I Kept A Dating App Diary For A Week After Moving Back Home & It Surprised Me

by Sydnee Lyons
Sydnee Lyons

Hey, you! Yeah, you swiping aimlessly through Tinder profiles on your phone. Obligaswiping just might be the worst millennial dating trend of them all, so cut it out. I admit, in a dating rut, I’ve fallen into the same mindless rhythm of swiping right on literally everyone, which is why I kept a dating app diary for a week to track my actual progress. Obligaswiping be damned. It was exhausting and, at times, excruciatingly boring. Not because of my matches or anything (they were all a hoot, you’ll see) but because I made a routine of my swiping — a real, nightly obligation— that sucked a lot of the fun and spontaneity out of the online dating experience. To quote Cardi B, “right hand to Jesus,” this is not at all what I set out to do.

You see, I recently turned my whole life upside down with a move back home to the Caribbean — Trinidad to be exact — after an almost decade-long stint in South Florida. Until now, I’d never adult-ed on the island I grew up on, which also means I never really dated here. There was no Tinder before I left home at the age of 17 and even if there was, it probably would have been off-limits at the all-girls Catholic high school I attended. Who am I kidding? We weren’t even allowed to have cellphones.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, now that I’m back home, I feel more lost than ever. Weird, right? But like, I am literally lost all the time because I’ve never really driven here before and, trust me, Google Maps is having a harder time than I am. Forget navigation though, I don’t even remember how to drive on the left side of the road. Remember when Cameron Diaz’s character in The Holiday screeches at the sight of oncoming traffic while she’s on vacation in England? That’s me. So yeah, things are different here.

Apps like Spotify and Hulu, for example, aren’t available locally and the apps that are available don’t necessarily have the same cult followings they do elsewhere in the world. I used Tinder for this experiment, but when I tried to use another app, it kindly let me know that I was out of people to swipe through after, mmm, roughly 11 minutes.

Luckily, Tinder is popular here. Since I’m on self-imposed house arrest on account of my poor navigational skills, I figured I could kill time simultaneously swiping through potential summer flings and dodging people from my past. Like one does.

And with that, here lies my seven-day dating app diary.

Day 1: No Good Vibes

This is where I would disclose that I chose to start this experiment on a Friday night and you would deduce that my social life has really taken a hit since my move. You would be rude to do so but not misinformed. Still, rude. So, let’s call it Day 1, OK? On this, the most ambitious of days (kind of like when you go into the gym on Jan. 1), I swiped left on 29 potential matches and right on one. “But Sydnee, those are terrible odds. You’re not even trying,” you whine. “Oh, but I am, little one. Let me explain how this happened,” I retort smugly.

The very first thing I noticed on TT — obviously short for “Trinidadian Tinder,” keep up — is how little effort people put into their profile bios. In fact, only 26 percent of my potential matches bothered to include a bio at all. Yes, I did the math because I feel very strongly about this. I’ve talked about the importance of a unique Tinder bio before. I’ve even taken the time to write seasonal Tinder bios in the past. I’ll be honest. After the first photo, I immediately scroll to someone’s bio to get to know a little about them. Their favorite hobbies (traveling, probably). Their favorite food (pizza if they’re ~quirky and relatable~). Their job (entrepreneur, duh). Maybe it’s all BS, maybe they’ve included a funny limerick. Whatever it is is a reflection of who they are and I need that kind of information to know how to proceed.

Apparently, some people think that’s cheating? That it’s basically insider trading? I mean, why else wouldn’t you use every opportunity you have to present the best version of yourself on an online forum designed to connect you with new people? Well, I hate to answer a question with a question, but one unenthused potential squandered his 500-character opportunity with a lousy, “Do people even read these bios?” and the answer is yes TF they do.

I didn’t message my match because he didn’t have a bio, which meant I was at a loss for a clever opening line that he would relate to. Engaging bios lead to engaging conversations. And while we’re on the topic, “good vibes only” is an unacceptable bio. This is non-negotiable. Moving on.

Day 2: Spiders And Fries

I regret to inform you that 12 bachelors did not receive roses on this day and that I slashed my sample size by 50 percent because hello, Day 1 was a downer. I’ll do the math for you — I swiped right on three potentials and yes, they all had bios.

The first included one line, “Assistant [to the] regional manager,” which is a nod to Dwight Schrute on The Office. It’s so simple but really, it says so much more. Right away, I know he uses pop culture references (like I do) and he appreciates The Office’s dry humor (like I do). The second was similarly unoriginal but way less effective. He went with the classic, “We met at the grocery store, right?” which I’m sure he Googled. And honestly, wrong. There’s no shame in meeting on an app and since we’re all on here, you can stop pretending you’re above it.

More than a line from a funny TV show or cheesy joke, a list of abilities proves immensely helpful in my decision-making process. For example, one guy wrote in his bio, “Will kill your spiders, open your jars, and fine, you can have my fries,” and I was into all of that. As it turns out, he’s not so much interested in opening my jars as I am in having him open them. Saturday was matchless and I was fry-less.

Day 3: Laptop Guitar Sushi

Mind if we take a break from all the math for a quick geography lesson? Like I mentioned earlier, I recently moved to the island of Trinidad, which spans roughly 1,800 square miles and is home to 1.3 million people. For comparison, the state of New York takes up 54,555 square miles and houses almost 20 million people. That’s important because I hadn’t considered how adjusting my location radius would affect my results until my younger brother told me this: If you are in Trinidad (or, presumably, any other similarly-sized Caribbean country) and you set your preferences to include anyone within a 100 mile radius, you can actually match with people in different countries.

Sure enough, that’s what I did… for science, obviously. The first potential match in my queue was 94 miles away in Grenada and the second, 210 miles away in Barbados. I even swiped right on a guy who is currently sailing his way across the world and I’m guessing is docked on some nearby island. We didn’t match so I couldn’t ask. What was interesting, though, was that the app even pulled people from South Florida, where I’d previously lived.

In the end, I swiped left on 29 potential matches and right on three. Sure, I stuck to my rigid rules about having an interesting bio, swiping a hard left on the guy with the emoji bio that read, “laptop, guitar, sushi, video game console, plane, mountain view, headphones, car, shaka.” But I also noticed another trend that, admittedly, is not unique to TT — the one-photo, no-bio profile. More than 15 percent of the profiles I came across were what I’m now dubbing fake-outs, which doesn’t seem like a lot but is still statistically significant enough to warrant its own rant. Sort of like the grocery-store bio, this suggests that online dating is more of a backup plan than an actual strategy. That it requires no real effort because you’re just exploring an option or seeing what’s out there. If you do this, know that what you are essentially doing is eavesdropping on the people who’ve decided to include any details about themselves at all. What you’re really doing is trying to cheat the system while exerting as little effort as possible. What you’re doing is wasting my and everyone else’s time. Onward!

Day 4: Scottish Iguanas

Nineteen left swipes and one right swipe later, I matched with a Scottish expat who, when I asked about his being far from home, replied charmingly, “Had to travel a long way to find you 😍.” He went on to talk about how bored he’s been in Trinidad because clearly, his Tinder feed isn’t as entertaining as mine is.

For example, one nice fellow wrote in his bio that he was just looking for friendship (which I 100 percent get) but that he was also looking for someone to go out with his friend. “He’s awesome, I promise,” he wrote. Hmmm.

Another guy straight-up had an iguana sitting on his shoulder in his profile photo, and I have to give him credit for including a live animal here for two reasons. The first is that, having lived in South Florida for all of my adult life, I’ve become aggressively familiar with the fish men of Tinder. These are the hunter-gatherer types whose profile photos showcase enormous, dead fish that rival them in both height and weight. The second reason I find this impressive is because iguanas are actually a delicacy here in Trinidad, so they tend not to live that long among people, if you know what I mean — much like the Florida fish in that regard.

Of course, mixed into this nightmare was a throwback to my high school ex. OK, it wasn’t really him; the names didn’t match. But this guy looked so much like my ex that I couldn’t risk that potential disaster.

Sadly, it’d been almost a week and I still didn’t have any promising conversations with any of my matches. I was losing hope and momentum. Nevertheless, I persisted.

Day 5: F*ck, Marry, Super Like

Remember when I said pop culture references are a good sign? They are, except when you do it like this guy did: “A massive no-no for me is bad eyebrows. I mean, c’mon, there is nothing worse. If your eyebrows aren’t on fleek, I can only presume everything else is on reek.” How delightful. I would rate this guy a couple notches below the guy who listed his job as Bitcoin and uploaded a photo of a car as his profile pic. I assume he is as fictional as the cryptocurrency he probably mansplains about.

As for my virtual trip around the world, Day 5 took me to St. Vincent and later, to Venezuela, which is where I made a huge, huge mistake. I accidentally super liked someone. Sure, I meant to right swipe on him anyway, but this was too committal. Too forward? It’s weird because people super like me all the time and usually, I think nothing of it but it’s not something I ever do. To me, it just feels like too much, too soon. A question for another day: Is it ever OK to super like someone on Tinder?

Alas, there I was in a real panic over my sleight of hand. I immediately texted my brother who’s helped me out on Tinder before. Naturally, he insisted I pay five dollars a month for a premium Tinder subscription that would allow me to undo it.

Sydnee Lyons

I, a broke writer, decided to live with the consequences of my finger slip. The guy was hot and, like I said, worthy of a right swipe. Regardless, I needed to take the rest of the night off to recover so after only nine swipes, I packed it in.

Day 6: Cristiano Ronaldo And Good Morning Texts

If you swipe up in your Tinder conversation, you can spam your match with a flurry of obnoxious, red hearts for a few seconds. This I know because I’ve accidentally done it on occasion and regretted it instantly. Much like the super like, it’s a grand gesture, which is probably why the guy I will now refer to as “last night’s mistake” chose this as his opener the next morning.

In my haste to get off the app and hide under the covers forever and ever, I had only glanced at his profile. Although he's Venezuelan, he’s actually been living in Trinidad for the past few months. His profile also says that he likes to “travel and know new places, cultures, and people.” Hello, it me.

Promising as last night’s mistake was, I couldn’t abandon my mission. That night, I swiped left on 23 people and right on two. One guy literally used a photo of Cristiano Ronaldo as his own photo .As much as I’d like to believe I could land someone as talented and as successful as he is, I’m pretty sure the Portuguese soccer star isn’t swiping on Tinder in Trinidad.

And then, there’s this. “If you don’t listen to Young Thug or Migos, swipe left.” I make it a habit to swipe left on anyone who lays out a condition like this and then tells potentials to swipe left if they don’t meet it and you should, too. There’s nothing wrong with knowing what you’re looking for but wording it like this just feels like some sort of qualifier in a game show that I sure as hell didn’t sign up for.

Day 7: The Lord’s Day

And on the seventh day, she rested. Sort of. Before this week, I swiped through Tinder at my leisure. I didn’t make a routine of it. I didn’t count my left and right swipes. And I didn’t take notes. It all felt very casual and OK, maybe a little frivolous. Now that I’d been forcing myself to swipe on a nightly basis, I felt more secure in my choices, sure. But I also had a lot less fun with it.

I mean, I was doing math, for god’s sake. And I became legitimately upset whenever I read a lackluster bio because I felt that my efforts weren’t being reciprocated. Maybe, until now, I was no different from those no-photo, no-bio users just swiping through for funzies. Was I doing it all wrong?

On Day 7, I allowed myself to stop swiping much sooner than I had on the other six days. Prolonged swiping (averaging 30 minutes or more), I found, left me more critical and less forgiving. Instead, I opened the app a handful of times throughout the day and swiped through five to seven people each time. I didn’t take detailed notes or bring out an abacus to crunch the numbers. And I didn’t match with anyone, either, because when it comes to online dating, you get what you put in.

You don’t have to journal your progress like I did to find meaningful connections, but you should at least put a little more effort in than just throwing up a selfie from freshman year and a list of emojis in your bio.

Here’s hoping Day 8 brings with it more refined strategies and positive outcomes. Swipe on!

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