Something Deeply Shallow

I am constantly being bombarded with emails, Facebook messages, Google ads, and YouTube promos for online dating services (e.g. Christian Mingle, Arab Singles [how the powers that be know that I am both Christian and Arab is a mystery as impressive as it is alarming], Plenty-of-Fish, match.com, eHarmony, Mail-Order Russian Brides etc.) so they’ve always struck me as a little bit creepy, and quite a bit desperate. It’s not my place to judge those who make use of these websites, but that hasn’t stopped me from doing so. The thought of computerizing personality and leaving the fate of love to some mathematical algorithm has really seemed altogether foolish, to me. I’ve always maintained the belief that one should get out, meet people, and make an effort to find someone compatible. In our wildly disconnected society, though, the use of these sites is becoming understandable, especially for those who are out of school. In fact I’ve heard a surprising amount of success stories that have slightly abated my self-righteous judgment regarding these services; and the reality is that, in today’s world, such measures are not only useful, but necessary for many single people to find a healthy relationship.

To participate in the e-hookup, however, is to subject yourself to some pretty cruel and extremely usual judgment. It’s relatively common knowledge that American popular culture is extraordinarily shallow; we hear about it all the time (what with magazines, movies, music and the like). We, hopefully, know about things like eating disorders, self-mutilation, and plastic surgery. We are all too familiar with things like Facebook, Twitter, Model Mayhem and, now, there is Tinder. While there exist a number of dating/hookup websites for more or less any race, religion, and age group, none succeeds in being so deeply and unabashedly shallow as Tinder. For those of you who are mercifully unaware of this latest step towards civilization’s ultimate undoing, allow me to rob you of any small hope you had left in humanity. Tinder is an app for iPhone enabling you to quickly and shamelessly objectify users who are within a 100 mile radius (evidently, people are willing to drive two hours for the remote possibility of getting laid [although, one wonders if the drive is really for the sex or simply for lonely people to feel wanted by someone, and connected….even if only for the briefest of moments). Note that I tried the app for exactly seven days, before feeling too sullied and soiled to carry on.

It works like this:

  1. You create a profile using pictures and interests of your choice from Facebook
  2. Select a gender preference (I was actually very impressed with their accommodation for the LGBT community)
  3. After this, you are taken to the home page (this is, essentially, a feed of photos of suitable candidates in your given area who you have the ability to “Match” with)
  4. If you approve of the candidate’s looks, you can “Like” them
  5. Otherwise, you stamp them with a big red “Nope”, and swipe to the next one
  6. If a candidate “Likes” you as well, you are “Matched”, and the app allows you to engage in a texting conversation with your potential soulmate

Let me make it perfectly clear that I am no stranger to superficiality (a fact I became only too aware of after my time with Tinder). I have high standards when it comes to the women I….uhm, court. But let’s face it, who’s above objectification these days? I have debated, at length, with friends over the social and moral implications of Tinder, and heard some unsettlingly convincing contentions. I’ve heard that, in a way, it’s just a streamlined version of what Facebook has become — a way to judge people based on their looks, an outlet for vanity —  and so, arguably, Tinder is really more of an acceptable social medium because it cuts the bullshit, gets straight to the point. It is what the social media giant doesn’t have the balls to be: honest.

However, it exposes a dreadful reality, and reaches a new low. It has been disputed that Tinder is merely a form of sexual liberation, a more “efficient” way of meeting someone with a mutual attraction. But it’s not. If anything, it is a form of sexual imprisonment. While we have become more open to things like premarital sex, teenage promiscuity, homosexual/interracial relationships, and polygamy, we have become far less open to sex with anyone who isn’t considered attractive by standards who are themselves so shallow and rigid as to exclude the vast majority of America’s exceedingly and increasingly obese population. It’s never been harder to be overweight, asymmetrical, plain. The list of things deemed necessary to make someone sexy seems to be surpassed in length only by the one dictating what it takes to make them ugly.

I live and work in Austin, a college town notorious for both its thriving nightlife, and seemingly inexhaustible reservoir of attractive women. I’m out frequently, and thus am both subject, and party to pathological objectification. If I’m at a bar, I’m being judged just as ruthlessly as I am judging others, oftentimes even more so. Reproachable a reality as this is, it’s one that’s been building for years now. Humans have always been predisposed to superficiality….but only recently has it become electronic, automated. Now, it’s portable. At least in a bar you’re laying eyes and making a conscious judgment. On Tinder, you’re mindlessly and impersonally swiping through object after object, rather than observing or analyzing a human being. Tinder provides a forum for mass objectification, wholesale judgment, pansexual superficiality.

Worse yet, it becomes an addiction. The last week has seen an inexcusable number of hours spent in a room with some of my best friends who are just sitting, silently staring at their phones, eyes dead, ignoring everyone around them. I’ve found myself doing the same, and it’s terrifying. It didn’t help that I did well in my time spent with the app. Every time I was matched with a girl, I couldn’t help but feel worthless, deeply shallow (not to mention, every one I spoke to proved breathtakingly dull, no matter how attractive she appeared to be).

Far and away the most disturbing thing about Tinder, though, is not its blatantly crass concept, nor crude perversion, but its success. It completely enslaves all those who use it. I’ve been in a room with girls that my friend met over Tinder who were actually Tinder-ing in front of us. The notion of absentmindedly moving through assorted genitalia apparently proves a prospect too enticing to opt for real social interaction. Yet more depressing than those simply looking for a quick fuck, are the wretched souls actually hoping to find their soulmate on the app (and, believe me, I’ve come across more than a few). Indeed, one shudders at the thought. I cannot imagine why Apple, in all its infinite wisdom, has chosen to endorse this newest development in moral atrocity (the app is free to download and offers no advertising potential, for the moment). All I can do is stand back, watching in horror as my friends suck voraciously on the Tinder crack pipe. So that I am all but forced to ask myself: what fresh hell is this?

3 thoughts on “Something Deeply Shallow

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