There’s that weird moment when you’re waiting to cross the street and you see a face that seems familiar, but you don’t really know from where. You pass by one another, and after the fact, you realize that you matched with this person on Tinder, Bumble, Grindr or whatever other dating or hookup apps are used these days. There are so many hidden rules about how we use dating apps at Yale — but most of them simply cover up our own vulnerabilities and hide our true thoughts from one another.
I’ve always had a problem with the act of swiping through Tinder, especially on campus. Swiping itself feels transactional, but swiping past faces of people who might be your friends, or friends of friends, feels particularly weird.
There’s a hidden etiquette within swiping, too — you always swipe right on your friends. But no one really knows why. Are you actually attracted to your friend? Are you just swiping on them to be nice?
In general, we have adopted so many dating app practices that we just never question. Are we looking for hookups or for actual dates? When you see someone from Tinder on the street the next day, do you say hello? Do you avoid eye contact? In messaging someone, when is it appropriate to allude to Sappho, your favorite poet, or Regina Spektor, your favorite musician?
Ultimately, the universal question is: when is it appropriate to “be yourself?” I find myself infinitely confused with dating app culture at Yale, struggling to reveal genuine feelings and share personal interests. When I open Tinder, I am flooded with a set of existential worries and close the app immediately.
I’m probably overthinking things, but I think that the way that we interact with dating apps on campus actually does say something about how we’re willing to view other people. I think we have to interrogate why it feels so safe to hide behind the veil of an app but when we see the people we’re talking with in real life, we often want to look away. There’s something unsettling about the distance between our online selves in the hookup/dating context and our real-life selves. Online, we’re able to message each other things that we would never say in person.
Maybe I’m just a jaded senior, but I feel fatigued by the ways in which students seem married to screens that shield them from being vulnerable. In particular, I’m thinking of a hookup a friend recounted to me in which she felt she was too vulnerable with the other person. It was just someone she met on Tinder, and yet she began to share parts of herself with the person. Doing so felt wrong because it blurred the lines between a dating app fling and something more.
I’m not advocating that we spill out our entire lives to one another on transactional dating apps. But I do think we need to feel less embarrassed about being vulnerable, about showing our “real” selves to each other, even in contexts where we’re supposed to be shallow versions of ourselves. Our fear of rejection shouldn’t be so great that we restrain what we express to one another.
We are afraid to fall into something that might eventually hurt us, and in the process, we sometimes fail to recognize each other’s humanity behind the screens. We situate people in the two-dimensional online world, ignoring the fact that they exist anywhere beyond that. We forget almost instinctively that these individuals have the same worries and insecurities that we do and deal with every day.
What would happen if, in every setting we were in, we tried to be as “real” as we could be, as close to the version of ourselves that we know to be true? Maybe we would feel embarrassed. Maybe it’s not cool to show your feelings to someone you’re just hooking up with. I don’t know. But I do know that it’s tiring to walk around holding back parts of yourself. It’s tiring to play a back and forth texting game, to have to wait for three hours before you can respond, “so should we meet up?”
If you hooked up with someone — and they treated you with respect — remember that this person is a person outside of the hookup context. If you see them on the street, nod to acknowledge their presence. And if you feel something for someone you’re not “supposed” to feel something for, just tell them — even if it isn’t returned. You will be better for having told them. You’ll have grown from letting yourself be vulnerable.
If you say nothing at all, sticking to the transactional, emotionless script we’ve learned to protect ourselves, you might very well look back with a weight on your chest, wishing you’d shared how you felt.
MEGHANA MYSORE is a senior in Davenport College. Her column runs on alternate Fridays. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org .