Confessions of a St Valentine’s Day messenger

Lydia Abraham
Lydia Abraham
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There was a time when love and courtship were treated with the respect they deserve.

A gent would spend weeks admiring his amour across the Locarno dance hall while working up the courage to ask her out. He’d meet her at Coles Corner, pay her into the Empire cinema, and not even complain if she demurred the back seat. And, only if all that failed to win his love’s heart, would he ask her less attractive friend out instead.

Alice Roughton who has found love through her phone

Alice Roughton who has found love through her phone

Inevitably, they’d get on like a house on fire, be married within two years, and will probably be celebrating their diamond anniversary any day soon.

Them were the good old days.

In 2014 things are a little different.

A selection of new smartphone apps mean young men and women can track down prospective partners using just their mobiles and an uploaded photo or two.

Sam has tried to find love through his phone for Valentine's

Sam has tried to find love through his phone for Valentine's

Unlike traditional dating websites which claim to help you meet someone through compatibility algorithms and love formulae, apps like Tinder and Blendr promise only to show you other users in your vicinity. You see a picture and a single line of information about each person, and then swipe right if you ‘like’ the look of him or her and left if you don’t. When two people ‘like’ each other, the app makes a ‘match’ and allows them to start messaging.

Ehh, what a world we live in!

But this Valentine’s Day, as the number of people using such apps is said to be reaching record highs in South Yorkshire, The Star wants to know: can you really find true love on a phone?

Meet Sam Briggs, Alice Roughton and Lydia Abraham. They’re young, they’re from Sheffield, and, if you’re on Tinder and you’re lucky, they might just have already swiped your picture right. All three say they signed up to the app to see what the ever-growing fuss is about.

Alice Roughton who has found love through her phone

Alice Roughton who has found love through her phone

They’re not in a minority either.

Tinder is the biggest of the dating apps and, although it doesn’t release localised figures, it was revealed on Tuesday that globally there are now 600 million interactions every single day. Only this week, US snowboarder Jamie Anderson told journalists that use of the app among athletes in the Winter Olympic village was rampant.

“I’m not sure if you can find true love on there,” says Alice, a social media manager who has been signed up for four months. “But you can definitely meet interesting people.”

If anyone should know, she should. The 24-year-old is currently dating Tom, 26, an army captain of North Yorkshire. She first met him via their mobiles 10 weeks ago.

“The app is superficial because you are judging someone instantly on their appearance,” says Alice, of Ecclesall Road. “Some people say that makes it like a meat market but I think that’s basically what happens in a bar anyway. You talk to people you like the look of. This just makes it less confrontational because only people you’ve said you might be attracted to can message you. I know some of my male friends have used it to trawl girls for...encounters. But it’s what you make of it.

“I’ve become friends with people in Sheffield who I never would have met otherwise. In that way it’s just another door to meet people.”

It hasn’t all been plain sailing for her. Before Tom she met a couple of guys. One in particular didn’t quite work.

“We went for a drink at The Forum,” she says. “I don’t want to be mean but the pictures he’d posted were very...selective.

“But I could live with that. He was very nervous, though, so conversation was difficult. And then he started moaning about his job. It wasn’t great first date material.”

There wasn’t a second date.

With Tom, things were different.

They got a drink, got on, and have been seeing each other since.

“Will it develop into anything serious?” she ponders.

“I’m not sure but, even if it doesn’t, I’ve really enjoyed getting to know a new person in my life.”

Sam is less sure about the whole thing.

He signed up for the app four weeks ago and, after three dates, isn’t entirely impressed.

“What happens is you end up judging someone on a couple of pictures and a handful of messages and then, when you meet, it’s immediately clear you don’t have much in common,” says the 22-year-old music journalist of Meersbrook. “If you’re looking for a hook up, that’s great. Couple of drinks, back to mine, nice to have met you, and see you around.

“But as far as trying to find something more permanent? I just think you’d waste a lot of time on there without actually ever meeting anyone you genuinely like.”

Will he be quitting his account, we wonder?

He thinks. He’s a young man. He says he might stay on for a little while yet. “There’s no harm, is there?” he shrugs.

Less convinced is Lydia. She signed up because she thought it might be a good way to meet men not in her immediate social circle.

“I quite like older guys,” she says.

“Not like 30 or anyone that ancient, but, you know, older. And at the moment I don’t really meet them.”

Every single gent the 22-year-old has so far ‘liked’ on the app has, she says, liked her back. But she still has her doubts.

“It’s too brutal,” says the English language graduate and fashion blogger of Grenoside. “I’m not sure instant attraction works for me. I tend to find people attractive after I’ve had a conversation with them, not through a couple of messages on an app.”

She hasn’t been on any dates so far, and doubts she will.

“I kind of like the idea of doing it like your grandparents did,” she says.

“I wouldn’t rule out meeting someone through my mobile but I’m not sure it’s me.

“I like real life.”