Last night I got on Tinder while I watched Monday Night Football. The selection was Denver’s standard fare and I swiped mindlessly through photos of dudes with tigers and sloths, dudes at Machu Picchu and at the top of the Manitou Incline, dudes snowboarding, dudes drinking craft beer, dudes in marijuana grow houses and dudes with their dogs at the top of 14ers.
In the midst of my careless swiping I received a message from the ex-boyfriend of a gal in several of my social circles. I was disappointed at myself for not recognizing him as I would never knowingly right swipe the ex-lover of even a casual acquaintance. I unmatched the guy with not one second of hesitation.
But after this incident I felt a little bit bare. I started to think about online dating and the exposure it allows for, the vulnerability it necessitates and the challenges it presents to our values and our standards.
Just today, the use of Tinder produced what is likely the most mortifying experience of my adult life. I was stopped at a notoriously long stoplight on my way to visit a client in his home. While I waited for a green light, I thoughtlessly swiped some photos. When the light turned, I set my phone in the cup holder but on its way down I accidentally right swiped a photo that I had not looked at. It was a match! But it was a match with the same client whose house I was driving to. Talk about a good reason not to Tinder and drive.
As a social worker I try never to lose sight of the fact that my clients are just humans. All of my clients have experienced homelessness. Many of my clients are substance addicted, the majority have trauma histories and quite a few suffer from symptoms of a serious mental illness, but that does not exempt them from the same human desires as those of us with more privileged circumstances.
I often encourage my lonely and isolated clients to seek social connections so it is not surprising that one of my youngest clients happens to be on Tinder. Though I unmatched my client quicker than a cheetah on roller skates, I left myself with quite a muddled mess.
I am a social worker, yes, but I am a human, too. My client is my client, yes, but he is a human, too. Online dating presents a fascinating, complex and mostly uncharted challenge to a single social worker’s boundaries, professionalism and sense of privacy.
Yet online dating appears to be here to stay and often seems the best chance I have at ever finding a partner. It is likely that more than just one of my clients feel the same way. As disturbing as it was for me to mistakenly right swipe my client, as troubling as it is for me to know that my client saw a photo of me double fisting Schlitz tallboys and as awkward as this experience will always be, I am appreciative for a reminder that all humans desire connection, romance and passion and are willing to be vulnerable in the quest for love.
But heed this mostly tragic tale and please, everybody, Tinder with caution.