The Tinder Files: A Story of Paranoia, Loneliness, and Self Narratives
by Efraín Grietta
If you are thirty or over, with your own apartment and a decent car, Tinder might just be the solution to your seemingly dwindling male confidence and vitality. This is because you can match up with young twenty somethings and impress them with your knowledge of JFK conspiracies, Illuminati theories, or if they’ve been publicly schooled, basic U.S history. The important thing to remember is that younger girls have lower expectations; if they are on Tinder it probably means they are bored, or have yet to find a man that has swept them off their feet and/or have had such terrible luck with men that a couple free drinks and a one night stand sounds more appealing.
This was my initial assessment: easy and fun. So, two months ago I joined Tinder at the insistence of a friend who constantly points out the hopeless state of my love situation.
The trick, I learned, to a successful profile picture and online profile thingy in general, is that it must not convey any loneliness or desperation. It must not show vulnerability. One must appear, simply, casual. As if the profile was not aware that it was constructed and manipulated.
This reminds me of those photos people take of themselves in nature’s purest scenery: surrounded by mountains, waterfalls, and oak trees, but they take the time to set up their phone next to a stump, they fix their hair, they pose, and then post the photo with a status update that reads: “Enjoying this time away from everything,” or “It’s good to have these solitary moments with my thoughts."
Or they take one of those candid selfies, where they are clearly holding the phone but pretend to be looking out into the distance. Status update reads: "A walk alone through the Grand Canyon."
The fact that people do this all the time leads me to believe that social media has truly diminished our capacity to see irony. (Believe me though, I am very aware of the irony that this post might be shared on these very social media sites) People have lost the ability to recognize their own sad attempts at attention. It has made us lost and hopeless people who thrive on the illusion that others give a fuck about our lives and our feelings, uninformed opinions, how many pounds we've lost, or our home cooked meals. The truth is that people only pretend to care. If they say something nice to you it's probably out of pure boredom. Despite my disdain for the whole thing, I'm not going to lie: I too have indulged in the occasional status update and felt the weird nausea that comes when no one responds. When they do, you feel like you matter, like you're clever and smart, when really you're probably not.
In any case, I didn’t exactly start impressing girls right away on Tinder; instead I became unnerved with my experiences. As I came to find out the Tinder process is more like driving down a war zone; the road appears scenic and calm, but one occasionally stumbles upon a roadside bomb that explodes on or near you, where you fumble in the smoke for a minute before it vanishes into memory, leaving behind only a faint sensation and ringing in the ears. Most women on Tinder are walking around highly flammable, yet one wouldn’t know it scrolling through the nice, smiling, casual, and sexy profile pictures.
The first match I got was a Mexican girl. She couldn't speak English very well. I will call her Rosita, because she was kind and rosy and quite charming in her foreign undecipherable way. When we matched up we made a date for two days later and for the following forty eight hours I received several photographs from her in which she posed in front of the camera in sexy and suggestive ways.
When we met for a beer she did not look like the self from her pictures. Those photos were clearly taken years earlier or were of a curvaceous and much fitter twin sister. I seemed to have perceived the guilt in her eyes when we met and a silent admission that she had in fact sent me misleading photographs, but she smiled and I thought, 'ah whata hell?' Despite the difficulties in communicating with her, she had these big curious eyes and for a moment I felt a tinge of optimism. Maybe it really was this easy, maybe she really likes me.
At some point we went out to her car to smoke a joint. The whole night she put her hand on my thighs and made little giggly sounds at my attempts to explain basic Americanisms. Her enthusiasm really confused me. I couldn’t tell if it was real or merely an engagement with the unspoken contract we’d both signed when agreeing to this date. I imagined us in two months, sitting in a coffee shop in silence, staring out our respective windows thinking of other things.
Twenty minutes later I was struggling with her bra in my room and sweating profusely. She seemed excited, so I became paranoid thinking that this was all a set up, some sick joke that my friends had concocted to humiliate me.
My pot induced paranoia and anxiety was exasperated when I peeked into her purse while she used the bathroom and found a picture of a little Mexican kid with glasses and a Batman shirt. I wondered: Who was watching this little Mexican kid as she undressed in front of a stranger? And immediately after very awkward love making, I became convinced this was a set up.
Who sent you? I asked. She looked at me bewildered as she put her shirt back on.
Who sent you? I asked again. Just tell me the truth. She was shaking her head in confusion. Who sent you?!!
She began to cry and then proceeded to tell me all about her son, who loved comic books and whom she'd left with a friend.
Honestly, I don’t know what compelled me to keep going. Pure curiosity maybe. I went from Rosita to a girl I came to know as Fifty Shades, who would utter things like, “Take off your pants.” I did not appreciate being ordered around by a young girl who, out of the few things we managed to chat about in the introductory part of the date, had dropped out of high school and worked selling iphone accessories. A girl who got extremely drunk from two beers and said things like “Put your hands around my neck.” A girl who showed up on my doorstep the next day and told me how she was just messing around, she wasn’t really like that, she really just wanted someone to talk to. Her friends had put her up to this whole Tinder thing.
From Fifty Shades I went to a third girl who I think tried to use me as her sperm donor (her husband carried only empty cartridges.) This girl, probably late thirties, probably saw Tinder as a free and easy sperm bank where she could scope out the potential donor before she lied regarding her contraceptive method and kindly tricked an unsuspecting man to procreate. Of course, she'd been having a hard time of it because boys have learned already not to go in without a raincoat. Yet, this kind of sank in only after being asked a series of questions about my family history and my risk for cancer and alcoholism, which I had initially misinterpreted as genuine interest.
After the thought of me unsuspectingly creating offspring really sank in, I went home disoriented and confused. My family tree, as my father so bluntly put it, should stop with my brother and I. My father had a rough life and a great sense of humor, but was also a terrible drunk who wanted to die young and did, but not before he accidentally squirted his genes back into the human whirlpool. The accident part, a fact he perpetually reminded us about.
That night, after disarming this ticking biological time-bomb, I found myself scrolling through Tinder profiles as if looking at a McDonald’s Dollar Menu.
It was then I realized that there were people on there that I knew: co-workers, acquaintances, cousins, friends of cousins. If I could see them, they could see me. I felt a little NSA’d, a little nauseous, and I deleted the whole damn thing, including my Facebook and my Twitter feed. I realized that I never wanted to become a person that handed someone my phone and said something like, “Can you Snap Chat me?” or someone that unnecessarily airs their grievances online expecting sympathy, posting things like “Everyone please send me your prayers during this difficult time in my life” or "Depression is one of those things that some people will just never understand, " or someone who speaks their pain and frustration through memes, or uses memes to express some platitude they happen to feel very passionately about at that moment, or especially someone who takes selfies and constantly posts their location and current futile activity. I don't want to be one of those assholes that feels they are revolutionary or politically radical because they re-post articles from "radical" websites. I don't want to be an internet liberal. don't want to become someone who feels everyone needs to know my personal life, or forgets that privacy is a valuable and necessary aspect of life. I never wanted to be one that expresses myself through hashtages: #it's raining #wedont'care #weareonvacation #pleaselikemypostsoIgetselfvalidation.
It all vanishes so quickly, leaving only a feeling of humiliation and emptiness.
Tinder is no different from other social media in that regard. It requires a facade, a front. That is all social media is, a representation of who we think we are. We become caricatures of our selves in a dimension that isn't real. The only difference with Tinder is that you might meet this person and when you do there is a chance that you will sleep with them. You become vulnerable to exposing yourself as a terrified and lonely thirty something that is unsure about his life, his future, and his overall state of mind, someone who is confused and pessimistic. The facade has to come off with the clothes. And for a second you expose yourself to a stranger, who may or may not give a shit about you.
So much of everything now is profiling yourself: creating a narrative of your own life and therefore assuming that you have control, that you are important, that this narrative has value in the great scheme of things. It is because of this I often, and more so recently, feel I'm fictionalizing much of my life and my experiences, slightly altering facts to make it seem more interesting, adding an arch to what was probably just a series of banal events, or augmenting scenarios for dramatic effect.
Social media has in some ways made you believe that all kinds of people are interested in your life. I am aware that nobody is reading this. If you are, if somehow you made it past the first 500 words, it's ok because you'll forget whether I had a point or not, and you'll be left with only a faint sensation of having read something that might have had some meaning. You’ll forget it in less than twenty seconds, the time it takes to click out of one thing and into another.