Won’t You Be My Swolemate?

HBO Doc ‘Swiped’ Dives Into The Seamy World Of Dating Apps

If you’re not Internet dating right now, then you’re missing out on some of our era’s greatest slang. “Swolemate,” it turns out, means a gym buddy who you may or may not be working up a sweat with outside of the gym. And a “Situationship” is a strings-free kind of quasi-dating millennials apparently believe they invented.

These dumb words, which will stay on your brain like a persistent cyst, are featured in ‘Swiped: Hooking Up in the Digital Age,’ an HBO documentary about the ill-defined, Wild West world of online dating. The 40 million or so U.S. singles (or not-so-singles) using dating apps and sites to fuck, fall in love, and find happiness are, apparently, exasperated trying to keep up with another sped-up consequence of technology. And those of us out of the dating scene are exhausted just thinking about the lingo.

Photos courtesy of HBO

Filmmaker and Vanity Fair journalist Nancy Jo Sales (‘The Bling Ring’) goes wide with the topic, exploring body image, gender identity, the economics of dating apps, racial implications, and, most damningly, sexual violence carried out via right-swiped hookups. The heads of the companies behind apps such as Tinder and Bumble seem completely oblivious or unwilling
to ponder the dark side of their creations, which makes for the documentary’s biggest and most alarming revelation. But if Sales goes a little too broad – you could make a full-length doc about almost any of the sub-topics she pursues here – ‘Swiped’ also deftly shows how fundamentally dating and romance have changed with millions of flicks of fingers on smartphone screens. It’s dehumanizing, but oh so human; no Japanese macaque is ever going to build the next OkCupid.

The doc doesn’t just feature fuddy-duddy lectures about what love used to be. Love was always problematic, and it’s hard to argue with beautiful young people who look like they’re adapting to digital dating with good humor and possibly naïve sincerity. ‘Swiped’ is a very good film with a very simple message: the technology may have changed and convoluted things, but the learning curve of romance is about the same: it’s complicated.

Omar Gallaga

Omar L. Gallaga is a technology culture writer, formerly of the Austin American-Statesman, but he's not interested in fixing your printer. He's written for Rolling Stone, CNN, The Wall Street Journal, Television Without Pity, Previously.tv and NPR, where he was a blogger and on-air tech correspondent for "All Things Considered." He's a founding member of Austin's Latino Comedy Project, which recently concluded a two-year run of its original sketch-comedy show, "Gentrifucked."

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