Aziz Ansari has written a book and an article in the New York Times about “How to Make Online Dating Work.” While Ansari is undoubtedly funnier than me, we do have one thing in common: we both took on “projects” about a topic area we don’t know shit about.
That’s right. Ansari’s book on online dating is written from the perspective of someone who has never actually used online dating apps–or at least that’s what he admitted to on Fusion’s “Come Here & Say That.” I too, in writing “First Dates“–a web series about online dating, have never actually used an online dating app. But also like Ansari, I did a crap load of research to take on this project. And that research can go a long way when it comes to online dating, because then you start to understand the experiences of the online daters around you in a way that I’m not sure they can understand themselves while being so deep inside the bubble.
And I think it’s that ability to step away from online dating and have an outside perspective that allows one to truly reach some breakthrough conclusions on the subject. One such conclusion that I have reached, and that Ansari also alludes to in his article, is that we need to stop hating on Tinder.
When I hear people say Tinder is superficial, I’m not sure where that is coming from. It’s as if people think we live in this Utopian world in which everyone around us is getting together on the basis of their IQ scores and affiliation with PETA. The fact of the matter is that when you meet someone at a bar, in a club, at a party or even at work, you’re usually going off the same traits that you use to get dates on Tinder: someone’s looks.
And in my opinion, what’s wrong with that? It’s the way things have always been done–it’s human nature and likely a prerequisite for a sexually active relationship. And as someone who admittedly watches Millionaire Matchmaker, and probably another 4 or 5 romance-like reality shows a grown-ass man like myself shouldn’t be watching, I’ve never once heard any of these professional love gurus say that one should leave attraction out of the relationship equation. I don’t think anyone would ever say something so foolish. Yet we don’t seem to have a problem crapping all over the idea that Tinder puts attraction at the centerpiece of its matchmaking services.
Of course, I’m not saying that how someone looks should be the determining factor in whether to start a relationship with someone. For the record, Tinder isn’t saying that either. The app is simply a way for you to make a connection. It’s no different than when you spot someone from across the bar and walk up and approach them because you liked the color of their eyes or the radiance of their skin. It’s certainly no different than when you ladies turn down the creepy, sleazy-looking guy that tries to buy you a drink, or when a guy doesn’t give the woman wearing glasses a second look. For as superficial as we make Tinder out to be, it’s only replicating what we already do in real life.
Still, there’s the argument that we can do better. That in a world with technology that allows us to expand the scope of people that we can make a connection with, we should also expand our horizons in the process. Fair. But let’s not reinvent the wheel here, folks. As much as Match.com claims to put people into relationships and marriages with expansive algorithms that focus on one’s personality instead of their looks, the fact is that Match.com allows people to filter out folks based on their race. Forget about how attractive or sexy someone looks, Match.com has a community of people eliminating folks from their mating pool on the basis of the skin color one was born into. On OKCupid, the millennials’ premium matchmaking app of choice, they have admitted that certain races seeking love on their platform are doomed from the start–that is to say, look a certain way, and people are not only not choosing you, but they’re not even responding to your emails. And with the fledgling matchmaking service Dating Ring, the founders have admitted to using an eye-test attractiveness meter and not allowing matches where someone in the couple is more than 1 point uglier, on a 10-point scale, than the other person.
Effectively, despite all of the superficial backlash against Tinder, the so called “higher-being” apps don’t actually get us to this magically better place where we eliminate looks from the equation. And that’s okay. In a perfect world, we’d do better. And I certainly don’t like the fact that race plays such a big proponent in online matchmaking. But it does. Not because of the apps themselves, but because of us…the people who use them. Or actually, it’s because of you. I don’t online date. So maybe the reason I’m so pro-Tinder is because I’ve never been exposed to having that be the primary determinant in how someone perceives me.
Oh, wait. I’m black. Nevermind.