I swipe Christine to the left, watching the flash across the screen in glib orange lettering.
Or, if not that, then perhaps sex, an act you have fond but increasingly dim memories of enjoying, will be involved. Michelle has gone ahead and taken the initiative, writing me a message that reads, in its hieroglyphic entirety: "hi)." I delete five drafts before settling on a response ("Hi there. for straight people," a reference to the app that has become a staple for gay men looking for no-strings-attached sex, I find Michelle's overt randiness more suspicious than titillating.
Good morning") and feel, as I hit send, like a ninth grader who's just passed a note to the cheerleader in algebra class. While waiting for Michelle to respond, I instigate conversations with both Ashley and Lori. I try to steer us into more innocent terrain: "What part of the city are you in?
This is the digital equivalent of hitting on a woman at a bar while the woman you've been hitting on is in the bathroom, a tightrope walk the analog would never attempt. " The question doesn't seem to register with Michelle: "I want a guy that can make me cum...." she replies. political science – an appealing combo, since I've taken up yoga and pretend to be interested in politics; Lori, meanwhile, informs me that she has just graduated from LSU and, having "fallen in love with the Ebola virus," plans to attend medical school in a year.
She enters my life like the dozen women who came before her and the hundreds who will follow: in the palm of my hand, flickering on the touchscreen of my phone. Being nearly a decade older, I find her youth a bit distressing. Further stoking my curiosity is the knowledge that Michelle is three miles from here, which has the effect of making her seem more real than the catalog resembles, blurring the line between fantasy and reality, pixel and potential.
But mainly what I'm drawn to in Michelle is her looks: brown hair blown straight, white jeans that seem to have found their way onto her slender frame via skin graft, a face punctuated by the sort of vaguely suggestive grin made culturally ubiquitous by the selfie.
"She looks like fun," I think, and so I press my thumb onto the screen and swipe her to the right, a gesture that passes for flirtation here in the peculiar world of Tinder, the mobile app responsible for "introducing" us.With that, the word liked flares up in green, a virtual stamp denoting my interest, and Michelle vanishes into the digitized ether as quickly as she first appeared. I contemplate this for about a second, then forget Michelle entirely, distracted now by Christine, the 36-year-old in a sequined evening gown who has taken Michelle's place. Certainly more age-appropriate, but she is 28 miles away and, more to the point, doesn't inspire the sort of fun thoughts Michelle did.RELATED: 5 Dating Apps That Actually Work It takes about 10 seconds to understand Tinder's cleverness: a dating service designed to never explicitly feel like a dating service.After the initial download, you're forced to link Tinder to your Facebook account, with the thin assurance that your Facebook friends won't know you're using it – at least until they stumble across you on Tinder.The effect is that instead of feeling like another lovelorn castaway handing the reins of your heart over to the algorithm of, say, Match.com, you have the sense that you're merely putting a minor addition to the same social network you already share with a billion people. " So reads the message that appears on my phone the next morning. There's Michelle, as well as -year-old Ashley, and Lori, a 22-year-old whom I felt vaguely creepy for liking in the first place.Indeed, a few minutes into the experiment and I've already forgotten how under ordinary circumstances, Tinder is exactly the sort of digital-age phenomenon that makes me want to move to a yurt and learn to spearfish. Thirty-four years old, newly single for the first time in years, I have dealt with the breakup by impulsively moving from New York to New Orleans, where I know next to no one. I am at one of those disorienting life junctures where you find yourself hunched over your phone entertaining the idea that maybe 50 years from now your grandchildren will gather around the holographic fire to hear the story about how you and Granny met on Tinder. While this is not as thrilling as catching a stranger returning your nervous smile from across a room, my ego swells at the thought of these women deeming me worthy of a rightward swipe.