Dating Apps: A Sexual Revolution
Open|February 2, 2016

As the dating app sets up office in India, its first ever outside the US, Lhendup G Bhutia signs on to see what the fuss is all about. He comes out unwanted.

Lhendup G Bhutia

The party has spilled out onto the streets. It is a Saturday evening. The patrons of Doolally Taproom, a trendy new pub in Mumbai’s Bandra suburb,s and both in and outside the outlet, craft beer and cigarettes in hand, whispering into one another’s ear. There are expatriates here, hipsters with large bushy beards, lumbersexuals (masculine young men with trimmed beards who wear flannel shirts, jeans and work boots, often tattooed, who don’t exactly cut down trees but could give small woodworking a go), advertising and media professionals, aspiring models and actors, and bankers and corporate professionals washing the week’s business tension away. In one corner of the pub are three young men, their faces illuminated by cellphone screens. Every few minutes, one of them emerges from deep online meditation, holding aloft a profile of a woman he’s just encountered for the other two to comment upon.

“Oh dude,” one of them tells the other. “Seriously? No way.”

Two of them, Ashmit and Nikhil, are Delhi-based e-commerce professionals in their late twenties. The third, Dhruv, an old friend who has moved to Mumbai, works at a bank. In this trendy new pub, these three are trying to score a date through Tinder, the app that is hailed to have brought about a dating revolution.

Experienced thumbs swivel left and right. Pictures are zoomed in and out, profiles of people scrolled through and digested, all with practised ease and in a fraction of a second. Occasionally, these fingers pause, as their eyebrows furrow in deep contemplation. Women with unflattering pictures get swiped left into a trash can of rejects. Anybody deemed remotely attractive is swiped right. If any of these women at the other end of the network swipe their profiles right as well, it’s a match, and both are intimated of it so that they can start chatting and possibly set up a meeting.

“It’s like picking up women from a catalogue,” Dhruv says with a laugh.

When I ask why they have made so many right swipes, Nikhil replies in a deep professorial voice, “It increases the possibility of meeting a chick. And, luck permitting, we might just be able to meet more than one.”

Presuming that I haven’t quite understood the function of the app, Dhruv jumps into the conversation. “It is a sex satnav. The app uses the GPS in your phone, and tells you about single women within your neighbourhood. If you ‘like’ them and they ‘like’ you,” he says, drawing quotation marks in the air, “We both get to know that we are interested in each other.”

“Why do you put ‘like’ in inverted commas?” I ask.

“Brother, that’s because…” Dhruv begins, passing his phone to Ashmit for the latter to select profiles for him, “That’s because it means ‘people you are willing to have sex with’.”

What a marvelous app, I think. A technology that does away with all the awkwardness of dating. Until a few years ago, you had to drink gallons of alcohol to sum up the courage to walk across the floor at a party to introduce yourself over loud music to an attractive girl whose league you were unsure of being in. And then brave, ever so often, that lonely walk back to the barstool.

But what Tinder does is reject rejection. This app is a natural leap in human evolution, an improved mating process, shorn of the inbuilt inefficiency of complex human relationships. With a computer algorithm taking care of finding dates and sex, humans can now devote more time to being productive. Ashmit, the quietest of the three, finally speaks, suggesting that the idea of a unique perfect match or soul-mate is in any case a statistical impossibility. “There is a huge gap between demand and supply,” he says. “And Tinder is making the dating market more efficient and rational.”

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