Maintaining a social life sucks. Okay, no it doesn’t. People are great, generally. But, outside of class or work, how often do we interact with anyone? Not that there’s anything wrong with going out and cracking a cold one with the boys (or girls) from the office, but what are y’all going to do other than complain about work? Exactly.
There has to be more to life than this. But how does one escape these social circles for something more stimulating? You can try making friends with the students in class you’ve written as “Andrea from Political Theory,” “Miguel from Statistics” or “Steve(?) from American Lit,” in your phone contacts, but do you really want to? I didn’t either. I caved and downloaded Tinder.
Tinder, what the fuck? Yes, I know. I avoided downloading the app for as long as I could. My male roommates, using the app since they were in high school, brought their “dates” home often enough for me to ask how they met so many people outside of work and class. They swear by Tinder, but not for any reason I was interested in. So, I started asking my female friends about their experiences with Tinder, and it didn’t match with my roommates’.
They were earnestly looking for friends on the app, but were bombarded with people looking for quick fucks. Otherwise, some of these women became friends, even had relationships, with the people they met on Tinder. Some of those women admitted to using the app for hookups, and there’s no problem with that either. In short, there’s a spectrum of interactions on Tinder. I started using the app regularly to find where I’d fall, and here’s what I’ve learned.
Nobody knows what they’re doing on Tinder, according to their profile bios. Nobody wants to hook up, apparently, either. So, what do these people want? They’ll tell you if you’re honest with your intentions. Like good writing, being clear and direct, and not using any bullshit subtleties, goes a long way. Often, I was the first to message someone after matching with them. Sometimes, people don’t respond, and that’s okay. Don’t push it.
If your match responds, comment on something from their bios or pictures that would make for good conversation, like what they study or where they’ve traveled. Have a real conversation. Ask a lot of questions. If the conversation is going stale, and no change of subject provides a remedy, that’s okay. I’m of the mind no one takes the app seriously, no matter what they’re using it for. So, if the conversation is good, the friendship’s probably meant to be.
Arrange to meet after you both can keep a conversation without asking “what are you doing?” every five minutes. Of course, not everyone you match with will want to meet immediately, even if you have a lot in common. People are (rightly) wary about meeting someone they’ve interacted with only online. But, why would people use Tinder if they were hesitant to meet people they’ve matched with? Because, even in text messages, somebody’s intention can be picked up on. If the extent of someone’s suggestion for meeting is you coming over to their apartment after midnight, it’s obvious what they want.
A more genuine approach might be to invite someone to a unique restaurant. When was the last time someone invited you to a Korean/Tex-Mex fusion restaurant to try chicken wings made with crab fat and caramel? Food is communal, and everyone likes to go out to eat, so don’t complicate meeting a person with planning something elaborate or, God forbid, an “adventure.” People bond out of fear and excitement, and the conversations will come out from you two being mutually uncomfortable, but the good uncomfortable; the kind of uncomfortable that forces you to focus on the familiar, i.e. the person sitting across from you, when a bowl of pho with blood cake and tendon has just been placed on your table. Oh, and don’t take your phone out.
The first time, and every subsequent time, you’re with this person, talk passionately about what you love and hate. Don’t say anything when they speak. Be comfortable in revealing your personality, if they haven’t already shown you theirs, by telling them what you do and why. If you have a shit job, or don’t do anything at all, talk about how you want to live. Boring people aren’t boring, just unwilling to be vulnerable. Be vulnerable. Act like you’ve known them for a long time, but not too long. That’s where lines are crossed. We’ve known some of our friends for so long that insults become terms of endearment. Everyone’s different, and you’ll discover each other’s boundaries as the friendship develops.
I haven’t met many of the people I’ve matched with on Tinder, but those who I’ve met, I can gladly say they’re important people in my life. I have a match-turned-friend I meet at IHOP every other week to talk about politics and social justice movements. Another, an environmental science major I see every time I return to my hometown, where we walk the beach, discuss climate change and count the oil tankers miles away from shore. And the daughter of a wealthy rancher who, after learning of my brief stint working on a ranch, invites me to her property regularly to help restock deer feeders, check the bilge pumps in their man-made lakes and stargaze while we talk about our favorite game-meat recipes. These friendships are disconnected from my routine life, yet their influence permeates into everything I do by keeping my life interesting.
This may all sound like steps to take to ensure a successful first “date.” But there is no method to making friends. Most friendships happen by chance. But, theoretically, every first interaction with someone is like a date. And because Tinder is a “dating app,” and you might have never met the people you’ve matched with in any other circumstance, all the tensions of a first date are there, even if you’re only wanting to make friends with them. If something more comes from these friendships, so be it. But don’t make romance the crux of the interactions with your matches.