Kirst when it comes to TV talent

A nomination, a load of new content and the perils of indulging in nepotism

Such a long time has elapsed since I wrote my last blog that I scarcely know where to begin. So let's start with some blatant self-congratulations.

A few days back we were told newstatesman.com is up for an award at the British Society of Magazine Editors annual bash in November.

We're up against the websites of the Radio Times, GQ, Now and various others. All very gratifying and a recognition of how much our very small team has achieved in the space of little more than a year.

Meanwhile we're not resting on our laurels - there's been something of a commissioning frenzy here at Terminal House, home of the NS.

In the past week alone we've published articles from SDP founder turned Lib Dem peer Bill Rodgers. He warned his party not to become a pressure group. We've had debate going on about the Turkish genocide of Armenians. It began with the Armenian ambassador saying there was one. Someone from the Turkish embassy then replied saying there wasn't. Either way it provoked a lot of responses from our readers.

Brian Coleman, meanwhile, has been at it again. This time he's been upsetting the Turkish Cypriot population of North London after writing a blog in wholehearted support of the Greek perspective on the divided island.

It's been quite a week for the Nobel Laureates what with Doris Lessing's remarks about the Twin Towers and James Watson comments on race and genetics.

We asked Open University and UCL academic and genetics expert Steven Rose to dismantle Watson's assertions.

Heard of Arigona Zogaj? She's a 15-year-old Albanian Kosovan who went into hiding when her father and siblings were deported from Austria. Her case had the most extraordinary effect with media across the political spectrum condemning her treatment. At the heart of the campaign was Austrian Green Party chairman Alexander Van der Bellen.

Alexander kindly wrote us an article about Arigona and what her experience demonstrates about the way we approach immigration policy in Europe.

We’ve also had articles about the Swiss elections, class, the Chagos Islands and more.

Next week we're joining up with the Fabians for their Not the general election night - we've done a ring around asking a range of people what they think Gordon Brown should put in his manifesto so have a look out for that.

Anyway I was watching a bit of a TV the other night. It was a programme to find out the worst place to live in Britain.

It was live and presenters Phil and Kirsty fluffed their lines throughout and then - just when you thought it couldn't get any worse - we were whisked off to Middlesbrough to meet Kirsty's sister.

It turned out the north eastern town was the worst place to live. However, it was unclear how much things would improve once Kirst II finished patronising the locals and headed back to Fulham.

I wrote in an earlier blog about how, with so many actors out of work at any given time, it was amazing they managed to find the desert of talent that makes up the Eastenders cast. Talk about deja vu!

Ben Davies trained as a journalist after taking most of the 1990s off. Prior to joining the New Statesman he spent five years working as a politics reporter for the BBC News website. He lives in North London.
Getty
Show Hide image

The Tinder dating app isn't just about sex – it's about friendship, too. And sex

The lines between sex, love and friendship are blurrier than ever, as I found out quickly while using the app.

The first time I met someone using Tinder, the free dating app that requires users to swipe left for “no” and right for “yes” before enabling new “matches” to chat, it was an unqualified success. I should probably qualify that. I was newly single after five years in a committed relationship and wasn’t looking for anything more than fun, friendship and, well, who knows. A few weeks earlier I had tried to give my number to a girl in a cinema café in Brixton. I wrote it on a postcard I’d been using as a bookmark. She said she had a boyfriend, but wanted to keep the postcard. I had no date and I lost my page.

My Tinder date was a master’s student from Valencia called Anna (her name wasn’t really Anna, of course, I’m not a sociopath). When I arrived at the appointed meeting place, she told me I was far more handsome IRL (“in real life”) than my pictures suggested. I was flattered and full of praise for the directness of continental Europeans but also thought sadly to myself: “If only the same could be said about you.”

Anna and I became friends, at least for a while. The date wasn’t a success in the traditional sense of leading us into a contract based on exclusivity, an accumulating cache of resentments and a mortgage, but it had put me back in the game (an appropriate metaphor – people speak regularly of “playing” with the app).

According to Sean Rad, the co-founder who launched Tinder in late 2012, the service was invented for people like me. “It was really a way to overcome my own problems,” he told the editor of Cosmopolitan at an event in London last month. “It was weird to me, to start a conversation [with a stranger]. Once I had an introduction I was fine, but it’s that first step. It’s difficult for a lot of people.” After just one outing, I’d learned two fundamental lessons about the world of online dating: pretty much everyone has at least one decent picture of themselves, and meeting women using a so-called hook-up app is seldom straightforwardly about sex.

Although sometimes it is. My second Tinder date took place in Vienna. I met Louisa (ditto, name) outside some notable church or other one evening while visiting on holiday (Tinder tourism being, in my view, a far more compelling way to get to know a place than a cumbersome Lonely Planet guide). We drank cocktails by the Danube and rambled across the city before making the romantic decision to stay awake all night, as she had to leave early the next day to go hiking with friends. It was just like the Richard Linklater movie Before Sunrise – something I said out loud more than a few times as the Aperol Spritzes took their toll.

When we met up in London a few months later, Louisa and I decided to skip the second part of Linklater’s beautiful triptych and fast-track our relationship straight to the third, Before Midnight, which takes place 18 years after the protagonists’ first meet in Vienna, and have begun to discover that they hate each others’ guts.

Which is one of the many hazards of the swiping life: unlike with older, web-based platforms such as Match.com or OkCupid, which require a substantial written profile, Tinder users know relatively little about their prospective mates. All that’s necessary is a Facebook account and a single photograph. University, occupation, a short bio and mutual Facebook “likes” are optional (my bio is made up entirely of emojis: the pizza slice, the dancing lady, the stack of books).

Worse still, you will see people you know on Tinder – that includes colleagues, neighbours and exes – and they will see you. Far more people swipe out of boredom or curiosity than are ever likely to want to meet up, in part because swiping is so brain-corrosively addictive.

While the company is cagey about its user data, we know that Tinder has been downloaded over 100 million times and has produced upwards of 11 billion matches – though the number of people who have made contact will be far lower. It may sound like a lot but the Tinder user-base remains stuck at around the 50 million mark: a self-selecting coterie of mainly urban, reasonably affluent, generally white men and women, mostly aged between 18 and 34.

A new generation of apps – such as Hey! Vina and Skout – is seeking to capitalise on Tinder’s reputation as a portal for sleaze, a charge Sean Rad was keen to deny at the London event. Tinder is working on a new iteration, Tinder Social, for groups of friends who want to hang out with other groups on a night out, rather than dating. This makes sense for a relatively fresh business determined to keep on growing: more people are in relationships than out of them, after all.

After two years of using Tinder, off and on, last weekend I deleted the app. I had been visiting a friend in Sweden, and took it pretty badly when a Tinder date invited me to a terrible nightclub, only to take a few looks at me and bolt without even bothering to fabricate an excuse. But on the plane back to London the next day, a strange thing happened. Before takeoff, the woman sitting beside me started crying. I assumed something bad had happened but she explained that she was terrified of flying. Almost as terrified, it turned out, as I am. We wound up holding hands through a horrific patch of mid-air turbulence, exchanged anecdotes to distract ourselves and even, when we were safely in sight of the ground, a kiss.

She’s in my phone, but as a contact on Facebook rather than an avatar on a dating app. I’ll probably never see her again but who knows. People connect in strange new ways all the time. The lines between sex, love and friendship are blurrier than ever, but you can be sure that if you look closely at the lines, you’ll almost certainly notice the pixels.

Philip Maughan is Assistant Editor at the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 26 May 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The Brexit odd squad