Has Online Dating Made Us into Gambling Pigeons?

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Bournemouth University student, Rae Langdown-Peace shares her thoughts on the dating world as a female student. Let us know on our instagram, @nervenow_bu if you relate ...


The current dating landscape is not one I enjoy navigating. It’s isolating and lacks the soul and genuine connection of meeting people in the real world. It can be mildly entertaining at times though, especially when you’re new to this diluted game of guess who. If all you’re looking for is a quick hook up, then it’s the perfect app, but for anything more, I mean, finding someone who’s company you genuinely enjoy, then maybe not.


Tinder often feels like a strange social sexual experiment with the vague hopes of finding someone we may actually connect with. I heard someone once describe online dating as a ‘carnival’. I think that’s a nice spin on an overwhelming sense of delirium that is the virtual dating scene. To me it’s just a breeding ground for narcissism. A virtual space to engage with your own ego and far too many others. Don’t get me wrong, obviously there are some lovely people on Tinder (I’m on it), but it’s hard to distinguish the exciting people from the insane ones, and the gorgeous faces that have their lives together with the ones that have never had day of fun in their entire life. In the physical realm it’s easier to connect with a multitude of people you would probably never swipe right on. You can (mostly) get a sense of someone’s energy by being around them, and that doesn’t always correlate with appearance, but more so their attitude and personality. The important things that make us human are lost in this soulless sphere. Where’s the good vibes, man?


When you’re swiping on unrecognisable faces it’s easy to dissociate from the fact these are real human beings. An almost unlimited number of faces (depending on your location and parameter settings) are aligned one after the other for you to swipe into two piles according to about 6 photos and 2 lines of information. Just considering this act in real life is completely obscene. The problem with this swiping is we lose sense of our original purpose, which I assume is to find love - in whatever form, and end up addicted to the workings of the app. As I said before, we have what can feel like an unlimited number of people to swipe on, so we just keep on swiping until someone relatively enticing slides into our DMs. Tinder has been created to motivate an unhealthy amount of swiping, with the use of a random reward system. Potential matches are scattered beautifully in-between the people that don’t want you, so you keep on swiping for another match. Excellent. This randomness is apparently based on a psychological experiment from the 1940s where researchers trained pigeons to gamble. They gave them food at random intervals, but the birds believed that if they behaved in a certain way, this would bring them more food. It didn’t, it just made them addicts. So we are, after all, just gambling pigeons.


Everybody has their own reason for joining a dating app, and even more variety when it comes to what they’re on the hunt for in another human. For me it’s important that I have something in common with the person I swipe on (obviously), but this becomes particularly tricky when that person has no bio. It doesn’t take much to write an interesting bio, it’s just striking the balance between advertising your personality but not seeming entirely self-obsessed. The purpose of a bio according to google, is to ‘tell the reader who you are and what you do’. I can

confirm that most profiles on Tinder and many on Bumble do not fill this criteria. This makes it particularly hard to distinguish what kind of person you’re looking at.


So, as we negotiate the many profiles on Tinder, here are some of my favourite things to swipe left on:


‘Here for a good time, not a long time’ written in the bio. What does that even mean? Honestly who wants to be with a guy that isn’t here for a long time? Yeah, the man of my dreams, but for a short time…


Their profile pictures are mostly of a dog. I don’t want a guy whose personality is his dog. Just give me the dog.


No bio…who are you? Just a squinty guy with nice arms.


Listing things they won’t want in a woman in their bio.


Group pics? Your friend is fitter, mate.


Lord of the Rings, Star Wars and Marvel are their hobbies.


Snapchat filters. The dog filter? Really?


‘Because that seems to matter’ after writing their height. Just post your height and go. Of course height matters, to make things even easier you could note down some other dimensions and all.


‘It’s not just me you have to impress, it’s my mum too’. A man that 100% has his mum do his washing.


‘Swipe right if it’s coming home’. A seasonal favourite and an immediate swipe left. BYE


But let’s get serious for a second, because the real trouble comes after the swiping. I have to talk to these people now? It often becomes such a dissociative process, I forgot at times these are real people with real emotions. The same as they do to me when I believe a conversation is flowing (an outrageously challenging process to get going, in itself) and then I don’t hear from them ever again. I’M A CATCH, goddammit. It’s strange, you’re aware that this conversation would be far more interesting in person but if you meet them without getting to know them, you’re kind of stuck with them until the date’s over, or at least until one of you makes a decent enough excuse to escape. When you meet in person you get a good sense of how you feel about someone through conversation but that’s not an easy task online. Especially for a writer. “His grammar and punctuation are terrible”. As if that’s important? I suppose that’s something we only consider in the digital age though; I doubt my parents were worried about each-other’s ability to differentiate between ‘your’ and ‘you’re’.


These conversations are also so staggered as there’s rarely an immediate response to any message. Trying to position myself between continuing the conversation but not seeming too keen, often provides me with enough anxiety to give up on the chat altogether. Sometimes I’ll read the message and reply later because unless the guy has Tinder gold or some other premium version (loser), he won’t see if the message has been read. This inevitably adds more delay to the chat but I’m 100% sure I’m not the only one being a hindrance in this way. As much fun as this chaos can be I don’t really believe that the ‘conversation’ part of online dating can be classed as anything more than bewildered communication. Can such huge delays in between messaging really be categorised within ‘conversation’?


Online dating apps really are strange and fairly uninspiring after the initial excitement, but I’ve seen a few success stories, so they’re not entirely unpleasant. All dating apps seem to be created with slight variation depending on their goal, but out of all of them I would say Tinder is the most soulless and distant. I know that not everyone on Tinder is awful and some people have found their soulmate blah blah blah, but it feels bizarre that this virtual connection is such a natural part of our ability to meet new people. I think the most important thing we can do for ourselves right now is to return to awkwardly rejecting each other in the real world. Or better yet, let’s start making our friends ask out boys for us, again. A fail-safe method of finding ‘the one’, I’m sure.


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