Dating in the Age of Tinder and Emotional Unavailability

**all names have been changed for the purposes of anonymity**

Written by Alice Bell | Artwork by Christina M Garcia

On a Wednesday evening in mid-October I go for drinks with a few girlfriends after work. “Boys and sex,” I had replied via text message when they asked why I wanted to meet. Naturally, they all agreed to it immediately. After a year of too much time spent analyzing text messages and deleting and redownloading dating apps, it was time to change my attitude towards men. I wanted to hold the power in my next relationship, so I decided to reach out to my fellow friends and peers for their honest advice.


“Did I tell you about two weeks ago with forearm guy?” Abbi starts in on me as soon as I return to the table with a fresh glass of rosé. “Here, let me show you his Instagram.” While scrolling through dozens of the guy’s shirtless photos, I quickly realize that the “forearm” in question most likely has to do with the visible bulge in his pants. Having recently broken up with her boyfriend of four years, Abbi is fully embracing her new single-girl status. “I want to sleep with everyone at the moment. I’ve considered about 30 guys in passing today. I’ve already scanned this room,” she says between sips of her drink. She is also proactive on dating apps Tinder and Bumble, but makes it a point to inform every boy she meets that she isn’t looking for anything serious.

Across the table from Abbi and I sit Katie and Sabrina. Sabrina has only been single for 3 months but before that she was in two consecutive relationships which lasted for one year and two and a half years respectively. Currently, she’s enjoying the company of her ongoing hookup, who also happens to model part time. Boys love her, we get it.


However, Katie is the complete opposite of the other two. She hasn’t been in a relationship for two years now, and she doesn’t seem too keen on meeting anyone special. “I feel very asexual at the moment. I’m just not into guys.” For her, men are more trouble than they’re worth. “I could go for so long without having sex, but the second I have good sex I need it all the time.”

I can’t help but agree with her. I’m the type of girl who is content to be alone, but the minute I sleep with someone I’m completely thrown off balance. Suddenly, all I can think about is whether or not they’re texting me. “It’s been proven that a hormone is emitted once we have sex with a guy that makes us attached to them. But I have to cut all that off,” Abbi says when I share my feelings with the group. Is that really possible though?


As much as we love to joke around about the men in our life, no one ever seems to ever talk about the dark side of dating—the nauseating anxiety that follows a one night stand or the daunting pressure to be part of a couple. With social media and non stop texting, as much as you may not want to, you’re kind of forced into caring nowadays.  As I order another round of cocktails with the girls, the talk turns to whether or not Abbi’s guy has watched her latest Snapchat story and if he’s still seeing his ex girlfriend based on his recent Instagram tags. I decide I need to get a second opinion on this whole dating thing.

One of the more defining aspects of romance in 2017 is the presence of online dating apps. Tinder, Bumble, and Hinge (just to name a few) all encourage you to swipe through profiles until you find someone who interests you. Though not everyone likes to admit to using an app for finding their next hookup, the statistics show otherwise. Over half of Tinder and Bumble users are aged 18-29, with only a slightly higher male to female ratio. So yes, many people my age do have these apps downloaded to their phones. But what I’m really interested in is the expectations people have as they swipe through hundreds, often thousands of profiles.


“I only use Bumble for entertainment and free dinner,” Clementine, a 23 year old journalist, says. “So far, my only bad experience was when a guy turned up and was shorter than me.” However, Tinder is a different story. Swiping can cut like a knife, as Clementine will attest to. “I met a great guy on Tinder.


We hit it off straight away—by which I mean, he was inviting me over for sex in the shower and calling me repeatedly to set up a date. Then out of nowhere, he blocks me on WhatsApp. It was the briefest and strangest affair I’ve had to date.”

Meanwhile, Caroline, a 22 year old fashion student, admits that she used to be on a variety of dating apps and websites including Tinder, Coffee Meets Bagel and OkCupid. After receiving several comments about her race though, she now sticks to meeting men the good old fashioned way: at parties and through mutual friends. Being an Asian woman, she finds it hard to date online “because a lot of guys fetishize certain races based on lewd stereotypes.”


“It’s really just another way to meet the opposite sex,” Sebastian weighs in from a male perspective. As a 24-year old account executive living in New York City,

he uses dating apps “not only for gratifying myself sexually, but also for finding valuable human company.” He further explains to me the breakdown of what people are looking for on each app. “Tinder is definitely more for just hookups. Hinge and Bumble are more for dating, but honestly you can look at these girls’ bios and decide for yourself. Most of the time they say they’re looking for a relationship, but then they think the only way they can secure a guy is by putting out.”


I’m no stranger to the dating app trap either.

After one guy messaged me daily on Tinder for six months earlier this year, he ghosted me when we finally met in person. Now I stick to meeting the rare guy on a night out, even if that means I’m not getting laid for weeks at a time. Should us Tinderellas still hold out hope though, that if we keep swiping we may one day meet “the one?” Or is this setting our expectations way too high?

While what people look for on dating apps can be confusing, the one night stand is not. The unspoken rules of casual sex go as follows: no feelings allowed, don’t expect to hear from the other person afterwards, and spend the morning after laughing about it with your best friends.


Ethan, a 24 year old musician, agrees. “There can be no level of feelings like ‘I care for this guy and I feel jealous.’ I don’t have time for that.”


Five years after losing my virginity, I’m only now learning how to have no strings attached sex. I ask for advice from my peers, many of whom are already seasoned pros.


“I would say my entire college career was a one night stand,” says Alexa, who is now 23, working in sales. “Freshman year was pretty awkward when you saw someone you hooked up with that weekend, but by senior year I think that went away. Actually, I feel like i’ve ended up friends with most people I’ve hooked up with…is that weird?”


Clementine the journalist has a similar answer. “No one seems to just hang out with one person these days. Everyone has a roster, and everyone is onto the next thing. My general history is either snogging or shagging after a night out, which may then be followed up with texting and a dinner invitation.”


However, it’s not all so fun and games if on the

off chance you never hear from the guy again. Sadly, this is the outcome I’ve found in my own experience to be the most prevalent.


Sabrina offers up a viable alternative. “With one night stands you have to find someone who is good looking but clearly a dick or just stupid so you can’t care about him afterwards,” she says.


I’m amazed by her theory. And jealous I hadn’t thought of this sooner. “So the next time I want to have sex, I’ll just pick out a dumb shit,” I reply. Suddenly, the hot mailroom guy at my job seems like the perfect match. I text him later that night, but his responses are so boring I can’t even be bothered to invite him over. I hit up Sebastian instead for more of his male insight. He’s doing the exact same thing though with a friend he’s known since university. “I’ve probably slept with her on 25 different nights, and we’ve never talked about it AT ALL…but it’s never weird,” he quickly adds.


Yeah right.


Rather than beat myself up about how bleak my own romantic future looks at this point, I throw myself into my work. From what  I’ve learned so far, it’s the person who cares the least who wins in the end. However, I can’t ignore the bad aftertaste all of these conversations have left me with. Despite what I’m hearing, I’m still unconvinced that we can shut off our emotions that easily. And in time I find out that I’m right…kind of.

By the end of November, Abbi has cut ties with four of her Tinder matches, one of whom has left her to start a monogamous relationship with another girl. It’s unsurprising behavior coming from a guy she met off a dating app and had casual sex with once, yet she’s still upset by the outcome. “Out of all of them, he was the best and he disappointed me the most,” she says with a sad sigh and a drag of her cigarette.


Meanwhile, Sabrina’s steady hookup has proven to not be so reliable after all. “Desperate for sex much?” he replies when she asks to come over to his house one night. Rather than dumping his sorry ass then and there, she continues to stick around.


And then there’s Clementine, who texts our group chat on Facebook before going on her Bumble date. “Do I look like marriage material you guys?” she asks before attaching a selfie of her face. “Yasssssss queen,” we all reassure her.


In an unexpected plot twist, I am the one who comes up on top. While sitting at my desk in the library the other day, writing this very article,  I receive a Snapchat from a boy I’ve met once but to whom I felt an instant attraction. “I feel like you have no emotions and you just don’t really care. I really like that, because it’s how I feel too,” his message reads. I laugh out loud and continue typing.

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