Nobody ever really talks about Tinder or Grindr, but quite a lot of people have them on their phones.
For married straight couples Tinder, the lonely hearts app, is often an irresistible mix of schadenfreude and boredom therapy, something that you swipe right on addictively to remind yourself how lucky you are in your own love life (if you are lucky; I don’t presume).
I mean, just look at all those endless digital rows of grinning sad sacks, I mean to say, and most of them look like frat boys or aging Lotharios. Oh hell to the no you say. Next.
Still, for lonely hearts of both sexes Tinder is an invitation to a dream world of potential romance, but far more often it’s an invitation to the date from hell.
The guy who looked good in his pictures must have Photoshopped his waistline. The woman who looked like a Sports Illustrated cover star neglected to mention her photo was from 1982.
At dinner all they do is talk about their previous failed relationships and then they tip low. Next.
Think of all the loneliness there is in the world. Think of all the longing. It's actually amazing given all the wholly unmet needs that surround that daily life is possible at all.
But you have to take risks in this life, and betting on your heart is the biggest one of all. For gay lads Grindr, the gay GPS app, is like a big digital Walmart. Local guys advertise their sometimes overtly provocative wares exactly as though they were wrapped in plastic on a shelf in the local mall.
Tony, Grindr tells you, is only 30 feet away and is looking. Looking as in looking for a hookup. Not looking as in looking for a husband or the meaning of life.
For married gay couples Grindr is often an irresistible mix of schadenfreude and boredom therapy too. It’s something to consult when on a visit to Co. Mayo or the Middle East, say.
Are there any gay people within 100 miles of this spot, you wonder? Boom, even in Westport, your screen is instantly full of rural men looking for a roll in the hay in a place where that’s actually possible.
That’s a wonderful development if you live in a place without gay bars and gay neighborhoods. It can be an absolute lifeline in a place that for one reason or another writes you out of the picture.
The only problem is that most of the pictures your new contacts are sending you are of their torsos or even further down. The Internet was supposed to bring the whole world closer to us, and in many ways it has surpassed that aim, but some psychologists claim that apps like Tinder and Grindr could be making modern life -- and people -- increasingly impersonal, cold and disconnected.
Go to any gay club in 2015 and you’ll see people checking their cell phones more often than they check out each other. That’s probably because those glowing screens offer some kind of safety net, a respite from the unruly randomness of everyday life; they seem to offer a protective shield and some sort of control.
And what if you could unfriend or block people in your daily life with the one click ease available on Facebook or Twitter? Is that where we’re headed?
You said the wrong thing tonight: unfriend. Our first date will be our last: block. What consequences will this kind of online behavior have on our real life interactions?
Because your phone has GPS but your heart really doesn’t. It can take years to decide which way to turn. It requires patience and quiet and reflection, all qualities that apps like Tinder and Grindr end up eroding.
Technology in itself might not be a bad way to meet people. It’s really how we use it and how it affects our interactions that might be getting bad.
The prospect of instant gratification or immediate rejection can trick you into believing that’s how the world works. It’s not, though. The real world requires a lot of warming up.
So the blunt superficiality is the most worrying aspect of how we meet now. Should you reduce who you are and all you’ve lived through down to one tiny window in an app, one of a hundred, advertising yourself like a living Ken doll?
You might get what you want but you’re less likely to get what you need. It’s an important distinction, and it could be getting lost in the digital marketplace along with your social skills and your heart.