Lately, I’ve found myself on Bumble. Despite assertions that I am a happy single (which is relatively true), I also find myself seeking validation and attention like any self-involved twenty-something via a cultivated dating profile. Who thinks I’m attractive and witty? Are they also attractive and witty?
Bumble, like the majority of dating apps, revolves around swiping to others’ profiles - right if I think they’re photogenic, intelligent, and have some career trajectory; left if less than cute, ultra-conservative, or have some predisposition for puppy-eared Snapchat filter selfies. (Seriously, girls - maybe guys too - don’t do that crap.)
The swiping feature has always existed on the apps, but something new is a counter that informs you how many people have already swiped right for you. That’s validation without ever having to match! For example, I have 89 potential matches - 89 people are interested in me! (I inflated that number. Should I have inflated it higher?!)
This number of potential matches is in a circle with a blurred photo behind it. After a while, I realized this blurred photo is the profile photo of one of the people who has swiped right to you... which is where this blogpost is leading. This isn’t “Bird Box,” I’m not blind, and I can match blurred shadows with people’s profiles to realize who has swiped to me.
Under Bumble rules, once I swipe right and if they have previously swiped right themselves, we immediately match. The woman then has 24 hours to message me: she must initiate the convo. Then I have another 24 hours to respond. (If I swipe right and she hasn’t previously swiped right or, Gabriel forbid, she swiped left, I’ll never know - until she swipes right in the future and we magically match.)
In the early days of online dating - think 2013 into 2014 - I remember the hypothetical often came up: what do you do if you see your friend on Tinder et al.? The general consensus seemed to be swipe left if you’re not that close or swipe right if you think you’d match “as a joke.” Indeed, Sara and I once matched on Tinder and made hang out plans by texting via the app. Such innocent days, amirite? Oh, and if you actually like your friend on the app - maybe consider addressing that in person and not by swipe?
Once or twice I matched with someone who I sorta knew, but not well enough that I should’ve swiped right, and then we never messaged. My big epiphany was that I’d never made a move otherwise toward these people; I just wanted to see how they felt late one Thursday while on Hinge and that justified nothing. I still didn’t feel like making an actual move- but my esteem felt validated as should theirs!
Which brings us to this fall. While swiping, “Chloë” appeared on my Bumble screen. I immediately recognized Chloë - we had met in the spring at an influencer event, she was a friend of a friend, and she had followed me on Instagram ever since. We hadn’t really communicated other than random likes, and I thought she was about four years older than the age on her profile and married, but apparently not?? What do I do? She was cute? I did think we’d get along?
I closed the app.
Yup, folks, when I don’t want to deal with something, I just walk away.
Over the next several days, however, her profile kept reappearing, and I had to keep closing the app, or it would still be there when I opened the app again so I just couldn’t swipe. This made me definitely suspicious she had swiped right to me - why else would the app be so insistent? - and I confirmed this when I realized the blurred photo in my potential matches matched the brown hair and red dress in Chloe’s top profile photo.
Aha! We had matched! Well, as soon as I swiped right...
Should I swipe right? On a rainy Thursday, I decided to bite the bullet. Right. With no fanfare, we instantly matched. Wow! I wondered if she’d address our Instagram friendship in her initial message.
Instead, she addressed nothing. She never messaged me. Our match expired. But we remained Instagram friends.
I wondered if I should reach out on Instagram: “Hey haha I saw you on Bumble the other day. Weird, right? It’s even weirder we matched. Should we get coffee? Should we forget this happened? Should we unfollow each other? But you think I’m hot, right? That’s all I’m really seeking here.”
Because I’m a provocateur, I responded to one of her Instagram stories a week later. I forgot about it until she replied to an Instagram story of mine days after - with a full message. Were we flirting???
A week later, a similar scenario played out on Bumble proving this was not a one-time problem. “Cole” popped up as a potential match. I had a minor crush on Cole all through college. I remember first interacting with her when she was a cashier at the Chick-Fil-A at my undergrad (“Can I get a #1 and your number?”), but she was older and in a different friend group (all dumb excuses). We were also friends on Facebook, but she never appeared in my feed and I thought she even lived out of the area. I checked Facebook before proceeding. Nope, she had moved to Richmond. Interesting. Do I swipe right?
This also happened to be an emotionally complicated week for me (more dumb excuses) including what did I want? Did I really know what I want? Did I need to know what I want? What am I even talking about?
Anyhow, I was not emotionally prepared to swipe right to a former crush, so I kept closing the app until, again, I realized we were destined to match according to the blurred photo. Should I do it?
Ultimately, I swiped left. This took three days’ pondering and finally frustration that I could see no one else’s profile but hers when I reopened the app. After all, I was there for browsing, not matchmaking! I figured I could always slide into her Facebook messenger if my mood brightened.
Then yesterday, I posted some random status on Facebook, and Cole commented. What was this nonsense? Was this her equivalent of sliding into the DMs? I don’t think Cole had ever commented on anything of mine in our nine years of digital friendship. Aggressive!
All in all, swiping left (or right) means swiping right to other problems. Can’t we go back to book club hookups where the most awkward challenge may be you didn’t read the book? Who am I kidding, you probably still got paper cuts in that setting too.