On my recent experience with dating apps: Tinder, Bumble, POF, etc

(Most of this article was written in 2017 April but never published. I am making slight edits to reflect this is past reality as opposed to present, and adding commentary at the end.)

So over the past couple of years or so, I was active to varying degrees on the dating apps Tinder, Bumble, and POF (Plenty of Fish), more or less in that order.

I’ve had a few quality conversations. In between, though, there were periods where match after match would wind up being a bot. They ranged from the type that would immediately spam the URL, to the type that would just spit out plausible replies to line after line of text. I know these are bots because I would keep repeating a question such as “What part of town are you in?” and get back a complete non sequitur reply that no decent human being would type in. (I guess there is an outside chance that these are just really, really dumb human women, but I’d still bet that they are bots if I had to put money on it.)

I’ve seen a lot. I know what I swipe right on (like) and what I swipe left on (dislike/skip). It’s actually pretty simple. The following things, for example, usually got an immediate left swipe:

  1. Duckface. I’m surprised I even have to say this. Just Say No To Duckface, please.
  2. Lack of a picture that shows your face without sunglasses or other distractions, or large enough where I can see it. Okay, so you’re not proud of your face for whatever reason. If you’re that ashamed of it that you can only show neck-down body shots, your legs/feet, or pictures of your dog/cat/kids (I’m not dating your dog, cat, or kids), I have almost nothing to really judge by and honestly I have doubts you’re a real person. Same with sunglasses: dating apps are not a Texas Hold’em poker game! Bluffing me into folding (swiping left) isn’t the objective here. Or, maybe it is, in which case, why are you on Tinder to begin with?
  3. Snapchat or similar filters, similar to the previous item. They are cheap. They are cliché. I’m sure you think you look cute as a dog, with worse-than-dollar-store fake flowers on your head, etc. Sorry, I don’t. If you are lucky I might look at your other pictures to see if I can see one that actually shows you as you are. (Even though I never will use Snapchat, I still know what the filters are from seeing them so many times. They really are that cliché. The last thing a woman who is desiring a date from me wants to look like is a dog, yet I see way too many dog-woman-face pictures on Tinder every time I get on it.)
  4. In the same vein as the two previous items, face paint pictures if they are all that is there. (I mean carnival/party/theme park face paint here, not just ordinary makeup.) I don’t mind these as much, some of these face paint designs are just too good not to show off, I totally get that. But if that’s all that’s there and I can’t tell or reasonably guess what you might look like without it, it’s really not any different than Snapchat dog-face.
  5. Invites to be part of a threesome or a polyamorous relationship. No offense to those who practice such things, but they just aren’t for me.

There are a few other things I will swipe left for but those cover the vast majority of cases; I have my own personal preferences in addition to those that I’m not going to detail here.

I’d like to think these are reasonable criteria. Though I wonder sometimes, am I really being too picky? The number of conversations I’ve wanted to take to the next step, I can count on one hand. One of them just up and quit responding one day. Another I thought I was doing well with, and then I wake up the next morning to find myself unmatched. Many other times, I start the conversation, only to get crickets.

I’m sure a lot of happy relationships have begun on Tinder and POF, possibly with Bumble too but it seems to be one of the minor players. (Also, due to Bumble’s “women go first” and 24-hour expiration rules, I have yet to get anything resembling a conversation going.) I have to wonder if maybe these apps are not for me.

I have nothing against Craigslist, but the personals section there is, if anything, much worse. Then again, the last time I tried it, I used it completely differently than I would something like POF or Tinder. I did not post my picture to my profile and used an alias email (not the one I normally use).

Update, 2018 November: As of some months ago I did, in fact, finally decide Tinder was not for me and deleted my profile there. I still technically have an active POF profile but I have not logged in for quite some time. I probably still technically have an active Bumble profile, but again, the app has not been on my phone for months if not over a year. The only dating app I use now is The League, which for the moment hasn’t yielded any decent results.

When I first wrote this in 2017 April, I had not yet fully committed to becoming a professional face painter. That changed in 2018, but my rule regarding face paint pictures still stands (I currently make sure I have at least half of my pictures showing “the real me”, though I may pare this down to two good face paint designs, or perhaps just one favorite, later.)

“Patently devoid of taste and thought” – a refutation of bad advice

Every once in a while, advice is given that is so patently devoid of taste and thought that I just can’t let it go unchallenged. Well, yesterday morning was that once in a while and a post to the Houston Press Hair Balls blog is the advice in question.

The author is one Fayza Elmostehi, who some of you may have heard of before and may even have met. I only mention her name here because I have a few vague ideas why she would give such incredibly thoughtless advice. I’m not going to go into details on that, this isn’t a personal attack.

Unfortunately, my refutation of this article needs to be so complete that I will probably wind up quoting almost the entire thing, as much as I prefer not to do so. And yes, that means this post will be pretty damned long. I am making a slight edit or two because there are words I still don’t want to publish in my blogs even if I have no problem putting them in my Twitter stream and elsewhere. They are the same words you really can’t say on TV or radio (by which I mean the public airwaves).

Let’s start at the beginning:

It’s over. And you know it. But you don’t wanna deal with the fiery end. You’re a chicken. You’re a coward. And you are simply too much of a humanitarian to go breakin’ any hearts. Okay, that last one was a lie.

My thoughts: If one is too chicken or too cowardly to deal with breakups properly, by which I mean face-to-face, then one have no business dating or at the very least no business letting things get to the “in a relationship” stage.

So, you’ve already decided that you’re gonna be [a jerk] about it. You’re going to ditch your jilted Juliet without a lick of real-time contact. We say, if you’re gonna do it up, you might as well do it up right. Why be a Peter when you can be a Dick?

Don’t we have enough jerks in this world? We wonder why there’s so much war, so much violence, so much hate. Men making stereotypical degrading remarks about women. Women making stereotypical degrading remarks about men. And then we get people writing garbage like this, glamorizing the entire lifestyle of being mean, being a jerk, treating others like they are disposable. Am I the only one that makes any connection between these?

Start at the heart. Pick the initial kicking-your-[rear-end]-to-the-curb wound wide open with a text message. Be blunt or be vague, but either way, keep your purpose at the forefront. “I need to tell you something” goes just as far “It’s over, [dog].” Either way, you’re going to start a digital dialog.

If you need to tell me something, pick up the phone. Often, I will directly respond to a text message with a voice phone call. I have done it before.

One cannot rely on a text message to always make it to its destination. I have had text messages go missing before.

Go cold turkey. You must beware – your phone may ring. Under no circumstances are you to answer it. Turn off the ringer, weakling. So he’s banging down your front door? Engross yourself in the History Channel; you’re not home, dammit. Communicate the break-up exclusively via digital means, or there will be no interaction at all. Them’s the breaks.

There are people out there (particularly men) who are very capable of escalating this type of non-contact to a level beyond what many people (usually women) can handle. Unless you’re ready to change your phone number or move at a moment’s notice, this is a great way to risk becoming a statistic.

So don’t do it.

Take matters into your own hands. Obviously, you must change your Facebook relationship status from “In a Relationship” to “Single.” Immediately. Bonus points if yours said, “In a Relationship with Blake Brown,” and this is the first Blake Brown’s heard of your separation.

This is a great way to get a voicemail or three saying “what the (beep) is this?” Without, of course, the beep. The advice as given goes below every standard of human decency I have known about.

And Ms. Elmostehi has the nerve to use the phrase “bonus points” in reference to this. More like a great way to trigger the tilt switch. Except people aren’t pinball machines; look up the phrase “going on tilt” as it pertains to poker players. It’s not something one should normally do in this type of volatile situation.

You are then obligated to plaster your newfound singletondom all over your status updates for Zuckerbergland – especially your ex and any fresh, untapped meat – to see. Extra credit if you move straight from Paramour #1 to Paramour #2 without missing a beat – and updating your relationship status to reflect it.

This type of behavior is so devoid of scruples I honestly expect Facebook to disallow it via technical means in the next couple of years, if not the next few months. (Hey, if Facebook can totally jack with privacy settings, there’s no reason they can’t fix this loophole big enough to drive a truck through.) I would say a minimum of 24 hours should be allowed to pass before going “in a relationship” to “single” back to “in a relationship” again, possibly even longer if it used to be “engaged to” or “married to.”

Again, doing this without having the decency to tell the former partner it’s over is playing with fire; don’t get burned.

No blow is a low-blow. Ready to be unforgiven? Cite his teeny, lopsided penis as the reason for your breakup on Twitter. Tweet about how she uses abortion as a method of birth control. There’s nothing that seals the deal quite like the public revelation of deep, dark, horrifying secrets. Bonus round: Blog about Romeo’s shortcomings between the sheets, replete with video uploaded to YouTube. Score!

Even if the rest of this is technically legal, this is a recipe for a slander or libel suit just waiting to happen. For those with no assets, sure, post and tweet away about lacking genitalia or lies about birth control methods.

I’m pretty sure the video bit is actually a criminal violation of the law in Texas at least. I know men have gotten in trouble for this before; I would certainly like to think at least this portion of the law would be applied equally to both genders.

Posts on Twitter, Facebook, and blogs can be archived by others long after the originals are deleted. I recall an instance where someone once sent me a direct message on Twitter, and then conveniently deleted it months later when it might be called into question. (It’s understandable why the sender would do this: the text referred to the sender’s sister as a dog, using the AKC-proper but somewhat impolite term for same.) I had already had the original e-mailed to me, still archived with the rest of my e-mails.

That’s assuming your partner is willing to play by the law, of course. For those that choose to follow Ms. Elmostehi’s advice anyway, it’s a good idea to make sure your life and health insurance are paid up, and be sure there are people that care about you enough to know if you go “missing” whether or not to suspect foul play.

It’s not that I’m one of these people, mind you. But the original article is almost better entitled “How To Risk Violence or a Lawsuit While Breaking Up.” If it’s humor, it’s a very poor example of it; I’m sure as hell not laughing. I believe a reasonable person would take this as real advice, and it is for that reason I’m writing a refutation post to state it should not be followed.

Breaking up is part of romance and dating. The only time it is reasonable to avoid direct face-to-face contact is when threats of physical violence enter the situation. There are several good dating advice Web sites out there and I’m not going to claim to be an expert on the subject because I’m not. Believe me, at times I wish I was. I just know how some people would react to some of these things, and I just don’t want to see anyone get hurt that doesn’t deserve it.

Summary: Too chicken to break up right? Too chicken to date.

The Houston Press is normally a great publication and most of what is published there is quality writing. This isn’t it. Shame on the Houston Press, and shame on Fayza Elmostehi. I hope she or her editor finds the will to issue a retraction.