On Tinder pictures, and why we’re all using historical artefacts to get laid

Or: why do so many people think a “smiling next to art about genocide” picture is a good idea?

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The sexual frustration in the Natural History Museum this evening is palpable. I’m at one of the “lates” events, where the museum stays open after hours and you’re allowed get drunk with the fossils. There’s a very post-watershed atmosphere and a lingering sense that the main hall diplodocus, now free from hordes of school kids, is going to unleash a string of obscenities.

“This is Tinder pic central,” says a friend, before handing me her phone and asking me to get a shot of her next to a model of a gargantuan extinct bird. It soon occurs to me that nearly everyone here is in their twenties and, almost neurotically, insisting on being photographed next to stuff. I have little doubt that the majority of these pictures will make their way onto dating profiles within the hour.

The hum – and it really is a hum – of people trying to make themselves seem both sexy and well rounded, by pouting next to taxidermy, grows louder and louder.

In all fairness, places like the Natural History Museum have “meet cute” written all over them.

“Our eyes met over a stuffed sloth and the rest is history. Natural history!” I imagine someone utterly unbearable saying.

Now that the meet cute has been digitised, most of the world’s places of interest have been turned into mating props.

“Look how fun and cultured I am,” insists a photo – a Tinder classic – of a woman beaming like a psycho outside the Louvre.

The Holocaust memorial in Berlin, believe it or not, is another favourite. I think a “smiling next to art about genocide” picture is supposed to say, “Ah, Berlin. Great city. Yeah, I go from time to time. No! I’m not cool. I’m actually a complete dork.”

What it actually says is, “I have never read a whole chapter of a book.”

Seriously though, there is nothing more gutting for the vaguely socially aware Tinder user than scrolling through a hot person’s pictures, only to discover a “YAY HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL #YOLO” one. Using historical artefacts to get laid: slightly crass but we all do it. Genocide peacocking: here be a human toilet.

Then there are the more innocuous (almost too innocuous…) Platform 9¾-type Tinder pics. Ones taken at the novelty Harry Potter-themed section of King’s Cross as an ostentatious display of whimsy. Enforced quirkiness has become such an intrinsic part of dating apps that I could easily believe, without it, the entire multi-billion dollar industry would crumble like a pissed-on pavlova. A good number of dating profiles need to appear like Manic Pixie Dream Girl job applications, or the human race will wither. Or something.

“Do you want a picture next to the massive sloth?” my friend asks, presumably wanting to return the favour for the extremely flattering “next to a big bird” photo.

“I don’t know,” I say.

And I don’t. I don’t know what to do with my face while standing next to an animal skeleton. I don’t know where to put my arms. Why, when I’m being photographed, do my arms feel like pool noodles? I wasn’t made for this “pictures next to everything to further your sex life” world. I start to panic. Do I need more pictures of myself next to things? What if I just don’t look good next to things? I so rarely have chemistry with things I stand next to, and it shows. To be honest, I’m starting to resent things in general.

“Just get a picture of me alone and grimacing,” I want to say, “no props, just full, horrible disclosure.”

Eleanor Margolis is a freelance journalist.

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