(Tinder booty shorts circa 2014)
Rettberg’s Seeing Ourselves Through Technology, Chapter 3: Serial Selfies stuck out to me this week, since I was curious to see how such an informal and colloquial thing like the selfie would manifest itself in academia and theoretical readings. The discussion of profile photos as personal identity and identification with groups was nothing new, but it became interesting to consider in the context of the popular dating app Tinder. For instance, I noticed guys use Red Solo Cups as a symbol of their willingness to partake in underage drinking, and group photos to show their social side while trying to divert the attention of the viewer from their unattractive selves to their attractive friends. I swipe left immediately on both occasions.
My roommate is an avid Tinder user and reading Rettberg’s article also immediately made me recall one of her many dates she recounted to me. She was basically upset because she met up with a guy who looked nothing like his Tinder profile picture- read: he looked something like it, but he was hairier and fatter and way less cut. She said she tried to be nice about it, but she was really super mean and told him she wanted to end the date right there and then because she was so disappointed in how he looked. He apologized and asked if he could make it up to her over dinner but she was bent on leaving and actually got up and left. She emphasized that it was not so much the fact that he looked bad, but that she had showed up reasonably expecting him to look good, that really disappointed her.
Given our implicit awareness and practice of filtered reality, I was curious to know why she felt that way, and why I felt that same sense of disgust after listening to her story. How dare he deceive her into thinking he was someone better than he actually was! Did he not think she would notice, or that she would care? Since people are expected, and certainly do try to make themselves look better online (be it through technological or cultural filters), why was there the expectation that someone look just as good in real life as they do online? Isn’t the point of social media to make yourself look better in virtual space? My immediate response is to say that online representations must have sufficient reality, though some glorification is still bearable. The fact that Tinder is a dating app does, however, have more responsibility for accurate representation attached to it.
On another note, the way that Tinder has restructured the presentation of content is interesting. Tinder differs from the typical timeline or feed based buffet of information- instead, we are presented with one picture/ profile at a time, and are forced to make a judgment call on the person before we can move to the next one. Since we are not given information in a continuous stream, I’m curious to know if this signals a newer cultural trend that is moving away from chronological narrative to random spurts of information, or fragments of information on the basis of preference. Though this certainly does not reflect any narrative time progression, it reflects in a progression in our judgments of people. This is so significant, in fact, that friend of mine (who was a product intern at Tinder) told us how they would create fake profiles just to see what qualities or features in men would result in girls being more likely to swipe right on them.