A paper submitted to the International Journal for the Advancement of Human Relations.
Joshua Felton, PhD Candidate
A nice young man, the researcher, explores the process of seeking out a mate through Tinder. Although not generally regarded as a sound source for finding a life partner, the researcher, out of desperation, undertook qualitative research seeking to address the following hypotheses:
Hypothesis 1: The Tinder platform is able to generate deep and lasting relationships.
Hypothesis 2: The cliché ‘nice guys always finish last’ is not necessarily true.
Key words: Tinder, drama, love, hate, nice
The researcher is a presentable young man in his mid-30s. He is white, Caucasian, and his shirt is always ironed. Family and friends describe him as ‘hard working’, and ‘honest’, using phrases such as ‘easy to get along with’ and ‘would do anything for you’. He works out (by which is meant that he occasionally jogs, and sometimes goes for a bike ride). He is polite and kind, and could be described as old fashioned. He is dismayed by his single status and finds it sometimes rather demoralising. The researcher has had two long-term girlfriends but has never found ‘THE ONE’. He has been described by these ex-girlfriends as really nice. In his experience, the researcher has accepted that nice could also be a veiled allusion to bland and flavourless, easily taken advantage of, and, on occasion, pathetic. Although he is reasonably adept at basic and intermediate relationship functions, he acknowledges a tendency towards being too nice – the bane of any heterosexual man looking for a mate. He suspects that he may be too accommodating, too eager to please, and altogether not decisive enough.
The researcher established a Tinder profile with the help of both male and female friends. Before doing so, however, he sought to examine existing specimens to look for common threads and acceptable parameters. Specimens must provide at least one photograph and are encouraged to summarise their lives, hopes, desires, wants, dislikes, attributes, personality in 250 words or less. Table 1 reflects the most common images associated with profiles.
Table 1. Most popular photos or graphics by gender
|Male||· Specimen crouched beside heavily medicated tiger whilst on holidays in Asia.
· Specimen holding beer/hard liquor with one hand and making an obscene gesture with the other.
· Specimen shirtless, headless – clearly very fit and healthy.
· Specimen absent from the picture – a photograph of a motorcycle or motor vehicle is displayed in lieu of actual person.
|Female||· Specimen sprawled over furniture, scantily dressed.
· Specimen at a special event, dressed in evening wear.
· Specimen in a big group of girls of varying degrees of attractiveness, making it very difficult for the viewer to ascertain to whose Tinder profile it belongs.
· Specimen is shirtless/headless – often displaying breasts (rarely, however, displaying nipples).
A textual analysis was also undertaken of existing male profiles (n=30). The following list presents the most common terms used to describe self:
- Easy going
- Regular guy
- Has good sense of humour (SOH)
- Likes travelling
- Open minded
- Not looking for anything serious
- Just looking for sex
A surprising number of profiles included no text at all. These profiles tended to include a multitude of colourful and interesting graphics instead. After much deliberation, editing and group consultation, the researcher uploaded the following profile:
Hi there! Looking to meet new people. I have a good SOH, like to keep fit, enjoy hiking/walking, love travelling. I like going out but just as happy to stay in and chill out with a glass of red. I’m a big fan of Game of Thrones, enjoy old school music, and hanging out at the pub on Sunday afternoons J
2.1 Data collection
The researcher found the process of swiping, matching and corresponding excruciating for a number of reasons, as follows.
Initially the researcher was highly selective, diligently reading all text and viewing all photos before tentatively swiping right (i.e., indicating positive interest in a female specimen). He was conscious of rejecting potential specimens on the condition that they were well out of his league; however, he quickly amended his swiping activity to include all slightly below average, average, above average and outstanding specimens. Then he waited.
The researcher confesses that he was delighted and surprised each and every single time he received a match with another specimen. The thrill of anticipation did not diminish throughout the experiment, and in fact bordered on obsessive.
This was, somewhat surprisingly, one of the most difficult phases of the process. Although not necessarily known for his verbosity or conversational flair, the researcher was nonetheless surprised to find that his simple opening gambit of ‘Hi’ rarely produced very good results. In fact, many times, shortly afterward, his match was deleted. He was advised by colleagues to make a connection through common interests. Sometimes his match was still deleted. At other times, when there was no text, he tried a comment such as, ‘Great lingerie’. Although the researcher was often surprised by and slightly uncomfortable with the sudden turn in conversation towards the pornographic, he felt obliged to continue to make ‘conversation’ until his match was deleted.
Despite the conversational set-backs and numerous random match deletions, over time – a long time – the researcher managed to generate 21 dates from a potential 145 matches. Below are only two examples, but they demonstrate a general sample of most of the dates.
Match #1: Girl with Shiny Purple Dress (GSPD)
The researcher made a common error with Miss GSPD: he invited her for dinner for their first date. This was an error because it was a time consuming and expensive. It became clear to the researcher within the first ten minutes that their online chat did not translate to the real world and they would shortly run out of things to say to each other. (This would occur surprisingly often with other dates.) Nevertheless, they had at least two, possibly three long courses ahead of them. Long, long periods of time in which it was customary to partake in conversation. Whilst initially Miss GSPD smiled coquettishly and exclaimed loudly whenever they found some slither of commonality, she too fell silent by the second glass of wine. The researcher was not surprised when she skipped dessert and went off to meet friends instead. Before she left she said, ‘Look, you’re a really nice guy but….’ (Match #1, pers. comm., 2016). Women rarely felt that this sentence needed to be finished.
Miss GSPD shortly afterward deleted the match.
Match #17: Short Girl with Bob (SGB).
The researcher met Miss SGB for drinks at an upmarket cocktail bar. Naturally, he paid for expensive wine and marinated olives. She was charming and funny and he had high hopes for the evening. She was also verbose but, after she had outlined her childhood, her greatest fears, her best and worst sexual experiences, and after she had analysed her parents, and asked him whether he was pro-life or pro-abortion (to which the researcher could only stutter something unintelligible, being taken aback by such a question on a first date), he realised, once again, that they had little in common. They finished their second round of drinks (which he had also paid for), and before he could politely but definitively end the evening, she had stood up and said, ‘Look, you’re nice and all, but ….’ (Match #17, pers. comm, 2016). Again, no need to finish. It was, apparently, evident what ‘but’ indicated. Apparent to all but the researcher who would put some energy into addressing ‘but’ if he knew what it referred to.
Miss SGB shortly afterward deleted the match.
At this stage, the researcher noted a slight tinge of cynicism begin to taint his thoughts. A certain ungenerous streak that tended towards the mean. He quashed those qualities as quite unlike him and carried on with the experiment. Because he was nice. He was a nice guy.
Match #3, 4, 6, 9 through to 14, 17 and 20.
On numerous occasions the researcher thought he might be smitten by, intrigued with, interested in, or downright in love with the female specimen. Match #4 and #9 were attractive and intelligent. Match 14 was delightful, funny and beautiful. After three dates each with #17 and #20 he thought he might be getting closer to his goal of finding a companion. However, he had somehow failed to convince either of the matches that being his girlfriend might be a good idea for them. He bought dinners, drinks, and movie tickets, he attended plays, went bowling and even kayaking. These expenditures and activities were appreciated, and gratefully (and sometimes ungratefully) accepted, but at the end of each date there was a timidity, a hesitation, a reluctance, a ‘but’. He kissed many girls. The researcher confesses to other activities more complicated and involved than kissing. However, inevitably, almost without exception, he heard, ‘You’re a really lovely guy, you’re so nice, BUT….’ And their profiles would disappear, they stopped returning phone calls and messages, and one specimen blocked him from all social media.
In the interest of research integrity, generalisability and repeatability, the researcher will now discuss Match #21, even though it reflects badly on his personality, good nature and even perhaps his sanity. Although results should be regarded with caution, the researcher believes that it may be possible that he had in fact fallen in love with Match #21 and that she may have indeed been THE ONE.
Match #21 was vivacious, confident, intelligent and very funny. She also laughed at the researcher’s jokes which bode well for the future. The researcher would describe Match #21 as perfect in every way. She was tremendously beautiful, stylish, and poised. The way she carried herself, smiled directly at him, and coyly tucked a lock of hair behind her ear made the researcher, he is somewhat embarrassed to confess, tremble from head to toe. It appeared that Match #21 was as delighted and smitten with the researcher as he was with her. He dared to hope.
They went on many dates together. The researcher was pleasantly surprised by her offer to occasionally pay for something. They ate dinner in riverside restaurants, they had cocktails in rooftop bars, and they listened to music and talked until dawn. They made love. With some passion, he thought. There were many sleepovers. They met each other’s friends, they got drunk on champagne and giggled confessions to one another. The researcher felt an unfamiliar feeling of pleasure in the centre of his chest and all the loneliness that had accrued over the years, lumps of coal in his stomach, crumbled away and left him feeling light and happy.
The researcher admired greatly the fact that Match #21 was a passionate and dedicated book collector. This seemed, to the researcher, a noble and intelligent trait. Over many years she had built up an impressive library which included a number of rare and valuable first editions. They were her pride and joy. She joked that others had children, or even cats, but she only needed her books. She took care of them and tended to their covers, dusting them regularly and closing blinds if the sunshine was too bright. Match #21 would often select a volume at random, open a page at random, and read aloud a page of text to him. He doubted the value and worth of this random reading, but she told the researcher that the story didn’t always matter, it was the words and the phrasing, and the images they conjured; it was the impression they made on you. And this he understood well.
On the morning of 9 September 2016, Match #21 was putting on her heels, readying herself for work whilst the researcher was still in bed. Realising she was late, Match #21 became flustered and so the researcher did not hesitate to quickly get up and make her coffee and toast, slip a chocolate treat into her coat pocket, and hand her an umbrella on the way out. At the door, she paused, kissed him lightly on the mouth and smiled. She said: ‘Thanks sweetie. You’re so nice. So very nice’ (pers. comm., 2016). The researcher winced somewhat and braced himself. However, the ‘but’ that he was waiting for never arrived and a feeling of extreme pride and goodwill emanated throughout his body. ‘Don’t forget that I have a work dinner tonight, so I’ll call you tomorrow, ok?’ (Match #21, pers. comm., 2016).
Match #21 went to work. Whilst the researchers was starting on the dishes, he heard a message notification tone and realised that, in her rush, Match #21 had left her phone behind. The researcher casually picked up the phone. He saw the unmistakeable flame icon in the top corner of the message – Tinder – and he read:
Hey hon. Let’s meet at The White Lotus at 6 tonight. Then we can decide what to do after 😉 I already know what I want to do!!! 😉 Any more pics?? 😉 ;-p You’re so fucking hot.
The researcher only just managed not to vomit. The shock was physical. His limbs were weak, the blood pooled in his ankles, and he felt rather dizzy and disorientated. The researcher confesses that he vividly recalls tears pricking the corners of his eyes. A ping of sadness and disappointment started in his heart and rippled out to every edge, lapping and lapping and lapping. He sat down. He stood up. He looked at the message again. He had thought she was THE ONE. She had thought he was nice. But. Nice, but. Match #21 had not articulated ‘but’, however it was there. Clearly.
The researcher was suddenly flushed through with a powerful rage at the thought that his love had been unrequited, that he had been humiliated and deceived, and that, worst of all, he must suffer loneliness again. He must abase himself to online dating, he must accompany other couples on outings whilst feeling like a fool, and he must go home with no one to talk to, laugh with, caress and hug, confide in, trust, giggle with, cook for, console and cajole. Something overwhelming surged through the researcher. Something that was not nice.
He walked into Match #21’s library and examined the books arrayed on shelf after shelf. Tall travel pictorials, glossy cookery, clever photo essays, neat little paper backs, and dog-eared childhood books. Then there were the bright Modern First Editions, all published in the last century, wrapped in a crisp clear film that protected those precious and irreplaceable dustjackets. He pulled one recklessly from the shelf, putting his index finger at the top of the spine and yanking it out. The researcher recalled his first lesson on the care of books and the correct way of taking them off the shelf: ‘Pinch the spine in the middle with your thumb and index finger’ (Match #21, pers. comm., 2016). She had made him demonstrate.
He opened the book in his hand. An English classic – E.M. Forster, Maurice, published posthumously. Perhaps worth $100. He narrowed his eyes and felt the pages stiff and smooth under his fingers. The heavy brick of anger and spite that drove the researcher to her library in the first place quickly started to expand and acquire even more weight. The researcher wondered which pics Match #21 had sent her Tinder friend. Perhaps the same she had sent to the researcher? The researcher bent the corner of a page, as if to mark the spot. He bent another. Then another and quickly snapped the book shut, placing it back on the shelf. A bent corner would make her angry, very angry indeed.
But the researcher immediately recognised that he was still being too nice. He grabbed another book – a Margaret Atwood. Not particularly valuable but the collection was almost complete and in pristine condition. He picked up a pen lying on her desk and started to cross out pages at random. Every one of her Atwoods now had squiggles, lines and zig zags across the pages. Just to spite her, now and then he also wrote ambiguous words like ‘pineapple’, ‘cellophane’ and ‘rubber duck’.
The researcher confesses that he now entered a stage of frenzy and lost all reason. He chose volumes haphazardly, creasing pages, bending corners, stapling some together, pressing sticky tape onto chapter headings. He riffled through them all until he came to her small collection of Douglas Adams. There was a first edition of each of the books in Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series, and his Dirk Gently books. He lay them on the desk together, end to end, for the first time starting to feel the weight of his actions. In front of him were thousands of dollars’ worth of books, collected laboriously over years. She had had them sent from England. She had sought out the cleanest, brightest copies. A couple were signed.
The researcher took one into his hands and thought of her parting words: ‘… so very nice’. And he took page 96 and ripped it clean out. Then he carried on tearing out random pages at a frenetic pace. None of her Adams went untouched. He placed the bits and pieces in a neat pile on her desk. After the first shiver that ran down his neck, the rest had been easy – some pages he ripped neatly out from the spine, some he tore at a jaunty angle, some he patterned into shapes. The paper gave easily under his fingers, sentences and words broken up and scattered into meaningless scrap. The researcher, ordinarily such an easy going and forgiving person, had ruined the library in moments. The researcher did reflect that, in pieces like this, her collection would be easier to read at random. After all, she had said that it wasn’t always the overall story she appreciated the most.
The researcher shut the door of the library, collected his things, and left the premises.
Needless to say, shortly after this episode, Match #21 deleted the match. She also took out a restraining order and was suing him for damaging property. The researcher, however, would be no further threat. He was too nice to be really violent or threatening.
Given all the research, analysis, and results, the researcher addresses the hypotheses thus.
Hypothesis 1: The Tinder platform is able to generate deep and lasting relationships.
This hypothesis is supported, but with some caution. A lot of caution. The researcher is philosophical about his experience with Match #21. The outcome may have been just the same, had he met her in a bar or through friends.
Hypothesis 2: The cliché ‘nice guys always finish last’ is not necessarily true.
This hypothesis is rejected. The researcher used himself as his sample – the quintessential nice guy – and can categorically state that he not only finished last, but he finished last brandishing a wooden spoon and his heart cleaved sheer into two pieces. The researcher is reservedly willing to be persuaded otherwise, but for the foreseeable future will leave that avenue of inquiry to other, more intrepid and hardy nice scholars.
At the conclusion of the study, the researcher removed the Tinder app from his mobile phone.
Tina Morganella writes fiction, travel literature and personal essays. She has just completed a collection of short stories set in Italy. She has kept a diary since she was nine years old and although she would like to tell you that she often mines these volumes for story nuggets, the fact is, they mostly contain frustrated musings about boys.
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