Some anniversaries are meant to be celebrated, others mourned. One year ago, desperation drove me to speed dating, and speed dating drove me to Tinder. Tinder drove me to Bumble, and Bumble drove me to eHarmony. There was a short In Real Life break in between, but not long enough to speak of, or to go out with more than one guy, who after slobbering all over my face at the end of our date professed his desire to see me again immediately, made plans for the next day, then disappeared.
My theory that eHarm would be better than the swipe apps because it cost money and took some effort had been patently false. When I discovered eHarm was a scam and a sham, based on no legitimate algorithm and with most of the matches I was sent being expired (or perhaps nonexistent) users, what option was left?
There was one app I’d heard of and avoided because the nature of it made it even creepier than Tinder: happn. It takes the tracking one giant step further and matches you not with other users within a certain geographic distance, but with those whom you “cross paths” with. Supposedly it’s designed to help you find that cute stranger you passed on the street or saw on the bus, but this is LA, so in reality it has nothing to do with public transportation and everything to do with who you drive by on the freeway.
Almost a year to the date I downloaded Tinder – and nine months after I deleted it – I downloaded happn. Who knew 10 or more years ago that dating in the future would require so much downloading? (“The Jetsons” got so much right, including Skype, but it did not predict dating and mating via smartphone.)
The nice part about happn was I didn’t have to leave my apartment to “cross paths” with other users. The creepy part was the app kept telling me guys were 850 feet away from me.
Were there dudes in my apartment I didn’t know about?
I realized that every guy who walked down my street to go surfing in the morning crossed paths with me. Apparently I was in an ideal location for this app.
Finally, some benefit to living at the beach.
I’ll confess that after replacing dating apps with the language learning app Duolingo on New Year’s Day, my initial daily Duolingo use had dwindled down to nothing. The app kept sending me reminders to practice my Portuguese, and when I ignored them for long enough, it sent me passive aggressive messages saying, “These reminders don’t seem to be working. We’ll stop sending them,” but then continued to send them. When I ignored those for long enough, Duolingo finally went silent.
So in all honesty, I wasn’t replacing a Duolingo addiction with another dating app; I was just getting addicted all over again to browsing and swiping.
When I matched with a passerby (or someone else when I ventured into the world), the app made a little electronic buzz, and the message “It’s a crush!” popped up.
At first I felt like I was stalking every man in my general vicinity. When I was at the coffee place in Venice, I’d open the app to see if anyone else in the room was on there too.
Soon I started thinking I recognized guys around me because I’d seen them on the app. When I was in the park by the beach watching the sunset, I’d wonder if the stranger standing by the wall next to me was also “crossing paths” with me, and I’d look when I got back to the privacy of my own apartment.
Yet I rarely, if ever, saw anyone in real life that I saw on the app, even the guys I passed 30 or more times who happn said were “850 feet away NOW.” They had to live in my neighborhood for us to cross that often, so why did I never see them IRL?
In the beginning, I told myself I would not message any guys first and would wait for them to message me. But I soon discovered that, just like on the other apps, despite having a good number of matches very few of the men took the initiative to contact me.
So after a few days, I broke my own policy and began contacting guys first.
The result? It wasn’t a surprise. It made no damn difference. Half the guys I contacted first didn’t respond, and of those who did, way less than half of them followed through to make an actual date.
Even in 2016, with the ubiquity of men’s skinny jeans and man buns, men are men: If a man is actually interested, he’ll contact the woman.
But will he try to make plans? That’s another story altogether.
Almost no one ever on any dating app or site initiated making a date unless I nudged him. Instead of even trying to be witty about it like I had originally on Tinder, coming up with cute coinages like “I’m reaching my textperation point,” I’d say after more than enough messaging back and forth, “I prefer to meet than message.” At least I had alliteration.
Every single guy would respond the same way: “Oh yeah, me too. Meeting in person is better.” Yet almost none of them would take the next step towards initiating an actual date. Aziz Ansari discusses this at length in Modern Love, shining a light on the modern man’s inability to to be a man and ask you out.
At least it’s a cultural phenomenon, not just a personal problem.
After chatting back and forth with one guy, I wrote: “I’m a big believer in meeting over texting.”
He responded almost immediately: “Same here! [happy face emoji] I prefer meeting in person.”
That was the last message I ever got from him.
What the hell, men? What the hell? Are you so bored, are your lives so empty, that you want to text back and forth endlessly with women you have no intention of ever meeting?
What’s the point? Don’t we have enough distractions available already without adding strangers looking for dates who we aren’t ever going to actually date, or even meet?
If most men are using happn solely as entertainment, is there anyone looking for a date, much less a relationship?