It was junior year of high school. I was sitting at the desk second farthest to the right in Ms. B’s* chemistry class. I received a text.
It contained the first of many incriminating screenshots I would tangle myself in over subsequent years. The text was from my then- v serious boyfriend; the screenshot was of my Tinder profile. Yes, that is oxymoronic.
“My camp friend sent this screenshot to me,” he typed below the image. “What the hell is this?”
To this day, this is one of the best stories I keep in my back pocket. Hours before the text, Twitter was going off about some new app called “Tinder.” I did not know anything about it — all I saw was the mental red flag that signals rough ocean waters, social media, or a combination of the two — but I was in. Quickly in between classes, I downloaded the app and made myself a profile. And to this day, I will swear on sleepaway camp that I was innocent. All I had done was create an account — I hadn’t even had the time to see what the app actually did.
I didn’t know that Tinder is a socially acceptable Match.com for lonely young people in the same geographical area that also allows you to decide your level of interest in a potential partner on the sole basis of his or her Facebook profile picture. Mine, by the way, was a cute one of me and said boyfriend.
He was mad and called bluff. I, of course, thought the whole fiasco was hysterical. I mean, if I was really looking to use Tinder to get guys at the ripe age of 16, don’t you think I would have at least changed my profile picture to one less couple-y?
But I’m sure you can now understand why my Tinder account has been almost completely untouched by the heat of any fire ever since. With my luck and previous experience, it’ll go up in flames from “0 to 100 real quick,” said Drake. Therefore, I cannot claim to be a Tinder connoisseur, so I will instead ask my perhaps embarrassing, perhaps easily-explanable, perhaps pathetic for a millennial questions to you in case you swipe as well as that fox in Dora the Explorer.
Can someone please tell me what Tinder is actually for? Is it for pursuing relationships, and is it really just a simplified version of Match.com that is easier on our eyes (well, I guess that depends on who comes up on your feed), easier on your brain, and fast enough for our multi-tasking millennial over-diagnosed ADD? Or is it, instead, an aid to those in search of bootay? If you are looking just for the B, or the D, or the AA because women of all sizes are BEAUTIFUL (gotcha there, didn’t I), wouldn’t it be beyond weird to talk to someone on Tinder for half an hour about menial things and meet up with them and just start making out because, c’mon, that’s what you’re both here for in the first place?
Is that how Tinder works and am I just naive like Liesl when she’s 16 going on 17? Because IMHO (in my honest opinion), most people a) are not on Tinder looking to go steady but also b) it would be really effing weird to make out with someone just because you have some mutual friends on Facebook. So what’s the dealio? Haha, dealio.
But then again, we’ve all been with someone just because of mutual friends, but just in real life — at bars, clubs, concerts.
This is what my friend, remotely avid Tinder user, but really just the most openly avid I know, says. In her words, “I think a lot of people joke about it and don’t take it seriously, meanwhile almost everyone is on it with a similar purpose. [They] joke it’s unconventional, but most of us don’t know dating in any other form, or interacting with people in any other element than online.” And then she dropped the holy bomb:
“It’s sort of the norm for our generation, in my opinion.”
I think her opinion might be mine too. When she connects with someone on Tinder, they arrange to hang out. Recently, she went to an expensive restaurant in the city on a first Tinder date. Other times, she just hangs out with her matches. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t. Whenever she does connect, though, it sounds completely, totally normal.
When I reactivated my Tinder account at the end of last summer, admittedly bored and lonely in the Hamptons — which is not as romantic as it sounds when you are sharing a bedroom with your two brothers — I matched with every person I swiped right. My ego inflated instantly. More gratifying than Easy Mac. Tinder was fun. It was like Candy Crush.
With each of my matches, I avoided all conversation. I received a “Hey,” and took it as a joke. I was paranoid. No one seemed real. I wasn’t getting out of bed to meet up with some random guy to fool around in the dunes or at the dive around the corner. The best part of the experience was by far the matching; realizing — remembering — you can get back in the game, that there is such a thing as mutual attraction, that there are fish in the area of the Atlantic Ocean that surrounds the easternmost tip of Long Island.
But that was where it stopped. Even a fresh, dense stack of Tinder was, for me, not enough to light my fire.
*Name abbreviated to protect the privacy of this wonderful woman.
Today, my little brother turned seventeen. This is a big deal. He can drive and now has an age-specific magazine to which he can properly relate in times of need, like a long distance BFF.
I felt pure enjoyment from reading the posts on his Facebook timeline. A lot of people wrote, “happy birthday bro,” which made me feel like a proud older sister–“bro” is probably the male equivalent of the female “babe,” meaning guys who have man-crushes on my little brother have written on his wall and yes, after all these years, he is a well-liked chap.
Writing on someone’s “timeline” for his or her birthday is the perfect thing to do when you have a man-crush/girl crush (as aforementioned), or even just a general crush (to whom you don an extra !! at the end of your birthday wish. Maybe he’ll notice me now!!!!!). Before Facebook, happy birthday’s were said the old fashioned way, like when passing someone in the hall even if you weren’t super tight.
But Facebook has added a new dimension to the birthday: it’s kind of like receiving a million cards; it gives you something extra with which you can measure how great your birthday was; it gives certain people no excuse not to say happy birthday because of how easy it can be to just say it, thereby allowing you to use your birthday as a way to gauge the legitimacy some of your relationships. (Then again, should we really be gauging the legitimacy of our relationships based on a Facebook wall post, or lack thereof?)
I’ve spent whole birthdays waiting to see if a few specific characters, let’s call them, reach out to me. And then the birthday is over, and they either haven’t reached out or they have. At this point, I can either pat myself on the back and be like, “you’re definitely the bigger person here,” or I can pout and hope they send a regretful text the next day, which they usually do.
I am intrigued by the way we use Facebook to extend warmest wishes on the anniversary of one’s birth. There is nothing greater than birthday collages, or when you see wall posts from one best friend to another even though they’ve obviously been speaking since the clock struck midnight. Still, we love the extra gift, free of monetary cost, yet with invaluable social cost, that Facebook gives us each year.
That all being said, I rarely use Facebook to convey birthday wishes.
It’s great for girl-crushes, it’s great for people whose phone numbers I don’t have but wish I did, and in my eyes, that’s about it. The last Facebook photo collage I made was for my best guy friend and included photos of us making strange faces on a camel in Israel. In that case, it was, as they say, irresistablé.
My most important question as of recent: Is it better to make a wall post, or to not say “happy birthday” at all?
There are pros and cons to each type of birthday wish, from Hallmark card in the mail to Instagram comment to text to phone call to Facebook message (yes, it holds a different weight than a Facebook wall post). “Happy birthday” isn’t really about wishing someone another year of beautiful life, preferably processed with VSCOcam C1 filter. It isn’t even really about what you say–well, unless you’re giving me extra exclamation points or a <3 or a “babe”. It’s about how you say it.
Since podcasts are so trendy these days, I decided to make one. Well, I was assigned to make one. But I made one (and it might end up on here, undecided as of now), and it’s about all the stuff you’d expect: social media, breaking up, hookup culture, young lurv.
In my interviews, I asked a male friend if he still Facebook stalks his exes. The answer was ‘yes,’ and if you’re wondering, as was everyone else’s, but he justified his tendencies with the following excuse: Facebook puts the people you interact with the most all over your newsfeed and at the top of your chat list. Stalking, therefore, is unavoidable.
Technically, he’s right. It’s hard not to stalk people you’ve been involved with or are involved with because their faces are front and center on the screen. But before I could grant him a free pass for stalking, I knew I needed to do the research on my own. I had to figure out exactly how Facebook does this–what they consider in their “algorithm” and what I need to do to make certain people’s photos go far, far away.
The first thing I did was take to Google. “Algorithm Facebook uses to order your chat bar” and “How Facebook decided who comes up in your newsfeed” were probably too wordy and therefore unsuccessful. The larger problem, though, wasn’t in my diction. I genuinely believe there was wasn’t, or isn’t, a solid answer out there.
A few articles mentioned that Facebook declined to comment, numerous times, when asked for the variables in its magic algorithm, an algorithm so magical you’d think it was a Baked By Melissa recipe. Nevertheless, many have speculated. They think it has to do with the following: who you’re geographically near to, which is freaky, who you have the most tagged pictures with, recent friend acceptances, who you chat with both recently and frequently, and a slew of some other things I’m forgetting but you’d probably be able to figure out, anyway.
And because I know you were wondering: apparently, none of it has to do with who’s looking at your profile constantly. Apparently.
Unsatisfied with my findings, I thought I’d make up my own list of ways Facebook orders your chat bar.
1. Your hookup/boyfriend’s best friend is always on there. (However, there is a rational explanation for this and it could be because he sometimes messages you from his friend’s account, or his friend messages you to find him.)
2. Not people you have messaged recently, but the one person you usually don’t Facebook-communicate with who messages you three weeks ago asking something very random but specific.
3. People you have recently texted but not messaged via Facebook. Which is weird. But happens more than it should.
4. Three to five boys from high school you used to be close friends with but rarely, almost never, speak to anymore.
5. The president of your sorority.
6. A few people who you never communicate with but stalk on a daily basis.
7. Completely random people because the people you stalk aren’t stalking you in return and Facebook just feels bad for you and doesn’t know what to do about that.
8. Friends of friends. Similar to the friends of boyfriend theory but slightly different. Like you two aren’t friends at all but share a best friend. You probably have never even met before because you’re from different places and go to different schools. “But, like, if you two met, you’d absolutely love each other!! OMG!!”