Disclaimer: It's been more than three weeks in total, I'm not really looking for a date, I wouldn't know what to do with a date if I did get one and I seem to have misplaced my pants.
Anyway, a couple of months ago two news stories caught my attention, both involving internet dating app Tinder. The first was an alleged gang rape of a woman in Sydney after meeting someone from the app, a claim which was withdrawn days later. The second was the death of a woman allegedly pushed from the balcony of an apartment owned by her match. He's now facing murder charges, but is out on bail somehow.
But it can't all be fake rape stories and real death, can it? I decided to be a tiny bit brave and find out.
Signing up is surprisingly simple. Download the app to your phone, use your Facebook credentials to sign in and you're perusing the ladies or gentlemen in seconds. The app simply pulls in your Facebook "About" information and some of your profile pictures to get you started.
Does your Facebook read or look like a dating profile? Mine sure didn't! But it's not terribly difficult to go edit your details and pick which photos you really want to use. Changes made in the app aren't reflected on your Facebook page, so you can keep your "social" and your "dating" profiles separate, if you wish.
It also notes your Likes and Friends, so you can see if you have any interests or friends in common. This may or may not be awkward, depending on your interests and network of Facebook friends. The only friend I've ever had in common with prospective matches is my "boss" over at Player Attack. But she knows just about everyone in the world, so that was sort of inevitable.
Sorting out some matches to start chatting to is as simple as swiping pictures to the left or right. Swipe to the left if you're not interested, swipe to the right if you are. You can also hit the X or <3 buttons. Or if you have as much time to waste as me you can open someone's profile, read their About bits, look at more pictures and then make up your mind.
Now, I am not a particularly attractive man. Further, I am not particularly photogenic. So I was not expecting a whole lot of interest in my profile. In order to chat to anyone you both need to have picked each other out of the teeming masses, which is not great odds.
You can narrow the field somewhat by only looking for people within a certain distance, but that can be a little creepy when you see people out of their usual context. I don't need to know what the supermarket checkout chick likes in the bedroom, for instance.
Assuming all goes to plan and you match with someone, what now? Well, you send messages to each other through the app. Maybe about things in their profile, maybe the weather, maybe you forgo all that in favour of a drink down the pub right away. It's really up to you.
And that's where such things can be a bit dangerous. It's not just internet dating, of course. Any sort of setup where you're meeting someone you don't otherwise know can be risky and it's particularly easy to misrepresent yourself online. All the usual advice on dating or going out in general still applies; don't accept drinks from strangers, don't leave your drink unattended, don't agree to leave public spaces unless you are comfortable with the person, ensure a friend knows your plans for the night, etc.
There's a surprising amount of wisecracks over the balcony death on Tinder, a lot of people asking that you not push them off and the like. It's a little offputting, if I'm honest.
Perhaps the biggest problem with Tinder (after being murderbait) is the flood of fake accounts. More attractive male specimens might have better success rates but around 90-95% of my "matches" are with, essentially, prostitutes. Probably not even with their actual pictures. Maybe not even prostitutes and the whole thing is just fishing for credit card details. For obvious reasons, I have not tested this.
Overall my "three weeks" on Tinder has been... interesting. I am dumbfounded by the number of seemingly-real women on the service, especially in my area. I would not have thought there'd be half so many. I'm also quite surprised at how easy it would be to get a date via Tinder, as I would have thought the sheer number of options and my mediocre looks would have put me out of the race entirely.
As a dating app, it seems surprisingly good. Don't take dumb risks with strangers and you should be just fine. As a "it's 2am and I can't sleep" activity, it's pretty great as well. If you run out of people in your area just bump the rangefinder out another 5km and scroll some more. Endlessly entertaining.