That awkward moment when your date doesn’t look like his Tinder profile picture

tinder booty shorts

(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.


3 thoughts on “That awkward moment when your date doesn’t look like his Tinder profile picture

  1. sjanetos

    I wish that Tinder would recognize your taste depending on the people you swipe right or left for. If they’re creating fake profiles to decide what features people find attractive, it seems like that could be in the cards!

  2. Skylar_Elis

    Very well written. My project in our class will be about Tinder, so this we a particularly interesting blog post for me.

    I think your story is interesting, and I realize now that I am guilty of doing something similar. I have used tinder before and met up with someone who turned out to be very very photogenic. Now, to clarify I’m not a superficial person, I was happy to still go out and at least have a nice evening together. But we had conflicting vibes. There is just something there that can only be sensed in person, and not on through carefully constructed online conversation. Her and I weren’t even compatible on a plutonic level.
    I excused myself to the restroom at one point and texted my friend to call me in 5 minutes with an “emergency” so I could leave. He did call, with a “flat tire” and I dropped her off back at her house soon after.

    I felt bad at first, but I think I handled it well. I was far from rude in person an apologetic for the timing of this “emergency”.

    I suppose there is a human quality of connection that is a complete variable until you are face to face. And even in the most detached sexual desires that could drive people to meet, there is a certain compatibility that goes far deeper than any online profile can represent.

  3. nklepper

    This is an emerging and quite sensitive issue in the culture of online dating. We put the best versions of ourselves on the Internet to leave our audiences with a certain, tailored viewpoint or appearance of ourselves. Although sometimes unethical, the idea of editing and enhancing photos to capture the eye of an admirer is quite a sticky subject. If we are all doing it, why shouldn’t I? However, when it comes to dating, let’s face it, appearance is a HUGE factor. The fact that this man in your blog post didn’t advertise completely fake pictures is relieving, however, how are we to judge him on his appearance when so many women use push up bras and yoga pants to enhance certain features of their bodies for show? There is definitely a double standard here, but no doubt, I would’ve been just as disappointed as your friend!

Leave a Reply