I call myself one of Tinder’s unofficial founding members. I was there from the beginning, back in 2012, and have since fallen into what I think of as the dating app’s common cycle: initial giddy addiction at the possibility of the great unknown; obsessive swiping until both thumbs lose feeling; a few lukewarm, largely disappointing dates; deletion of the app in disgust; then re-downloading it when boredom strikes. After three years, I have little to show for it, except a bunch of saved WhatsApp conversations with blokes I saw once over a cheap bottle of wine – and what feels like one long hangover.
So what am I doing wrong? As a 27-year-old woman who has been single for most of her adult life, I like to think I know myself better than anyone else.
But my glaring lack of success is starting to make me question my Tindering tactics. Granted, my Tinder game has never been that calculated – I just use the most flattering (OK, potentially misleading) photos, then swipe right on any bloke who looks like he could possibly be in a band. Maybe it is time to seek outside help.
I decide to make every single woman’s nightmare my reality and hand over my Tinder profile to people who believe they can do a better job than me at finding my one true love. So over a three-week period, I relinquish control of my account to my best friend, Ed, my mum and a Tinder expert. (Yes, they do exist.)
I’m putting them all to the ultimate test: find me Mr Right – or at least Mr Right Enough For A Second Date.
Tomer Galzberg is a Tinder hacker who has made a name for himself working out how to get the most out of the app.
Tomer’s approach is all about strategy, streamlining and timesaving, which sounds about as sexy as updating Microsoft Excel. But, heck – this is the guy who used applied behavioural science to score 177 dates over an eight month period. I’m definitely listening.
As Tomer is an expert in what signals our profiles give of, I ask him the most important question: what should my profile picture look be? “When I was Tinder hacking, I would select six of my favourite photos and rotate the number-one photo each week. I would then swipe exactly 20 times per day for matches I actually wanted, and at the end, the one with the highest number of return swipes became my permanent number-one photo.”
All sounds like a lot of hard work (maybe I do need a spreadsheet) but I decide to follow Tomer’s advice. In terms of bio description, he suggests replacing my current bland attempt (‘’a tall writer’’) with something funny but direct: “You have to hand it to short people, they generally can’t reach. If you’ve got more originality than that and are as music obsessed as I am, we’re going to get along.” Done.
So first up: the black and white posey selfie I’ve used steadfastly since I joined Tinder, along with one of me doing a silly pose in New York, one of me looking arty and lonely in a photo booth, one of me holding a lettuce I grew in my garden, wearing a Smiths band t shirt (shows I’m earthy as well as an indie music lover), one of me in a sexy black dress when I was a bridesmaid for one of my best friends (thank you Alex for not putting me in a lilac meringue); a photo of me dressed as a cat drinking a beer in the back of a van at a festival (good time girl?) and one of me laughing outside a pub.
I don’t know how Tomer found 20 right-swipes in a day alone let alone a week. I spend the time it takes to watch two feature-length films swiping and I only manage to find four guys I’d right swipe (another problem with Tinder: the longer it’s around, the more people join, the harder it is to find the diamonds in the collective rough). Of those four, I match with two.
Should I make the first move? “Why not? It’s 2016,” Tomer enthuses.
“Favourite Rolling Stones album?” I ask my first match.
“Don’t know,” he replies. “I don’t listen to music other than the radio.”
“Haha. I specify for music lovers in my bio!” I tease.
“Yeah sorry, I just thought you were hot,” is his vague attempt at a compliment.
What a smoothee. I decide to leave it there. The other guy, an insurance broker, is nice but a bit slow to reply. I feel like I’m one of countless matches he might be passing his evening chatting to. I can feel that familiar Tinder ennui creeping back up on me.
The next evening I try swapping in the bridesmaid picture. I swipe right on three guys and get a match with all three. Bingo! I’ve found my winning picture.
A very tall (hurrah!), handsome thirty-something man called Guy* immediately starts chatting with me. His chat-up line is spectacularly, almost award-winningly dry: “Hey – how’s you?” but after a bit of back and forth he starts to warm up ever so slightly.
He even works at a record label! I’m sold.
Tomer tells me to try and wait for him to make the first move - which I think is a little old-fashioned, given it is 2016 as he stated, but it’s Tomer’s takeover and Tomer’s rules - so I drop hints about an open mic night near where we live and he readily catches one. We plan to go three days later. Waiting for him to take the lead on everything was sort of frustrating, I wanted to get to the next level and not remain virtual pen pals forever. Perhaps I am too impatient to play the demure damsel.
Before I leave the flat, I message Tomer: “Got a hot date with a tall guy from a record label. Conversation has been a bit dry so think he might be shy - any tips?”
“Awesome!” he replies. “Kick off the conversation and keep it flowing. If he doesn’t warm up and start vibing with you, then reconsider the second date. Keep an eye out for chivalrous acts, they’re rare but will mean he totally will look after you. At the end, offer to pay (or at least pay for a round), but expect him to push back and pay. If he does, you’re onto a winner.” This will be strange for me - I’m usually a strictly go halves girl so I don’t feel indebted to the guy or like there’s an unsaid contract of what I should give him in return. Tomer’s advice again strikes me as archaic, but he is the expert in these things so I follow his rules.
Guy is just as hot as his pictures, which is rare, but he’s also even more reserved than his monosyllabic online parlance suggests. “WOULD YOU LIKE A DRINK?” I shout over two men with fiddles. “Sure,” is his reply. He has not passed the Tomer Test of Chivalry with flying colours. Another half hour in and the “vibing” still hasn’t started, what with Guy flipping through his phone to show me clips of a band he’s signed. I make my excuses after drink number three and call it a night.
While I’m still not sure 100% sure what “vibing” is, Tomer’s strategic advice has been really useful. If that quasi-mystical, chemical connection isn’t there, it’s just not going to work, no matter how much you have in common on paper. It’s time to go back to the drawing board.
THE BEST FRIEND
Not only has Ed known me throughout all my years of dating disasters, but he actually met his own girlfriend on Tinder – and now lives with her. Plus, he’s done enough online dating to know how guys work and how best to read their hidden messages. An inside source, if you will.
Ed is fantastically specific when I ask him what photos to use for my profile: “At a glimpse of your Facebook, maybe the one in that fluffy high-necked jumper, the moody one with your notebook in a Paris bistro, the big hat and shades enjoying a pre-wedding cigarette and the one where you’re swilling Strongbow dressed as a cat. Not only do you look pretty and cool in all of them, they offer hints at your personality (writer, Francophile, festivals, soft spot for premium cider) and easy chat-springboards for nervous admirers.”
Ed tells me to right swipe men who make references to my favourite books or films in their bio, men who I have a “smattering of unconnected mutual friends with” and to avoid bios with reference to “sex or cocks” and anyone with “mutual friends of exes”.
He also gives me a timing tip-off: “A friend of mine claimed, persuasively but with absolutely no evidence to back it up, that the best time to do anything online was Tuesday evening.”
So I wait until Tuesday then in I go. I’m worried the main fluffy jumper photo is too cutesy and isn’t sexy enough, but I get three matches in an evening, one of whom is an olive-skinned, green-eyed banker, with a nice smile. Ed tells me the questions he’d love are: “what’s your favourite song of all time?” or “which five living celebs would be at your dream dinner party?” I go for the song question and hit the jackpot – “Dancing in The Dark”. A banker who likes Bruce Springsteen? Where has this man been all my life?
We agree to go for a drink the next day in the centre of town at 7 pm. My flatmate lends me her Valentino shoes – it’s safe to say I’m excited.
I arrive fashionably late (seven minutes) but the banker of my dreams isn’t there. He isn’t there at 7.15, nor 7.30. I don’t have his number as we’ve only been chatting on Tinder and he’s not replying to my messages. At 7.45 I throw in the towel and take my borrowed Valentinos home.
The next morning, I get a very unapologetic message from him with no real explanation other than being “kept late at work” and his phone being out of battery. He doesn’t suggest a second try. I forward the message to Ed and ask for his opinion.
“DROP!” he replies. Our short-hand for: dump.
I’m grateful for Ed’s honesty. Perhaps a female friend would have told me he’s interested, just to avoid hurting my feelings – even though we both know he isn’t.
Now, I am taking this experiment seriously, but I absolutely refuse to follow my mother’s first piece of advice, which is to take a photo of me “holding some sort of fluffy animal” as it “indicates your vegetarianism and your general loveliness. Stand in front of a book shelf to show your love of literature.”
I go for the normal black and white one. I’m not borrowing a friend’s cat, nor holding it like a prop in front of a bookshelf to get a date.
In terms of my bio, she suggests I write: “I am cute, witty, warm and intelligent with a good sense of humour. I play the guitar and sing like a lark. Great cook. Haven’t fallen off a train whilst inebriated in a very long time. I was prefect at school (shows capability).”
I go for the final suggestion and my bio simply reads: “I was a prefect at school”.
For the no pile, mum is very specific: “Tattoos. Facial piercings. Homeless, jobless, anyone older than your father (70), anyone younger than your brother (25).” And for the yeses? “Good looking, think: Jeffrey Dean Morgan, but not as old. Intelligent. Witty. Bright. Sexy in a low-key sort of way.”
Surprisingly, my mad bio plus the unbelievably limited requirements for a right swipe means I only swipe six and get one match of an evening. Ken* is good-looking in a “low-key sort of way” with curly hair, freckles and outdoorsy photos. My mum says I should ask him questions as men “love droning on about themselves”; so I ask him endless things about his job and, sure enough, he offers detailed, but funny and clever answers. He also tells me he was a prefect at his school. What do you know? Two future leaders of the world, matching on Tinder.
Mum tells me to go for dinner with Ken rather than a drink, because even if it’s disappointing “at least you get a good meal out of it”. We meet for sushi a few days later, after some pretty regular and fun conversational back-and-forthing.
Sadly, the minute Ken arrives, I am struck by that all too familiar Tinder feeling. He’s lovely; giving me a big hug and greeting me warmly, but he looks nothing like his pictures. They must have been taken, back when the Spice Girls were still at Number One. I start to panic, before thinking: what would mum do? She’d give the guy the benefit of the doubt and have a polite, enjoyable dinner with him.
And Ken turns out to be a great date – funny, confident, relaxed. He may not be the man I was expecting, but he makes an effort to lead conversation and has loads of interesting stories from his travels and intelligent opinions on things. We end up going for a drink after dinner and decide to meet up again to go to the theatre the following week.
He may end up being the slightly scruffy Ken to my very wonky Barbie or he may end up just as a friend; but either way at least I know my mum will like him.
While the last couple of weeks have been an eye-opener (who knew so many men were into fluffy jumpers?), its time to wrest back control of my Tinder account. Sure, I still don’t have a Mr Right, but perhaps I’ve finally broken my Terrible Tinder Cycle – this experiment has reminded that despite the fact there are noxious men out there (I’m looking at you Banker Who Stood Me Up) there are surprising and delightfully unexpected boys out there.
Now all l I need to find is one of them who is a chivalrous, former Prefect who I ‘vibe’ with and loves Springsteen… OK, maybe I’m going to need to expand my location settings.