About a year ago in the US, the gamified dating app Tinder—or hookup app, depending on your perspective, and probably gender—was starting to hit fever pitch in the US.
That gives it just about enough time to have made it down here to Buenos Aires, become established, and merit a Bubble guide. Welcome to the first installment, written by someone who unintentionally became one of the earliest Tinder users in the country.
For the uninitiated, Tinder is an app wherein you create a bite-sized profile pulled from your Facebook profile—nothing is published on your feed, hallelujah—that includes a maximum of six pictures, a tagline and your age. You adjust your settings to your sexual preference and to pull up other users within a certain radius and age range. And voilà, other active users falling within those parameters appear. You see their pictures, tagline, age and how many Facebook friends you have in common, as well as any shared interests.
Based on that, you have to “like” their profile or nix it. It’s a definitive “yes” or “no.” There’s no ambivalence, no going back and you can’t move on until you aye or nay. If that person also “likes” you, it’s a “match.” All your matches are collected in a bucket on the app and then, you can chat with them. Game. Set. Match.
In the US, a country of fast-paced technological adoption where people fully embrace the use of technology to nudge along romantic lives, Tinder exploded quickly. When I hopped around the US last July, everyone was ignoring each other out at bars to swipe left or right. Much easier than making eye contact and striking up conversation, amirite?
The friends I visited in Chicago and New York all were on Tinder. They varied from sworn users, including one who assigned herself The Tinder Challenge and went on 10 Tinder dates in one week, to closet Tinderers who denounced the app in public but couldn’t stop swiping because it really is that addictive.
When I returned to Buenos Aires in August of last year with the app loaded in my phone, I earned the unique distinction of being one of maybe 20 people in a 22-mile radius on the app, a “pioneer,” as a friend’s Tinder match months later would later call me, this side of the equator. “The odds are good, but the goods are odd,” as a high school classmate was told of the dating scene when she visited MIT. In this case the goods weren’t necessarily odd, but few. Still, I stayed on for some time because of a curiosity I couldn’t quash (let’s call it the journalistic instinct) to see how the app would develop here. And through the Tinder lens—or screen—I like to tell myself I also learned a bit more about this place and its people along the way.
Here, I attempt to impart some of that insight.
Before You Download
You will see people you know.
My friends in the US can flick through for hours and not come across anyone they know or even share Facebook friends with. Here, the pool is smaller. The user base has gotten substantially bigger as more people jump from trusty but failing BlackBerry to Samsungs and iPhones. Largely speaking, though, Tinder users are a self-selecting group given that you need a smartphone to participate. There’s also the fact that, as I once heard someone describe it, Buenos Aires is really just a big small town. You will come across exes and you will come across friends.
Also, local celebrities: they’re just like us! You’ll likely cross some of them on Tinder, whether you don’t recognize them or not (Hi, Delpo!).
You probably do not want to go on Tinder if you are in a relationship.
This should go without saying, but of course, human nature dictates that many ‘spoken for’ men and women are on the app. After crossing friends’ boyfriends, as well as someone who had a photo from his wedding day cheek-to-cheek with his bride in a veil, I feel the need to spell this one out.
Don’t post pictures that give the impression that you’re in a relationship, or clearly not over your ex. If you are embracing the same chick in five out of six of your profiles pictures, don’t expect too many matches. Any matches you get, you probably don’t want, either, because no sane person wants to get in the middle of that. And I won’t believe you when you say it’s your sister.
Tinder is strange. It also is entertaining. Tinder is an app so simple it’s genius, and it’s also a chameleon of an app. People are on for all sorts of reasons and it means all sorts of things to them. Some are there to Tinder window shop and solely flick through for fun and for the thrill of getting a match. For others, it’s an entertaining way to meet new people, which can be a godsend for those who have recently moved here. And others make no attempt to hide that they are looking for a hookup by—gross—including only boxer crotch shot photos and writing things like “Nos encontramos en un bar y nos conocemos $$$.” (After crossing that profile in particular my friend deleted the app. Some people just have to ruin it for everyone, you know?) Some, bless their hearts, really are looking for true love. And Tinder can be that for everyone.
Setting Up Your Profile
I once went out with a guy here who told me he subtracts 30% attractiveness when looking at girls’ profiles here. (He also used game theory against me in a series of rock, paper, scissors, betting drinks, and though he won, somehow ended up drunk.) While I think that’s a bit harsh, if you do want to actually meet up with people you match with on Tinder, maybe you shouldn’t only include photos from your mock look-book. Unless you really do look that way every day, in which case I applaud you.
Make sure you’re actually visible. You really don’t know what someone looks like if you’ve only seen him with sunglasses on. Also, as much as you love the group of 20 guy friends you’ve been bound to since birth, it’s impossible to guess which one you are in all those group pictures. And the people who are take the gamble on “liking” you even though they have no clue what you look like probably aren’t the people you’re looking to attract.
You have six photos from which people will judge you. That is the basis of Tinder, after all: judging. Keep that in mind if you’re posting only boliche photos. Post photos that show your personality, or photos of you doing things you enjoy. Those photos, along with age and shared Facebook interest and friends, is all we have to go off to decide if we might be into someone. Use the real estate wisely. Put up one of you playing the jazz saxophone if that’s what you’re into, or fly fishing, surfing or skiing. That’s cool. Chicks dig that. More importantly, that’s you being you. Be you! Only you can be you!
Side note: It is highly recommended to pass on posting the dolphin-kissing photos. You would be shocked at how many other dudes have one, and that’s more fit for mom’s scrapbook than Tinder. Mind you, this is from someone who considers the dolphin her spirit animal. Avoid the Myspace bathroom selfie at all costs. Also, go easy on all the wedding cotillón photos because clown noses don’t really do much for anyone except perhaps appeal to someone with a fetish. And while it’s good to know you travel, at-a-distance photos of you in front of Big Ben, the Eiffel Tower and other European landmarks don’t do much for creativity points or actually showing what you look like.
Lastly, I know Spanish is inherently a poetic language, but less really is more when it comes to writing the tagline. It definitely doesn’t even hurt to keep it blank, and can be more beneficial than having it filled. Actually, do what you feel. Because if you’re someone moved to psycho-analyzes himself in his Tinder “about me,” section, it’s better to know that right from the start.
There really are no filters.
What has made Tinder so popular is how simple it is to use, from making a profile to playing with it. You might be saved from filling out personality or ideal partner questionnaires as dating sites require, but the tradeoff is that you really come across it all. There are a fair amount of users who are forthcoming with their unbridled desires to hook up, for example. (Block!) And even you do find someone you like, chemistry is not guaranteed, nor shared interested in hobbies beyond both being Facebook fans of Un Techo Para Mi País or Adele. Other things that are difficult to deduce from a Tinder profile: height. Things that are impossible to be subtle about asking someone about: height.
Hay de todo.
My friends in relationships, hearing the rest of us talk now and then about our swiping exploits, would often lament that Tinder wasn’t around when they were single, saying how fun it sounded. The Tinder-active among us took to handing them our phones to “ghost Tinder” as I liked to call it. One friend, who dove in with all her gusto, pushed my phone back to me after 20 minutes with a bewildered expression. “Tinder is a lot of work,” she said. It’s not, as some non-users might idealize it, a utopia where everyone looks like your ideal mate. You get to sift through it all.
When You Have a Match
Guys usually initiate the conversations with girls.
As in the real world (see: Field Guide to Dating in Buenos Aires: The Hunt), as on Tinder in this case. As social roles go here, guys generally are the ones to approach girls, and few females I know on Tinder strike up conversations with guys. Some dudes, it seems, are really just looking for a digital pen pal and someone to chat with and like to ask things daily like what you’re eating for dinner. Like I said, Tinder is something different everyone, and everyone goes on with different, shall we say, ‘objectives.’ The majority of conversations started via Tinder flicker and die out, so if you really want to keep a conversation going, try your best to cut through the dullness of four-line “¿Cómo va?” conversations. Pull what material you have from their profile and ask them about that Eurotrip or whatever. If you’re looking to sustain a conversation with a girl, however, you might not want to tell her your profession is a “connoisseur de conchas.” (True story.)
The next step is usually Facebook or WhatsApp.
The chat function in Tinder is really just a launching pad to connecting via some other form of social media. And Facebook really is just a way to gain access to a more robust Tinder profile. As someone has a personal policy of only adding people I know I really like, I was more forthcoming with sending my number for WhatsApp than full name for Facebook, but some Argentine amigas have balked at that preference of mine. They push for the Facebook friendship, because that’s where the real screening happens.
If you’re interested in perhaps meeting this match in person, remember that there’s an X factor you really can’t pick up on from a Tinder profile, and that’s chemistry. There are plenty of people you can objectively say are attractive, but are not actually attracted to, per se. To avoid a miserable date for both parties, try to objectively evaluate if you actually think you would enjoy a couple hours with the person. One Argentine amiga who has been on numerous dates with guys said she found she had the best time with were ones she had the most onda with when chatting. It might seem obvious, but it can be easy to forget when you’re furiously swiping.
Perhaps it’s because my birthday last month put me closer to 30 than 20 years old, but I find this reminder important. If you want to meet up with a match, vet them more beforehand. If you have a friend in common with that match, go to that friend and ask for the 4-1-1. The safest and easiest to arrange (and exit) plan is to make plans with friends and then inform someone you’ll be at said bar or boliche that night. If a one-on-one date is going down, make sure others know where you are, and even though the caballero way has the guy pick you up, meet there instead.
And don’t forget: The block function is handy and effective. No need to put up with creepy or relentless messages.
“We’re going down/ I’m yelling ‘Tinder'”
While Tinder has its merits, the real world should still win out. As a friend said before a previa, “Tonight, we play Tinder live.”
Now, go forth into the digital wilds! The Tinder world awaits.
(Photo courtesy of: HuffPost)