It was just a joke, really. If I got to know some cool people, maybe even go on a few dates, that would be a bonus, but it wasn’t the goal. That’s what real life is for.

I don’t remember what day or even what month my life on Tinder began, but I remember the first night vividly. Following a friend’s tweet questioning the ethicality around Tinder, I got one immediately. It was an impulse decision. I didn’t think about the potential cons of getting the app when it meant a chance to meet girls.

I learned more in my first night on Tinder than in an average month of school. I learned that, like it or not, Greek Life is an exceptionally photogenic organization; I learned that there are at least six different ways to spell Courtney; I learned that judging people can be way more fun than it looks. I learned that no matter how much stigma surrounds Tinder, the bulk of my female friends had crafted their own profiles, I also learned that girls near me actually find me attractive. Huh.

I also learned, quickly, that it’s still a cold world for shy, awkward boys. Even on an app where mutual attraction, location and age are clearly stated, conversations don’t start themselves. I learned that even if a girl is interested in you, she is capable of stopping and giving you a digital cold shoulder simply because the extra y in “hey” or the sideways winking face in your opening message was too forward.

But the most important thing that I learned over the course of that year was the saddest one. No matter how stupid I found Tinder to be, I simply couldn’t stay away.

They say not to let school get in the way of your education, so I wasn’t going to let my classes get in the way of me refining and mastering my Tinder bio. Day by day, I’d scour every decent photo of myself and look for ones that sent the “right message.” Was my black-and-white photo of me in a cutoff flag football uniform giving the cool and edgy look I wanted? Or would the photo of me coaching and smiling with one of my nine-year old swimmers on my shoulders give off the friendly-guy look that girls might crave?

I weeded through my photos while using every marketing and communications lesson I knew to perfect the accompanying 240-character bio. I constantly searched for the right mix of bragging about my accomplishments and being laid back or even ‘cool,’ giving enough information for my readers to understand who they were dealing with, but holding back just enough to pique their interest and make them ask for more. Not too long, not too short. Not too serious, but not too goofy either. My professors — who thought I was merely texting or on Facebook — would’ve been so proud to see the critical thinking that went into every word on Tinder.

Clearly having too much free time, I attempted to acquire as many matches and carry as many conversations as possible. I joined Tinder in a state of confusion and boredom, but now I was hooked.

The first few days were simple enough; swipe right now, ask questions later. For me, the most desirable trait in a woman on Tinder is mutual interest. That’s it. If you don’t run at my weirdness, neediness, or bad puns, it’s very likely I won’t ever leave.

After attaining many matches but with few strong connections to show for it, it became clear that there were too many matches to keep track of on Tinder. So I developed some rules.

Like an elite internship, the rules were arbitrary, but something had to be done. Mirror selfies, fishing pictures, being Canadian, having large tattoos or using emojis to describe your lifestyle would result in a leftward flick of my all-powerful thumb. The same could be said for girls who posted too many “moments,” or were named ‘Darlene.’

I realized now that the goofiness of Tinder had faded, and there was an end-goal. Past generations finally decided to settle down after years of exhausting dating. I was ready to settle down on Tinder after three weeks. If I ever wanted to take Tinder past the exploration stage, I needed to streamline my efforts.

This didn’t mean looking for love or “the one” per se, just more than the typical small talk that ended somewhere between learning what they studied and what they thought of their hometown.

Checking out matches and making small talk aren’t necessarily premium forms of entertainment, but they’re safe and easy to do. Little attachment meant little risk. Once conversations got going though, my lifetime spent avoiding talking to girls started to take its toll. I was in trouble.

It seemed no matter how I played my cards, I would’ve been better off folding. There were the times I corrected girls’ grammar, times where I somehow thought insulting the Chicago Blackhawks would increase my chances of a date and the time I thought comparing a girl to a teddy bear would be a sweet compliment. Tinder was designed to make my love life more efficient, not my stupidity.

I eventually found success on Tinder. The biggest complaint about Tinder is the horniness of male users. It took the app years to develop a photo-sharing feature, and the report button gets increasingly visible with each successive update. These two trends are not coincidental.

Which left me as a weirdo who sucks at small talk but can keep it in his pants. Did I stand a chance after all?

The rejections piled up, but so did my determination. I had invested too much time into this game to stop early. Like a gambler glued to the slot machine, I resisted giving up, assuring myself that my luck was bound to turn around at the next swipe. This led to mass messaging, copying and pasting the same lines to dozens of matches and unsuccessfully counting on the law of averages.

This all went on for longer than I care to admit and would probably still be going on, if I hadn’t realized how shallow Tinder was in the most devastating way possible.

After roughly 1500 matches and hundreds of mostly meaningless conversations, I had finally found someone I “clicked” with. So much so, that I spent an entire Friday evening in front of my phone, chatting with her about everything.

Mercifully, she suggested after hours of conversation that we go grab pizza and talk in person. A DATE!

Ecstatic, I put on shoes and real clothes with an enthusiasm that my 8:30 accounting class would’ve killed for. I returned to my phone to see a rather rare message.

“Wait hold up … how tall are you?”

Without blinking, I responded by explaining I was 5’11.” I’m not wowing anyone with my height, but to me there’s no reason to lie or fudge details. Could I have rounded up, even an inch? Yes. Should I have? Apparently.

“Lol,” she replied. Adding a quick “nvm then” a couple minutes later.

After a moment of sheer confusion, I found out that she was 5’8,” and considered boys under six-foot “just friends.”

Sound weird? Unfair? Moronic? Unfathomably shallow? Welcome to Tinder.

Unsurprisingly, that pretty much did it for Tinder and me. I know that isn’t a normal situation, but the fact that I actively engaged in a culture where fortune favors the shallow (and tall, I guess) finally sunk in. I was out.

Yes, there were the casual hook-ups Tinder was designed for, but were they worth it? Not once.

Sadly, that’s what made me keep coming back for as long as I did. I’d learn later in a psychology class that the potential for “success” kept me swiping, even when the rewards were few and far between. Because in Cupid’s latest, cruelest and shallowest love game yet, I couldn’t stay away.

I still have Tinder buried in the apps on my phone, but every time I push the red flame icon, I take it with a grain of salt.

Gone are the days of carrying 14 conversations at once, of using Tinder all over the country ‘just in case,’ of obsessing over whether or not I should refer to my academic pursuits as “Michigan Business” or simply “Ross.”

At long last, I have returned to the real world, and that isn’t a joke.

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