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Queer Abby: The Trouble With Tinder

Dear Queer Abby,

Do you have general advice for novice Tinder users? Good rules of thumb, etc.?

Signed,

Swiper in Sacramento

Dear Swiper,

Thank you for this question.

I have a lot to say about dating apps.

Do not wear sunglasses in the majority of your photos.

If you are holding a beer in the first picture, I’m going to imagine that’s what you consider a vital element of your personality.

“Love to laugh” is not something I’ve ever heard someone with a great sense of humor say. I’m just going to leave that there.

People can usually hold it together for their first three pictures, but after the third photo, things generally go off the rails. Be choosy.

Use photos that show off your personality (they’re going to eventually see it anyway), but don’t be afraid to look hot. As hot as you can look!  

I took a photo of a butch friend washing my car, in a tank top, looking very muscular and serious, specifically for Tinder. Imagine my dismay when she chose a goofy beer picture as her primary instead, because she was afraid it seemed egotistical to post a cheesecake picture. JUST GO FOR IT. It’s part of your personality. Sometimes you’re juggling, sometimes you’re flexing. People only have one second to decide if they want to look at your profile or not. Lure them in!

Do NOT choose a group photo as your main photo. If you must use other people in your DATING APP photos, make sure they are okay with it, and also don’t do the thing where you cross them out using MacPaint or a rusty safety pin. It feels like being in a Lifetime Movie and stumbling upon a box full of wedding pictures with cut out heads of the groom.

No animal face filters.

Don’t take it personally if someone doesn’t write you back or disappears.

First of all, they are a stranger, so they don’t know you well enough for it to have been some biting condemnation of your character.

Secondly, they are a stranger so who cares.  

Thirdly, they are a stranger so you don’t know what’s going on in their life. They may have just had a death in the family, reunited with an ex, or gone celibate. Who knows!

Turn the page. Turn the swipe.

You are under no obligation to respond to strangers if you don’t want to. Even if you’ve matched.

Swipe right as much as you want, but take a pause before you start engaging with people on there to assess whether or not you would like them in real life. Are they *actually* interesting, or are they just more interesting than the other people you saw on Tinder that day because they’re not holding a Coors Light with a profile that says LOVE 2 LAUGH?

Don’t be afraid to give compliments. It doesn’t cost you anything to say something nice to a person.

You may as well be honest with people about what you are looking for. Inquire what people are on there for and tell them what you are on there for. Hookups? Dating? Long term?

It’s better to establish whether or not it’s a match before you go to first base, whenever possible.

Bonus: This is some deep baseball, but we need to talk about the Tinder algorithm. Did you know that these websites (including OKCupid) will generally show you people who are in the same popularity/“hotness” bracket as yourself? It’s true. You need to keep a good algorithm, or else they’ll kick you to the bottom of the barrel and just show you creepy men whose profile picture includes them standing next to someone whose face has been scratched out with a butter knife.  

How to keep a good algorithm? Match with people. Even if you’re picky and there are only 15 butches in the entirety of Tinder’s database. Swipe right as often as you can stomach. Show that you are there for a reason. Un-matching people works against your algorithm, so do it wisely. Write back to people sometimes. Basically, imagine you are Joe Tinder, CEO of Tinder, and you want to populate your application with people who are going to engage with the site in the way it’s meant to be played. You aren’t going to boost up people who are hateful lurkers and show them your top tier of participants. So do what you need to do to seem like less of a hateful lurker.

FINALLY, I am so happy to have a soapbox to stand on and complain about something I’ve been forcing my friends to listen to for years:

THE TROUBLE WITH TINDER: a TED talk by NJG

A couple of years ago, Tinder went to great lengths to involve prominent members of the trans community in the rollout of their great gender campaign. Essentially, they had trans luminaries say into the camera “Tinder Cares!” and then they wrote a long blog post about gender diversity.

Okay, thought the people, this seems promising. THEN Tinder came out with tons of different words you could choose to describe yourself! Asexual? Demisexual? Transmasculine? Sure, sure sure!

BUT THEN — and this is the awkward part — that’s all they did.

You cannot search for someone who is non-binary on Tinder. You cannot be a queer woman and search for someone who is trans-masculine. You cannot search for a-gender or any of the other things you put in the fun “pick your funky gender because we care about gender” box.

This creates an unsafe space for trans and gender-nonconforming people who are tossed in a deck with, and then seen by, every straight, cis-person on Tinder.

As recently as April of this year, Tinder was deleting trans women’s profiles for “violating terms.” They have an anonymous complaint-based algorithm, so if enough transphobic trolls report you, you are kicked off of the site. Tinder is currently being sued by a young woman whose profile was deleted for “breaking community guidelines,” i.e. existing as a woman in public. 

The idea of trans women being flagged instead of embraced by the actual people who want to date them, or of discovering trans-masculine people in a deck labeled “women” drives me UP THE WALL!

If you write a letter of complaint to Tinder headquarters (as I have, many many times), they will tell you that they LOOOOOVE gender differences, funnel you towards their blog, and then tell you that they are rolling out more gender options in other cities.

Friends, it is 2018. Is there not a better time for an inclusive dating app? If you no longer have the patience for the Tinder fiasco, I recommend Personals (currently an Instagram account with an app on the way).

End of TED Talk. There will be no Q&A because the presenter just got herself riled up and ran through a wall, a la the Kool-Aid Man, over how much money Tinder put into their front-facing media campaign without actually considering safety measures and functionality for its trans users.

Got a question for Queer Abby? Write to [email protected]. All questioners will remain anonymous! 


Nicole J. Georges

Nicole J. Georges is a writer, illustrator, podcaster, and professor from Portland, OR.