Getting ‘out there’ and meeting new people can be an intimidating journey: between the delicate etiquette used in dating apps and the IRL pressures surrounding them, there’s a lot of unchartered territory. So VICE have teamed up with Badoo to help you traverse it in a safe, secure, and fun way. Yet if you’re dying to know what the other half are really thinking when they scroll through your profile’s cliché lines, sucked-in stomach shots and hand-crafted gags, we’ve got some bad news for you, people: nobody is going to be honest with you anytime soon. Not even us. But there is one person on earth capable of dropping the truth bombs you need - and that’s your best friend.
In order to make this happen, we have Ben and Helga – opposite-sex besties – swapping phones. The swap will enable them to see the dating world through a different pair of eyes, offering unique perspectives on their own profile, gender-differences, and providing well-needed advice on what’s working and what’s not.
Brandishing their phones, it’s clear how different the world of dating is for a female and a man. Over the past 24 hours, Ben’s profile has enjoyed 16 visits, whereas Helga’s is double that on 32. Both have been messaging. The phones are swapped, Helga takes one look, and immediately folds like a deck chair. “Ok,” She composes herself. “So this is really, really bad, Ben - guys who use a photo of themselves topless as their profile pic – big mistake! Sure, you look good, but it just makes you seem like all you want is sex.” Helga then scrolls through, nodding when I ask whether she feels his sense of humour comes across in the profile. “Yeah, I can tell he’s up for a laugh – saying ‘What do you call a guy with a rubber toe? Roberto’ is hilarious - and you’re avoiding a lot of try hard clichés that guys do, trying to act like they’re above it all.”
Ben, now feeling suitably honest, goes into Helga’s profile. He’s nodding, commenting how she looks pretty in her photos, before rolling his eyes. “Ok, so this really annoys me. I can see that you’re pretty, but you’ve barely put any effort into your profile. Look, you’ve repeated the phrase, ‘up for a laugh’ twice! It makes you look like you don’t give a shit. Yeah, we know you’re pretty, but don’t rely on your looks.”
With both having brought up the importance of the deck of photos, I ask what they feel is the perfect selection to attract people. Before I can finish, Ben has started listing: “If a girl has a professional photo, it would give us something to talk about because I love photography. A photo with a family member, as it shows good values. And dogs are good too.” Ben crosses his arms. Now it’s Helga’s turn. “Well, I agree that dogs are obviously great, they’re a really good talking point. Something of you on holiday, reeking of adventure; one with friends, as it shows you’re a social person. A natural smile in a headshot or selfie is perfect too. No pouts though and – believe me – just have the one selfie!”
But how about their behaviour on the app? So we delve into the last 24 hours’ worth of private messaging, and the giggling turns into blushing. Ben is shaking his head, wincing about members of his gender going from 0 to 100 in a matter of seconds. “It just makes you think that they’re at home, doing nothing - doesn’t it?” We find a guy who Helga has been talking to, who started their conversation with a comment about how “kissable” her lips are. There are jokes, but Helga resists his charms, before the guy becomes a little cold, something that confused her. “So he tried the compliments,” Ben says. “You carried on being quite reserved, and now he’s trying to ‘neg you out’ - being condescending just to try and weirdly assert power. It’s not personal – don’t worry.” Otherwise, Ben points at how Helga may be leading people on a tad by being quite elusive and – if it’s fun conversations she wants - would be better off starting them off lighter.
Comment: Very thought provoking work, Ben. Witty, but to the point and direct. To improve this piece you could perhaps consider a reference to a braai, or splash out on an emoji (I know, difficult in this economy) or instead of an emoji, attach an image of the flag of South Africa in order to fully commit to the joke subject. I expect a rewritten piece on my desk by 5pm.
Helga is pointing toward a conversation that Ben is confused about: it’s a girl asking whether he’s lied about his 6ft 3 height in his profile. “That’s a really normal question to ask! So many men lie about their height. I’ve been out on dates with guys who have literally posted 6ft+ on their profile; they’ve been 5ft 6. So that’s it, fellas: don’t lie!”
Finally, we get both Helga and Ben to pick somebody they’d like the help of the opposite sex to know more intimately about. First up, we’re looking at Daria. “Ok, she’s nice. Has a photo of her with wine, which probably means she likes going out to eat? They’re not all photos of her with friends, so she likes chilling. And this photo shows her chilling, drinking beers, with mates that are guys. Her music interests read like a punk manifesto; she speaks English, Italian, Russian. So she’s really confident, has substance, is cool with herself.”
Ben stands, jaw hitting the floor at Helga’s Rainman-esque analysis. Now she wants a similar breakdown for a guy that visited her profile earlier but didn’t stop to leave a message. “Ok, so this guy says he doesn’t really drink, he’s dressed up in pretty modest clothes – so he’s not vain. So you’re going to want to suggest him something that’s wholesome; the city farm? Kayaking? Basically – he’s not somebody looking for a short term, screw you around bit of fun. He’s somebody that it’s going to take a bit more with.”
The two swap their phones back; the experiment is over. Ben and Helga can swipe happily on Badoo knowing they’re in tip-top condition for matching. Furthermore, taking a walk in each other's shoes hasn’t left blisters or sores, rather planting the seeds of a new pub pastime. And if you want to be like Ben and Helga, with the perfect game and accomplice for your next pint of Staropramen on a lingering Wednesday evening, you can. Just pick a good place, work out whose round it is, download Badoo, switch phones, and have fun. You’ve got nothing to lose.
Illustrations by Venus Libido