Lauren Gatta

This week, let’s address your questions about the ever-present romantic force in our generation: dating apps.

Question 1: I just matched with this amazing girl on Tinder. Now what? What is proper Tinder etiquette and how do I get the ball rolling and hopefully go on a date?

Question 2: So, why would a girl swipe right on Tinder if they’re just gonna ghost a guy by not responding to an opening message? Especially if it was harmless and appropriate. Too boring? Or am I just a low-priority match. Sad!

I must begin this column with a confession: I’m really bad at using dating apps. In fact, I could be the worst kind of dating app person. Sometimes I treat swiping on Tinder like I do scrolling through Instagram — something to do when bored. Other times, I let my friends play around with my account. I have ghosted people, and I “friend swipe” (that is, swiping on someone you view platonically). So it should come as no surprise that I’ve found dating apps to be wholly unfulfilling (though occasionally entertaining). The thing is, those behaviors are not uncommon.  Many people approach dating apps that same way while others take them more seriously. So let’s investigate this confusing landscape.

Why do we use Tinder, Bumble, Grinder, Her and (on our more pretentious days) The League? Dating at Yale can be exhausting, especially since very few people seem to actually do it. Many of my friends haven’t gone on a proper date during their entire Yale career. We’re excellent at feigning intimacy on reckless Saturday nights, but when it comes to asking someone to sit across the table and have a conversation, we get skittish.

Enter dating apps. The magic. The mess. The occasionally awkward dates. The occasionally successful dates. The did-we-match-as-friends-or-just-want-to-hookup-or-actually-want-to-go-on-a-real-date moments. When I first downloaded Tinder, I was genuinely interested in using it as the umbrella term “dating app” implies it should be used — for dating people. Ultimately I, like many others, fell into the mindset of recreational Tinder swiping, which led to nothing fruitful. My friends and I delete Tinder once a month only to ultimately re-download it. Here at Yale, we have the Instagram account Yale Tinder Nightmares, where people submit a variety of deeply questionable messages people have received. We also have Yale Frat Tinder, ripping on Yale’s population of fratty Tinder stars for their oft-amusing photos and bios. Someone I ended up having a serious relationship with unmatched me on Tinder before we’d started dating, only to ask me out over email (figure that one out).

What does all this say about the way dating apps are used on campus? I think it implies a deep skepticism and a general lack of sincerity. One of my friends suggested that these apps make us less social. Why approach someone and risk getting publicly and personally rejected when you can hide behind a screen, sending random and indiscriminate messages? Who cares if one opening line falls flat when there are ten of them out there, waiting for responses?

But while talking with my friends, we came to another consensus: dating apps aren’t all bad. In fact, they can be really good, if only people took them more seriously and used the apps for something other than casual sex or “friend swipes.” Therein lies the fundamental issue with dating apps in college: we can’t agree on how to use them, or why we’re using them at all. If one person is swiping to find someone to date seriously, and another person is swiping just to hookup, someone’s going to be disappointed at the end of the day.

Some folks have tried to solve this conundrum by stating what they’re looking for in their bios — “nothing serious” to “wanting a relationship.” Others have tried categorizing some apps as being mostly for hookups — like Tinder — while others like Bumble and The League are for more serious relationships. I have my suspicions about both of these methods, and it’s entirely possible that my usual philosophy of being honest and upfront fails to apply here. If you’re using Tinder just for hookups, outright saying that is a great way to end up on Yale Tinder Nightmares. And, if you claim to be looking for a relationship from the first message, that can freak people out. It would be cool if there were different types of swiping — a “hookup swipe” and a “dating swipe” — but that’s outside my immediate control. So, maybe we acknowledge the inherent ambiguity and occasional alienation of dating apps, and just try to be a little bit better?

For example: opening lines. Stay away from “Hey” and “What’s up” forever. If you’re sending the first message after 1a.m., it probably implies you’re DTF but not interested in getting serious. I’m a fan of gifs. Or questions about cool pictures. Write longer bios — friends say it’s less intimidating to message someone if you can find a point of common interest within their bio. Stay away from the “friend swipe,” because if there’s any ambiguity as to whether you’re just being friendly or finally expressing a desire for further intimacy, someone can and will get very hurt. Suggest real dates — something beyond coffee, like a play — and use those dates to genuinely get to know new people rather than scout a potential Woads hookup for later.

A final thought: some of my friends suggested that the insincerity with which we use Tinder stems from a belief that it’s still taboo to meet people online. Just earlier this week, the New York Times published an article claiming that “No One Wants to be Known as ‘Tinder Girl.’” Despite the pervasiveness of dating apps in our culture, we still see meeting people and forming relationships with them on these apps as inferior to traditional “meet cutes.” Perhaps part of the battle is shifting our perception to see Tinder as a nonembarrassing — normal, even — way of meeting people with whom we otherwise might not have come into contact. If we normalize dating via these apps, we’ll feel less pressure to treat them ironically or jokingly.

I don’t think it’s easy to change our current dating app behavior, and maybe these apps are making us less social. But if we are more sincere — and, as a result, more selective — in our swiping, and keep in mind the inherent challenges and potential for miscommunications that online dating opens up, I think we can be better. Let me know how it goes.

Until next time, swipe away, more sincerely than before. And as always, submit your questions via the form.

Ayla Besemer