Here’s how it goes. Every few months, a 4 000-word trend piece comes along that captures some elemental cultural truth and with it the imagination of the internet, magazine commissioning editors and desk workers the world over.
The Facebook share button is currently going steady with an exceptional Vanity Fair piece by Nancy Jo Sales, which takes the temperature of hookup apps and declares a “dating apocalypse”.
The gist: bros, city boys and guys in general are all on Tinder, faces illuminated as if by a cop’s torch, ignoring their friends in bars. Women are doing the same but, as ever in the game of sex and romance, are being dealt a much worse hand. One man boasted about eschewing words altogether in his bid to “get girls into bed”. A wink emoji followed by the eggplant emoji followed by the post-coital fag emoji and romance dies again.
How, then, do we survive this so-called dating apocalypse? Allow me to take you by the hand – there, we’ve already established physical intimacy – and offer the following advice.
Choose an app carefully
Sales’ piece is structured around Tinder, which is one of the most popular dating apps (50 million active users) thanks to its gamification element. There’s just something about swooshing a potential mate off the screen because they are wearing the wrong football shirt and/or too much fake tan, or are drinking the wrong type of beverage, which screams dopamine hit. You are dragging real people into the desktop trash can and it feels great. Einstein said that God didn’t play dice but with Tinder, we all play God.
Tinder, however, is not the only dating app out there. I know this because I write about technology for a living and this morning I received an email with the subject line: Tinder Is Not The Only Dating App Out There. There are apps such as Happn (meet someone as they pass you in the street), Grouper (go on a date with friends) and Hinge (oooh, we know the same person). There are dating apps geared to sexual orientation and religion. So shop around, as Kirstie Allsopp might advise.
Try to meet someone in real life
I might gently suggest, a la Benedict Cumberbatch, that technology isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. But if the thought of being phoneless makes the oxygen mask drop from the ceiling, then be consoled with the knowledge that dating was equally crap before hookup apps, as the Hairpin’s response to Sales’ piece rightly points out.
If you do decide to meet someone IRL, options include: readymade pools of mutual friends, colleagues, acquaintances and strangers in bars. Unless you live in London, where it is too expensive to ever leave the house.
Unsolicited naked pics are not great
It’s a common theory that our experiences of sex are becoming skewed through porn. This is concerning, given that 10% of 12-to 13-year-olds worry about being addicted. This is the era of sexting, which on the one hand is the acceptable offspring of phone sex in long-distance relationships (and You’ve Got Mail) but on the other, results in a penis close-up before a sniff of a hello. Don’t be that person – and this goes for women too.
It’s OK to not be able to get it up
This seems to be a source of much discomfort for the men in Sales’ piece. So for all of the guys writing to Pamela Stephenson Connolly: this genuinely is not that much of a big deal. It happens. As one woman puts it in Vanity Fair: “I was like, dude, I’ll just go to fucking sleep, it’s OK.” Anything to get out of faking an orgasm.
Women don’t all want relationships and babies
Let us wipe the thick coating of dust off this old tale of wives again. Alex, 25, who works in the film industry, says of women: “They act like all they want is to have sex with you and then they yell at you for not wanting to have a relationship.” But none of the women in Sales’ piece are in relationships – they’re just after casual sex that won’t shortchange their souls.
Feel free to fake a phone call at 8am
It’s fascinating, this belief certain men have: that women all want to get hitched and have kids. Yet when a woman asserts the opposite, she is hounded by the right-wing press (see: Labour leader hopeful Liz Kendall) or, as in America, Planned Parenthood is picketed and women are spat at in the street for not wanting babies.
A little tip for men: most women do not spend their spare time on the kitchen floor, snipping small holes in condoms before carefully re-inserting them into the packets, cackling. Women: feel free to enjoy casual sex without worrying that you are a slut. Feel free to fake a phone call at 8am after locating the nearest bus stop on Google maps.
Just go Dutch
One of the men in Vanity Fair boasts about spending just $80 (£50) on getting three women into bed, and another woman acknowledges she sometimes uses Tinder to get free meals. I’ve never really understood the issues around money and dating. Just go halves. Or if a man insists on paying, then let him, and if you’re likely to see him again, you pick up the next tab. The argument over who pays is the sort of banal heterosexual concern same-sex couples are baffled by.
Some people are probably not genuine
As somebody who once maintained a healthy WhatsApp group to share screengrabs of odd Tinder profile pictures, I feel qualified to write that some people on there cannot be genuine. People posing with tigers (handler just out of shot) are usually for real though.
However, trolls do exist, and charities and films are now utilising dating apps and sites as promotional tools. Remember too, that before laughing at the lady who cries about her cat on eHarmony, the joke might just be on you. – By Hannah Jane Parkinson
Image – A woman takes pictures of a wall on which appear portraits of men, on September 11, 2012 in Paris, on the opening day of a store of the online dating site “AdopteUnMec.com” (AdoptAGuy.com), where women can choose and also date men. (AFP)