Tinder: Unrequited Lies in Vietnam

(AsiaLIFE, October 2015)

The world of dating apps is swamped with dodgy pictures and outrageous claims, so an unfortunate self-summary can be a deal-breaker. Lorcan Lovett talks with daters to see what attracts and what alienates. Photos by Vinh Dao.

The pictures are looking good. There’s one next to a motorbike in the jungle – ‘ooo adventurous’ – another reading a book – ‘aaa intellectual’ – and the pièce de résistance of the profile: a scantily-clad sunbathing session in Da Nang.

Just before your finger swipes right, the mind says ‘stop this shallow nonsense, look at the bio’, and an uncomfortable truth is revealed as you scroll down: ‘the one’ is an idiot. The one hates animals, likes Trump, or has an arrogance unbeknown to humanity; worst of all, the one’ has a partner.

Apps such as Tinder are omnipresent on the smartphones of Saigon daters, however many of them inadvertently spoil their chances with half-baked or fantastical self-descriptions.

Teacher Matt James, 33, reviewed his own strategies when ‘Work Hard, Play Harder’ was not achieving satisfactory results on Tinder.

In a burst of eloquent wordplay, his bio now reads: ‘I enjoy going to raves when I’m not working, I can cook, and I’m fucking hilarious. I hope I don’t sound too much like Gordon Ramsey.’

James sits down, places his smartphone on the table and explains.

“Gordon Ramsey is a hard worker, so that’s that base covered,” he says. “I like cooking and swearing and shouting in people’s faces, and I do enjoy going to raves.”

James, who adds a few years onto his age on Tinder as bait for mature ladies, decides the perfect bio would be his own. his perfect bio would be his own.

“I always read the bio,” he says. “It’s just a bit of extra information and you can know a bit more about who you are possibly going to bang. I’ve tried to tell the truth, but people say any old crap on their bios to try get their claws into a man.

“I read some bios and it says ‘I’m not after a relationship’, and I think ‘yes’, and then ‘I’m not after any hook ups’, and I think ‘yes’, and then it says ‘I’m quite happy with my boyfriend or husband’.

“It’s just like ‘Why are you on Tinder? You’re an idiot, you do not understand what Tinder is about’.”

Travel writer Thao Nghi, 26, started swiping a month ago but is yet to meet a Tinder date. She knows how to appreciate a good bio, especially the “funny and honest” variety, although she has opted for a the swashbuckling approach of leaving hers blank.

“I don’t want people to know clearly about my personal life,” she says. “I don’t feel safe if I do that.

“Lucky for me, I have not seen any very bad bios yet, and the best ones have been about animal lovers; dog and cat lovers.”

Nghi says if she were to have a bio, it would be a quote from science guru Stephen Hawking: ‘Quiet people have the loudest minds.’

Nghi is unlikely to be a match for teacher Kate Millar, 33, who has a novella-length bio and distaste for quotes.

Also, both profiles are ‘men only’, so unless Tinder staff spiced things up by mixing preferences, it really wouldn’t happen.

“I tend to not be interested in guys who have no bio,” says Millar. “I think the more information you have right off the bat, the better.I don’t have a lot of time. No inspirational quotes or no clichéd sayings. There’s a lot of those, like ‘you only live once’; you see that a lot.

“I look for guys who don’t take themselves too seriously. If they talk about their interests, that’s good for me, because if I want to start the conversation, I can. With the guys that have made it through the vetting process to a date, there has been a spark of interest from the bio, right from the beginning.”

Millar’s bio says she lives in Saigon, writes, studies Argentine tango while exploring the reasons behind this hobby, and apologises when she bumps into inanimate objects. She also talks about the time she fainted and ‘the guy from Bon Iver’ caught her.

She reasons that it draws men from across the board who are interested in dancing, music, or have a similar sense of humour.

Tinder’s not the only dating app out there. Investor Nguyen An, 24, (not his real name) hopes to find the perfect man on OkCupid.

His self-summary notes where he graduated, his profession, and the fact he has a tattoo. He also makes a high-brow joke for those clever bachelors.

It reads: ‘Personality-wise, I’m an INFJ, but I appear an ISJT for business purposes, shhhh.’

Not in stitches?

“INFJ (introversion, intuition, feeling, judging) and ISTJ (introversion, sensing, thinking, judging) are personality types defined by the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator,” he explains.

“So that people know what they are getting into and can see if we are really compatible…it’s not really important. INFJ personality type is generally considered as ‘not good for business’ type.

“I often look for the nerdy type of guy, so my profile pic features me with a bow tie, looking dapper. Moreover, Dr. Who and Bill Nye the Science Guy wear bow ties, and they are well-known among nerdy guys. So the profile is oriented to attract nerdy guys’ attention, hypothetically.”

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