For the optimistic, outgoing gent of very, very slightly above average looks (as I have self-diagnosed), Tinder is a mind-bending assault on your self-esteem. An ego-obliterating exercise in facing the painful truth, and a lightning-fast lowering of standards.
Obviously, it’s shallow, this seemingly infinite supply of women to positively or negatively appraise in a millisecond. And, men being far more shallow than women, it actually doesn’t play to our strengths in the mating ballet. Would Debbie McGee have clicked yes, with only the grinning visage of the millionaire Paul Daniels to go on? I doubt it.
It’s easy enough to sign up, but there is one giant obstacle. The app is linked with Facebook, so you can only use pictures from your Facebook page. I am horrendously drunk in pretty much all of mine, so have to wait till the dead of night to upload an album of acceptable pictures to Facebook, select them from Tinder, then frantically delete them all before anyone clocks the fact that I am, very obviously, making an online dating profile.
Once you’re underway, the first thing you notice is that everyone on earth is on here. Former colleagues, mates’ little sisters, school pals, old flames, everyone. Once, on a Sunday afternoon three years ago, a group of around twenty girls got on my tube carriage dressed as Oompa Loompas and pissed as farts. One of them is on there. I can even see my own trouser leg in the picture.
Given there is absolutely no room for jokes whatsoever, just pure physicality, I opt for a collection of snaps that illustrate I might be a faintly interesting person. Me arguing with someone on Sky News, on the BBC Breakfast sofa, my byline photo on a newspaper column, and hanging out with Strictly champion and Olympic medalist Louis Smith. But a colleague informs me that the Sky News one makes me look like a freak. “You can’t even tell you’re on telly. You just look like a grainy idiot with your gob open and the light bouncing off your bald head.”
I heed the advice and swap the main one to the one of me with Louis Smith and the matches start coming thick and fast. It doesn’t occur to me until much later, when someone else points it out, that non-gymnastic fans might imagine they are in fact saying yes not to me but to a quite staggeringly good looking 23-year-old Olympic medal winning gymnast.
Searching for Mrs Right
Occasionally, someone not too shabby looking emerges, pictured by the roadside in a pretty obscure bit of Uganda and you get all excited and want to message them and say, “Bloody hell, I’ve been there too. Amazing isn’t it?” But of course, you can’t. You’ve just got to cross your fingers and hope that at some point in the not too distant future your bald head and saggy chin pops up on her smartphone and she’ll think “Allo, I like the look of that.” Except it won't. In that respect (and not only in that respect) Tinder is a giant leap backwards in the boundaries of the possible. Despite having her stare out of the phone at you, a fellow user of a social networking interface, you are divided by an enforced wall of silence.
Michelle, 29, in a trilby hat with her arm up the arse of a Bengal tiger seemed genuinely lovely, but I was carrying a tray at the time, pressed the wrong button and that’s that, gone forever.
Great romances will falter at the fickle vagaries of human psychology too. The could-go-either-way types who come in the middle of a run of decent ones will make the cut. But a 6/10 who gets sandwiched in a horror show will almost certainly be a no and that’s no fault of her own. Shallow? Of course it is, but truly, don’t hate the player, hate the game.
Many of the advantages and opportunities of online life, the app ingeniously bypasses. Infuriatingly, Tinder forces my geographical location to be the centre of my romantic circle. If I want to meet girls from, say, Brixton, I actually have to go there - a concept only my dead grandparents could understand.
I grew up in the eastern end of Zone 6 - Towie country - and now live in Whitechapel, which as far as I’m concerned sits flush against the edge of my own personal sexual Berlin Wall. Five miles to the west of me are all the glittering delights of London. Five miles east is the desert of suburban crapness from whence I came. Girls who still live there, sorry, but I just do not want to know, and yet I have little choice but to be bombarded with pictures of them all, in their Barratt home kitchens, dressed like a car crash X-Factor audition, ready for a night out in Romford.
It is amusing too watching your sphere transform. Logging in at work on Kensington High Street is a distinctly different experience to doing so at home in east London. Sat on the tube home, I imagine my illuminated little circumference moving across London like one of those tracker maps of solar eclipse patterns. As the sun sets on Acton, it rises in Barking.
Reassessing one's standards
Very often, profile pictures will have four or more people in them, including the occasional bloke, but if all of them are acceptable looking you quickly realise it becomes quicker just to say yes, without even bothering to open the other pictures and try and piece together which one it is.
One photograph is of some rather nice legs surfing on a surfboard and I've said yes before I've realised I haven't even looked at its face.
On one occasion all that is shown is a very twee, over effected photo of a mojito. That's it. But I quite like mojitos so sod it, why not? Another offers nothing beyond a giant graffito of a rabbit on a wall.
On another, all five pictures are of the same two people, in various stages of jollity in various countries. It is, I do not exaggerate, entirely impossible to deduce which is the one you are supposed to be liking.
As the saga drags on, you start to say yes to pretty much anything that doesn't have a swastika tattooed on its forehead, and you can't help but think all the hundreds, if not thousands of girls that in your optimistic virginal hours who got dealt a straight red, that you would absolutely definitely say yes to now, but who are alas gone forever.
Mainly, it warps the mind. Walks down the high street or journeys on the underground turn into mental games of ‘no, no, no, yes, yes, yes, yes no’ with everyone you lay eyes on. And real life is decidedly poor by comparison. Once you've gently let down the girl sat opposite you with a mental, ‘sorry love’, they actually have the temerity to carry on sitting there, rather than do the decent thing and be sucked into oblivion in an instant and replaced by someone else, hopefully prettier, and who likes Alan Partridge and the Electric Light Orchestra.
Meeting Mrs Right
I met up with three people. One, who runs her own catering company (and, since her pictures were taken, has evidently been getting high on her own supply), arrived claiming to have been ‘really nervous’ and was consequently so drunk she fell down the stairs into the bar and broke both her stiletto heels.
The second was the most awkward hour of my life. A surly, aggressive PA who had been perfectly genial and amusing over text message, but who it transpired was of the view that a date isn’t supposed to be a friendly drink and a chat, but rather a gruelling job interview for a receptionist’s job in a failing company of which she is the CEO. “What would you have to offer me that nobody else would?” “How secure is your chosen career?” “Where do you want to be in five years time?” I don’t know, but not sat here.
The third was lovely, a buyer for an underwear firm, but it was a Friday night, too much drink got drunk, things happened that shouldn’t have happened, and that was the end of it.
Will I carry on? Probably not. I’m almost 32, and I can’t be buggering about, not if I want to have any hair whatsoever in the wedding pictures. By my calculation, it takes around five to ten minutes of genuinely unsettling borderline misogyny just for the privilege of starting a text message chat with someone with whom you are highly unlikely to have anything at all in common.
If I ever have another go at online dating, I would be more inclined to plump for one where you can at least pile in with a “Hello, how are you?”, not just click ‘like’, then wait around like nervous cattle, hooves crossed in hopeless expectation, staring across the meat market.
To check out Leah Quinn's ladies' guide to Tinder go here:http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/tinder-a-ladys-guide-to-the-dating-app-8970575.html