, that has happened to me in the past, including once in Pakistan! What puzzles me is why he hasn’t messaged me after planning to meet at Aroma.

I’m shattered at the thought that neither gender is sufficiently interested in me when I try.

But people have seen endless potential in Tinder. In Sweden, according to news reports, a similar app designed to match job-seekers with employers is a big hit. Called Selfiejobs, it lets you upload basic info, photos and a video pitch, reports news website The Local. Aimed at the 16-25 age group, it has got funding from a former Microsoft director, and has plans to expand into more countries by next year, though it hasn’t revealed which ones. Founder-CEO Martin Tall is not ashamed to admit that Tinder is his core inspiration.

Already, professional naysayers — who have also panned Tinder as an immoral, one-night-stand app — say Selfiejobs encourages employers to focus on looks rather than skills. Really, do employers need a smartphone app to exhibit a basic human trait? In any case, trust start-ups in Sweden to know what works. Home to Skype, the country currently has 42,000-odd tech start-ups.

Tinder has competition in its own domain too. Ex-employee Whitney Wolfe has been working on ‘Bumble’. According to tech news websites, Bumble’s Facebook page refers to “dead end matches” and promises,“everything you’ve always wanted from a social discovery app and none of the things you don’t”.

In that sense, too, Tinder is much like life after all. Easy to like or pass, fun to match, but hard to sustain without something to talk about.