I quit Bumble.
Not only that, I deleted the app and closed my account. I think I might be done with online dating.
I used Bumble for under a week. I was excited by the prospect of a woman making the first move. During those six days I swiped through literally thousands of women. On average, I’d guess that I swiped right once every 20-30 women. If you don’t speak Bumble, right-swipers are people you’re interested in chatting with. Alternatively, far-right swipers are far less desirable. Why did so few women meet my criteria? Why am I such a prize that I can be so selective? Let’s get some stuff out of the way first. I went through this when I first installed the app, but just in case, here’s a shortlist:
- Most profiles only have photos. If you can’t write a bio, then I know nothing about you.
- Your Instagram and Spotify say some stuff about you, sure. However, if you still can’t put the effort into writing anything about yourself, how could I see you as someone who’d put effort into a relationship?
- If people did write profiles, they were often homogeneous. A yogi looking for a partner in life who loves to laugh/is funny, enjoys tacos, the Leafs, travel, craft beer, has a dog, is tall, wants something meaningful and doesn’t play games. Or they’d use an obviously copy/pasted quote. Or endless emojis. If this app is anything to go by, women on the whole are honestly, Basic. I’m sure dudes are too.
- Of course attraction comes into play. If someone met my criteria but I didn’t find them cute, they’d get the swipe left too. I don’t think that differs from real life.
So, thousands of women. Let’s say 2000 as a ballpark figure. It’s probably not far off. If I’m matching one out of every 20-30, let’s round it up to about 100 right swipes. Keep in mind, those are right swipes that (in my very selective criteria) have been screened for resonant personalities and/or interests. Not only people that I liked, but people who I thought may have reflexively been interested in me. So of 100 right swipes, how many matches did I get?
Zero. Not one. No interest in me whatsoever.
I thought about it. I was constantly updating my profile. As I flicked through more profiles, I learned more about common structure. I changed certain aspects to be tighter, wittier. I added or dropped aspects that seemed unnecessary or unappealing. I caved and mentioned that I was from New Zealand (something I know people enjoy, but doesn’t feel like success on my own merits), just to see if it would attract more attention. The big caveat that I refused to budge on was announcing right at the top of my profile that I was poly. Available, but partnered. If that was gonna be a dealbreaker for someone, I wanted them to know right away so I wouldn’t waste a minute of their time. No part of my excursion into dating apps was with the intention of misleading a single soul. I knew this would be an issue for a bunch of people. Maybe that was why I wasn’t getting much interaction. I’d scared people off by being poly?
I suspected there was more to it.
As an aside, it was both neat and weird seeing people on there that I knew in real life. If it was a friend, that was cute. It was interesting seeing how they presented themselves in a dating format. In virtually every single case of finding a friend’s profile, my brain said they’re funnier, smarter and prettier than that offline. I guess I’m not the only one who sucks at summarising themselves into a digestible soundbite. It’s hard to be 3D in Flatland. Occasionally I’d see people from my workplace and that felt invasive. I didn’t like it one iota. These women had a right to privacy and I felt like I’d unintentionally broken that. I know I hadn’t done anything wrong, but it didn’t feel that way. I can’t imagine what it’d be like using a location-tracking app like Happn in a large corporation. I’d rather not think about it.
Anyway, this morning I found myself looking at a familiar profile. It was someone I briefly dated before realising we had better chemistry as pals. I knew for a fact that she’d been with her beau for some time now. I was also pretty sure she’d left most of her dating apps. I messaged her:
Me: “Hey hey. You just came up on my Bumble. So now I’m wondering, just how many dead profiles have I been swiping on?”
Her: ELL OH ELL.
Her: My past lives on in the Matrix!
I thought back to all my friends and co-workers I’d seen. One of my old physiotherapists, even. None of the pictures were fresh. The profiles seemed a tad stale. Had I been upturning a tomb of dead profiles? Users who’d deleted the app, but not their profile? A lot of people had complained about bots on the service, fake profiles. Were they just remnants of those who’d been and gone? Was I merely causing a ruckus in an echo chamber? What was the point?
I chatted with my friend and the more we talked, the more I realised that the service really wasn’t suited to me. There was no matching algorithm to ensure that those who you swiped through suited you in some fashion. Bumble was just throwing everyone in their Rolodex at you so you’d be overwhelmed by the illusion of options. I thought back to my days using OkCupid seriously. It’d be pretty rare for me to look at profiles below a 92% match. I was pretty picky in that top 8% too. Why waste your time with an unsuitable match? Why settle and go through the motions with someone who was just “fine”? Dating someone wasn’t important enough to me that I wanted it to be a chore. Things would happen organically, right?
Today I thought back to my years using online dating. At a guess, I’ve maybe sent out something in the realms of 800+ messages. Every single message I sent out was unique. The thought of delivering a canned line felt abhorrent and a terrible way to start a connection. I probably got about 40 back, most of those being thanks but no thanks (which I always appreciated. At least I could move on instead of wondering what if). I had one or two relationships. I met a couple of long-lasting friends. The bulk of my time, however, was sending effort, intention and emotions out into the aether and getting nothing back.
Like all my friends I saw on Bumble, I don’t come across well online. I’m either too goofy and childish or pretentious and cold. Thing is, I’m all of those things in different contexts. As everyone is, I’m well-rounded and nuanced. I’m three dimensional. In person I’m charismatic and self-confident. I can read social cues and shape the conversation around them. I understand the implication of tone and the weight of words. I can be charming face to face because that’s the world I understand. I’m a social guy and I don’t take a lack of interest personally. If getting more familiar with someone is the worst that can happen, that’s a pretty high floor.
So I think that’s where I am. For the time being, my online persona can take a knee. I miss the energy and excitement of dating, but frankly I’m pretty fucking chuffed with my girlfriend. I’m in no rush or hurry to meet others. If it happens organically (or good friends wanna try their hand at some old fashioned knitting circle matchmaking…), that’d slot into my life a lot more cleanly. If it doesn’t, I’m very far from being unhappy.
And in a week, maybe my thumbs will be strong enough again for a quality thumbs up.