Swiping in Solitude

Words by: Ella McEwan
Art by: Carla J. Romano

Last month, as I was lying in bed a couple wines deep, I decided to jump back on Tinder. Seeking validation I couldn’t get while in lockdown, I updated my photos, rejigged my old bio, and got swiping.

Lots of these nights followed, induced by roman- tic comedies, boredom, and alcohol. My pattern was a familiar one, matching, talking for a couple nights, getting bored, and moving on.

While it was fun, I couldn’t help but feel more disconnected than before. There were an infinite number of people on the other side of the screen, so why on earth did I feel so alone?

I thought it was down to the whole experience feeling like a job interview. There’s nothing wrong with asking basic questions, but when there’s no sexual tension or playful banter, it feels the same as introducing yourself in the first week of uni. Body language, the initial attraction, and even smell is lost, leaving you with a dry chat full of meaningless facts.

When we don’t have access to these visceral measures of connection, combined with the number of potential matches, we have so many options that if someone isn’t ticking all your boxes, we ditch them. And why not; if I have access to plenty of guys within my set radius, why waste my time?

After these thoughts wormed their way into my brain, I freaked out. Am I commodifying these men, being shallow, judging a person off a couple photos and their favourite song? Am I the ghoster I say I hate?

I’m no math expert, but in the thousands of matches I’ve had, there has to have been a number of guys I could’ve dated. I could have missed out on the love of my life while I was looking at the next person on the screen.

This might just be my dramatic Jane Austen brain at work, chasing the ‘will they won’t they’ found only in the real world. I missed the subtext in conversation, the stolen glances, the late night texts, and nerves when they ask to hang out.

I know people have matched and entered into successful relationships, I’ve seen it happen. But these examples almost feel like exceptions to the rule. I think for a lot of us, we meet up, go out and even hook up, and then never talk again. Unless that’s what you’re after, it can be isolating. Soon enough we’re back, looking for the next person, and it feels lonely as hell.

It sounds crazy, but it was actually a relief when I realised Tinder’s business model relies on people not finding love. Our endless swiping is dollar signs, which is not to say the CEO is an evil genius hell-bent on destroying love, it’s just the truth. In 2019, Tinder made $1.2 billion in revenue, making up half the annual earnings for parent company Match Group.

But don’t let those rich Silicon Valley bigwigs discourage you from swiping. You don’t have to delete dating apps; you just need to know how to use them.

The general consensus amongst dating experts is that we should be meeting up with matches as soon as possible. So when quarantine is over, send a couple of flirty ‘get to know you’ messages and lock in a date. According to them, the existential crisis brought on by your new all consuming loneliness can be avoided by just going out.

Maybe I’m not suited to online dating, but I’m not convinced any of us are. We’re social creatures, who need face to face relationships to stay connected. The most concerning part is that it’s so easy to forget there’s a person on the other side of the screen.

So, to all the boys I swiped right on, messaged, and ghosted, I’m sorry. I used you to fill a quarantine induced void, and not that I think you’ll care, but you might feel vindicated to know it blew up in my face. We’ll find the right match eventually; it may just take longer than expected.

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