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
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+
- 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.
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.
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?
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…
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).
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…