Dating apps essay (part 1)

Some of you asked for dating apps stories, so I compiled one and published it on my Medium account. https://claudettelabriola.medium.com/

For your convenience, I cross-posted it here for you as well.

Disclaimer: this essay may not quite be what some of you were expecting. 🙂

*****

I surfed dating apps for 6 months without a paid subscription (part 1)

What I discovered was both surprising and perplexing

Photo by Julien L on Unsplash

I’ve been curious about dating apps ever since I stumbled onto blogs written by midlife women who were on a quest to find their *last first kiss*.

Okay, I will admit, their candid storytelling about their sexual shenanigans was a bit of a lure too.

For a time, reading the cougar blogs was enough entertainment for me, at least until the stories became repetitive. Many bloggers expressed exasperation with their lack of success in finding what they were looking. It was kind of sad to read, but no less intriguing. We all want love and companionship in our lives (and hot, passionate sex, but I digress…)

To familiarize myself with their mindset, I loaded a bunch of apps and started some research.

I already had a pretty clear picture what women desired; this time, I wanted to get a first-hand look at what the other side, the heterosexual men, were looking for. And, more importantly, how the men went about finding their *last first kiss*.

Dating apps objective

My primary objective was to discover how men presented themselves in online profiles for the purpose of attracting companionship, intimacy and maybe even love.

Desired search parameters

  • Middle-age 50+
  • Heterosexual
  • Looking for a relationship

Undesired search parameters

  • Hookup sex
  • One-night stands
  • Friends with benefits*

*FWB was not completely eliminated from my searches but was not the primary focus

Note: I did not load tinder. I have no interest in that app. I loaded a few obscure, regional apps specific to the 50+ demographic but deleted those quickly due to too many restrictions. In the end I went with eHarmony, Hinge, Bumble and Match. (eHarmony and Hinge were not easy to use for my purpose so I deleted those shortly after signing up.)

Once I signed up using one of my author pseudonyms, I began my journey through the dating apps.

What I discovered was both surprisingly insightful as well as perplexing.

Good and bad, but mostly bad

The surprisingly insightful discoveries were few and far between. The perplexing ones on the other hand were a dime a dozen. This essay focuses more on the odd and peculiar findings. I will write about the other side another time.

Pictures matter

Say what you want about superficiality, but the first profile picture influences which direction a person will swipe (or click ✖️ or ✔️).

I struggled a bit with this because of the way the apps were set up. All apps I visited hurled a photo at you first. The subsequent words matter, but not as much as the picture. We all know why that is, but just in case you live under a rock (like I did), here is the reason:

Images are important because they indicate whether or not there is a spark.

A spark is the precursor for sex.

There, I said it.

Women want to feel attraction toward a potential lover. Women present themselves to be viewed as sexually desirable and want a man who is reasonably attractive or at least presents himself photographically well. Women want the ever preoccupying, often elusive spark and chemistry.

In other words, sex is always part of the equation when browsing the dating app profiles.

How a man presents himself in a dating app is, therefore, important.

Words matter (but not as often as you might think)*

*This is my personal experience and may not resonate with yours.

My interest in dating apps was primarily about the written profiles which were not always easily accessible. In some apps I had to scroll past at least one, sometimes several selfies in order to get to that wordy part.

Some apps allow you to click yes or no immediately, right at the first picture. Others make you scroll to the bottom before you can indicate your like or dismiss.

Because of the way the sites are set up, I looked at the selfies first (because I had no choice), then continued scrolling to see the men’s self-marketing pitch in their own words.

Did I skip any of the written profile because I first saw a badly-taken selfie?

I will admit that I did this initially, when I first started this journey. Later, as I learned the ins and outs of each app, I became more forgiving and took time with each photographic presentation before choosing to swipe the wrong way or dismiss someone outright.

Example from a cougar blog

While swiping or clicking through my apps, I recalled one woman who kept a blog about her dating adventures. She remarked, after years of online dating, she was stuck on one thing: the elusive spark.

For her, if the initial selfie didn’t immediately incite at least adequate chemistry, no matter how subtle, she was less inclined to strike up a conversation with that man, let alone meet him. However, during the lengthy quarantine periods she endured in her region, she began to slowly shift her perspective. I noticed it in her writing, but I’m not sure if she was aware how she changed her approach. She went on multiple dates with some men despite not feeling sparks initially. Maybe he had an off night, she told herself.

Reading about this fascinated me.

She detailed lists of pros and cons to help her determine whether to continue to invest energy into a connection. Often she continued but with trepidation. I suspected loneliness and a high sex drive drove her to make the ultimate decision to continue dating a man she knew wasn’t really her match.

Her connections never lasted long and she began to question whether she was too fussy, or had too many unrealistic expectations.

She began to doubt herself.

This was a red flag for me, one I came across multiple times in the blog world.

Is this what happens with online dating? Are dating apps at least partially responsible for the many relationship fiascos in the dating world that leads both men and women toward anxiety, resignation, depression?*

*I do know of a few success stories, admitted to me by followers of my blog. Four women openly admitted they found their match online. Given how many people use dating apps to find their *last first kiss*, this is a very low number.

Reading about her lengthy and disappointing journeys with dating apps was an enlightening moment for me. I tried to remember the women’s experiences as I traveled through the terrible selfies in my apps in order to get to the written parts of the men’s profiles.

Vanity

The longer I surfed, the more I questioned my own vanity.

Surfing the men and dismissing most of them simply because their pictures didn’t please my eyes began to tug at my conscience.

Was I being fair to these lonely men?

I began to think I was more superficial and vain than I thought I was simply because of this swipe left/click X action I became very good at in a relatively short amount of time.

Adjusting my search parameters

One app in particular had terrible images of men in my age demographic. The fish on a hook, the toques covering their eyes, sunglasses and masks, messy greasy hair, grimaces and smirks, shadows across their faces, pictures loaded sideways, tongues sticking out (?), cluttered bathrooms in the background with the toilet seat up (I wish I was making this up)…

It really depressed me.

Do the men who are looking for love realize the women on the apps are not looking for a project?

I shook my head at the men with the fish or the incessant talk about how much they love golf.

That’s great that you have a hobby, I thought. But what does that mean for the women whom they want to romance, have a relationship with, invite into their bed?

Realizations

The one dating app which focused heavily on long-term (final) relationships depressed me the most. Not only did these men present themselves badly in terms of selfies, but they also didn’t know the first thing about modern women. Yet they were looking for everlasting love. They were looking for the *last first kiss*.

Note: Modern woman may be perfectly willing to accept fishing and golf as a personal interest or hobby. But is that the sort of thing to highlight in a dating app? Maybe I’m odd, but when a guy goes on and on about fishing and golf, I don’t see that as someone I want to spend my precious free time with. (Sorry not sorry.)

My thoughts about golf and fish

I couldn’t help coming up with some sarcastic (but silent) remarks when I saw these pictures or read their profiles in which they mentioned their intense interest in golf and fishing.

He likes golf? That’s great for him, I thought. Does this mean I get to sit in the clubhouse all day and eat overpriced snacks? Drink myself into a tizzy? Maybe I’ll meet a cute waiter who will sneak me into the pantry for a quickie while I wait for Golf Boy to finish his game…

Or this:

Well that’s a really big fish you’re holding there, I thought. Did you want me to clean that? Is this the sort of thing we’re going to do a lot?

I don’t like bugs, sleeping on lumpy mattresses with men who smell like algae, or kill freshly caught fish. If that’s your thing, then I’m not your girl.

I felt guilty for dismissing these men, but at the same time, they helped me narrow down choices. I mean, if I were looking for my own *last first kiss*, I would probably not pick the golfer or fisher, even if he has his own cottage and several boats. I don’t mind joining in on these activities occasionally, but that’s not what drives me, interests me, or arouses me.

That’s not what I’m interested reading about in online dating profiles.

Golf and fishing are perfectly acceptable hobbies, but they are probably not the right ones to mention on a dating app as their primary interest while looking for a woman to share the rest of their life with.

I wish these men all the luck. Perhaps the right woman for them does exist in the dating apps, but I suspect not. I know it won’t be me (and yes, I got hits from such men which tells me they did not read MY profile, at all).

Changing direction

I counted my lucky stars several times that I was on an unpaid version of these apps. There was little there that enticed me, and I suspect women who were looking seriously for their *last first kiss* were equally disappointed. And out of money, since serious daters (not me) pay for the subscriptions.

But one curiosity remained. The written portion of the dating apps.

In your own words

Each app I’ve come across had a section where you could write something about yourself. You could highlight your witty personality or charming character, add something funny or illuminating, and describe your wishes, desires and expectations for your ideal partner.

Some apps have space for 4000 characters, others rely on prompts with short, tweet-like responses. The prompts interested me less than the longer profiles, so before I gave up the apps completely, I decided to do some serious reading.

But not just any or all profiles.

I picked the worst selfies and scrolled down to see if these men could string words together in such a way that appealed to me, or women like me*.

*Educated, reasonably attractive (if I am to toot my own horn), well-read, creative, modern, capable, open-minded, self-sufficient, confident (ok, I’m working on those last two)…

Was there a hidden gem somewhere behind the unappealing images? What was it these men thought they would find on a dating app?

I was left with more questions than answers.

To be continued…

38 thoughts on “Dating apps essay (part 1)

      1. Don’t get me wrong. If they got money, date em. You’ll never see them, but you’ll get a slice that change.

        If they’re a regular joe tho….I’ll just say that a “golf guy” is a different breed. Not at all like a “car guy”, “movie guy”, “fishing/hunting guy”, nerd, cowboy, gym rat, etc.

        That’s all I got to say.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Great post and very insightful! I’m sure things have changed a lot since I last used dating apps. I’m just thankful I was never into golf or fishing when I was searching for my own “last first kiss”!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. this is really fascinating actually, thanks for doing it and sharing. I’ve been avoiding them really but have been curious, I was once on Tinder but that didn’t last long. I think a bit like you I was more curious academically, sort of, than actually finding a date, more curiosity of motivations and I suppose admittedly, mine. I have been thinking of trying one or two again so needed to get uptodate with the different apps again. This helps, thanks. I still haven’t yet fully decided to enter those choppy waters again but I remember it wasn’t all bad last time and did meet, online that is, a few actually genuinely interesting people. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I have heard of some success stories so I don’t know if people should just dismiss dating apps completely, especially not during the pandemic.

      I don’t really know what to make of it all. So I wrote about it. It’s what I do. 🤷‍♀️

      Thank you for your comment and for reading! Good luck and with whatever you decide to do. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Hi Claudette, lots to respond to here. First of all, “Last First Kiss” is a lyric from a song by Darius Rucker ‘History in the Making’. As you know, I’m one of your followers who met my Last First Kiss online. A good friend of mine met his wife on Tinder, probably 6 years ago, so it’s not just for hookups.
    Golf and fishing. Lol. Personally golf isn’t a draw for me because it’s an all day activity and if someone has limited time, I’d prefer they spend it with me. Fishing has more potential because where I live, fly fishing is popular and I’d be happy to eat fresh trout if he cleans it. Regarding photos and writing: I needed to be physically attracted and also impressed with something in their writing. The writing via text after matching is what I judged, both the content and the capacity to communicate. Looking forward to reading the next part.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m just wondering how some of these men who clearly appear very lonely can’t seem to find a better way to express themselves besides focusing on that one thing that interests them which has seen them through the lonely times most likely.

      As far as the taking selfies thing is concerned when I first started a few years ago (taking selfies and posting them) I wasn’t good at it and it scared the crap out of me. But I practiced a little as I’m sure you’re very aware… 🙄

      It seems to me some of these men who are in my age bracket or older need to practice a little… Or maybe consult with a daughter or a niece or a female friend to help them out a bit.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, selfies can be challenging but if that’s the photo you’re posting, make it a good one. The loneliness factor is a whole other subject. I think that’s one of the things that attracted me to David, he didn’t seem lonely which often comes across as desperate.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Such an interesting post, Claudette! Your comments about golfing and fish cracked me up!!

    I tried online dating in my 40’s after I was divorced and before I had kids on my own. My takeaway is that the formulaic matching of people based on their responses to what they think they want doesn’t work. We have no idea what “magic” will befall us when we meet the right person at the right time and sparks fly and those apps, regardless of how sophisticated they have become don’t help us find that.

    I love your research. So interesting to read and ponder as someone who hopes to find my “last first kiss” one day but isn’t doing anything about it. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

      1. I hadn’t ever heard about it until your post. I am intrigued by the thought of it and all the idealism contained in one phrase. Thanks, Claudette!

        P.S. Wondering when you are going to move past “auditing” this dating thing and start trying yourself…. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Well that was an enlightened read. I’m so glad I’m not in that position. For me back in 2007-2009 even with the nicest well dressed headshot women still considered me a 2. I hated the photo aspect of dating apps.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I understand this perspective.

      Someone like me who thrives on words needs the words as much as the picture. Honestly, some guys I did not initially find attractive by looking at their photos ended up having the best written profiles.

      See?

      Problem is the volume on those apps…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah, there is definitely more to a person than looks. It’s pretty hard to find a well rounded person in general. I’m glad my wife took a chance on me. We opened each other up to so many things. I look forward to reading the continuation of your studies.😁

        Liked by 1 person

      2. No problem Claudette, my circle of friends has dwindled offline and I really feel a sense of closeness to my blogging friends. As long as I can and if anyone new is interested I will always send out the collaboration Christmas card. 😁🌲🧑‍🎄

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I like how you word it. “Last first kiss” and it was interesting to read your reflections.

    LOL @ the waiter in the pantry over Golf Guy reference although if GG was hot, couldn’t you get to grips with his balls after the game of golf? ;P In truth, I would scroll over some guy who only posted was into golf and fishing as it would seem like that’s how he defines himself over and it’s not me but if he had other interests, too that meshed with me, it would be okay say if, golf/fishing is what he wants to do as part of his “me time” rather than coupled time. However, if there was more to such a guy as in matched interests, I think I would need to see this or would take a creative, expressive type person in order to be able to communicate it over a profile. When I’ve made profiles, I think very thoroughly over who I am and types I want to connect with. Even over just friends. I keep open minded but as well want the best mind matches.

    The manky toilet seat backgrounds and overall low quality guys on offer is yeah no surprise lol. Dating is hard. My type of guy is more creative type who used “green screen” or something over background visuals lol. When you see this (toilet example) on a profile, you know it’s the best it’s going to be!

    I struggle to find attraction in just a photo only so need words too. I would say I only find about 1% of guys attractive from a photo only (most guys aren’t that attractive to me) but the number can rise over words/interaction.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Um, I kind of like the fishing guys. I love boating & being outside. I’ll throw a line in the water (I have done some deep sea fishing), but I won’t clean it or bring it on board if it’s really big and too heavy. I prefer not to bait my hook if we are using live bait.

    Golf – I’m slowly learning golf so I can potentially meet someone at the range. Plus it’s something else that gets me outside.

    Now as for the apps, they should only be one tool in a person’s quest to find The One. The algorithms are designed to make the apps like games to better keep you engaged and spending $$. Horrible horrible horrible. I’m on Match & Bumble (paid on both), but haven’t cruised around for weeks. I’ll probably add Tinder because I’m at the point I just want FWB. I like my freedom too much.

    As an aside, my daughter met her hubby on Tinder. 😂😉.

    Looking forward to the rest of your observations!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. So there you go, my guys here in Toronto who fish and golf are right up your alley! Let me know when you arrive, I’ll send you their way. 😉

      That’s great Birdie, I appreciate the feedback. But I have a question:

      If the guy holding the fish on the dock doesn’t say anything else besides about the fishing, and let’s say he’s not what you consider reasonably attractive, would you still initiate contact with him because of the fish? He said nothing else in his profile (many fishermen in my town don’t), there’s little he filled out in the prompts…(basic education, mostly widowed or divorced, maybe kids, maybe not… that’s it. No other indication what they like to do.) Would you still do it?

      Personally, I would not. But that’s me. Curious to know what others do in a situation like this.

      As far as fishing is concerned, I’ve done it too, I can even admit I enjoyed it some, but it’s not a passion for me so I would not want to be with a fisherman who is passionate about fishing.

      Re Tinder – they have FWB? I thought it was pretty much all hookup sex.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Fish are an added bonus 😂😉 It just demonstrates they aren’t crunch potatoes. If they don’t have decently attractive pics and a literate profile, forget it. I also require a college degree at a minimum unless there are extenuating circumstances.

        Like

  8. With the golfing and fishing dudes, I wonder if they are a) trying to find ladies who are into golfing or fishing, b) showing they’re able to amuse themselves and don’t need a lady friend to keep them amused all of the time, c) thinking that ladies genuinely want men who golf/fish, or d) don’t have any interests aside from golfing/fishing so have nothing else to talk about.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The fishermen don’t say much else which is why it’s difficult to figure out what exactly they’re looking for. I may be generalizing, but I get the feeling they wish to share the fish with a significant other as a way to have a romantic meal. But what else is there to attract a woman who likes the fisherman? Why would she swipe right? What else would possibly connect her to him? He hasn’t said which means there is no further communication. For her to swipe right there has to be something else besides the fishing.. (right? I don’t know…)

      It’s perplexing.

      The golfers are more multi-dimensional and seem, to me at least, very, very busy. They seem (to me) to be looking for a woman who has no/few responsibilities, is available at a moment’s notice and for extended times (such as for travel), and fits into their life like a missing puzzle piece.

      Again, not all of them presented like that, but enough of them did that I found it almost like a trend.

      I have more impressions but I’ll leave that for the next post.

      Liked by 1 person

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