By: Savannah Schepp
As Valentine’s Day inevitably hurtles toward those of us without a significant other, our singleness becomes more apparent. But for Gen Y, coping doesn’t have to involve getting balls deep in a pint of Ben and Jerry’s or crying amidst the bubbles of Lush bath bombs. Thanks to the digital age, we’ve found ways to feel wanted with a simple right swipe. Online dating is no longer exclusively for hermits and freaks, but now welcomes a cornucopia of frat boys and srat girls, bartenders, gym-bros, bored undergrads and an excessive amount of shirtless guys posing next to the fish they caught last summer. However, I need not describe the ominous, the inviting, the bold, orange flaming application icon in the lower right hand corner of your home screen. There are two types of millennials: those who admit to using Tinder, and liars.
Hook up culture, like everything else in 2015, has gone digital and is based on instant gratification and visual stimulus, honing in on our short attention spans by granting users only a couple hundred characters for their brief self-descriptions (think of it like Twitter but on Viagra). It allows us to do the same thing we do in most social situations sans guilt – judge people on their appearance. Download the app and you will find your roommates, your coworkers and the shy kid who sits next to you in class. Much to your chagrin, your friend will send you a text asking, “What are you doing on Tinder?!” or the even more cringe-worthy, “Why didn’t you swipe right?”
I, and undoubtedly my peers, gain some sick sense of satisfaction as I waste time flirting with people I’ve met throughout cyberspace. Maybe it’s because I can hide my flaws behind the massive, glowing screen of my outdated Android, or maybe I just enjoy the ego boost of reading “It’s a match!” Not to mention “playing Tinder” makes for good writing. I’ve given three cheers to February while reminiscing over the weirdest characters that the convenient dial labeled “Search Distance” has given me the privilege of meeting.
To the vegetarian pre-med student with the glasses: You introduced me to your friends from your improv-theatre group and we went out for calzones at two in the morning. We also made out in a closet. That is, because you quite literally lived in one, decked out with string-lights and amateur art that would make any Tumblr blogger proud. Your multiple roommates in your one-bedroom apartment almost made cramped living seem hipster-chic.
To the bench press aficionado: I recognized you from the gym and vice versa. I’m only thankful I swiped right because the next day you saved me from dropping a barbell on myself while maxing out. This act was followed by unsolicited texts concerning my ability to “lift heavy things” accompanied by the winky emoji.
To the art professor: We met for coffee and a few days later you showed me your studio. I’m nearly positive this was a breach of the university’s conduct. I asked you about the book of kink on your shelf (next to the works of Carl Jung and guides to Mindfulness), but didn’t ask about your fetishes for fear that I’d be strangled then sliced and diced next to the stacks of portraits you made on commission. I figured that was a valid concern to have about a person I met online. I recently ran into you at the art supply store, and then a week later on campus, both times reminding me that this is all too small of a world.
To the red-headed Canadian triathlete: I was intrigued that you had completed a few Ironmans. We met up at a vegan joint and you ordered “raw lasagna.” But you spent an hour complaining about American bipartisan politics, Obamacare and the perils of having to work out in a public gym (damn those water-aerobics classes). I wanted to ask why you were in our country if you loathed it so much.
To the bearded Ph.D. Student: I told you I wouldn’t put you in this article but I lied. You are ridiculously handsome in a lumbersexual way, but unfortunately I got more action from your horny pitbull than you. I spent the entirety of an episode of Archer trying to get the dog’s nose out of my crotch whilst we talked about how weird it is to meet people in real life for the first time after you feel you’ve already gotten to know them.
And that was when it all coalesced for me. The thing that Tinder, OkCupid, Grindr, and countless other hook-up apps facilitate is an ability to portray yourself as whomever you’d like. I’m not talking about creepy, Catfish disguises; but the ability to pick and choose the more flattering pictures you share, to backspace and delete texts before you send them, versus meeting someone in the flesh and fumbling over your words and not being able to hide your blemishes. While most of us aren’t seeking a serious relationship so much as someone to take home from the bars on a Saturday night, there’s something enticing but also disingenuous about using the digital world to make first impressions. It’s not that users can’t get a date/laid in real life – it’s just tremendously less intimidating to do all of one’s personal matchmaking with the flick of a thumb and a few solicitous messages. Meeting people is more casual, and you can feel free to flake on the extended coffee date without having to experience any hard feelings. It doesn’t feel like a flamboyant exercise of self-advertisement nor proclamation of loneliness when all you’ve got is a handful of Facebook pictures and a word or two about yourself (Business student, love my dog, Go Cowboys or Tri-Delt, looking for something casual, 4/20 friendly). It’s much less embarrassing when your peers come across a few mirror selfies and a movie quote rather than having them discover a fleshed-out profile depicting your religious views and an extensive list of your hobbies and life goals.
This Valentine’s Day, if you’re not spending your night exercising tips learned from Cosmo’s 21 BEST WAYS TO PLEASE YOUR MAN or going out on a romantic dinner date, why not shamelessly send a few raunchy texts to strangers or swipe until you come across the babe you saw downtown? You won’t be the only one. This is simply the nature of modern romance for millennials.