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Coastal Commuter

The haps with dating apps

Which dating app is the best match? photos: match.com / tindr / okcupid

Shortly after February makes its entrance, thoughts of love are inevitable — like they’re hard-wired into us. Or maybe it’s simply pop-aganda. The 14th of the month arrives, accompanied by a buying-and-giving frenzy of Hallmark cards, candy-filled heart-shaped boxes, and flower bouquets, followed by a rush of champagne-and-and-caviar (or something comparable in your price range) tête-à-têtes with special someones. It’s a nationwide plague of warmth and yearning, perpetuated by commercial interests.

Romantic possibilities for the single man or woman can be especially tantalizing in San Francisco and Los Angeles, cities where youth and beauty abound. It can also be frustrating — when love is hard to find (a problem in any corner of the civilized world), it can be downright disheartening. If St. Valentine is the patron saint of lovers, he and his winged, bow-and-arrow-toting emissary Cupid are often the avatars and harbingers of disappointment and dashed prospects.

The search to find a mate is part of our nature. Most of us crave companionship, and desire love — or an approximation. We wish for a magical chance encounter, and might be open to a fix-up by friends, family members, or business allies. All are long shots, at best. As far as proactive pursuits, nobody bothers much with personals ads in newspapers anymore. They’re so last-century, although, to be fair, one of my best buddies met his wife that way. Really. And online personals through Craigslist and other cyber bulletin boards have earned a certain risky vibe, making them less appealing. Anyway, they’re so last decade, although, to be fair, one of my best buddies met his wife that way. Truly.

ONLINE AND ON TRACK

Online dating services — the tried-and-true like Match.com and Zoosk, specialty sites such as JDate and ChristianMingle (where God enters into the equation), and the rest — remain viable. You sign up, fill out your details, initialize the search function, see what the algorithms send in the way of options, and start the arduous weeding-out process through e-mails, phone calls, and possible real-life meetings. You connect, or you don’t. But gratification is forestalled. As with most interpersonal relations, there are no guarantees of success.

Today, the modern humanoid hungering for that amorous connection turns to the latest wrinkle in a tradition that goes back to ancient times and includes arranged marriages, matchmakers, and drunken bar hook-ups at 2 a.m. Seekers, I give you … the smart phone dating app, intended to generate everything from a cafe encounter to a one-night quickie to a stars-in-your-eyes lifetime commitment. Say, “Hello. Please set me up with the perfect partner, or failing that, get me laid.”

There are bunches of these meet-and-get-sweet apps, many of which link to your preexisting social media presence for images and contacts, most of which have a geographical orientation, and all of which have cutesy names: Tinder, Hitch, OkCupid, Bumble, Grindr, Coffee Meets Bagel, Happn, Fliqpic, PlentyOfFish, HowAboutWe, and so on. And there are a few designed to appeal to specific audiences: Grindr targets gay men; Tindog is all about canine fanciers; and HighThere! is purportedly for those who appreciate marijuana, although one might expect stoners of all types to weigh in about their stimulant (or depressant) of choice — laws and propriety be damned!

APTITUDE OR INEPTITUDE?

Most of the apps utilize an opinion-and-decision functionality wherein you swipe a finger across incoming photos of potential connections to establish interest or lack of it: Go right to investigate someone’s profile, and go left to dismiss unwanted options. Unfortunately, a slip of the digit can banish a potential true love (or solitary evening of bliss) to oblivion, so one must be careful. And even if you’re matched up with someone, they may not respond to your entreaties to get together and see if there’s any chemistry. Just like in authentic physical love, rejection is a fact of online love.

From what I’ve heard, Tinder, which was intended as a means to easy sex and is now being used by people desirous of serious relationships, is one of the most popular apps among my peers in Los Angeles. With that in mind, a single-and-looking colleague who swears by Tinder expressed caution about the unrealistic expectations one might get from using one of these smartphone-dating programs in Los Angeles, as opposed to San Francisco or, for that matter, Sacramento, Fresno, Bakersfield, and so forth. The preponderance of actors and models in Los Angeles trying to live the show-business dream makes for quite an aesthetically pleasing parade of portraits cycling through the phone screen. Of course, the likelihood of scoring on any level with one of those visually impressive specimens of humanity is not great for a regular guy or girl with all of the flaws “regular” might entail. And that presupposes there would be mutual “like” swipes and a digital match to start anything.

My colleague is relocating to Boston in a number of weeks. In preparation for the move, he recalibrated his dating apps for his new hometown, and was frankly unimpressed with the caliber of Tinder profiles from the Massachusetts area. Call him shallow, but a constant diet of Hollywood glamour on his dating apps has spoiled him. He may even need to go out to a cafe or bar and meet people … in person! I hope he’s up to the task, on his best behavior, and ready for the pain of face-to-face rejection. A slap will sting much more than a swipe.

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Michael Snyder is a print and broadcast journalist who covers pop culture on KPFK/Pacifica Radio's David Feldman Show and on Michael Snyder's Culture Blast, via GABnet.net, Roku, and YouTube. You can follow Michael on Twitter:@cultureblaster.

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