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I Swiped Through Tinder IRL with 300 Strangers

Here's what it taught me about online dating.

Throwing yourself into the expansive wasteland of online dating has become a rite of passage in major cities, and the New York-based event Tinder Live is here to help us all weather the process together.

The premise of Tinder Live is simple: Host and comedian Lane Moore connects her Tinder account to the projector screen and the audience guides her as she swipes through matches in real time. For those who aren't familiar with Tinder (god bless), the GPS-enabled app works by having users go through photo profiles of people nearby and indicate whether they like the potential matches by swiping right for yes or left for no. When two users both swipe right, they become a match and can chat with one another.

Tinder Live makes light of just how absurd and soul-sucking swiping through an endless procession of other human beings can become. Along with invited guests (this week cast members from Orange is the New Black showed up to help judge), a crowd of several hundred people shouted out "left" or "right" as Moore went through profiles, periodically taking digs at potential matches or joking about their absurd bios. The audience then watched as Moore typed out nonsensical emoji messages to people she successfully matched with. In the past, Moore has even lured some men she met on Tinder during the show to the bar where it's held as the audience looked on.

"I've had a lot to drink and I just want someone to pass the time with"

Moore plays out the mundane inner debates we have while swiping through Tinder in real time, with games like "Which one is it?" in which the audience shouts that question out in unison each time a group picture comes up. The crowd then votes on who in the photo is the account holder.

Initially, I was worried this was going to be a shallow game of cynical, romance-wary New Yorkers yelling "swipe left!" about poor Tinder users who are unaware their profile is being collectively judged by hundreds of people. However, Moore expertly steered the crowd from mean-heartedness to substance with each match. The profiles that were most vociferously voted against were the most basic (note to people of all genders: putting 'Work hard, play hard' in your bio is a good way to get a fast left swipe). Less-attractive users with interesting profiles were almost always unanimously swiped right.

Most remarkably, Tinder Live showed how pervasive the app has become.

As the audience filed into the bar, the two women in front of me swiped through Tinder and compared potential matches. When the show started, they turned off their location services so their own profiles wouldn't show up on screen. Screens lit up throughout the event as some people casually replied to Tinder and OKCupid messages while laughing at other Tinder profiles on the screen.

The two people standing behind me were apparently on their first Tinder date. "So, why did you swipe right on me?" the man asked the woman. The small talk that ensued was as excruciating as it was familiar to anyone who has gone on a date facilitated by the internet.

The appeal of Tinder Live comes with the pervasiveness of online dating. Even just five years ago, these services were the secret shame of people who couldn't find a match IRL. Today, the ubiquity of these apps allows us to wear our thirst on our sleeves and laugh about it together.

One memorable profile Moore swiped through showed a man at a table, surrounded by liquor and red plastic Solo cups. His tagline read something to the effect of, "Just looking for someone to make the most of this life with before it's over." The audience erupted into laughter.

"I love him because he is all of us on Tinder: 'I've had a lot to drink and I just want someone to pass the time with,'" Moore said.