Which Way to Swipe?: a Christian Experience on Tinder
Forget Relevant Magazine, we about to have some real talk.
I couldn't resist the clickbait intro. Let me give you some context and diffuse the risqué undertones ASAP.
Striped Socks and the Consternation They Inflict
As I take stock of my life 8+ months out from moving to Boulder, I see in myself a young man with a good job, a good home, good hobbies, good friends, and no girlfriend. Now, the absence of a girlfriend does not disqualify the merits of these other qualities (in fact, I’ve seen men with girlfriends who quickly lose the hobbies and friends). However, as someone who has made little to no effort romantically in the past two years, I figured it’s high time I get back into the game.
But here’s the kicker: I’m a Christian.
This kicker always gets a quizzical reaction from my friends outside the faith when talking about girls and dating. The Bible, our holy book, has some pretty clear, straight forward scripture that spells out Christians should marry – and therefore date – within the faith (most famously 2 Corinthians 6:14). It’s actually led to many comical conversations where I have to explain to my friends that while YES I am attracted to a girl and YES I may have chemistry with her, NO I am not dating her, because she's not a Christian. Which leads to laughter on my part and on my friends – from the outside looking in, it makes very little logical sense.
To my friends out there that aren’t under these rules, here’s a metaphor demonstrating how frustrating this can be for a young guy to follow. Imagine you were told you can date and marry any girl you want to – like, literally any girl, no questions asked by parents – except she needs to wear striped socks. Specifically striped socks. Not polka dot, not argyle, but striped socks. As long as they are striped, you are golden.
But you can’t exactly go around staring at people’s feet (or asking them point blank as soon as you enter a conversation what their religious preference is). So instead, when you meet a girl it’s a guessing game. Is she wearing striped socks? How do I get her to tell me if she is wearing striped socks or not? If I mention I only wear striped socks, will that speed up the conversation by letting her know where my opinions lie? What if she’s not wearing any socks, does that change the rule at all?
And then as soon as she makes it clear she’s not that into striped socks, you have to move on. No workaround, no loophole. Maybe you will still be friends, but dating is a no go.
Therefore many young men, once realizing the restriction means their statistical odds for success are lower in typical dating scenes, make the smart choice and start looking around places that are known for being stocked with people who wear striped socks (*cough* the church *cough*). But then once you arrive there, you realize it’s an environment that is not conducive for dating. There are striped socks all around you, literally waiting for someone to ask them on a date or at least to coffee, but being forward is socially frowned upon.
So in all the places where dating is seen as socially acceptable, striped socks are sparse – and where the striped socks are the most present, dating is awkward and strange. End metaphor, welcome to the frustration – it’s real.
Now that context is established, let’s move forward to the actual experiment before this turns into a soapbox. I’ve been annoyed by the fact that 1) Christian women are sparse in Boulder and 2) Christian women are sparse in my home church. So I decided that instead of continuing in this annoyance, I would do what I do best – throw stuff against the wall and see what works. That’s right. I downloaded all the major popular dating apps on my phone, including Tinder, and gave myself one week for an experiment.
It is time to diffuse the tension yet again in this article. No, I did not seriously consider I would find a meaningful, interesting, Godly relationship on a dating app with a reputation for hook ups in 7 days. Nor was I really into the idea of changing those standards - meaningful, interesting, Godly.
What I did think I would find is a better understanding of dating culture, how people are trying to “market” themselves to the opposite sex, and get a more crystalized understanding of what I want in comparison to the mainstream. (And don’t worry; I also go to a new church later in the experiment, so I’m not completely playing with fire here).
Here were the rules of the experiment:
Since I was going stealth mode on the app, I wanted to add an interactive part to the experiment – so I found a second church that I was interested in attending that has a reputation for a big young adults population. This church, coincidentally, happened to be teaching about dating at the exact same time as the experiment. Perfect for a full compare and contrast. (And I had been wanting to try out the church recently as well, so it was perfect dovetail.)
And so, after downloading the proper apps, dropping $15.99 on expansions and premium features (hey, if we’re doing this, let’s do this all out), and clearing my Thursday night schedule to try out the new church, I was set up to begin the experiment.
(Note: I know there are many respectable forms of online dating, many of which fall in the long term categories that require subscriptions. Due to the brevity of the experiment, I passed on interacting with these options.)
Dating Apps: the Gamification of Dating* (*awkward one liners, sexual innuendos, vague claims about how so-and-so person really loves “adventure”)
If you can read the tone in that title, you already got a pretty good feel of where this is going.
So after a week on Tinder, I can attest that dating apps are (in my subjective opinion) a time sucking, mind numbing, emotionally exhausting way to go about approaching meeting people.
So what did I discover? I learned that for me, speed-focused dating phone apps don’t cut it. It’s not a space that encourages authentic conversations, but rather pushes forward self-marketing, peacocking, and a lot of silly games. I know Christian folks that are using the app - doesn't make them better or worse Christians. Just means they are having a better experience on the apps.
The New Church
And here comes the third time I feel compelled to dispel tension/misunderstanding in this article (this happens a lot when you talk about hot button issues from a Christian perspective). I did not try the new church so that I could speed date through the pews. I wasn’t interested in going to a new church solely for meeting women – I wanted to find a place with girls and guys my age that are Christian because, again, not a lot of those hanging around Boulder.
So for the end of this experiment, I found a church that I was interested in checking out that wouldn’t conflict with my home church's schedule – and that new church turned out to be Flatirons Church in Lafayette. And they also happened to be teaching about dating the night I came. Boom. Slots right in the research.
For my time here, my goal was to contrast the teachings from Flatirons and any observations I made of the people there to what I saw on the dating apps. I went for two weeks and also went to a weekend retreat (and, full disclosure, I like it there and will probably continue to go).
So, after throwing many things against the wall, I find my opinions unchanged: online dating is not my style, meeting people in person and preferably in churches is how I like it. However, I did:
Learn some new Tinder-specific jokes that I can use in conversations.
Go to a really cool retreat in Winter Park, Colorado.
Met a lot of cool people, guys and girls, at my new second church.
Realized my room was messy, and vacuumed it (see point 4 under insights from Flatirons Church).
Total Cost: $65.99 ($15.99 for apps, $50 for retreat)
Total Time: 3 Weeks (1 week apps, two weeks church)
Stay strange, stay unreasonable, and stay curious my friends.
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