Armor For The Millennial Heart: The Truth About Tinder

by Holly Clark

While I found Nancy Jo Sales’ article in Vanity Fair incredibly valid, I think before we mourn the joys of dating and write off human decency forever, we have to acknowledge one possibility: Maybe it’s all just a game for the ego.

Let me paint you a picture: Imagine the typical guy on Tinder; if he’s anything like the guys Sales writes about, he’s probably pretty clean-cut and capable of scoring high in the dating game.

He knows what to say to flatter her, which emoji to use to make her chuckle. He’s the high-powered, suit-wearing “too busy for a relationship” type guy, and he’s there to remind himself he’s still got it.

Maybe, it was a rough workday. Maybe, his boss put him down or made him feel inferior. Now, he’s hanging with his buddies at the bar, loosening his tie, wiping the city sweat off his forehead and swiping left and right.

With every “match” from an attractive young female, he can feel his confidence slowly beginning to escalate.

His previously defeated frown is slowly evolving into a sly, mischievous smirk. With every match he gets, with every fling, with every congratulatory high-five from his equally competitive male comrades, his ego is slowly repairing.

The walls are building back up; the sweat is dissipating.

Right now, the women in his phone aren’t even real humans to him. They are points; they are part of a scoreboard.

And if he started his night off at a pitiful 7, he’s finishing the night at a massively improved 21, feeling pepped up, positive and powerful enough to take on the next day. This is what it all comes down to.

Tinder is not a dating site. It’s the virtual product of a society full of people who are obsessed with themselves and desperate for approval, encouragement and instant gratification.

It’s the online equivalent of a side-street catcall, of standing in front of the mirror and flexing, of a thumbs up or a pat on the back. It’s not about finding a mate, and I would argue it’s barely even about sex. It’s just all about you and your big fat ego.

Now, I don’t plan on targeting men as the sole proprietors of this cultural downfall. The eternal need to feel desired and pumped up isn’t exclusive to one sex; women need validation, too.

That’s why we post bikini pictures and indulge the bad behavior from men: We’re also getting something from it.

With our increasingly busy lives as career women, balancing promotions and self-assertion with the stressful expectation of eventually becoming mothers, we have our hands full. And it’s nice to escape from it and to be reminded we can get through it once in a while.

What better way to feel confident than a few good Tinder swipes?

Despite its galvanization, I don’t think anyone is actually having fun on Tinder. The women Sales interviews try to laugh off their horrid experiences, biting their tongues in reluctant acceptance that this is their reality.

As one female interviewee points out, it feels like sh*t, but “if you say any of this out loud, it’s like you’re weak, you’re not independent, and you somehow missed the whole memo about third-wave feminism.”

And although the men brag heartlessly about their sexual trophies, I gotta say, I don’t buy any of it.

I don’t think any of us really want to be superficial. We all want to feel loved. Of course we do; we are human.

That’s why, when Sales asked the men she interviewed, “Doesn’t it ever get lonely?” they all paused and nodded collectively in agreement. The bold macho walls of male competition quietly cracked a bit, and for a second, they all allowed themselves to really feel it.

They felt the deep-down, hidden desire for love and appreciation, a need they’ve buried because in this day and age; that little vulnerable part of you is considered a weakness; a burden.

This is true for both sexes. And, like any game, Tinder requires armor and tough skin. If you bring that vulnerability to the playing ground with you, you better believe you’re out in the first round.

Dating already feels like a trudging battlefield where we aren’t allowed to be vulnerable, and Tinder is just the modern-day fight. It’s a temporary ego boost that covers up the reality that we’re all too self-involved, insecure and overwhelmed by choice to commit to real relationships.

It’s armor for the Millennial heart.

In a society where we’re all expected to be sharks — to plunge forward, be selfish and make the most of ourselves — we’re petrified to fall in love or put our true selves on the line.

So, we go to Tinder, a safe space for short-term dating strategies, to stroke our egos and feel good in the interim.

My advice is we stop pretending. Men should stop pretending to be tough in front of their friends, and women should stop pretending they’re okay with having sex “like a man.”

Because the reality is, although Tinder may appear to be the “Dawn of the Dating Apocalypse,” it’s completely arbitrary.

And if we had the power to bring it this far, we have just as much power to flip it and reverse it.