How Tinder is keeping you safe from your next date.
But when does safety become Big Brother?
What’s a first date all about? There was a time, not so very long ago, when you might go into a first date knowing almost nothing about the person you were sitting across the table from you. I remember — years ago — being bold enough to get a phone number from a girl I happen to sit next to on a chairlift at a ski hill. So, when we showed up for dinner the next weekend, the only thing we knew about one another was what we had been able to glean from 5 minutes of chatting on that one quick trip up the ski hill. I guess I also knew she looked great in neon ski pants. But, basically nothing. That first dinner was — what are your hobbies, where did you grow up, do you have brothers and sisters. The very basics of ‘getting to know you’.
That all changed with texting. You can have, quite literally, hundreds of interactions before your fist date. Before that first face-to-face, you will undoubtedly know most of your date’s interests, and little about their background and probably even some of their dating history. And the bold… maybe even sexual predilections. A good girlfriend told me of a guy she met on a dating app had asked her — before he would meet her for coffee — if she was into anal. That was table stakes for him.
All this to say, we know a lot about a person before that first, in person, connection.
But Tinder (and partner companies Match and OKCupid) are about to take it to the next level. I read in the New York Times this morning that they will begin to provide — for a fee — background checks on your prospective date. They will run criminal record checks and other background searches, designed to give you the assurance that you will be safe on that first encounter. They have also left the door open to going a little further, saying they may get into credit checks.. to make sure people haven’t asked you out based on false pretenses.
I’m a little torn on all of this. Of course, I want people to be safe. So, ideally, you don’t inadvertently wind up on a date with a convicted felon. Women, in particular, place themselves at risk meeting people for that first time. Ideally, it's in a public place and friends know you are there. But dating has changed, and maybe the first time is more intimate or more of a hookup. I do understand why we may want to know as much as possible about our prospective date. But how much will we really know? These freebie background checks can be wildly inaccurate. Mismatched names. Convictions later overturned that don’t get stricken from records. True story — I was once suspended from university because they become convinced I did not have a high school diploma — a person with the same name as me, at the same high school, had apparently been expelled in grade 11. A simple case of mistaken identity, but it was very scary for me as the university administration was threatening to pull my scholarship and acceptance offer.
And — not to sound too ancient — but I also like the mystery and unknowability of the first date. That exploration. Sitting down and learning all these new things about this person who, maybe, will be someone you really connect with. I remember an episode of How I Met Your Mother, where they decided the main character would try to recapture that magic by not googling the woman he was about to go on a date with. It was awesome. OK.. in the episode it was really awkward, but the idea was awesome.
So, how do I feel about the new Tinder Big Brother. I don’t like it. But I’m a guy — and I don’t actively date — so I can appreciate that the positive aspects — the safety — don’t really touch me. And, conversely, the idea of large online companies digging deeper and deeper into our personal business…. I don’t like that.
About the Creator
I'm an eclectic guy - I like writing about sex, relationships, parenting, politics, celebrity trivia - the works. I'm happily married and a father of 2.
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