It’s Viral Market Crash week on Mashable. Join us as we take stock of the viral economy and investigate how the internet morphed from a fun free-for-all to a bleak hellscape we just can’t quit.
I remember the halcyon days of the internet when jokey Tinder profiles elicited a genuine chuckle.
Those days are long gone.
Six years after Tinder first launched, the internet is flooded with people’s thinly veiled attempts to achieve viral fame through their, let’s be honest, mildly-amusing-at-best Tinder profiles.
Back when Tinder was still a relatively newfangled concept, we hopeful, hapless daters were getting to grips with the new app like toddlers trying to walk. Every once in a while, someone’s earnest attempt to make themselves stand out from the crowd on the app would be shared into our feeds or timelines, inviting the mirth of fellow internetters. But, somewhere along the way, something changed. And, not for the better.
Around 2014 — two years after Tinder’s launch in 2012 — accounts and subreddits dedicated to Tinder-related content began popping up. Instagram accounts like Tinder Nightmares (which has 1.9 million followers) and Tinder Convos (138,000 followers) would share people’s amusingly awkward exchanges between swipers. The birth of r/tinder (a community that now has 1.1 million users) three years ago opened up a space where things other than just conversations could be shared, upvoted, and — if funny enough — turned into viral news stories by online media outlets.
One thing was clear: swipers were onto the internet’s appetite for lol-worthy messaging fails and jokey dating profiles. For those searching for viral internet fame, they were just one witty bio away from getting a shit ton of followers — a highly prized currency in the internet economy.
Over the course of the next four years, the internet became increasingly more saturated with jokey Tinder profiles. Now, on any given day, if you were to venture down the rabbit hole of r/tinder, you’ll see a glut of screenshots of clever profile bios, funny profile pics, creative icebreakers, and screenshots of full-on conversations. Shoulder to shoulder, these Redditors vie for the internet’s attention.
Mark Brill, senior lecturer in Future Media and Digital Communication at Birmingham City University, says that Tinder and other dating apps are just the latest trend in the industry of going viral (or attempting to, at least).
“Tinder is the current popular choice, but we’ve seen other ones before that,” says Brill. “People were attempting it before with cat gifs previously.” Not only are we reaching saturation point with Tinder-related viral content, Brill believes we’re also “saturated with people wanting to go viral” — be they individuals or brands.
Brill thinks that the reason behind the rise of viral Tinder profiles might not always be caused by people’s aspirations of viral fame. “Tinder is where a lot of people, particularly younger people, are spending their time,” says Brill. It’s natural, therefore, that a platform full of young sociable people would give rise to humorous content.
Life after going viral
Now, of course, not every single person whose dating profile goes viral is on some quest to find fame. Some are genuinely looking for love, or the odd bit of lust, or even just to make people laugh. In some cases, people unwittingly become viral sensations when strangers tweet out screenshots of their profiles (usually without their consent). In the case of Sam Dixey, a university student who wanted to make his dating profile stand out, this is precisely what happened.
“Me and a friend decided to make our profiles stand out a little bit with some humour and decided to style them as a PowerPoint presentation,” Dixey told Mashable. “Then while I was out playing football it turned out someone who’d come across my profile had screenshotted it and put it on Twitter where it flew from several thousand likes/retweets to nearly 120,000 within a day or two!”
Dixey’s experience turned out to be positive. As planned, his jokey profile got him an increased number of matches after people recognised him from news stories they’d read online. “Everyone seemed to have kind things to say about about how they’d found it funny which was nice to hear,” says Dixey.
There’s the odd happy ending too. Niket Biswas’ first date after his Tinder profile went viral ended up being his last date. “She said she saw my profile, showed her friends (and mom, thought it was hilarious and after some playful text banter we met up later that night for palomas and totchos,” says Biswas. “We’ve been dating since (we actually just got back from Greece) and are looking at one solid year later this month.”
These two examples show that there are people who genuinely just want their profiles to stand out among countless other faces. Not everyone lusts after viral fame.
But for online daters looking for love, how can we tell the difference between the jokers who just want to date and the jokers who just want a fast-track to viral stardom? The difference isn’t always immediately obvious to even the most discerning swipers.
Be careful what you wish for
For those who post their own profiles for all the internet to see, sometimes the consequences of going viral aren’t quite as glorious as they imagined it to be. When Jesse Mills posted his nude Tinder stunt to r/tinder, he got to witness it blowing up first-hand. “Considering it’s kinda NSFW, I was surprised it went as far as it did,” says Mills.
But, pretty much everyone in his rural community saw his photos. And, yes, that did make life a little bit awkward. “Outside of my dating life things were weird for a bit,” says Mills. “I’d walk into the pharmacy and get an, ‘Oh, look who decided to wear clothes today!’ from behind the counter. Everyone I know saw it. My boss saw it.” He’s since moved to a city, but he does occasionally get comments like “you’re remove a layer guy, right?”
After so many years of profiles going viral, the novelty of the jokes has well and truly worn off — the bar for Tinder humour is pretty high and the chances of going viral are pretty low. The time has come for jokey dating profiles to become a thing of the past (unless you’re just a really, really funny person who happens to be looking for love).
Let’s just channel all our energy into using dating apps what they’re actually for — chatting to matches and going on dates. Find another route to viral superstardom.