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The lives and loves of Tinderella

Caroline Schmitt
July 29, 2015

Online editor Caroline tried out Tinder and between the overweight weirdos, the drug addicts and the shy nerds, life (and love) happened.

Photo: Caroline Schmitt
Caroline was convinced that dating apps are just useless - but then it all turned out a bit differently.Image: DW/G. Grün

Love takes a lot of balls, and I've always been a little better at getting involved in Hollywoodesque drama than at real, lasting love - if there even is such a thing.

I've always been a hardcore defender of those "click" moments - the ones where you just "know". So I never seriously considered online dating to be an option. And to this day, I'm torn between amusement and being annoyed at myself for having made the suggestion to try out Tinder first-hand for a story. I didn't expect much, but then in between the overweight weirdos, the drug addicts and the shy nerds, life (and love) happened.

Back to the basics of online dating

But first let's take a look at online dating and the reason I decided to write this article for #lovelinks in the first place:

In the day and age of the Internet, dating, like everything else, has moved online. Websites and apps connect us to more people than ever before and it has made for an irreplaceable element of modern love lives around the globe. It's so much of a thing that Tinder - an integral tool for the on-the-look-out-for-love singleton - has around 50 million active users (OKCupid has 12 million). Swiping left, or right if you're looking at a possible match, takes up an estimated 90 minutes per day during 11 sessions.

The Internet has revolutionized the dating world and in the US led to almost 35 percent of all married couples having met online, with 59 percent of Americans considering online dating a "good way" to meet people. And instead of being that embarrassing fact you conveniently forget to tell your friends and family, "we've met online" has lost much of its stigma.

  • Expert take:
    Saying 'We've met online' now isn't such a big deal anymore, almost a third of married couples in the US met online. How revolutionary is the popularity of Tinder and other dating apps to our love lives in your view?
    Paul Eastwick, #link:http://pauleastwick.com/pauleastwick/:expert in the psychological mechanisms of romance#: They help people to meet partners they wouldn't have met otherwise. Online dating sites/apps do a lot of things wrong, but one thing they clearly do well is that they give people access to pools of partners they never would have met otherwise.

Finding the romance

But when someone asks me if I've got Tinder or Grindr or whatnot, I usually respond with something like, 'Holy crap! Where did the romance go? The drama? The 'I looked straight into his eyes, and before he even opened his mouth, I just knew and I never wanted to talk to anyone else that night. Or in life, really.' That's a little more romantic than a push notification announcing a new match, right?

Photo: Phone with Tinder running - searching for matches
My experiment was to go on seven Tinder dates. On Tinder you swipe left to say no, swipe right to say yes - only if both swipe right, are they matched and can start chatting.Image: DW/G. Grün

But I'm young and always up for trying out something new, and that's why I decided to give seven guys a chance to change my mind - seven dates to convince me that it's possible to find true love simply by swiping right on my cell phone screen to choose those guys that I like the look of.


My first date is a 25-year-old boy who had a beautiful picture on Tinder - unfortunately, as it turns out, the photo has very little to do with reality. Mainly because in reality he weighs an additional 20 kilograms (or was it 30?) and the words that come out of his mouth don't sound subtle and sexy, they sound loud and sometimes even aggressive.

We'd had some hilarious conversations online, he seemed like a perfect combination of sarcastic and attentive, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't nervous when wandering around Kreuzberg to find him.

The sun tickles my skin, a bunch of cool kids play the guitar near the canal and I paint over my pink glittery lips just to be sure - when someone taps me on the shoulder: "Hey!" I contemplate running away - but stay.

During the next two and a half hours, there's little to no romantic feeling. I drown my sorrows in beer and look at every girl that passes, hoping she will rescue me. When we say goodbye after conversations about movies (I haven't really seen any that don't feature Ryan Gosling), movie-cutting (I have successfully avoided the editing suite at Life Links and therefore know nothing about the different programs) and settling down (I don't intend on doing that anytime soon), I am more than relieved.

  • Tinderella points: 2/10
  • Expert take:
    Is it possible to fall in "love" with a picture, not the person? I met a guy who looked very different in reality, and it took me all evening to recover from the shock. We may have had a better time if I hadn't been so focussed on his looks in the first place?
    Pictures are not always good representations of what a person looks like in person. People reach much better consensus about how attractive a person is after a brief interaction or after watching a video than when they're looking at a photograph.


Photo: A boat on the canal during sunset
Beautiful evening scenery at Berlin's Admiralbrücke on a not so beautiful date.Image: DW/C. Schmitt

Then there was Hipster Lluc.

"Hi Caroline, is it wrong to ask someone out in the first sentence?" Nah, not at all. He's busy on every day that I suggest, which doesn't surprise me in the least if he uses the same strategy with every Tinder match. We could have spent all these characters and precious minutes getting to know each other better - but why do that if you could also just talk about how busy your calendar is and how important you are!? I predict there won't be a second date. But I'll give him a chance.

I'm half an hour late - not the best start. Before he opens his mouth, I'm a little stunned by his beauty (yes, you may laugh, but he really was good looking!) And then he starts talking...and ruins everything. He's 30 and talking about his "rotten salary" in his French accent while we're walking to the wine bar.

Then he commits the ultimate faux pas for a first date he continuously tries to save money wherever he can in the bar. The wine is 2 euros? What! Let's make it 1.50 euros. Mhm, sexy… Throughout the evening, he keeps going back to the bar and refilling our glasses - it's a self-catering bar and at the end you just pay for what you had…except that he didn't.

The conversation is shallow (about drugs and sports and I'm highly allergic to both). He seems to be enjoying himself, "accidentally" touching my arm or giving me deep stares, while I constantly look out the window, wondering how I can possibly get this date over with - as quickly as humanly possible. I accidentally end up talking about a topic he finds "interesting", so it's another 30 minutes until we finally leave.

On the street, he asks me what I'm looking for on Tinder. Fair point...but not a great question considering why I'm really doing this - oh, did you see the bird there?

At the subway station, I hug him goodbye and before I know what's happening, he's sticking his tongue down my throat. Why did I suggest this Tinder experiment, again? He asks if I want to come home with him. Boy, have you never heard about signals? He smiles his "irresistible" French smile, but still I am not convinced - "nah, good night, I'm tired, see you later," I say and walk off quickly.

He bombards me with texts until I fall into a light, rather drunken sleep. And even then, he doesn't get the message and continues for the whole week. I deleted every single text.

  • Tinderella points: 4/10

Can you find true love with such an app?

Two terrible dates and I almost think about giving up, but the thing is - Tinder seems to be working for some people. Two of my very good friends have been in a Tinder relationship (although they would kill me for using that term) for more than six months - and they are very happy.

Then there's my flatmate who started using Tinder last September and has been on "countless dates" since then. He's had "sex with about 10, some of them turned into friendships, some into one-night stands and some into affairs." He usually texts them for about "five to 10 minutes" and then decides if he wants to meet them. "Everything else either falls into place or doesn't", he says. Really though, he is looking for real love and hoping to find it on Tinder.

  • Expert take:
    What are the odds of finding 'true love' on Tinder? Is it any more/less realistic than in real life?
    No one has any answers to these sorts of base rate questions. To the extent that Tinder helps people to have face-to-face meetings with people they wouldn't have met otherwise, then it's going to be very helpful at increasing people's pools of potential partners. If people treat it like game, then it won't be nearly as useful.

After date two, things get a little easier for me. I don't want to waste my time on spending hours on Tinder, and I certainly won't ever become addicted to the swiping, so I spend 10 minutes (0.2 seconds per guy) swiping in the morning. There are a lot of matches and during the day messages flood in. I decide who I want to meet. It's efficient and I've become much more picky - I very rarely swipe right.

Screenshot of the author's Tinder profile
Tinder is a zoo made up of humans. But instead of curious giraffes, clumsy elephants, hairy bears and scary owls there are hipsters who write, "I'm not your tour guide", and there's people who come up with literary firework lines like "I'm a sophisticated sex robot sent back in time to change the future for one lucky lady." And then there's 'Caroline, 22'. For privacy reasons we've changed the names of all the dated men.Image: DW/C. Schmitt

Other women don't either. Ladies are much less likely to swipe right (14 percent) than men who were found to consider nearly half of candidates as potential Tinderellas (46 percent).

  • Expert take:
    What happens in my head before I decide to swipe left or right? Is it just the looks? What other things am I unconsciously looking for?
    We make a lot of judgments about another person's face in just a few short seconds. Looks matter, but we make all sorts of inferences about other traits from photographs as well. Also, people's judgments of photographs differ considerably, not only how attractive they think a person is but also how smart, funny, or warm he/she seems. Our judgments are usually better than chance when rating photographs, although we get much more information from a live interaction, of course.


Before I know it, it's time for date number three: I suffered a bit of a nervous breakdown when Tinderboy asked, "So you're researching for a new article about online dating, hey?" while we were talking about writing and life. I responded way too quickly, "Nah, I don't think I have anything valuable to contribute to this sophisticated debate." Smooth, Caroline. Smooth. He could either be a really big deal or a complete disaster.

He's got dark curly hair (a winner!), hates Tinder (yeah, sure, don't we all?) and only messaged me because he was looking for some distraction while writing his dissertation. Isn't that how Harry and Sally and Romeo and Juliet met? But after three days of messaging back and forth, he actually makes me crack up with laughter and I ask him if we can meet.

What can I say. We laugh like idiots and have very deep conversations about life as a whole. I like him, and I like what's happening inside his head, and outside too. And I'm shocked, because, you know, I never thought Tinder would enable me to connect with someone on a level that goes beyond eliciting crucial facts like, "What's your zodiac sign?" or "How was your weekend?"

Photo: Night scenery over Berlin
The Tinderboy date lasted for 24 hours and took us up high on the roofs of Berlin. The next date planned with another guy needed to be cancelled due to sleep deprivation. And lack of interest.Image: DW/C. Schmitt

I feel infinite, the butterflies in my stomach nearly make me explode - I feel so deeply connected to a human being.

  • Tinderella points: 15/10 (this feels like trouble!)

But this story doesn't end here...

Because everything was happening so quickly, I kind of forgot to handle this like an adult who has got some life - and love - experience.

I abandon Tinder for five days, am constantly torn between amusement and panic and forget to look at any guy that crosses my way online and offline for just as long. Everyone at the office says stuff like 'Damn girl, you gotta tell him that you're only on Tinder because of this bloody article. Honesty is key!' Great.

I start freaking out about lying because wherever this is heading, it's unfair. I don't really sleep for two entire days before our second date - it's a mixture between worrying about the deadlines and the fear that he will start running as soon as I tell him. It takes four hours, one giant pizza, that I only take a couple of bites from, and three glasses of wine for me to finally tell him – and he's okay with it. Like, totally okay. Maybe even a little too okay!?

Photo: Yummy pizza
It took just a giant piece of pizza (and wine...and 15 more minutes) until I was brave enough to say what was on my mind.Image: DW/C. Schmitt

The problem that caused a further couple of nights of very little sleep was neither the superficiality of the app nor the idiocy of online dating, but my inclination to always tell people how I feel without any idea of whether that may freak those said others out - "I like you", I told him, because it was the truth.

But he then felt the need to tell me his life story and explain that he's not ready for a relationship - and who would be after two dates?

This was the best and worst thing I had gotten myself into in a while, and I was certain I had screwed up and scared him away. I was running around with dark circles under my eyes, refused to take my sunglasses off and lost my appetite for a couple of days.

In retrospect, I don't know why I made such a big fuss. The thing is, generally I'm not overly impressed by the idea of something serious either - we have to figure out something that avoids any heartbreak. But can you ever avoid that? Oh, screw you Tinder, and screw you #lovelinks.


Though our editorial team is telling me different ("This is a good story! Just write it the way it happened! There's no need for meeting another guy"), I feel that I need to continue my mission and go on to another date. And by mission, I mean mission to get distracted.

So, hello Johnathon. Jonathon is a cutie from Sweden who's surfing the start-up wave in Berlin and seems to have established a well-practiced routine at dating. I abandon dinner plans with a friend although I know from the start that it's probably not going to be a winner with Jonathon. But a beer or two can't hurt right? It's still valuable life experience.

Jonathon is suitably handsome, my parents would have fallen in love with him straight away. He has ocean blue eyes, that shy Scandinavian attitude – and bores me to death because our conversations just never hit it off. And I think I do a terrible job at hiding that.

I eat my burger with a lot more enthusiasm than I listen to his stories (sorry Jonathon). And upon saying goodbye, we promise to send each other photos of our weekends (we were both traveling) and never do.

  • Tinderella points: 3/10

All good things…

So...after a few good dinners, and a few more boring conversations, it's time for my experiment on Tinder to come to an end.

But there's still Tinderboy…

After another few days of attempting to settle my confused heart - it's probably never been through such a variety of human emotions in just 48 hours before - I started realising that good things always take time and that the artificial speed of Tinder probably isn't helping.

We decide to take it easy, and I like everything about how he handles my exhausting head. "I'm more than familiar with those", he says. I don't know if he is seeing any other girls, I'm not planning on finding that out - it'll either turn into something or not.

I thought I would delete Tinder as soon as I filed the story. Turns out, I probably won't. I want to avoid having my heartbroken for real, I want to avoid spending too much time analysing our conversations or analysing his large brown eyes, or getting wound up by our busy schedules and the emotional distance that has sneaked its way into things.

Tinder doesn't make you more loveable, in the same way that Instagram doesn't turn you into a skilled photographer. I'm chronically "not ready" for a serious relationship because so much in my life is constantly changing and I think this fear of commitment - to a city, a lifestyle or "the one" - has irrevocably infiltrated the DNA of my generation. Let me know if there's an app that can help with that.


And because this article was never meant to be quite as deep or as sad as it is now (life does write the best stories indeed), here are some of my favourite #tinderleaks - the best comments I received during my time on Tinder. For more inspiration, I highly recommend following the guys at #link:https://instagram.com/tindernightmares/:@tindernightmares# on Instagram.

Tom: You're the one! I know it. You're the princess I want to travel the world with. Are we having dinner at your place tonight?

Me: Wow, you're taking it well easy.

Tom (10 hours later): Sorry, my flatmate has got a fever and wanted me to stay with her all day. Hope you had a great day.

Vincent: Anyway, I'm going to Alice's birthday tonight but would love to hang out at the park with you tomorrow. Maybe you can give me some of your freckles then.

Me: Maybe. Maybe not. Say hi to Alice. (Who the f*** is Alice!?)

Matt: Why not give me your phone number so we can carry on our nerdy conversation there.

Me: (shock horror, no response for five days).

Matt: Ah, so you've turned into a shy deer now, I get it.

Me: Cute <3 Well pardon me.

"Hi" – "Well hellooo" – "Hi" – Well hellooo"

Florian: Hello, how are you? I'm Florian. I know it's a little upfront but do you fancy sleeping with me? No strings attached and without the usual hassle. That would be great. Best regards.

Me: Without much hassle… that sounds a little boring. Guess that means no. Best, Caroline

Marc: Hi. I've recently read one of your articles in a Berlin magazine.

Me: No way. I was complaining about life there right?

Chris: Hey, really sorry, I need to cancel our date. I'm kinda seeing this other girl and want to focus on that her now. I'd still love to get to know you though. Just trying to be honest...

Me: Aww, thanks for restoring my faith in humanity. <3 Hope you two hit it off big time.

I think the most important ingredients are time and trust, nothing Tinder particularly promotes. But sometimes all it takes for the great stories is a "hello"...

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