Friends With All Sorts of Benefits
A few months ago I went to Paris on the Eurostar simply because tickets were so damn cheap. I didn’t go with anyone, wasn’t planning to meet anyone, simply figured leaving my home town was a good way to get some work accomplished in a new environment. But after half a day of reading and writing in a tiny flat, I was ready to interact with other humans. So I fired up my Tinder account.
Trust me; this wasn’t about getting laid. If that had been the case I would have swiped right on the men who featured their bare abs and wrote things like, “Just looking for fun.” or “Life is short. Eat dessert first.” I was after someone to have a bite with, not someone to bite me. When I’m in a new city, I want to spend time with a local. If anything else comes of the date, that’s almost incidental. But when all the French I know can be summed up in the names of patisserie items, I wanted Tinder to help me find someone who could string together some well constructed sentences – in my own language.
By 7:00 I had a date. He knew I wasn’t showing up for idle chit chat; this was an interview about French attitudes towards relationships. By the time our evening ended many hours later, I had a new Parisian friend and more insight into the ironies of French sexuality. To be fair, I made it clear in our texting conversation that I was a writer and liked to ask pointed questions about cultural beliefs, especially as they pertained to love and sex. So when I launched into queries about the myth of the French affair, he was prepared.
Even though I’m no longer seeking new relationships, I keep my dating accounts active (with my partner’s full knowledge and blessing) for the times I’m traveling. When I went back to Seattle for the summer holiday, I reactivated both Tinder and OK Cupid adding, “Looking for outdoor fun, juicy conversation, and good beer in a dive bar while here visiting family.” Within a few days I had dates eager to talk about open relationships, ephemeral love, and one who took me stand up paddleboarding. Although flirting and pheromone assessment were part of the experience, not once did I feel that sex was the end goal.
Using traditional dating sites as a place to meet platonic friends or potential business contacts is becoming commonplace. An article in Fortune magazine, ‘The Thin Line Between Networking and Dating‘ reports that profiles on Tinder increasingly include a user’s Instagram, Facebook and Twitter details. A Tinder account also now lists where you went to school and where you currently work, as well as the Facebook friends you may have in common. When Sarah Kunst, a tech investor, went to San Francisco on business she ‘liked’ a man on Tinder with whom she had several mutual Facebook friends. Their meetup didn’t lead to love, but it did lead to a beneficial business connection.
I’m not suggesting you scrap your current marketing strategy in favor of a dating web site. But I figure, whether it’s business or pleasure, any site that facilitates bringing people together in the real world is perfect for perpetuating good old-fashioned sociability. It’s about building relationships of any nature. And all good relationships start with identifying people who you feel have interesting attitudes toward life and work which might compliment your own ambitions; whether that’s to have a family, explore the underground world of S&M, or further a career in the theatre. And where do people tend to reveal their life aspirations best? A dating profile.
Even if you are on a dating site simply for sex, those liaisons can evolve into any number of exchanges. I have a friend who invited a woman to his place for a bath. They had a lovely affair and he ended up hiring her to tile his bathroom. Another friend knew a man who liked to live simply, by traveling light and house sitting. He wasn’t getting many jobs off the house sitting sites, so he mentioned his service in his Tinder profile. The response was overwhelming. Not only did he get plenty of places to look after, he got a few extra benefits along the way.
A cynic would say this approach to social encounters is opportunistic and predatory. I say as long as you go into new relationships with an open heart, a listening ear and genuine curiosity, no one is going to feel like prey. Be clear about your intentions from the beginning, or clear that you have no specific intentions other than to enjoy time with a potential new friend.
So even if you’re not looking for love, consider dating sites as places for networking opportunities at home or transitory interludes in foreign places. Relieve yourself of the earnest nervousness of dating by framing each encounter as a chance to piece together the six degrees of separation that may reveal your overlapping interests. And if you’re really lucky, you might find great sex, long time love and a business partner all in the same package.
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