Is There a “Boring” Filter on this Dating App? Three Clues You Should Swipe Left
I once sat through a date that featured a lecture on the finer points of wastewater ditch engineering (my date was a civil engineer, but good god: I’m an English professor, and I didn’t go on and on about standard versus conjunctive adverbs). It’s no secret that mansplaining and one-direction conversations plague a lot of hetero dating experiences, and there are volumes of research on entitlement and toxic masculinity and a whole bunch of other systemic causes for these dynamics.
But I’m not that interested in the causes; I want solutions, and the main solution I want is the one that prevents me and other women from ever going out on these soul-sucking and mind-numbing dates in the first place.
In addition to being a single woman on the dating apps, I’m a professor and researcher whose work focuses on using language analysis tricks to “game” the apps. I moderate the “Burned Haystack Dating” project on Facebook, which is a grassroots organization of women working together to test and refine various methods of using dating apps that can yield better results than sheer quantity of swiping and messaging (the burned haystack metaphor refers to the fact that if you want to find a needle in a haystack, you have to burn the haystack to the ground — the needles will then appear, since metal doesn’t burn).
Burning the haystack on the apps is working pretty well. The methods we use are highly effective for immediately identifying the ghosters, the bread-crumbers, the booty-callers, and the incels. We burn those guys out of our haystacks immediately. The problem is that a lot of the men we’ve ended up going on dates with, while being smart, respectful, and professionally-employed, were just . . . boring. Like, boooooooooooring.
I know that sounds mean and unfair, but stay with me for a minute: boredom is a real problem for people using dating apps, especially people who date cis-hetero men. It’s a problem that gets less attention than the considerably-more-serious problems of misogyny, aggression, racism, dishonesty, and exploitation, but it’s a problem nonetheless.
I don’t think it’s totally these guys’ fault. I think that most of them have been raised in a society that rewards men for simply…