The shallowness of Tinder versus the 21st century version of an arranged marriage as seen on Married at First Sight

Ellen Widdup didn't have to resort to dating apps

Ellen Widdup didn't have to resort to dating apps - Credit: Archant

Smug marrieds often demand of single, childless women of a certain age when they are likely to get “sprogged up”, writes mother-of-two Ellen Widdup.

Just think of poor Bridget Jones.

“You can’t put it off forever,” her tactless pals admonish, like she has complete control over the situation and can procreate without the input of a man. “Tick-tock, tick-tock.”

“Office is full of them,” adds one who doesn’t seem to notice the air of awkwardness. “Single girls over 30 - fine physical specimens. Can’t get a chap.”

Back when Bridget was a hit in the late 90s, I was in my late teens and hooking up wasn’t an issue.

There was drink, there was dancing, there was snogging and it was fairly simple to find a member of the opposite sex who wasn’t physically repugnant.

Of course, perhaps it seemed so easy then because a) I was skinny, b) I was at university and c) there was no pressure of a biological clock turning me into a desperate harridan.

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I started dating my husband-to-be when I was 24. We met through work.

That was how most of my friends met their chaps at the time. It was either an office romance, a liaison in a nightclub that led to a relationship or the product of a set up through mutual friends.

You saw someone you fancied, and you know, actually ask them out IRL.

For those not in the know, this stands for In Real Life – the acronym recognised on dating apps to move a connection out of the realm of social media and into the big wide world.

All my single friends use these internet forums these days to find love.

Except none of them have actually formed any lasting relationships on the likes of Tinder.

This relatively new phenomenon works by you scrolling through photos of potential partners according to location, swiping away the ones who leave you feeling uninspired until you reach a photo that catches your attention.

At the same time, your face is being peddled out to others on your behalf, who are also putting you in the ‘Phwoar!’ or ‘Pffff no chance’ pile.

The only time you’re actually able to converse is when two people say yes to each other.

In a basic sense, the Tinder conversation, is no shallower than scanning a bar, club or party for an attractive face.

In quite another, it is the most shallow invention mankind has ever devised, because nothing – no display of talent, personality or sense of humour is discernible in the person you’re assessing.

I have watched my single girlfriends, fingers poised over the screen making frighteningly fast decisions on the opposite sex based purely on their physical attributes.

Flicking impassively through endless images, lingering or rejecting, not aroused nor repulsed, until you finally snap them out of it by insisting they stop for a cup of tea.

“It’s a bit of an odd way to find a date,” I pointed out to one of these friends, a gorgeous, successful, funny brunette. “How do you know they have anything more to offer than a great six pack and a goatee?”

“Well,” she explains. “If we are matched we text a bit first so I can check he’s not a psychopath.”

I ponder this for a moment, wondering how long she – and he – must spend crafting witty, nonchalant, charming one liners to move the initial physical attraction on to the next level.

“It’s a lot harder to meet people when you are in your 30s,” she points out to me petulantly when I mutter something about meat markets.

And I’m sure she is right. I wouldn’t want to be negotiating today’s dating scene for all the tea in China.

Somehow the internet has made everything more difficult.

The choice has gone from friends and friends of friends and people at this party, club, bar, barn dance to basically everyone in the whole world.

Which sounds brilliant, because surely there’s someone out there who is absolutely perfect for you.

But in my opinion, it makes people more anxious and less likely to settle, because they are always worrying that there’s someone better just a swipe away.

Perhaps this is why 1,500 people recently applied to take part in the Channel 4 show Married At First Sight.

The controversial series sees experts pair up couples based on science, marrying them off without so much of a “hello, how do you do?”. But it has attracted a storm of social media outrage since the first episode.

I find this criticism faintly contradictory – especially when it comes from the very singletons who are too busy on their phones to notice the other singletons who get the bus with them to work, sit at the desk opposite in the office or meet at the same pub for Friday night drinks.

“It’s not very romantic, is it?” one told me.

But I can’t agree with her.

I may be the only one who thinks so but I actually find the premise quite the opposite of the grotesque paradox of choice that Tinder presents.

It takes away the whole “grass is always greener” ideal and eliminates that impossible hunt for perfection.

It addresses the fact that true love is a union of two people who will continue to adore each other when good looks have faded and middle-age spread has set in.

And it creates matches based on far more than looks, taking into account a full psychological interview, personality profiling and genetic make-up.

Basically it’s an arranged marriage for the 21st century.

After the wedding, there’s a honeymoon, and five weeks of living together.

Then they can decide to stay together or get divorced.

I’m guessing some people might say this belittles the institution of marriage, but I think it a commendably pragmatic attitude towards coupling which takes sexual chemistry back to its natural home - the laboratory.

What Channel 4 hath joined together let not man put asunder.

Follow Ellen @EllenWiddup

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