I opened the Facebook chat with my Tinder coach expecting to walk away with a hilarious story. It's a coach for Tinder; how could it be anything but? But one hour, $50, and five extensively researched photos later, I had only one thought:
Holy shit, that was depressing.
Only about a month old, TinderUs has the singular purpose of helping you build the best, most-attractive Tinder profile possible. The idea reportedly came to the anonymous, London-based founder when he asked his "fashion friends" to help a few of his unlucky-in-love buddies with their Tinder game. The previously unlucky-in-swipes saw "an immediate jump in matches." Thus a, modern day hot-or-not consultancy was born.
Still, the notion that an app used to cut human interaction to a bare minimum would require a paid "Profile Consultant" sounds insane, no matter how sincere the intentions. So I booked my consultation.
Upon signing up for TinderUs—or more specifically, after TinderUs collects 50 of your hard-earned dollars—you receive the following email:
Yes, any photo you post on Facebook is usually fair game for the huddled, ogling masses that make up your Friends list. But the explicit knowledge that another human — a stranger, no less — would be poring through my Facebook profile to find the Best Version of Me was an entirely different class of discomforting. But hey—no one said Tinder perfection was easy.
My Facebook chat appointment was set for 4pm. Rhyanna would be my guide.
Rhyanna: Do you know how to go about the process? I can talk you through it, it's different with Tinder because creating a profile can't be done on our part in terms of using a computer to set it up - but of course we can give you a step by step, then elaborate upon points further as to use of the app etc.
After dispensing with the logistics, Rhyanna asked me what I hoped to gain from Tinder. What was I looking for? When was my last date? What do I want in an ideal match? How do I want others to see me? What is love, really? This consultation alone was already far more intimate than any late-night Tinder session could ever hope to be. Then came the photo evaluation.
Rhyanna: Profile photos are the first photo you see of a potential match when you're swiping through Tinder, first impressions always count. I'd go for a clear photo of you, maybe even a selfie! I chose this one whilst browsing your profile prior to our consultation, just to get to know a bit more about you before we spoke.
We spent the next 22 minutes going through various photo options, me feeling irrationally uncomfortable and Rhyanna giving relatively solid tips. An example: "I like that it's a happy social photo, not forced—and not with loads of alcohol or anything in the photo! I think if you're looking to attract good things, Tinder is the right way to use a profile to be almost portfolio like?"
Which, granted, is not all that dissimilar from the sort of advice you might find on the internet for free. But to each his own.
We finally settled on a collection of five pictures out of 39 potentials that strike that delicate balance between fun and not scaring others. Which meant it was time to move on to the tagline.
I asked Rhyanna what not to do. What are the worst types of Tinder taglines?
Rhyanna: Knock knock jokes, or anything a bit too obvious... I always think putting "spontaneous" or "fun" are two words which definitely relate to different things in a guys mind to how we think of it, so that's a no-no from me.
Avoid adjectives that might imply or advocate harlotry — a little judgey, but sure. So what might a good, non-profligate tagline look like?
Rhyanna: I'll relate back to an example with a client from yesterday, "Healthcare Tech/Innovation Guy with a penchant for enjoying the city life - Bonus if you love Game of Thrones or '80s movies." Keep it casual, but you're seriously introducing essentials that hopefully you can then build upon conversation with!
It was at that point that I began to realise that real people are using TinderUs in earnest. Healthcare Tech/Innovation Guy, for whatever reason, is having Tinder trouble to the point that $50 felt worth it. And Tinder is unquestionably the least demanding dating app in terms of requisite social skills. You don't even need to be able to form words; half of Tinder is spelled out in emoji anyway. Which, if people are willing to pay this much for Tinder, Match.com (or any site necessitating full sentences, really) must be a goldmine.
At this point any humour I'd found in TinderUs was overtaken by creeping sense of dread. Real-life dating coaches are one thing, understandable even. Working up the confidence to talk to strangers in public can be difficult! But Tinder itself is already a crutch, making TinderUs a crutch to the crutch—and god knows where that ends.
Exactly 63 minutes after my consultation had begun, I had five carefully chosen photos and the following, Rhyanna-written-and-approved tagline: Easy going writer, looking for a guy with a great sense of humour.
After we said our goodbyes, I looked down at my professionally curated Tinder profile with a heady mix of revulsion and discomfort. And then I deleted the app.
Art by Jim Cooke