The truth about Tinder

1
Jul
2013

I have more than a passing interest in dating apps. This interest stems from a variety of factors. For one, as a web designer and technology buff I am always fasciated by how these things are built, what their interfaces are like, etc. Secondly, having worked on building or designing dating sites myself several years in the past, I remain interested in the current state of the art. Finally (and no doubt most relevant) I am single, and use these apps to meet people.

So it was with great fascination that I came upon Tinder, recommended to me by my friend Ken. I was instantly drawn to and slightly repulsed by the interface, which is pretty damn brilliant. The idea is to see a stack of photos, and quickly (a la hot or not) swipe a profile to the right to signify interest, and to the left to signify no interest. If the other person is also interested, you will both be notified. And if they are not, no one is the wiser, your anonymity (with respect to your interest in them) is maintained. I love it because it is so damn simple, and as an interface it is amazing. I am slightly put off by an element of this same rapid selection process, which is that it reduces to the most superficial minimum (based on a single photo) your (mostly carnal) possible interest in someone. It is possible to click on a photo before deciding and to see a few more details about the person, but not a whole lot.

Of course, one of the great problems with dating apps is verifying people, and Tinder claims to have dealt with this problem by requiring you to link to your facebook profile. In this way, you can see if your matches share any friends, as well as if you share interests (on facebook anyway). One of the other big problems with any dating website or app is the number of available matches. There is always a period early in the app or site’s existence when they don’t have a large enough database of users to keep interest up easily, so promotion and getting new people to join so that there is a critical mass of single people is very important. And when you are subdividing further based on interest, such as with gay people (of which I am one), this problem can be acute.

Solving this critical mass problem takes time. One way NOT to solve it: create fake profiles, which is exactly what Tinder seems to be doing. I started noticing a creepy similarity between many of the profiles I was looking at. They all seemed to be exactly 41 miles away from me (the exact edge of my max distance setting in the preferences) and none of them had friends in common with me on facebook (a somewhat rare occurrence among gays btw), and none of them shared any facebook interests. They all had a single line entry, and many of them had the exact same entry. They were all within a few years range of the lowest range specified in my prefs. I started noticing this, and started taking a few screenshots (click here if you don’t have flash installed to see the album on Google +):

Notice any similarities?

So, I wrote an email to Tinder asking them to explain what was up. I told them that either someone was making lots of fake profiles or they themselves were, in an effort to gin up interest in their app. I consider the likelier of the two scenarios that Tinder themselves is doing it, although I suppose it is possible someone has managed to create a bunch of auto-generated facebook profiles that in turn are mass uploaded to Tinder. I have yet to hear back from them, despite two separate emails asking the same thing. Even if they are not responsible, they have a duty to act quickly to remove these fakes. If you can’t rely on the veracity of profiles, the whole enterprise goes out the window. Or at least the fantasy of meeting someone real on their site does, which means the same thing for their business.

Deal breakers?

7
Dec
2012

Maybe it is because it seems like just about everyone around me is paired up, but I have been focusing a lot recently on my singledom (singleness? singletude?). As regular readers know, I go on a fair number of dates. I enjoy going on these dates, as I think everyone is worth meeting. Everyone has something interesting about them, and this time is never wasted for me. Still, I would like to eventually meet someone I could go on more than one or two dates with, someone with whom I could build something more lasting, but something always gets in the way: me. Even with the absolutely huge number of people I have met, it is punishingly rare to meet someone I want to see again (and again). There is always something wrong. Last night was a perfect example: I went on a dinner date with a very nice and handsome guy, and as we left the restaurant he asked hopefully if I wanted to continue our discussion over another drink at a bar or my apartment. And in that second as I was considering inviting him back to my place for a drink, he took out a pack of cigarettes and lit up. Kissing a smoker is for me one of the more unpleasant things to do, and because I like kissing so much, I consider this a deal breaker. So I thanked him for meeting me and bid him goodbye. Needless to say, there are many such deal breakers or red flags: gay republicans, hating one’s family, excessive materialism, lack of chemistry, already being in a relationship, and many more. At some point I suppose (when I become lonely enough) I will lower my standards and pare down the list, but it does have me curious about what others think. And so, dear readers, I pose you the same question: What is a deal breaker for you?

Off to The Island of Misfit Toys

11
Aug
2012

A couple of weeks ago, something quite amazing happened, and totally unexpected. I, (paragon of reason and someone who rarely finds interest enough to go beyond a first date with anyone) fell for someone. Coming just a day after my bad doggie date made it all the sweeter, I thought. It all started a few weeks earlier when I had noticed a really cute guy on the rooftop of the Eagle where I was sharing Sunday afternoon drinks with a couple of friends of mine. We exchanged a few flirty looks back and forth, but then I left with my friends to go to dinner and when we returned he was gone. No big deal, this sort of thing happens from time to time, if anything was meant to be I was sure we would cross paths again at some point. Then, a couple of weeks later I received a message on one of the dating sites I was on from this guy, telling me that he had been looking everywhere for me, and was so glad to find me. He then told me that “this was crazy” but did I remember seeing him at the Eagle by any chance and could he possibly invite me to a meal? I agreed, and we met the following Sunday for brunch. The date went so well in fact, that we did not say goodbye until some 24 hours later. We walked, talked, fooled around, watched tv, explored and explained our respective past lives, cuddled, slept, etc. It was truly an amazing date. We had the kind of insane chemistry I hadn’t felt in many years, and had almost forgotten was possible. The first week was an intense, romantic, crazy week of 4 dates, flirty and sweet text messages flying back and forth, etc. We shared a few personality traits in common (cleanliness, being on time), but probably a lot more that were different (he has an inexplicable love of sports, for example). And although it didn’t bother me much, we had a somewhat large age gap between us. At 30, he was truly at the very low end of my dating range, but it didn’t seem to matter since he seemed quite mature. He was part owner of a business and working a crazy number of hours, and had a strong ambition to get ahead (whatever that means to someone). Working until 11pm most nights was definitely going to be a challenge, but I was so smitten that I was willing to adjust and become more of a late nighter and less of an early riser. I really couldn’t believe my luck, after so many first dates, to finally meet someone I wanted to see again and again.

Then, without warning, he had a change of heart. I am not exactly sure why, but it really does not matter. People are fickle, and they can change their feelings suddenly. Was it something he read on my blog? Was it that, now that I was clearly as into him as he was to me, he no longer wanted me? I’m not sure I will ever know. About a week into our romance, after another almost 24 hour date, I said goodbye to him last Sunday as he went off to work. He told me he would call me later, and when he didn’t I sent him a text asking how his day was, and he responded nicely, but with a little distance I could sense. I thought no big deal, he had had a long day, so I wished him good night thinking we would chat the next day. Two days passed with no messages between us, and I knew something was up. The previous week had been a nonstop flow of sweet text nothings, and that had completely dried up. After two days, I sent him a brief text asking if everything was ok, and he said yes and could he see me Thursday night? We made a plan, and another two days passed with no communication between us. I was pretty sure he was going to cancel on me, because his attitude had changed so completely from the week before. When he actually texted near 11pm to tell me he was done with work and coming to meet me, I was surprised and we met for a drink at a local bar. I was pretty confused about the preceding few days, so I asked him what was up. He seemed truly shocked, he had no idea anything at all was amiss, he told me he was just “crazy busy” at work. While I was sure he was in fact busy at work, I also know that when we are motivated, it takes about two seconds to send a smiley face or “thinking about you” text. This had been the way it was the week before after all, when he was also “crazy busy”.

Nevertheless, I accepted his response at face value (maybe it is even what he told himself and half-believed) and we went back to his place for another lovely evening in each other’s arms. It was sweet and somewhat reassuring, because we got along so well and pretty much slept together holding hands and kissing. We said our goodbyes over breakfast the next morning, and I decided to take a wait and see approach, perhaps what I had told him would motivate him to reach out more, but I should have known better. Once a spell is broken, it is often broken for good. That is just the way things are. Not hearing from him the entire day, late in the evening I sent a quick smiley and kissface text to his phone. I never even got a response, and I knew. It was time to send him off to The Island of Misfit Toys.

When I look back, and being honest with myself, what we had was an incredible chemistry. This is something that people often discount in the abstract, but I honestly believe it is more powerful than all the personality trait matches, political differences (within reason), and what have you. There is a kind of invisible, undetectable smell (perhaps pheromones) that can draw people together so powerfully, that it flies in the face of any other incompatibility. It is part sexual, but really much more than that. It gives one a contented feeling when being near, when holding hands, when brushing a cheek or a nose or a leg. It is pacifying and sweet, and makes ones eyes fill with tenderness despite oneself. I am happy to know that this feeling is still possible, and may one day be again.

…and your little dog, too.

29
Jul
2012

Anyone that knows me, knows that I date a lot. Working alone as a freelancer from home, it is a big part of the way I socialize. I honestly think that there is no such thing as a bad date, everyone has something interesting about them. And even the dates that most people would classify as terrible, I classify as interesting, something to tell a story about, a good blog post at least. Ready for the latest? Here goes.

A really cute guy contacted me on OK Cupid a few days ago. I checked out his profile and noticed he spoke several languages (always a plus with me) and generally seemed quite compatible. And although he listed at the top of “things he could never live without” his dog (we’ll call her “Liza”*), I decided nevertheless to meet up for a coffee date. Yesterday, we met in the afternoon for the date, and it went really well I thought. We shared a ton of common interests and the date stretched over two hours as we got to know each other. We talked about travel, and languages, and eastern religions and a whole raft of things with an easy familiarity. It wasn’t even until near the end of our date that I realized that the small gym bag at his feet actually contained Liza. She had been well behaved and quiet the entire time, and although I am not a fan of purse dogs, she was in no way annoying to me.

My date informed me that he had to go help a friend of his, and was sad to leave, but would I be interested in meeting up later? The date had gone very well and I found him really attractive, so I said sure, imagining that we would be, I don’t know, making out a little later at the least. He texted later and I invited him over for a movie and hanging out (read what you will into this). When he arrived at my place with his purse dog still in tow, I was a little taken aback, but realized he hadn’t had a chance to go home in between and tried not to make a big deal as the dog scurried around every corner of my apt (and on the furniture) while he put down some paper in the bathroom and showed Liza where it was located “in case”. We ordered a pizza and started to watch a movie, and I foolishly imagined we might sidle up next to each other on the sofa, watch the movie, and maybe get a little comfortable with each other. But this was not to be, as he spent the entire movie with Liza on his lap or chest, stroking her and keeping his distance but for the occasional reaching over with his foot to rub mine.

I literally sat there dumfounded, wondering where the hidden camera was. I was so flummoxed, I just sat through the movie, waiting for it to be over and not paying very much attention to it. I kept wondering to myself how to end this date sooner, perhaps with a casual line to him about  how I had totally forgotten that my extended family was about to arrive for a 2 month visit in a few minutes and I needed to prepare, or that I had some rusty razor blades that I would rather being playing with. Near the end of the movie he mentioned how bad he felt, not about bringing Liza along on a first date, but that he really should have fed her sooner, the poor thing was ravished. I helpfully suggested that the only decent thing to do was march home that instant and get the poor dear something to eat. We hugged and exchanged an extremely chaste kiss, and he left. I went immediately to my iPhone and deleted his number.

*as always, names have been changed to protect the identities of those involved

Busted II

22
Jul
2012

A few short months ago I wrote about a funny coincidence where I was dating the same guy as a friend of mine, and we coincidentally found out about it. (The kinda douchy part was that he had canceled a date with me to make one with my friend the same day).  They say lightening doesn’t strike twice, but I just recently dined with another friend of mine, and he was describing this new guy he was dating and how excited he was about him. They had seen each other 4 times in the last 10 days, and my friend felt it was really getting serious. He was telling me how sexy the guy was and how he was really getting into him. As he was describing him, I realized that the guy is someone I have been talking to online recently, and who has been sending me increasingly insistent messages about wanting to go on a date. I even ran into him out at a restaurant last week, and he made a point of coming up to talk to me, flatter me, and ask for my number. Since that time he has proceeded to send me a string of texts about how attracted he is to me, and how he can’t wait for our first date. Like any of us, I suppose, he has his cute lines he uses on people, but it was odd to compare texts with my friend and see many of the same ones. My friend was a little devastated I’m afraid, as he really thought this was going somewhere. He couldn’t imagine that with as much time as they were spending together recently that the guy would even be interested in pursuing anyone else, even if it was far too early for them to have any sort of monogamy talk. And I will admit, that it seems a little odd to me too. If I had gone out with someone just once or twice in a month or so, it would not feel odd to see other people. But 4 times in less than two weeks? For me, that would mean I was really interested in someone, and that would kinda preclude pursuing other options until at least this courting had run its course. My friend has a date with the guy tonight in fact, but has told me that he doesn’t very much feel like going through with it, and I can’t blame him. Especially since I myself  just received a text from him yesterday asking if I was free this coming Tuesday.

Needless to say, I won’t be going on a date with this guy, ever. Men, you are dogs.

Busted.

7
Mar
2012

You have to be astounded at the random connectedness of things. Sometimes I think I see almost instant karma at work.

I had a dinner last night with my friend L, down near the Flatrion building. L and I met at a Xmas party and then went on a date or two. We didn’t really click in a romantic way, but got along so well personally that we decided to be friends. Our dinner conversation was pretty wide-ranging and easy, covering topics as diverse as the decline of American culture, recent work, travel, and what our dating lives had been like recently. L mentioned that he had seen me on OK Cupid before and we talked a little bit about that site and what it was like. L told me that he had met someone there and been on a few dates and so far, so good. I mentioned to him that I had also met a guy on the site recently and gone on two or three dates with him, which was a good first sign because I usually don’t get beyond date one. I told L I didn’t know if it would lead to anything, but my philosophy has always been that there is no such thing as a bad date, because everyone has something interesting about them. I mean it, I feel like you really can’t lose. Even if the date is terrible, you have a funny story to tell later. People get so hung up on the “end game” (marriage or whatever), that they fail to experience the “now” of the date itself. Although ultimately, sure, I would like to meet someone serious, I can really enjoy the date itself outside of a greater context.

We then moved on to discussing signs of the apocalypse or the excesses of capitalism or something like that, and among other items I mentioned the ridiculousness of things like the American Girl franchise (Modern Family recently did an amazing send up). L perked up and said,

“What a funny coincidence you mention that, the guy I am seeing works there as a visual merchandiser. We have a date tomorrow night in fact.”

My jaw dropped. The guy that I had been going on dates with also worked there. I asked L his name and sure enough, it matched. And to really kick things in the rear, I realized something kinda shitty, and said,

“Wait a minute, and you have a date with him, TOMORROW NIGHT? We had a date for tomorrow night as well, but he sent me a text yesterday telling me that he had to cancel because — and I quote — ‘something came up and I have to address it’ — unquote.”

L and I were both floored. Then we compared texts, and he showed me how the guy had asked him if he was free during the week, and when L said Wednesday, the guy said no problem. And a few minutes later, I got my cancel text. Then we started comparing notes on all sorts of things, and found that the guy has given us conflicting stories about a lot of things, his family, where they lived, etc. I believe he even gave L some bullshit story about only being able to date “one guy at a time”, that sort of thing.

L said he was going to cancel the date and I suggested he send the guy the exact same text he had sent me about needing to “address something that came up”. Or that we just show up at his work one day pretending to know nothing and letting him squirm a bit. The whole situation was just too sitcom perfect. In fact, you couldn’t even write it, it would seem too contrived and unreal. Imagine the coincidence! Here in a city of millions, that we should not only be dating the same guy at the same time, but also make the connection from a random discussion, AND find out he was lying to both of us, AND on the night before his date. Pretty awesome I say. I told L I was thrilled at the blogging potential.

Well, as they say, isn’t karma a bitch? L cancelled his date, telling the guy exactly why. L got a weak “sorry” text response, and I got roughly the same text from him about an hour later. I resisted the urge to spellcheck and correct the grammar on it and send it back.

All the Single Ladies…

12
Jan
2010

Tonight I was invited to a lively dinner party for single gays put together by an acquaintance of mine named Rob. He culled a Facebook list of 20-some (not to be confused with 20-something) single guys and we all met at a Thai restaurant in my neighborhood. Rob guessed  from the various friend connections on Facebook that no one would know more than 5 people, but some people clearly knew more. It is always amusing to hear a group of gay men recount how they know each other. There is usually a fair bit of throat clearing and waiting for someone else to set the tone and break the ice. Everyone always wants to know who dated whom, who slept with whom, who knew whose roommate, etc. Personally, I always rely on my trusty fallback response that stops further questioning: I simply say “we met in prison”, and they can imagine the rest according to their preferences, be they sweet or (un)savory. In any event, there were indeed a lot of handsome and interesting (and supposedly single) guys in attendance, and with but a drink (or two) in hand, everyone was quite friendly. Part of the idea of these, according to Rob, is that since we all know a lot of really nice guys that may not be right for us, perhaps they are right for someone else. Usually he invites ten guys, each of whom must bring one other that the group (hopefully) doesn’t know. I really like the idea of mixing things up in this manner, as I think getting to know people over a meal is one of the best ways to do so. I am looking forward to attending more of these get togethers in the future.

The truth about lying (about your age)

5
Dec
2009

Today I’d like to talk about a problem that is widespread everywhere, particularly bad in the gay community, and epidemic in scale on gay dating web sites: Lying about one’s age.

Over the past few years I have been struck by how many people lie about their age online. While it is true they lie about other attributes and (ahem) measurements, age seems to be the most rampant. The obvious reason is that our society is youth obsessed. Which is another way of saying we are afraid of dying. We are afraid of even the taint of mortality. This pervades the culture and causes people to lose all sense of proportion when sizing up potential dates and even friends.  I would estimate that about 60 percent of the gay men I have met lie about their age. (Anyone out there care to estimate how many women do the same? And increasingly, straight men?).  The incidence of lying about one’s age goes up the older one is. Some will shave just a year or two off, to fit into some magic box like “under 40” some will routinely take 5 or 10 years off reported age, telling themselves that “Hey, I can easily pass for it, all my friends say it, so why not?” Maybe people are insecure enough to think that if it weren’t for just this one thing, this one undesirable trait (age), they would generate a lot more interest. Maybe they are even right about that. But starting out from a place of lying is not the best way to begin any kind of relationship, at least if you believe that good relationships are built atop a foundation of honesty and trust (which I do). Maybe if all one is looking for is a one night stand, who cares? Roll the dice and see who believes.

I have always though that hey, if you are going to lie about your age, at least lie UP, not DOWN. I am 42. If I were to tell people I am 50, they would shower me with compliments, asking my secret to looking so young. I would smile humbly and tell them a simple life rich in healthy foods, exercise and meditation keeps me vital. If on the other hand I were to tell people I am 30, they would say “Really? wow…” and be thinking “…this guy has had a ROUGH life….how much partying has he done? he looks like shit.” So I don’t lie about my age. If someone is more interested in a statistic than what is in front of them, so be it.

I do wonder what would happen if everyone in our society stopped lying about age. If everyone celebrated exactly where they were in life as being a unique opportunity to experience something new. Something now. Ultimately that is all we have, and I believe we are happier people when we live in the now. If we as a culture stopped obsessing about our youth, stopped obsessing about our aging and mortality, it would effect enormous positive change. That probably won’t happen in my lifetime. But each of is, through our own actions, has a chance to subtly change the terms of the debate. Each of us, by choosing to represent ourselves honestly can move things a tiny bit. And bit by bit, the world will be a different place. A place that is accepting because we accept not only ourselves, but others as well.