I fumbled around the bottom of my bag, frantically removing notebooks and opening zippers in hopes of grasping the one thing I am most insecurely attached to: my phone. Our relationship is not always mutually beneficial, one might say. I mean, two hours of Instagram reels and Pokémon GO is hardly a productive use of time, but at least I don’t have Tinder downloaded. Well, not anymore.
So many college-aged students have experimented with this virtual dating platform, or at least have thought about it in the heat of a bad breakup or bout of loneliness. The one night I had Tinder was quite the wild ride: I spent an hour making my profile “perfect,” tailoring the photos that showcased the better side of my face, (the left) listing my interests so that I’d seem quirky but not “weird” (what does that even mean? Why did I even care so much?) and finding music that suggested I was a “cool girl,” like trendy Olivia Rodrigo or edgy Brockhampton; this was far from the truth: I love listening to “basic” music like that by The Lumineers and “wacky” funk music. Then, the scrolling commenced. My snap impulses took hold of me, and I was no longer a person. Rather, I became a swiping machine. Too old? Swipe. Econ bro? Swipe. You name it. I found any and every reason to scroll away unless I was immediately attracted to that person’s face. How surface-level is that?
I’m not saying you can’t tell anything about someone from just their online dating profile. You can definitely tell. Holding a fish up, or posing shirtless in front of a mirror, or having many pictures with past partners can all be red flags. However, you don’t ever really know. That’s the first issue. I’ve met plenty of kind people that are proud of the fish they catch or their strong bodies, but it’s incredibly easy to default to “I don’t like the way that person looks” based on the pictures they chose to portray themselves — their WHOLE selves — through. All of the photos we filter ourselves through are poor representations of ourselves as living, breathing people with personalities, interests and values.
Being at a small school like Middlebury adds on a new dimension to this whole “online dating” endeavor. Believe me, I’ve tried. It can be fun at first, being at a place where you match with someone you find attractive and get the chance to meet up with them for a romantic rendezvous at Crossroads or just a chill hangout at their place. Everyone is 10 minutes away, pretty much.
You might match with that cutie you saw dancing at a Brooker party last weekend, or that person you saw studying in Davis, or… the one other person who went to your high school. Awkward. This proximity might seem like a good thing. Sometimes it works out — you go on a magical boba date in town and end up exchanging digits to spend more time together. Sometimes, though, one person ghosts the other… and at Middlebury, THERE. IS. NO. ESCAPING. THEM. You will see them EVERYWHERE. I promise. Whether you catch each other’s eye across the crowded Proctor dining hall, or they sit right behind you in your 9 a.m. lecture, that person you didn’t end up dating will find their way into your presence in the most uncomfortable of ways.
Still, I know at least three couples that matched on Tinder and have since been extremely happy. People may feel a certain shame in saying how they met, but, honestly, it shouldn’t be as taboo as it is to tell the truth that you met on an online dating platform. Overwhelmingly, Tinder and other online dating sites can be positive: They’re easy to access, you can meet all sorts of people that you might not otherwise meet (especially given the difficulties of Covid-19: the isolation and disconnection), and you may indeed find your soulmate. What you’re looking for might be love, or it might be someone to go out with once and never again, but the convenience of technology has opened a whole new realm of possibilities for us to gain confidence and reach out.
Ultimately, it’s important to match your intentions with your actions: If you aren’t looking for something serious, don’t pretend like you are. If you don’t “vibe” with someone, tell them up front rather than ghosting them. People appreciate honesty, and, at a school as small as Middlebury, that honesty can save you next time you lock eyes with someone across Ross dining hall. When you start your conversations, you don’t have to default to a gross pickup line about what they’re doing that night. Try out some other methods that build friendship foundations rather than booty-call bridges: How was your day? What’s your favorite movie? What’s more, be honest about yourself: what you value, what type of music you really listen to, and even what you look like… that authenticity shines through even in your Tinder profile. And, hey, if you like The Lumineers like I do, who knows, you might match with someone who does too, and you can be “basic” together.