I was in a mild rage when I got home yesterday from a night out with some friends. I text snapped at Junket. I snarled at the taxi driver (particularly when he automatically rounded my fare of $22.45 up to $25?!). And then I growled around my apartment for about 15 minutes, wishing I had stayed at home with a good glass of bubbly, eating take-out Thai and watching a marathon of How To Get Away With Murder…
A dear friend had got together a group of predominantly single guys and girls for a casual Friday night drinks. In a world that is increasingly online, it was a great opportunity to actually meet new people and possible make friends, if nothing else, and it should have been a booming success. It was an attractive cast – at first glance we were smart, financially independent, funny and good looking.
The evening got off to a roaring start. Introductions were made, glasses were raised and interesting conversations were breaking out all over. Laughter, some margaritas, more laughter, a touch on the arm there, a lingering gaze here. People were clicking, people were connecting and then… one of the girls pulled out her mobile phone and… connection broken.
What was so interesting? Was major news breaking? Was there a family emergency? Was there a friend in need? No… it was the crowd of people on Happn who were within geographical proximity that were pulling her attention.
WTF!? First of all, until then I didn’t even know what Happn was. Second of all, said girl was embarrassed to even say the word ‘Happn’ out loud when asked what App she was on. But more importantly… why in a bar full of such good candidates are you even checking an App?! I’ll tell you why, fear of missing out.
Happn identifies (self-claimed) singles within a 250m radius. It takes the guess work out of who’s available (or not available, but looking to hook-up) and interested. It’s an App that thrives on people’s fear that the cute guy who opened the door for you when you came in might be ‘the one’ and that you may never see him again with Happn. It thrives on this growing culture of the Fear Of Missing Out. Never mind those 12 people sitting at your table, within 5m of you. Never mind the guy at the bar who can’t catch your eye because your’s are glued to your phone.
The next thing I know, cute single guy opposite her has also pulled out his… mobile and is checking out both his Tinder and Happn Apps – better odds, he tells me. Then before you can swipe right, single guy and girl are checking out each other’s photos and full profiles, not via the app connecting, but by swapping phones!?! They’re checking out who’s liked who, records of hook-ups, old and new photos.
Single guy doesn’t like said girl’s current Happn image – “too pixelated”. He tells her that if he saw it, he would think “it was a 40 year old guy, dressing up as a woman, waiting to lure and rape me”!!!
Tit for tat he shows her his profile pics for Tinder and Happn. In between he ‘charms’ a few girls he likes on Happn, because, you know, just in case. Images of guys and girls cruising the digital world looking for a hook-up are whizzing by.
My friend tells me I should join Tinder too, if not Happn, imploring me that it’s not the hook-up App I seem to think it is. All evidence to the contrary right now, I am thinking, just as ‘App girl’ strikes a match 100m away and picks up her bag and leaves. Single guy wishes her luck and then begins encouraging me to join, it’s “so much fun”.
Hello! Sitting right here! Next to you, having a conversation! At least we were! But I guess the App is right. I’m not a sure thing. I have either not made my intentions clear or it’s taking too long to get to home base. These days it’s not enough to maintain eye contact, to touch a guy’s arm, to laugh at his jokes and widen your eyes when he tells you that he travels a lot. No, you need digital intervention. And you need it, and everything else, now.
So you’ll appreciate my mild rage. And yes, I admit, indignation. But not just for me, but for everyone else at the table. There was flesh and blood. There was the chance for real connections in real time. We were looking right at each other and we were all vulnerable and open and receptive. And yet the preference was for an anonymous connection. The psychology behind which will probably be written about for years.
I’m not on Tinder, I’m not on Happn or any other dating, hook-up, matching-making App or website that you care to name or ‘recommend’. If the guy across the bar likes the cut of my jib, but doesn’t have the balls to walk over and say ‘hello’ as men and women have done for centuries, then connection lost. There’s no digital remedy for that. Just know, you would have had me at hello.