“Everyone erases everyone. Life is about getting to know people you love first and then erasing.” (Alejandro Zambra, Chilean author.)
Right now I have 120 matches on Tinder. I talk to two or three of them, I open the app when I take the subway, or I get bored, and from time to time my friends ask me where I am in my research. I do not know if it should be seen as research. What are we looking for on Tinder?
At least since I’ve used it, I’ve noticed that it’s easy to get in touch with people, but breaking contact with them is even easier. There is no more trauma in the loss. Today, more than ever, everyone erases everyone.
In the series of contacts and exchanges we have every day, accidentally deleting is a matter of survival. The hyper-connected individual is more disconnected than ever, according to French sociologist David Le Breton: We always communicate more, but we meet less and less, and in fact we prefer superficial relationships that begin and end once we have decided.
Apps like Tinder are about getting us to meet new people. There is no idealism there, nothing false. Tinder promises neither to find love nor to draw a phenomenal blow: what it offers is virtual connection and novelty. An endless catalog of candidates, and for the user the opportunity to accept or reject someone with a flick of the finger.
And maybe more
The need to commit is nothing new. What has changed is the reasons why relationships crystallize and fragment, and the forms they take. Tinder is therefore not intended to meet a need that already existed, but to exploit the vulnerability of new forms of relationship and ultimately maintain it.
Finally, the meeting is always associated with risks. It often happens that we have things in common with someone or that we have the impression of having some. Without the physical part of the meeting, it is impossible to know for sure whether we really have affinities. We chat for days, then at some point we end up seeing each other and there is no chemistry: the mirage of idealization disappears. So we say goodbye and we never talk again. Like when you travel in a BlaBlaCar, you tell your life story to the driver or passengers, and then you never hear from them again. To keep a virtual relationship alive, it is therefore necessary to avoid the meeting. Finally, a social network from which all purity is absent.
If Tinder helped us build lasting relationships with other people, it would be a commercial aberration. The app does not benefit from the success of relationships, but from their failure, because that is what ensures the return of the user. The fact that a lasting relationship can be born from time to time is only a side effect.
The goal is not so much the physical encounter with the other as the simple fact of “matching”. Once that happens, people pile up in an endless list of candidates. The trend is towards limitless growth. We can always start a conversation with one of the 80 matches on his list. Earning potential relationships becomes an addictive game that you end up becoming addicted to.
Always more fish in the sea
This collection alone produces a mirage of connection that makes us invulnerable. A sanctuary where those around us can not boycott us. This idea that there will always be more fish in the sea is brought to its climax.
It’s not about entering into a relationship, but knowing that you can do it at any time. “There are always several possible connections, so it doesn’t matter how many of them turn out to be shaky or unstable,” writes the Polish-British sociologist Zygmunt Bauman in Liquid love. On the fragility of human bonds [L’Amour liquide. De la fragilité des liens entre les hommes, éditions du Rouergue].
In this constant bombardment of stimuli, relationships are inconsistent and there is little investment in them. By its very nature, it seems impossible to focus on just one person. The more open conversations we have, the better. What is being said is not important. The spread of messages is the message. I exist because I speak, because people communicate with me.
Using the app at full capacity and getting the most out of it is not about meeting one person, but about not focusing on anyone. Peaks interrupt us more than it connects us. It teaches us to cut ourselves off from others instead of strengthening the bonds. To see relationships and people as one-time. With constant change, the urge not to get stuck, turn the leaves quickly, the thirst for change sets in, without the loss being experienced as grief.
“A balm against dissatisfaction”
Here freedom is reduced to the ease of engaging and liberating: to liberate oneself from one’s work, from love, from one’s abode. In the 1990s, the French philosopher Jean Baudrillard evoked this moment of boredom “after orgy”, in other words, after the sexual and political liberation, the liberation of women, the unleashing of productive and destructive forces, of unconscious impulses, of art. In this post-apogee, we just have to pretend “to continue accelerating in the same direction”. Once all the revolutions are exhausted, it is possible to immortalize the redemption from your sofa.
But the illusion of liberation holds a pendulum motion: individuals swing between the natural desire to establish satisfying relationships and an acquired tendency not to commit too much, to be able to throw themselves out when they find it appropriate. The paradox, to use Bauman’s formula, is to secure it “that a relationship gives power to the user without the addiction weakening him, that it frees him without conditioning him, that it makes him feel fulfilled without overburdening him”.
Dating apps like Tinder offer a balm against dissatisfaction. But at the same time as they offer a solution, they create a new need. This is, as the German sociologist Ulrich Beck notes,“to provide biographical solutions to socially produced problems”.
The individual can feel master of his destiny if he accepts a gift that is beyond his control. Nothing is certain, so do not wait. The level of insecurity that hypermodern societies expose us to becomes tolerable when instability ceases to be an environmental variable in order to become a social principle. Each end of the step, each unbound link enriches a collection of experiences gained thanks to the change. We take a climb towards the burning desired liberation, we go up the stairs on an infinite staircase, we take refuge in a fortress to forget once it is up there that we all want to be saved by someone.
Who would have imagined that behind the promise of all liberation hid new shackles?