Swiper no swiping!

Lost in Translation

The axiomatic phrase “Actions speak louder than words” has always been popular amongst the millennials.

Be it flipping someone off or intensely double-tapping an Instagram picture, we seem to prefer gestures and contractions — anything to replace words and show our affection, aggression and other assorted emotions in an efficient, though slightly detached manner. And Tinder is no different, an app in which the simple directionality of a swipe communicates whether you want to get with someone or not.

Before I proceed, I think a disclaimer is absolutely essential: I literally don’t know anything about Tinder except the stigma attached to it. So naturally, that’s what I’m going to be talking about.

Tinder has always been that one app in India that everyone knows exists, but no one ever talks about. It’s that app that you hear mentioned in dirty adult jokes and that you giggle at in a highly juvenile manner when you finally get the guts to search for it on App Store. It’s the app that you recommend to your token-single friend, as you jokingly say, “If nothing else – there’s always Tinder!” But you know that you’d judge the shit out of that individual if you so much as see its name in their search history.

It’s the app that we Indians have done our best to ignore because no, we’re not THAT desperate. Yet.

To us, meeting someone on Tinder was a cop-out. Because according to some twisted Indian logic, if your accomplishment doesn’t require the shedding of blood, sweat, tears and 99 percent of your dignity — it’s not really an achievement at all. Why not? Because “anyone can do it, yaar.”

And because to many Indians, Tinder was the equivalent of a desperation-soaked arranged marriage, served with a side of pure lust.

But as we grew from dim prepubescent tweens into ridiculously stupid teenagers, we finally dared to venture into the terrifying world of online dating.

To create fake profiles, of course.  

To make a fake Tinder profile was almost a rite of passage — something that we did at almost every sleepover or overnight trip with friends. We’d sit huddled around one device (volunteered by that person who had the balls to download the app even though his iCloud account was synced with his entire family) creating the most atrocious profiles for friends. Bios ran rampant from unabashed versions of “first I bang the drum” to “here for a good time, not for a long time.”

I remember the first time one of my friends went on a legitimate Tinder date. His excitement about the date was inversely proportional to the medium that he met her on, and he refused to tell any of us how he knew her. After hours of pleading, he finally let slip her name, allowing us to begin a massive social media background search, rivaling that of an FBI task force, to unearth any information that we could. After finding absolutely no connection between them both on any platform whatsoever, we concluded that he must have met her on Instagram. The idea of actively seeking someone out online in order to form a romantic relationship with them was a possibility that we didn’t even consider. Because to us, sleazily sliding into someone’s DMs on a platform not even remotely meant for that purpose was more understandable than matching with someone on Tinder. That’s how much we tried to ignore its existence.

I was so preoccupied with ignoring the phenomenon of online dating that I totally failed to realize the extent to which Tinder had exploded in the U.S. After spending a mere few days in Berkeley, I started to realize that “Urgh, really?” was not exactly an appropriate response to someone being on Tinder. I realized that my eyes don’t need to dart around sheepishly when someone spoke candidly about it. I was stunned by how people openly addressed it. They talked about the people that they matched with and communicated their desire to be involved with someone they met online in a mature and sophisticated manner. Were they not afraid of sounding desperate? Even with more than 6,000 freshmen in the class of 2022, I realized that I couldn’t afford to be this biased against everyone who had a Tinder account.

So, here’s the part where I finally accept that it was my ignorance and immaturity that led to the prejudices regarding this application. Turns out, Tinder has been a thinly veiled metaphor for cultural attitudes in my life all along. Back home, surrounded by different cultural expectations, there were a lot of things that I couldn’t express or even fully understand because of the stigma that surrounded it. But here, in a college town where I’m surrounded by like-minded individuals, where the only important adult in my life is me, there is a whole new level of freedom from judgment — which not only means the freedom to express your opinions but also that I’ve found the freedom to participate in dialogues on various topics such as casual relationships, sex and the biological need to “get some.” And I never would have guessed that it would be Tinder that sparked the fire of nonjudgemental thought.

Anusha Subramanian writes the Thursday blog on being an international student. Contact her at [email protected] .

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