This week Matt and I celebrated our 3 year anniversary together as a couple.
Unlike many young couples of our age, who met in a darkened corner of a bar on Cuba Street or Courtenay Placd and went home together, or friends who started hooking up, we know the exact date that we met. Whenever, however, anniversary time comes around, we can never agree on what we should count as the official date because we have two to choose from.
I prefer the first date, 20 September (election night 2014 or also exactly one year after I was admitted to the bar as a lawyer - ALSO IF YOU HAVEN’T YET VOTED IN THIS YEARS ELECTION, DO IT TOMORROW). Matt prefers the second, 30 September because that is 10 days after we met and when I basically told Matt he needed to clarify we were an item (nothing much has changed).
The reason we can’t decide is because that first date is the date when we had our first Tinder date and the second is ‘the official’ dating commencement. When I joined Tinder in 2014 was fringy, but starting to get popular with young people in their twenties. 3 years on, however, it is both astonishing and, in my opinion, exciting to see the ways that Tinder has gone mainstream.
Tinder, for those of you who don’t know, is an app where the user can look through a deck of prospective peoples faces and swipe left for those you don’t fancy and right for those you do. You can select to see males, females or both and chose the radius of the distance they are to you based on geo-tagging and adjust how young or old you want to limit your selection to.
"It was easy to go to a party and find someone for a good old pash. But ask him to meet you the next week for a date? He’d run a mile"
I chose to join Tinder as I was approaching my 25th birthday after being single for two and a half years. My first relationship, from 18 - 22, was overarchingly not a happy one. I dated a guy who was controlling and, I can see in hindsight, emotionally abusive. We had met while working together in a cafe, starting out long distance while I lived in Auckland and then moving in together straight away when I returned to Wellington in 2009. In those 2 and a half years since that had ended, I’d grown a huge amount, had more fun, meet new people and learned to know myself at long last. However, it got to a point where I started to get sick of the short-lived flings I always seemed to attract. I found it was difficult in Wellington to find myself even in a position where I was on a date with a guy. It was easy to go to a party and find someone for a good old pash. But ask him to meet you the next week for a date? He’d run a mile.
Tinder changed all that. Its interactive game-like app suddenly started being talked about by my friends, making online dating cool(er). I can’t actually recall where I first heard about it, but certainly, it would have been in 2014, just one year after buying my first smartphone. Like many people, I’d associated online dating with people of a certain age who hadn’t met someone or had divorced, a lonely heart looking for love. Websites like ‘Find Someone’, ‘OK Cupid’ or ‘match.com' seemed, in my arrogant opinion, snore-inducingly mature and intimidating. They required acres of personal information and if you were on one, in my mind, it seemed like you really were, well, lame, like a mouldy old jumper at the back of the cupboard no one wanted to wear. Suddenly, Tinder was a jumpsuit everyone wanted to try on for size. Well, not quite everyone.
My flatmates at the time were against Tinder. A year or so older than me, one had tried it and decided she didn’t like it after seeing an ex on there and the other aforementioned disdained it heavily, saying she’d never had any problems finding men to like her (I think we’ve all had one of those irritating friends). I couldn’t help but feel as though they had drunk the cool-aid somewhat and thought they were above all this new internet dating malarky. Personally, I saw joining Tinder as an act of humbling myself, admitting to myself that while maybe my mum told me I was the most special girl in the world, something about with my current approach to landing a man wasn’t working. So, I decided to treat joining the App like an experiment, invest nothing much emotionally in it except that I was determined to be clear that I wasn’t looking for a fling and did want to meet someone seriously (You can read more about what actually happened here.) I met my boyfriend of now 3 years on the first date. And I am not alone.
One reason Tinder was perceived as controversial is that it doesn’t get positive headlines. Of course, ‘Young girl meets man. They hit it off!’ is a bit boring. However, ‘Young people! Casual Sex! !’? Who wouldn’t want to try and use that kind of headline sell a copy of a paper (especially when print media is struggling to find a new model in a digital world)? But is this really specific to Tinder? It isn't much different to technology that existed in the early days of the world-wide-web, which were just if not more sinister because everyone was still anonymous online, like chatrooms *RIP*. Today, with Tinder, you can't hide behind a name like 'Cloudgirl67'. It connects to your Facebook profile, where you present yourself to the rest of the world, including friends, family and boss. Its transparency is part of what makes it so good (even if the person using it isn't always upfront about what they're seeking).
Then, just one month before Matt and I met, there was the tragic story of Warriena Wright and Gable Tostee to prove their point in August 2014. With this, the papers smugly capturing the attention of the world. “See, Tinder attracts creeps? Stay off it, Women! If you act like a skank, joining Tinder, you’re bound to get burnt."
"The papers smugly capturing the attention of the world. “See, Tinder attracts creeps? Stay off it, Women! If you act like a skank, joining Tinder, you’re bound to get burnt."
However, a bit like the types of advice that teach young women that they shouldn’t wear revealing clothing or walk home alone at night or need to learn self-defence to keep nasty attackers away, these pieces failed to point out the obvious that the world is full of scumbags who will do horrible things to people, whether via an app or not.
The problem isn’t the women. The problem is with our appalling dating culture, which existed long before Tinder, and our notion of consent. Young men in New Zealand don’t take to going out and enjoying a woman’s company unless they feel there is some kind of payoff. It is part of the 'Boys will be boys' mentality. If you joined Tinder expecting to meet someone serious and it did't work out, it can be perceived that it is the females fault for being naive because 'boys will be boys'. Basically, in New Zealand men aren't held accountable in New Zealand for behaving like bottom-feeding scum, by their mates, family or other women. This is some post-colonial hangover, in my opinion, from a time where there were too many women and too few men (i.e. settler days, WW1, WW2), so these blokes would have their discrepancies overlooked. This attitude from our grandparents has been fed down to us letting us stand for anything.
In my opinion, Tinder has actually improved New Zealand’s dating culture, by forcing a framework on us that is clear. As Kiwis, we love to surf the lines of ambiguity. If it isn’t a date, you don’t have to ever admit you saw her. Did we have murders, rapes and one night stands before Tinder? Of course, we did! Unfortunately, that is the ugly side to human behaviour. Stephen Fry once said that there is no such thing as bad technology, only bad people operating that technology. I would whole-heartedly agree. There were still creeps creepin on young women at your Grandma's barn dance, and as many well know, there are countless stories of family secrets shamefully covered up because that was what you did back then.
As women, it can be hard to stand up to someone and say “No, I’m not interested in just something casual. I’m looking for someone special.” Believe me, I SUCKED at it. I was up for being the chilled out chick, and didn’t want to cause a fuss. There is also an ugly side to human behaviour that young women want to be loved, caught up in girlhood fantasies and rom-com garbage (aka, not real life). It’s easier just to expect sex. It is harder to tell yourself that someone should slowly get to know you first. We need to change these expectations. These girls will go to any extent to overlook signs that they are being taken advantage of, or that a guy (or girl) wants to treat them as disposable. I should know, because I used to be one of these girls once upon a time (in fact, show me any sister who hasn’t had her heart broken in this way).
"But much like our issues as a country with being able to talk about consent and sex, we need to be able to stand up for ourselves and tell people we want to be treated right"
But much like our issues as a country with being able to talk about consent and sex, we need to be able to stand up for ourselves and tell people we want to be treated right. Of course, if you don’t mind having some fun, go nuts. But know what you want, don’t let some dip-shit talk you into some kind of quasi-casual thing thats strings you along for months on end, just because you’re avoiding the heartbreak of when he won’t look you in the eye when you ask if you’re his girlfriend.
For the most part, Tinder is now common. I even said to a colleague today that her children will be using it in the next 5 years to probably meet their prospective partner. It truly is here to stay. And for all the Tinder haters? That’s cool, you do you. I think it is quite strange though to be saying people should be still forced to go to bars and meet face to face when we have something as useful as this to start those initial connections. Instead, you can meet for a daytime coffee, a walk, or something more casual than at a place where alcohol is immediately in the mix, making it, in fact, safer if you choose to use it in this way. I also disagree with the reasoning. It’s a bit like saying you should use paper maps because that's what you had to use growing up instead of Google Maps because somehow it is inherently nobler to do so. Either way, it still gets you from A - B. But the most important thing is KNOW WHERE YOU WANT TO GO first and foremost. If you don't, either way you'll get lost.
Tinder is great in so many ways, I want to take this chance on my third anniversary with the man I’ll spend the rest of my life with to say Thank you, Tinder. Thank you for opening up the possibility to meet someone I would never have met. Thank you for all the great relationships apart from mine which has worked out. Thank you for providing options to meet new people, from far and wide, in a world where we feel increasingly isolated. Thanks for making it easier if you're gay, bisexual, pansexual or queer to meet someone. Thank you for being a tool for shy people, awkward people, dorks, and losers, helping them find someone when they might be too shy to ask someone out face to face. Thanks for helping me find the man of my dreams. Thanks, too to Matt, for swiping right.