When I joined Tinder, the now-ubiquitous matchmaking app, last spring, I was expecting it to be an absolute zoo. But while sifting through a great many profiles belonging to tiger lovers and amateur skydivers, I noticed something quite unexpected: a surprising number of reporters and producers popping up in my daily feed.
Tinder: A publicist’s dream. Or is it?
One of the first matches I interacted with was a photographer. His resume included a long list of national outlets and after a few exchanges, I realized that he was the former small business reporter who I left rambling voicemails for several years ago. Naturally, I kept that detail to myself. We met for drinks on the Lower East Side. We had dinner a week later. Then he went to the Midwest for an assignment and we lost track of each other. It happens.
Not long afterwards, I got matched with a writer for a national news program at a major network. As soon as I arrived on our first date, a waiter spilled a tray of drinks down my back. I knew that I liked this man right away because all he said was, “I’ll try to find you a seat.” Our next date was at the Jeff Koons exhibit at The Whitney Museum of American Art, where I got thoroughly confused by an elevator that only went from the museum’s top floor to the mezzanine.
This man could have watched me alternate between that elevator and a single flight of stairs looking for the rest of the museum all night long like some dimwitted cat, but he didn’t. He just walked me to the main exit and we went to dinner instead. Despite my being a constant source of entertainment, things fizzled after a few more dates. I started seeing someone else and I assumed he wanted to be with a woman who had a better understanding of stairwells.
Though neither of these dates led to anything of significance on a personal level, the professional connections are mine to keep. These people know me now – for better or for worse – and when I have a story idea they might like, or an event they may enjoy attending or an expert that could prove useful, I’ll call. As long as I’m upfront about my intentions with these contacts when I meet them, and I remain thoughtful when I carry through, I don’t see the harm in it.
It’s hard to break through the clutter when pitching. If Tinder can provide me with an easy way in, who am I to snub my nose at it?
Of course, connecting through dating can get complicated. Take, for example, my most recent encounter with a men’s magazine editor. His behavior was about what I expected of someone who presumably spends a lot of time getting begged for his attention – which is to say that he canceled once, changed the time we were to meet twice and picked a location that was conveniently located one block from his apartment.
During the date, he kept wiping his nose with the palm of his hand and then dipping that same hand into a bowl of popcorn. He is not someone I would want to see again personally and I don’t expect our paths to cross professionally – which is a good thing because I ended that date by hitting my head on a Christmas wreath on my way out the door and then running across three lanes of traffic on Avenue C to catch a cab.
This situation is perhaps why we are warned that dating within our company or our industry should only be done with extreme caution and a fair amount of deliberation. Sadly, Tinder is not built on this same platform of thoughtfulness. And so the onus is on the user to behave appropriately when one’s professional reputation is at stake – though that is probably good advice to follow on all dates regardless.
I don’t recommend actively seeking out networking opportunities through Tinder or other dating services, but it seems foolish to dismiss them entirely. Our networks are enriched by personal connections, friends-of-friends and casual meetings at conferences and events just as much as they are by our professional associations. Is it really any different to use Tinder as a starting place to build a professional relationship? I hope not. Otherwise, I got that tray of drinks spilled on me for no reason at all.