Illustration by Anna Hovis
This post originally appeared on VICE Canada.
Great dates, horrible dates, dates where I wished that the bar stool I was sitting on would open up and suck me into a black hole, far away from a brutal conversation. What has perpetuated this revolving door of eligible (and not so eligible) suitors? Well that, my friend, is the seemingly endless proliferation of online dating apps like Tinder, Bumble, and OKCupid.
For those in major cities, there’s already a sense of anonymity and seemingly infinite possibility when it comes to seeking out potential partners. Every stop on the subway provides a new influx of attractive humans, and that’s just during rush hour on a Tuesday. However, for a city of 2.6 million, the social scene in Toronto can seems surprisingly small: It’s rare that I match with someone with whom I don’t share at least one mutual Facebook friend. So when Tinder and the like came along, they brought with them an even more exciting sense of the unknown, opening the doors to a larger pool of horny strangers, ready to wine and dine, park drink, and (hopefully) fool around.
But what about people who live outside the confines of a major city? For those in small towns or suburbs, finding people to bang is a lot harder when you’ve known most of them since birth. And when you already know, and have dated (or had a friend date), much of your community, what value does an app play in increasing your dating pool?
Using Tinder in small towns is just not that common. We’ve all heard the stereotype—those living in small towns tend to get married young, have babies young, and settle down in an affordable house, complete with mortgage, dog, and an retirement plan, leaving them out of this new and rapidly growing culture of dating apps.
That being said, there’s still a smattering of young folk partaking in these digital dating dens, and from them I learned a hell of a lot about what it’s like to live, work, and date in a small town. From incest to adultery, these brave individuals have seen it all, and their stories are equal parts unnerving and, unsurprisingly, entertaining. People seem to cheat (a lot), and correspondingly, forget that these apps are open to the public. And if you have a large extended family that all live nearby, you might want to think twice before swiping right at all.
Drea*, 28, Lanark County, Ontario
I am a realtor here, so my face is on enough stuff already that I don’t need it attached to people/potential clients passing judgement on my night moves. If my face/ass is up on Tinder, every high school kid with a fake age tinder profile and their divorced dad will put it together with my Real Estate ads. Like almost every small Ontario town, I live underwater in a misogynist conservative mainstream, and their ding dong judgements will fuck up my business if they don’t like how I peacock for romance online. So, when I’m at home I really can’t have Tinder on my phone. I could totally change my profile to a super watered down version of my full-spectrum (not professional) self, which my dream man would most likely swipe right by. So what’s the point? Sadly I don’t think I’ll find love/sex out here because almost all I see on apps are guys who are really into muddy ATVs or mediocre fishermen with medium-sized pikes (and I throw pikes back). Mix it up a bit dudes.
It’s also not too great running into a married high school bud, having to try and suss if they’re in an open relationship and are pissed that I didn’t swipe right, or hoping I don’t out them for being on there during a quick convo at the Canadian Tire gas pump.
Sarah*, 22, Innisfil, Ontario
Using Tinder in Barrie (the nearest “Big Town”) is definitely interesting, especially when you know that person has a significant other. That happens quite a bit—because it’s a smaller town, everyone knows everyone’s business.
It’s also weird when you match with someone and then see them at a bar, because there’s only like five bars here it’s pretty much bound to happen. Once I matched with a guy who is a good friend of my friend Justin (which I didn’t know at the time). That same night, Justin comes to pick me up to hang out, and Tinder guy is right there in the front seat of the car. As if that wasn’t awkward enough, Justin decided to stop at Mac’s and left us alone in the car together. We didn’t say a word to each other the whole time.
I met my last boyfriend on Tinder and he wasn’t from my hometown so that raised a lot of questions about how exactly we met. At first, I was just telling people the truth that we met on Tinder, but he was a lot more embarrassed and wanted me to lie. Eventually I had lost track of who I had lied to. One time when I was drunk, one of his friends asked me how we met, and I said we had mutual friends, without really thinking it through. His friend asked who he knew in my hometown and I couldn’t think quick enough so I just said I didn’t know. There was an awkward silence till he said, “You met on Tinder didn’t you?”
Leslie*, 22, Lakefield, Ontario
I will preface this by saying that I no longer use online dating apps, and have resigned myself to either meeting someone IRL, or spending the rest of my life as a single cat lady (which I am coming to terms with). Why? Well, why don’t you download Tinder, swipe right on a couple cuties, go on a date with a handsome guy, and after making out in the back of the only bar in your town, realize that you’re second cousins and tell me how you feel about it after? I wish I could tell you I’m making this up, but unfortunately, it’s all too real.
Maddie, 23, Collingwood, Ontario
When Tinder first became a popular thing, I would use it when I visited my parents back in Collingwood just to see if anyone I went to high school with was still in town (and single).
As I was swiping I noticed a pattern of people either showing a great interest in mudding, camo, and everything John Deere, or polo wearing, golf playing, varsity boys with a fat inheritance. There was little diversity of unique, artsy individuals and next to nil people who weren’t white. I forgot how fucking white small towns are.
[Using Tinder back home] makes you feel a little better about yourself about not being in the town anymore. Because the truth is, you can’t hook up with someone in a small town and the word not getting out. Gossip spreads like wildfire!
Lola*, 28, Prince Edward County, Ontario
Myself and my partner are in an open relationship—meaning, occasionally we get down with other people together and separately. This makes the dating app in a small town thing even more complicated because we’re not exactly “out” in our community about our approach to sex and relationships. We’ve used OkCupid, Tinder, and Bumble in the past, with basically no luck whatsoever. First, our parameters are pretty specific in what we’re looking for, meaning there are often no matches nearby. Dating apps seem less realistic when you have to expand your search distance to the people within 500 km of you. It’s nice to connect with likeminded people in Wildwood, New Jersey, but not super practical for actually getting down with anyone.
Also, there seems to be a higher quantity of topless dudes on ATVs with terrible grammar and tazmanian devil tattoos. To combat the privacy issue of wanting our business to stay our business in a small town, I use a terrible photo of my chin as a profile pic. It’s about as anonymous as it gets, which means I don’t get much action there. Even though, my chin is damn fine.
Because our pictures are so anonymous, we often will get matched with people that we know or who live in our area. It’s hard to keep a straight face when we run into some of these people, who have no idea that they’ve reached out to us. I was once sent a gnarly dick pic from a good friend here, who had no idea. I haven’t had the heart to tell him that I know his pubic grooming habits. All in all, I should probably just delete the apps because they have amounted to zero hooks up in total. I don’t blame them for not working. I wouldn’t be reaching out to a chin either.
Matt, 25, Kitchener, Ontario
The weirdest thing about using dating apps in small towns is that you inevitably see everyone you’ve ever known, everyone you’ve ever dated. You see the people you’re glad you broke up with but you also see the people you never paid attention to and wish you would have.
Small town stuff has always sucked for me because my ex is pretty popular in my hometown so everyone knows me as “_____’s ex-boyfriend.” Either people will randomly call me out, being like “Oh, I know who you are” or I’ve had people be way more into me entirely because I dated her and they either want to stir up gossip or try to make her mad. It’s pretty fucked.
Oh, and Amy, if we’re going to be entirely real here, we met on Tinder. The only reason we know each other is because we met on Tinder and here we are, a couple of friends doing an interview.
*Names have been changed to protect the identities of those involved so they can continue to pick up on Tinder
Follow Amy Michelle Smith on Twitter.