Three dating lessons Filipinos need to learn from Tinder

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The dating app Tinder has been around long enough for any Filipino to know what a “swipe left” and a “swipe right” are supposed to mean. But while it has broken into our mainstream consciousness, many still remain wary of touching the app—which is a shame, because I think that of all the scenes around the world, ours is among those that need the most loosening up.

So whether you’re one of those heathens who’s planning a bacchanalian Holy Week, or devout enough to wait until Easter, here are a few things that I hope the app imparts to our local market.

1. Just because you’re actively looking doesn’t mean you’re desperate.

There are so many annoyingly apologetic Filipinos on Tinder. “Just trying this out!” “I’m not sure how this is going to be worth my time anyway.” “If you tell other people that you saw me here, how will you explain how you came across my profile?” Suffice it to say that there is enough lack of conviction on the app to make my eyes roll round and around my head.

Another friend of mine told me that she’d probably join, but didn’t think that the kind of guys she would date were in there. Sadly she was right. I’ll be honest with you, ladies. If you’re looking for a quality Filipino guy, Tinder is not your best recourse as of now. The only reason it’s been working for me is because I’ve been swiping almost exclusively on AFAMs (that’s short for A Foreigner Around Manila), which I don’t mind because they’re my current preference anyway.

But that is reflective of the huge stigma that remains, at least in the straight Filipino market, when it comes to dating apps. People are deathly afraid of looking desperate.

It’s a stigma that I used to buy into, too, until I realized, wait a minute. When I wanted a publishing career, a degree, or even more money, new clothes, or a vacation, it was perfectly okay for me to act on it. But how come if I were to do the same for dating, desperate na agad? It was a lopsided equation that made me say, “F*ck it.”

And in my case, the emotional state that drove me to try Tinder wasn’t desperation. It was my way of compensating for laziness and my introverted tendencies. I no longer liked going out as much as I used to. And when I did, it was with people I already knew—people whose company I loved, but to whom I wasn’t attracted.

The idea of mingling and going through a mass of boring people in the slim hopes of finding one who was at least remotely interesting was exhausting. I often found myself just wanting to stay home with a good book.

Looking at my situation objectively, the influx of new people (i.e. chances) was zero, and it didn’t look like that trend would be budging anytime soon. In short, I wanted to meet worthwhile company, but I also wanted to be a brat in my pajamas. I figured the least I could do was download an app and swipe. Tinder was my compromise.

I’m not a fan of how we automatically take certain actions to mean someone is desperate — especially because such ways of thinking only inspire more kinds of desperation — specifically the desperation not to look desperate, which only makes a person more desperate than he was to begin with. It’s a vicious cycle. I hope Tinder teaches us to just cut the crap and just do what we need to do.

2. There really are so many other fish in the sea.

Geographically, with its beaches and mountaintops, the Philippines is probably one of the best places to get over an old flame. Socially though, I would say it’s one of the worst.

We don’t even have an actual dating scene here, with our society being very cliquish and kakilala-oriented. People keep within their circles even at clubs, making the rate of getting to know new people glacial. It’s not unusual to feel like you’re stewing in stagnant waters. You could declare that you are now open to new possibilities only to hear crickets — because all around you is the same old crowd.

But Tinder doesn’t care about our social norms. It just brings in the numbers. Granted, these are numbers that you will have to sieve through for preferences and quality. But just the knowledge that there are so many other people out there — and actually seeing them on your phone — has an effect on one’s general dating outlook.

This also inspires you to not take things too seriously. You suddenly don’t care as much if one person ghosts, if there is no second date, or even if your first time to ask a guy out didn’t pan out very well.

In time, Tinder teaches you to just take the shots. Some will blow up in your face, but you will rest in the knowledge that the world is still out there. And the more shots you take, including the unsuccessful ones, the higher your chances are, and the better you become at dealing with prospects and figuring out what you’re looking for.

I wouldn’t call Tinder a cure for heartaches, because I know how people can be irreplaceable and burned in our memories. But just the awareness that reality doesn’t end there significantly lightens the load.

3. Tinder teaches you to trust.

Chos. But hear me out for a second. To paraphrase Amanda Palmer in her book, The Art of Asking, the appropriate response when you meet someone who betrays your basic trust is not, “People can’t be trusted,” but simply, “That person can’t be trusted.” Period. And then you move on.

Similarly, Tinder has contracted a reputation for being a den of people who just want to hook up, or that it is swarming with jejemons. Nothing wrong with these, by the way. It’s a good thing that there are markets for everybody.

But while it’s true that you’ll find a lot of that sort on Tinder, I realized that it wasn’t especially worse than real life. It was exactly reflective of it, except given to you in higher numbers. So if, for example for every 10 guys you meet, four are jejemons, three are boring, two just want to get in your pants, and there is one actual contender, it will look exactly the same on Tinder — except multiplied by thousands. So the next time you find yourself in a sea of white trash and cheesy pick-up lines, keep in mind that that’s just a portion of the percentile.

There are men on Tinder who actually want to get to know you; who are kinder, more traveled, educated, successful and socially aware than you are. Men who actually give a good conversation. The last guy I went out with even advised me on where I could possibly go to grad school in London.

Weirdly enough, Tinder is what taught me not to allow my worldview to collapse on account of a few ass*oles. There are so many other kinds of people out there, including the worthwhile ones, depending on what your definition of “worthwhile” is. But you will have to keep swimming. And in order to do that, you have to trust that there are people out there worth getting to know.

Fortunately, Tinder makes all these lessons much easier to enact in real life. All you have to do is sit on your ass and swipe.

* * *

Originally published in The Philippine Star SUPREME (28 March 2015)

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