By Grace Sarkoyan
Sitting on the couch in my parents’ room, watching reruns of Downton Abbey, a notification on my phone pops up. It’s a message indicating I have a “match” on Bumble!
Bumble is one of various dating apps aimed at introducing prospective singles in the 21st century. Unlike Tinder where there is probably a creep ready to message you with, “Let’s skip dinner and go right into dessert,” Bumble in particular prides itself on putting women in the driver’s seat, leaving it up to them to decide who to speak with and when. Female users swipe right if the picture and bio of the “match” is interesting enough to talk to or to meet with in person. You swipe left if the person looks like Sloth from The Goonies… Simple, right?
Clearly, the main difference between Bumble, and let’s just say Tinder, is that the girl makes the first move by messaging the guy first. Then, the girl has 24 hours to message that person and get the conversation started. They claim to “challenge the antiquated rules of dating” making it “acceptable for women to make the first move, shaking up outdated gender norms.”
This is one the the main reasons why about five weeks ago, my best friend Paige convinced me to join. “You message the guy! It’s totally safe!” she excitedly urged me. At first, I disagreed with her, knowing that my parents have very clear guidelines about how “nice Armenian girls” are supposed to meet potential husbands. You know, the super traditional way of how my parents met… at a funeral.
My brother and I are the first of our entire family born in the U.S. Sure, my parents are modern, at least more modern than my grandparents, but their generation doesn’t even know what social media is let alone online dating. My dad was born and raised in Lebanon, and while my mother arrived at four, she was raised by my grandfather who maintained very strict ideals about marriage and family: “Man and woman meet through Armenian community, they marry young, the wedding is in Orthodox church, they have children, the man works, the woman raises the children, end of story.” My mother and aunt even recently embarrassed me in a public restaurant when they both actually cried just thinking about “when I meet my future husband” after I firmly told them I didn’t want to get married until 30. The waiter even came over to ask if they were Ok, as if I had just told them Christ was returning tomorrow.
Sometimes I feel like I’m a world away from my relatives, and never more than in this moment where I’ve dipped my proverbial foot into the technology driven 21st century dating pool. But, after talking to Paige about “women in the 21st century,” she brought out the big guns: “Come on! I want to live through you!” Paige is in a happy relationship with her boyfriend of three years and wants nothing to do with the dating world and its complications. But, she still wanted to experience the drama of the dating world through, well… mostly me.
In the end, I agreed. I mean, it’s not like my dating life was totally exciting. In actuality, it was non existent. And, of course, the people in my life (and by that I mean my Armenian family) never let me forget it. Just the other day, I was at my grandmother’s house. During a commercial break of favorite Lebanese soap opera, she steals a look at me out of the corner of her eye. With a concerned look on her face, the first thing she says to me, no joke, was: “Do you have boyfriend?” I took a deep breath and thought… here we go again. We go through this routine every time I see her, and I always say no. “If I didn’t have one last week, I don’t think it changed” I think to myself. “Everyday I pray you to find a nice American Armenian boy,” she tears up. I hand her a tissue. I can’t deny it’s a sweet gesture, but she is going to be praying for a lot longer than she thinks. Sorry, not sorry, grandma.
So, Paige and I together downloaded the free app and signed me up. But, torn between my traditional culture and a desire to know, I was intrigued to at least act as a spectator into this world of modern dating. But, would I actually date anyone I met on an app? Maybe. Mostly, I wanted to know more about the online dating world and to understand my generation’s way of communicating with one another through what seems like contrived technological matchmaking.
I get prematurely excited at first. A handsome young man, dirty blonde hair, and only 5 miles away. I swipe right. Expecting every profile to be as cute, I get disappointed and put the app away after it’s left, left, left, left, left. “Well, that was fun. NOT!” I say to myself, expecting to never look at the app again. “I knew it,” I say sarcastically before getting caught back up in my regularly scheduled daily program.
But then, not 24 hours later, I wake up in the morning to see that flashing notification. I slide to the right to unlock the match, and a cute guy’s profile appears. He’s 27 years old (not bad), 6’0 tall (good height), in grad-school (okay, furthering his education), likes to go on adventures (so do I!). So far so good, Bumble, Then, the app urges me to message him before the 24 hour period ends. I’m hesitant. It feels strange to make the first move, for me at least. Coming from a very traditional immigrant family, we’re taught the girl should never make the first move, I could hear my mom’s voice (you know, the one she used to reprimand me during my three years of etiquette school) telling me that “Respectable girls let gentlemen approach them first.” My finger hovers over the “Message” button.
My eyes return their gaze back to my screen and to …let’s call him “Tanner,” because he had a basic name. Bumble gives users a little help when it comes to getting the conversation started, providing users with potential “good openers” like “Where are your favorite places in town to eat?” or “How often do you work out per week?” Some are really fun to use and others are outright bizarre or too personal. The yellow button encourages: “Let’s get you started. Openers don’t need to be intimidating! If you’re not sure how to get the conversation started, try one of these. ” I mean it’s not like my glass shoe slipped off, and I’m looking for a King’s army to return my shoe… but wait there’s more! We will include a Prince with your package!
Eventually, I settle on an option, close my eyes, and click “send.”
Me: Hi (emoji icon waving hand) What is your favorite thing to eat for breakfast?
I’m not going to lie, I was utterly excited to see that he respond back so quickly. Typing my password, I’m in a rush to know more, and I put in the wrong code a few times. I hear the “AAAAHHHH” angelic music, and the brightness of my screen glistening, my eyes becoming lively. The message appears.
Tanner: P***y (with a laughing emoji)
Huh… suddenly all the excitement left me body. I was over life! I blinked my eyes a few time, even rubbed them because it was early in the morning. Maybe I read it wrong? I exit out of the app. Maybe it was a glitch? I log back in… it wasn’t. Well, that was fun while it lasted! I shut my phone off and throw it on the other side of the bed. I tried to not think about it. I had no intention of responding back to such a vulgar message. But, after a couple of minutes, a voice lingered in the back of my head kind of like an angel and devil sitting on my shoulder telling me to let it go or… respond back to see where it goes. I listen to the devil. I grab my phone, unlock my password with no mistake this time, and respond back in the best possible way.
Me: Interesting (thinking emoji)… I don’t think they serve that on a breakfast menu (laughing emoji).
Tanner: Haha I’m glad you have a good sense of humor.
Eventually, the conversation becomes more settled, actually getting to know each other and our interests. He’s originally from California, he likes to hike, he’s into EDM, and he just graduated with a Business Degree from UCLA. But it turned out that “Tanner” was just visiting town and had not interest in traditional dating.
Now, I’m not judging my female compatriots who are also using this app and may find opening lines like “Tanner’s” amusing, but it was definitely a turn-off for me. Given that this was my first foray into the 21st century dating world and the arena of online dating, I was astounded. At the same time, my brain began to churn. I wanted to know more about whether or not connections like this were normal or if it was just my dumb luck.
Across the world, there are experts studying the link between technology, dating, and finding love in the 21st century. And, it appears that they have uncovered a whole host of millennial online dating protocols, habits, and outcomes. I took to Google, and researched dating experts who have made a millions advising young people everywhere on how to effectively date using online platforms like the one I am currently rethinking even downloading. One woman named Julie Spira, online dating expert and bestselling author of The Peril of Cyberdating, writes about how the online dating world has become so nuanced and this is why it so difficult for many people to “get out there” and date. So, she has created “rules” about how to write a profile, what pictures are best to make a first impression, and even what tone and emojis to use when communicating back and forth (Tanner really could have used this advice, I must admit).
But, honestly, I find this all to be a bit ridiculous. I mean, since when do people need to be coached on how to do the basic action of talking to one another? While I”m not convinced that the only way to meet “nice Armenian boy” is in the Orthodox church down the street, after these past few weeks I’m also not totally convinced that a dating app is the only way two people can meet and fall in love in 2019. I get it, dating is completely different than what it was 30 years ago, but is technology what is causing us to be disconnected from interacting with people? If so, why are we employing the very thing that is breaking down the fabric of human connection to make… human connections? I don’t know about you, but to me it feels a bit inhumane.
And, not to dish on the guy’s out there, but it seems like asking a girl on a date over Instagram, Facebook, or Tinder is their way of masking their nervousness or being rejected. In my option, if a guy had the guts to come up to me and tell me that my makeup is on point and that I look good, I would automatically think he has great confidence even if I wasn’t interested. Am I right, ladies?
Yet, I know it still happens. Like, the other day I needed to get my eyebrows waxed and my brother offered to take me to my appointment. As I was in my appointment, he decided he wanted to clean up his brows too, and a young girl took him to the other waxing room. Afterwards, in the car, my brother said, “So, I got the number from the girl who waxed me.” I looked at him stunned. “How?!?” I stupidly said, as if I didn’t know how it works. In true little sister fashion, I start jabbing him before I get the details: “I mean, it’s just a weird place to ask a girl out, don’t you think? Like ‘Thanks for pulling out my eyebrows, wanna go on a date for your troubles!’ ” We both laugh. “No,” he said, “I thought she was cute, and when she smelled weed on me and said something, I said we should smoke some time together. And that’s how I got her number, I mean, who cares if girls reject me. I’d just move on.”
The rest of the car ride I couldn’t help but think he was right. Rejection isn’t the best feeling in the world, but the more we hide from it, the more we are actually just hiding from each other. We will never get to know what could have happened if we weren’t afraid of being rejected. Here was my brother who wasn’t afraid to take a chance and ask for a girl’s number. He also told me that sometimes he will DM (direct messages) girls on Instagram, just saying: “Hey I think you’re really cute, and would like to get to know you. No disrespect to you and your boyfriend if you have one, just wanted to link up.” He says the girls who have boyfriends respond back and appreciate his efforts, and the ones who don’t have boyfriends will further engage with him. He goes on to tell me that his ego doesn’t get shot down when a girl isn’t interested in him, he moves on and keeps doing what he is doing. Is my brother on to something? He’s harnessing the power of technology but not giving up on his roots of meeting others the “good ole fashioned way.” Annnnd, he’s being a “nice Armenian boy” throughout the process.
After this short five week experiment, I think I’ve learned a few things. First of all, in 2019, we can’t hide from the fact that technology is just a part of life. I’m getting the hang of how to weed out the creepy profiles from the sincere ones on Bumble, and I think I might stick with it for a while and employ a bit more of my brother’s style of being “real.” At the same time, I still have the dream of meeting someone kind and interesting the way my parents think I should: in person. If that happens while getting my eyebrows waxed, picking up my morning Starbucks, in a class on UNLV’s campus, at a funeral (haha!), or even at the Orthodox church down the street, I am vowing to be a one woman army and take dating back, at least in part, from behind the screen.