Fed up with swip­ing and drained by dat­ing apps, au­thor Lucy Vine ex­plains why she’s gone back to find­ing love IRL (that’s in real life, for the non- cy­ber savvy)

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One writer re­veals her rea­sons for seek­ing love in real life

Ire­cently down­loaded Tinder again. I hadn’t been on it for about a year, but in a mo­ment of bore­dom, sit­ting at my desk on a Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon, I fell back into bad habits.

Swip­ing through sev­eral de­press­ingly fa­mil­iar faces – a friend’s ex-hus­band, some­one I went to school with, all the same men who were on it the year be­fore – I felt a wave of mis­ery. Sigh­ing, I changed my bio to ‘Look­ing for some­one to talk to about how much I hate Tinder’ and logged off.

In the past five years of be­ing sin­gle, I’ve been on about 100 dates through apps such as Tinder, Hinge, Happn and Bum­ble. If that sounds like a lot, trust me, it has felt like more. But that’s the thing with dat­ing apps – you have to com­mit to them. You have to give them your full at­ten­tion and treat it like a job, be­cause if you leave it more than 12 hours all your matches have al­ready moved on to the next per­son.

When Tinder launched in 2012 that was fine – be­cause it was fun. I could squeeze in four or five dates and re­turn to my phone at the end of the week to plan more. It felt ex­cit­ing – an end­less trea­sure trove of po­ten­tial soul­mates. By 2014, there were one bil­lion swipes pro­duc­ing 12 mil­lion matches ev­ery day.

But, slowly, it started feel­ing like a duty – and worse, like the only op­tion for meet­ing some­one. It be­came an ex­haust­ing, om­nipo­tent re­minder that I should be do­ing some­thing about my sin­gle­ness. If I con­fided about strug­gling to find a date, my friends in re­la­tion­ships would tell me how easy it was to meet peo­ple now, thanks to Tinder. One told me I had no ex­cuse for be­ing sin­gle. They didn’t un­der­stand that the app’s ca­sual na­ture meant that while it was easy to get a date, it was even eas­ier to get dumped. It also meant that be­ing stood up, ig­nored or ghosted (with­draw­ing all com­mu­ni­ca­tion with­out ex­pla­na­tion) be­came the norm. I lost count of how many times men dis­ap­peared, of­ten mid- con­ver­sa­tion, af­ter weeks of talk­ing. And I ghosted men, too. One per­son I matched with dur­ing my brief foray back on the app sent me a mes­sage, and when I replied he called me a ‘ Tinder uni­corn’ – some­thing that’s so rare it’s prac­ti­cally myth­i­cal – sim­ply be­cause I had re­sponded. I felt aw­ful, be­cause I nearly hadn’t – and I ig­nored that mes­sage. I started hear­ing the same sto­ries over and over from sin­gle friends; Tinder is a ghost town full of aban­doned pro­files and, even if you man­age to get a match, you prob­a­bly won’t get a mes­sage.

Many of my friends had even more bizarre ex­pe­ri­ences when their dates did show up. A work col­league, Lind­say, had a guy leave ten min­utes into din­ner be­cause he could ‘never date a veg­e­tar­ian’. An­drea arrived to find her date had brought a friend and if she ‘wasn’t up for a three­some’ then they were off out with­out her (she wasn’t up for ➤

Tinder be­came an ex­haust­ing re­minder that I should be do­ing some­thing about my sin­gle­ness

➤ it). And a school­friend, Mandy, re­cently told me how her date had texted her as she arrived at the restau­rant to say he’d or­dered her a salad be­cause he couldn’t deal with ‘big eaters’. As Tinder re­duces peo­ple to com­modi­ties, rude­ness and dis­re­gard for com­mon de­cency only in­crease.

And it doesn’t seem to get bet­ter af­ter a few dates. My friend So­phie had seen her Tinder suitor eight or nine times, met his fam­ily and talked about spend­ing Christ­mas to­gether when one day she re­alised he’d blocked her on What­sApp and Face­book.

He didn’t have the courage to end things face to face and, be­cause app- dat­ing has drilled in the mes­sage that ev­ery­one is dis­pos­able, he clearly de­cided that ghost­ing was eas­ier. Tinder has given rise to the mi­cro-break-up – re­peated tiny dis­ap­point­ments, sev­eral hair­line frac­tures of the heart – which can lead to ex­treme dat­ing anx­i­ety.

The sit­u­a­tion sounds just as bad for men. My friend David told me the last three women he’d met through Tinder had all turned out to be mar­ried. He says he feels tricked by the process and dis­il­lu­sioned by dat­ing in gen­eral.

An­other friend, Sam, told me he’s be­come so de­sen­si­tised by apps that even when he meets some­one he gen­uinely likes, he never ends up tex­ting them af­ter the date be­cause there are too many other women to con­tact: what if there’s some­one bet­ter, just a swipe away? He’s paral­ysed by the end­less choice and, para­dox­i­cally, un­able to com­mit to any at all.

Is it any won­der we have Tinder burnout? In fact, the only peo­ple who re­main gen­uinely in­ter­ested and ex­cited by app- dat­ing seem to be my mar­ried friends or those in long-term re­la­tion­ships who want to peer into the life of sin­gle­tons.

But what are the al­ter­na­tives? Af­ter all, 80mil­lion adults world­wide used on­line or app dat­ing sites last year, and Tinder – along with its many clones – has pushed ev­ery other type of dat­ing off a cliff. Yes, you can still meet in a bar or by join­ing a club, but that sud­denly seemed like a ter­ri­fy­ing prospect.

If you’re sick of apps, there’s an app for that. We’re in­creas­ingly see­ing ser­vices crop up that of­fer to do the dat­ing work for you. There’s Crushh, which scans your texts for signs of af­fec­tion, or Jyst, that al­lows you to crowd-source ad­vice for your dat­ing prob­lems. And Fan­tas­tic Ser­vices, which has gone a step fur­ther, of­fers a ‘dat­ing de­bug­ging ser­vice’. For a fee, it will give you a one-hour con­sul­ta­tion to find out your soul­mate pref­er­ences. Then it swipes and mes­sages on your be­half, ‘weed­ing out the creeps as we go’. CEO Rune Sovn­dahl tells me, ‘Dat­ing has be­come a chore for many and Tinder burnout has turned into a huge is­sue. Some of our clients are very time poor; oth­ers are sim­ply sick of the mun­dane con­ver­sa­tions or in­ap­pro­pri­ate mes­sages. Peo­ple are will­ing to out­source dat­ing-app ad­min and want a pro­fes­sional who knows the warn­ing signs to fil­ter out the non- con­tenders.’

Of course, go­ing off­line can be a ter­ri­fy­ing prospect. But af­ter dip­ping back in – and then im­me­di­ately out again – in April, I quit dat­ing apps for good. And I think it’s help­ing. I’ve found my­self mak­ing more of an ef­fort to in­ter­act with men in real life, in­stead of im­me­di­ately dis­miss­ing them. I re­cently met some­one at a friend’s leav­ing drinks and we’ve been on a few dates. This time a year ago, I would have ig­nored him when he said hello – too re­liant on my Tinder safety net – and be­cause we met in real life, it feels dif­fer­ent and ex­cit­ing. There’s none of the throw­away men­tal­ity I learned to live with while dat­ing on my phone, and I know that if it doesn’t work out be­tween us, we’ll ac­tu­ally tell each other, in­stead of dis­ap­pear­ing.

Re­la­tion­ship and dat­ing coach Suzie Parkus says ev­ery­one else needs to do like­wise. ‘Go off­line and delete the apps,’ she says. ‘ Tinder is just a place to kill time on your com­mute. If you want more than that, it’s worth the ex­tra, real-life ef­fort. I know peo­ple lack con­fi­dence and Tinder feels like a safe place with no re­jec­tion – be­cause if they don’t swipe you back, you’ll never know – but it’s de­sen­si­tis­ing you. Meet­ing some­one in the flesh will give you a real con­nec­tion. This could po­ten­tially be your life part­ner, so try real life; show up to events, classes and bars – all those places where we used to meet peo­ple – with the best ver­sion of you.’

I think even Tinder knows its end might be nigh. Ear­lier this year it be­gan rolling out Tinder On­line – a ver­sion peo­ple could use on their lap­tops or desk­tops – in a few coun­tries around the world. It’s still a swipe for­mat, but there will hope­fully be more em­pha­sis on fill­ing out a bio and shar­ing some­thing of your­self other than a duck-face selfie. And maybe there’s some­thing about sit­ting at a desk with in­ten­tion, rather than care­lessly swip­ing on the bus, that will be more mean­ing­ful. To me, it feels pos­i­tively nos­tal­gic and, ul­ti­mately, it’s a step in the right di­rec­tion. I hope that in 20 years we will have re­verted to real-life in­ter­ac­tions and look back at this pe­riod of dat­ing his­tory as a shame­ful, em­bar­rass­ing blip. I know I al­ready do. n Lucy’s first novel Hot Mess is pub­lished by Orion, price €11.19

Meet­ing some­one in the flesh will give you a real con­nec­tion. It’s worth the ex­tra ef­fort


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