About a year ago, hopelessly single me made a reckless decision. I decided I was going to do my upmost to remove the ‘hopeless’ from that equation. I wasn’t going to sit around pining for love shut away in my room, desperately wanting my life to follow the plot of a 90s romantic comedy. (Meg Ryan, I love you.) Instead, I bravely decided as a second-year university student to give this dating phenomenon a proper attempt. I downloaded the appropriate apps, haphazardly filled out a profile and began a journey down a rabbit hole of traumatic experiences and awkward encounters. I didn’t know that would be the case during that naive moment though – a person never does.
Modern dating is aided with the convenience factor of an app. I don’t need to reiterate the shallowness of swiping left or right through possible candidates, with only a picture of said suitor with a probably borrowed dog and an eye-roll inducing pick up line to go by. I’ll leave that to the daily anti-millennial think piece in the national newspaper. That being said, it is a definite struggle to get to know someone through a screen. If you match with someone, great. But what do you open with, and moreover, what happens after a conversation actually gets going? It’s a guessing game where the stakes are high and reading between the lines is a necessary skill.
As a heterosexual female, I’ve received my fair share of inappropriate messages on Tinder. No matter how selective I am with the profiles I swipe right on, the creeps keep on creepin’. One of the most horrific trends I’ve come across is the strategy of ‘negging’. Bear with me folks, we have to dust off The Urban Dictionary for this one. ‘Negging’ is defined as “a low-grade insult meant to undermine the self-confidence of a woman, so she might be more vulnerable to your advances”. On dating apps, this usually translates to a guy messaging someone a backhanded compliment about their profile, or a direct insult. Usually, any such behaviour would warrant an automatic ‘un-match’ on my behalf, but on one occasion, curiosity got the best of me.
Someone I had unfortunately matched with messaged me and insulted my bio. I should note that I am one of those weird people who can’t be funny in a bio to save my life, so essentially they were just insulting my interests. How this is meant to make me actually like the guy is a mystery to me. Here’s how the conversation went down:
“You would think a journalist student would have a better bio” (note his incorrect grammar – as a journalism student it is my job to know this).
I was in the mood to make a point, so I responded with:
Me: “You’d think a guy on Tinder would open with a better line than an insult.”
Him: “It’s almost as if insults elicit an emotional response and a far faster reply than anything else, slut”.
Despite the pure rudeness of this dude, he did provide some field notes on negging. His justification was that it angers his recipients so much that they feel compelled enough to reply. It did work in my case admittedly, but he caught me in a bad mood.
A strong case against dating apps is that they allow for anonymity, and even encourage an environment whereby people can get away with treating others horribly. Negative or offensive messages in any context can be damaging. Everyone has a right to date without feeling like receiving degrading comments is inevitable. However, it is widely accepted as that being a female on a dating app means it’s open season for guys to say whatever the heck they want. Tinder’s alternative, Bumble, resounds this feature, as girls have to message first, which is an attempt to mitigate this. Even so, there’s something about this that makes me feel like the problem is cultural instead of technical. Apps can add features all they want, but there are still real people behind the messages. In the meantime, un-matching and reporting the users are the only options.
I’m optimistic though, maybe online dating will get easier eventually. If not, there’s always real life.