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I tried to hack Tinder and it was a disaster

A silhouette of a man walking his dog while texting. The light is golden, making the entire scene seem saturated in orange light.

PUAs told me how to game online dating. They were wrong.

I was so ashamed the first time I made an OkCupid page that I deleted it after a couple of hours. I let the society we live in convince me only losers used OKCupid and I didn’t need to resort to geeky online dating. A few years later, online dating became ubiquitous enough to no longer carry a stigma. Besides, bars and clubs weren’t my scene; there was no other way for me to meet women other than OKCupid.

I’m the kind of person who gets nervous ordering takeout, so messaging strangers of the opposite sex I thought were cool elicited promising job interview-level nerves. To say it in meaner terms: I sucked at OKCupid. Few women responded to my messages, and even fewer actually sent me messages first. The only girl who went on a date with me did so because she thought I worked for BuzzFeed (which I only contributed to as an unpaid “community member” at the time).

After over a month of poor luck, I saw a Daily Dot article about a woman soliciting OkCupid profile rewrites for only $25. I contacted her. When I finally gave her the green light, she never answered the email. I like to think she got a real gig and didn’t need to stoop to something so low anymore. While that was great for her, I was still out an OkCupid profile. Realizing online dating probably wasn’t for me, I gave up. At least until the next year.

I restarted my OkCupid in 2014. I received slightly more messages this time around because I flat out didn’t care what anyone thought of me, which lead to an apparent uptick in the quality of the messages I sent out. Still no dates, though.

Morose and crestfallen, I considered Tinder. Even someone as (willingly) disconnected from popular culture as myself had heard of the popular swiping app. I avoided it because I felt it was sordid and awful. How could an app centered around objectifying women based on their looks do anything other than make me a misogynist—or at least misogynistic enough to feel gross about myself?

I became increasingly desperate as my 2014 OkCupid adventures turned out just like my 2013 OkCupid adventures: Unanswered texts and an empty inbox. One night I signed up on Tinder and started swiping, guiltily sorting human beings into “desirable” and “undesirable.” I matched with five women in the first month. None of them responded to my messages.

“I guess I’m just not good looking,” I thought. I uninstalled the app.

Not long after this, I saw a Medium post by Blake Jamieson explaining exactly how to garner over 800 matches.

“Could this work with me?” I wondered.

I had nothing to lose from trying it, right?

I called in a favor and had a friend photoshop a few pictures of me to emulate Jamieson’s example. I also wrote up a nice little bio I’d use once I reinstalled the app. Another thing I did was check out r/Tinder for any advice. The pick up artists (PUAs) there recommended making a new Facebook, one separate from your real one, for your Tinder account. They also suggested liking tons of pages to see if you and your matches had similar interests. I spent about 20 minutes liking stuff with my new fake Facebook page before signing up for Tinder with my newly photoshopped “Match of the Day” images.

The results?

Encouraging at first. While I didn’t come close to the 800 plus Jamieson promised, I increased the my amount of matches by about 400 percent (so I got around 20 matches as opposed to five). The advice about liking lots of stuff helped a lot. One girl I matched with liked Slate. She answered my first message, which confirmed whether she actually read Slate. When I asked if she noticed a marked decline in Slate’s quality she didn’t answer.

Nay bother, a different girl wanted to go on a date with me!

“You’re into hiking?” I asked. “Not many places to do that around here.”

“Yeah,” she said. “I usually just go walk around in lightly wooded parking lots. What are you into?”

Taco Bell. Science. Video games. Writing,” I replied.

“You’re a dream,” she said. I couldn’t tell if she was sarcastic. The fact that she exchanged numbers with me indicated she was serious. We met at a Starbucks despite the fact that Redditors told me coffee was too generic for a first date.

“I don’t actually drink coffee,” I told her. She laughed. “I only ask girls for coffee because it’d be weird if I asked them to get Taco Bell or to play video games.”

We sat down and talked for about an hour without any awkward pauses. She seemed to like me. She even answered my texts in the days after the date. Then one day she stopped. The matches stopped, too. Hardly any were trickling in now. I consulted the PUA. gods on Reddit to see what happened.

Their consensus was she found someone better. They derided the fact that online dating is a women’s game. They said women can choose from the best of men, while all men (save for the Brad Pitts) are forced to choose from the homeliest of women. It was a numbers game, according to them. The vast number of women on Tinder meant they had a never-ending amount of matches, many of which were bound to be more attractive, funnier, smarter, and more successful than you. Meanwhile, each lowly man only had a handful of matches with which to work.

The Men’s Rights vibe I started to get from r/Tinder turned me off to the app completely…until my friends got involved.

“You stopped using Tinder?” a friend asked. Let’s call him K.M.

“Yeah,” I said. “I couldn’t get any matches. The few I did get never went anywhere.”

“You’re probably doing it wrong,” K.M. said. He offered to run my Tinder for a night. I knew I should’ve declined, but biological urges are the Achilles heel of rational thinking.

The first match my friend got on my Tinder was a conventionally attractive woman. Her features were peculiar; I wasn’t sure where she came from. She had a wonderful hair color—a sort of fiery blonde and orange. So lovely. Her bio mentioned she had two passports.

“Where is your second passport to?” my friend asked her under my name.

Croatia.” she said.

At this point, I wanted to ask her about her opinion on the Yugoslav wars.

“Nothing on earth makes a girl’s pussy dry up faster than asking her about the fucking Yugoslav wars,” he said. His language upset me.

I forget what he asked her next. She ended up mentioning she was a nerd. I saw him type “prove you’re a nerd” into the chat box.

“You can’t ask her that. Have you heard of the Fake Geek Girl meme? You’re making me into a parody of an Internet men’s rights douche.”

I’m sure this all sounds fake, but I can assure you it was a real conversation. I spend enough time on the Internet to actually think this way I.R.L. now. My pleas failed to move my friend K.M., who chided me for being timid and weak.

“What you’re doing here,” he started to say while shaking his head, “is putting the pussy on the pedestal.” K.M. really said this. “You have to show her that she needs you, that she needs to prove yourself to you, that she needs your validation and approval. She has to impress you, not the other way around.”

“Why the hell would she go on a date with me if I was being mean to her? I would never go on a date with someone after they insulted me like that,” I argued.

“That’s because you’re not a woman,” he shrugged.

My other friend who heretofore was smart enough to avoid all this chimed in.

“Don’t bother messaging this chick. Women only use Tinder to feel attractive when their boyfriends don’t pay enough attention to them. You’ll never get a date or a fuck or a girlfriend out of this so don’t waste your time.”

K.M. pressed on undaunted. He sent that stupid message to the poor girl and she just said “I don’t need to associate with people who ask for proof of my interests.”

K.M. went into full damage control and stunningly managed to get another answer out of the girl after spouting some nonsense about truth. It was only one word though: “Cool.”

With his “treat girls like shit” doctrine disproved, K.M. let me have my Tinder back. I asked the Croatian girl about the Yugoslav wars and we talked for about another 20 minutes. I gave her my number. She didn’t reciprocate. Maybe if my friend hadn’t been a dick on my account she would have.

So what did I learn from all this?

Online dating is like playing DDR with words: If you don’t say and do very specific things in very specific ways, you won’t get anything out of it, and even if you do, you might not get anything anyway. Forget game. I’m going to let chance take it from here.

Photo via Olgierd Rudak/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)