Totally Swiped: Seinfeld Predicted Tinder in 1993!

Writer Alicia Eler becomes obsessed with Seinfeld and Tinder at the same time, and then realizes that they're in fact related.

Alicia Elerby Alicia Eler

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Seinfeld is a show that’s inevitably about nothing and everything, an endlessly fascinating and frustrating show about the complexities of interpersonal relationships, coincidences, and people who care about each other but are also totally self-involved. In Seinfeld’s book, SeinLanguage, published in 1993, he predicted the dating awkwardnesses that happen quite regularly on Tinder, the addictive dating app that takes what could be a pleasant afternoon of reading and turns it into an energy sucking, potentially emotionally unfulfilling hour or two of swiping, window-shopping for people who could be hot in-person but you never really know until you meet them, and chatting that really does suck up one’s data plan but also offers a safety of no last names or phone numbers. Seinfeld predicted Tinder in 1993, long before regular people were using the internet.

Tinder Dates As Job Interviews

The seasoned Tinder user knows that there’s no point in getting one’s hopes up just because of a good mutual match or an easy, breezy chat on the app. For the goal-oriented Tinder user, Tinder dates are handled more like job interviews for a potential mate. Seinfeld explains this at the beginning of his book, which also serves as a premise to the show concept.

Dating is pressure and tension. What is a date really, but a job interview that lasts all night? The only difference between a date and a job interview is that in not many job interviews is there a chance you’ll wind up naked at the end of it.

Tinder Chats as the Pre-Date Ritual

Everyone is busy. We are all working a lot. So to meet up with a complete stranger for the purposes of potentially building a future together on the off chance that there’s actually a connection seems like messing with fate, or like self-willing some kismet action. It’s also totally absurd to place so much pressure on a poor person during this first date! That’s why a Tinder match leads to chatting on Tinder, a screening process through the safety of a smartphone screen that is its own house of mirrors, a glass wall, a reflection onto potentially seeing someone who is like you. It’s something Seinfeld knew about long ago. In his book, he writes:

Maybe we need some kind of pre-date ritual. Maybe first meet up in one of those rooms where you visit prisoners. You have that glass between you. You talk on the phones. See how that goes before you attempt an actual date. This way the only sexual tension would be deciding if you should put your hand on the glass or not.

The Tinder Unmatch

You’re getting into a Tinder conversation and not feeling the vibe. The guy is getting aggressive, the girl’s questions aren’t interesting enough, or you don’t have much more to say and the energy is not right. The “unmatch” is a Seinfeldian equivalent of signaling to the Tinder guard that this prison viewing window is over. Says Seinfeld:

And if you’re not comfortable at any point, you just signal to the guard and they take the other person away.

Judging Based on Tinder Pictures Only

Often times people in relationships look alike. Is it narcissism or just the inevitability that we are attracted to people who are like us, both biologically and psychologically? On Tinder, the window-shopping for people also has an evaluation aspect to it, and that is stressful even if the person you’re on a date with looks like you. Says Seinfeld:

It’s hard to have fun when you’re feeling evaluated. We should say, ‘You seem nice. Why don’t we get together sometime for some serious scrutiny.

The “High Number of Facebook Mutual Friends” Connection

A person on Tinder somehow seems less dangerous if you have many mutual friends. It’s the illusion that knowing some people in common will make the meeting feel more comfortable, perhaps because you can talk about those mutual friends. A bevy of mutual friends on Tinder — let’s say, over 15 people — is a proxy for a modern-day lazy yenta who thinks you two would really get along because you know so many people in common. When this “high number of mutual Facebook friends on Tinder thing” happens, it doesn’t mean you’re gonna like the fix-up. Just ask Seinfeld

“To me, the fix-up just doesn’t work. You cannot fix people up. It doesn’t work because nobody wants to think that they need to be fixed up. You cannot get that out of your mind; it affects your attitude when you meet the person you’re fixed up. You cannot get that out of your mind; it affects your attitude when you meet the person you’re fixed up with.”

When you meet up with a person off Tinder with whom you have a large number of mutual friends, you just can’t get out of your mind that you know SO MANY PEOPLE IN COMMON! But a high number of mutual friends does not a connection make. It may actually make the conversation worse.

The End of a Bad Tinder Date

There’s nothing worse than meeting up with a person off of Tinder and knowing immediately that you have no chemistry, but now you are stuck with the person until the date is over. What do you say? How do you leave it? What if they try to Facebook friend you, or keep up a casual dialogue via text when truly there wasn’t enough during the date to justify a continued connection? Do you say to the person: “Oh hey, that was cool, hope to see you around on the Internet someday?” Or do you just leave as soon as you can?

Seinfeld had similar observations about the inevitability of the “see you around” departure statement post-terrible date. Most likely, because of some mutual friend or a shared place you both enjoy, you’ll see that person around — either IRL or just somewhere, on the internet perhaps even as a meme. Thanks to the Internet and our increasingly networked world, that person will always be around, in some form. Says Seinfeld:

What can you do at the end of a date when you know you don’t want to see this person ever again, for the rest of your life? What do you say? No matter what you say, it’s a lie. ‘I’ll see you around?’ See you around? Where is that? ‘If you’re around, and I’m around, I’ll see you around that area. You’ll be around other people, though. You won’t be around me. But you will be around’.

 
Images: wetwebwork / Denis Bocquet.

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Crystal Paradise is a weekly column published every Tuesday by Los Angeles-based writer Alicia Eler that navigates the naturally occurring weirdnesses that spark at the intersection of art, technology and travel.