Lizzie Marvelly: Love me Tinder, love me true

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As a millennial who likes to think she's generally up with the play, I've seriously dropped the ball with Tinder. While the rest of my cohort are swiping right or left with gay, straight, bisexual, queer or post-labels abandon, I've spent the past four years pretending that the dating app doesn't exist, hoping that it would eventually go away so I wouldn't have to download it.

The question of whether to Tinder, or not to Tinder (as Hamlet would put it, were he contemplating online dating instead of death) is a dilemma one would more generally attribute to other generations. Millennials are supposedly so socially inept that the idea of falling in love through the grand romantic gesture of swiping right should be right up our alley. Who needs to go out and meet people? There's an app for that!

But the thought of it gives me the heebie-jeebies. I am consistently baffled (and viscerally repelled) by the unsolicited dick pics (if you haven't heard the term, it is regrettably self-explanatory) I receive on Instagram - God knows what would happen if I were on an app designed purely for the purpose of dating.

What has bothered me the most during my four-year holdout against the digital matchmaking juggernaut is the idea that the first thrill of attraction could be reduced to an analytical glance at a picture on a small smartphone screen. From an outsider's perspective, it seemed alarmingly clinical. In a world saturated with advertising and "snackable" media, however, perhaps it is the logical outcome. We're so used to pop-ups, sound bites, click bait and the like, that maybe it makes sense to vet our romantic partners based on their online branding.

Because, as Instagram celebrities have proven, our online profiles are essentially brands, and I'm still not convinced that falling in love, or even in lust, with a brand is a particularly healthy endeavour. Who is the person behind the perfectly angled, flatteringly lit selfie? Are they funny and kind? Or are they a Donald Trump supporter? Are they the kind of person you could have a thrilling dinner date with, or do they vote Act?

When we present the curated social media versions of ourselves as an invitation in the love market, should we all carry a "buyer beware" disclaimer?

What has bothered me the most during my four-year holdout against the digital matchmaking juggernaut is the idea that the first thrill of attraction could be reduced to an analytical glance at a picture on a small smartphone screen.

Think I'm over-reacting? One of my (rather beautiful) friends has spent the past few months discovering profile after profile of her clones. According to Tinder she has multiple names, numerous ages and lives in many different cities. She has become someone else's false advertising, and a victim of identity theft. The person behind the image is most certainly not the vivacious, whip-smart woman I know.

As a result of all this, I'm mildly terrified by the app. It's a largely baseless fear, as many thoroughly modern "swipe rights" have led to thoroughly traditional marriages - which, if I'm honest, may partially explain my trepidation - but throughout its meteoric rise from the weird fringe to the mundane mainstream, I have remained firmly in the "not to Tinder" camp.

Until Wednesday, when I finally decided to download it. For research, of course.

And so it sits on my screen, with its funny little flame allegedly lighting the pathway to true love - or, more likely, casual sex. Whichever comes first. I've yet to swipe right, which I'm told defeats the purpose, but I am admittedly fascinated by the whole process. It almost feels like flipping through a shopping catalogue in search of that one item you never knew you needed.

There is something surprisingly earnest about it. Although I was prepared for the men who seem to think that looking as aggressive as possible is the best way to attract a mate, and for the many who clearly believe a freshly caught fish to be an aphrodisiac, I wasn't prepared for the more candid insights that flashed on to my screen. The man with a very fluffy cat perched on his shoulder, the woman laughing with her friends in a restaurant, the numerous joyous holiday snaps. I hadn't expected to look through a tiny window into people's lives. In some ways, it was refreshing.

In others - especially when the image in question was a bathroom selfie - it was uncomfortable. It felt like standing at the intersection of exhibitionism and voyeurism and wondering just what it takes in 2016 to be loved. Because when I boiled it down, whether we're on Tinder for love or sex, or both, the underlying motivation is the same. We're there in an honest attempt to connect with other human beings, be it for a night or a lifetime. Tinder merely provides a new-age environment in which to commence that ancient dance.

But for a conflicted old-fashioned millennial romantic, I'm not convinced that it's the right fit. When the stakes are so low, the interaction seems somewhat dulled. Mind you, there are those, like me, who still believe in giddy, hare-brained, quixotic dreams, and those who are pragmatic enough to swipe right on Tinder. I have little doubt which camp is the luckiest in love.

- NZ Herald

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