NUMTOT Tinder is a dating site for transit nerds

As a single person wandering the world, it can be hard to find someone who enjoys all the good things: parks, subways, bike lanes, human-sized buildings, high-density housing, debates over the ideal length of a ride. one block away. Even on a dating app, you can’t always tell from a profile that might think, behind a smile, i hate cars.

But if this is exactly the kind of partner – or friend or love – you’re looking for, there is a solution: join the ever-popular Facebook group and left-wing community NUMTOTs (“New Urbanist Memes for Transit-Oriented Teens, ”which isn’t really just for teens) and requests access to its private spin-off group, NUMTinder. With around 8,000 members living mainly in North America, UK and Australia, NUMTinder is an improvised dating environment for those who see public transport as an integral part of their personality, or for those who lack of interest in town planning is a deal breaker. Almost everyone in the group posts at least one selfie with a bike or subway entrance to demonstrate their commitment to the lifestyle, and when a new member shows up, it’s not uncommon for her to brag. because she has no driver. Licence. (A second spin-off group, called NUMThots, is meant to share the spicier seminudes that Facebook’s content moderation will allow. But on the topic of transit!)

Most NUMTinder users have come of age with dating apps and don’t associate them with any type of stigma, but they still see it as a better way to find love on the internet. “I think there’s something romantic about public transportation,” says Morgan Godfrey, group administrator and 24-year-old Chicago community social worker. “There’s this urge to have those magical transit times with someone you really care about.”

Rachel Murphy, a recent graduate of the Temple University community development program, used to use Tinder, which she said was popular with her classmates in Philadelphia.

But when she found NUMTinder at the start of the pandemic, she changed her allegiance. Tinder, she told me, is too cold and even – the app pushes everyone to present a rudimentary profile and makes swiping a chore. “They all look the same after a while,” she said. By comparison, NUMTinder is colorful, welcoming and full of life. This is an active space for the most serious (and fairest) meme makers – people who use popular image models to imagine tree-lined towns without parking lots (e.g. Drake turning away in disgust to “add one lane to a 4-lane road,” but approvingly pointing to “add ten lanes to a 30 lane station.”)

Users can post photo collections and any personal information they want, as often as they want, then you need to ask for permission in the comments before you can send them a friend request or message them private. These rules of engagement help prevent the occasional harassment that one can experience on traditional dating apps, where women tend to receive more messages than they want, as well as sexually explicit messages than they want. did not ask. Plus, not all private conversations have to be romantic – many are just about… trains! On “TOT Tuesdays,” members are encouraged to post pre-pandemic selfies taken on their preferred form of transit. Sharing news, memes, and jokes about what it’s like to date someone with this particular obsession is common. Recently, one user shared a photo of a limo that captioned: “It’s bullshit that this is a romantic gesture. But it’s not the case for me to take a city bus (WHICH IS OTHER LONGER) to take us to dinner.

The language of the band members around their worship of buses and trains, especially in the larger NUMTOT group, is deliberately standard jargon that’s exaggerated with a wink. As much as these people may have been united by a common passion for improving urban living, they have been united by a common aesthetic, sense of humor and political orientation. In a dating context, this could translate to that very important metric of “getting it” or “He got me.” »No one here is this serious about anything. Yet no one is completely kidding either.

Even the group’s premise is only half-hearted. Many members don’t expect to get a real game when posting, just a little attention or a short distraction. But some still end up finding love. Murphy shared his first post in his early 40s, when the group had a huge influx of posts. New members were joining, old members were creating new profiles, everyone was looking for virtual friends and flirtatious. “Everyone was bored,” Murphy said. From there, she ended up chatting with someone from Portugal, who she obviously was never going to meet in person with, but who served as a fun fantasy during the lockdown. She also learned that several of her Temple classmates were in the group and ended up dating one of them. They’ve been together for almost a year now, but she said if they broke up, she would post on NUMTinder again. “It worked once,” she said. “I wouldn’t just post to NUMTinder, but I would give that more weight than a regular dating app match.”

Other members of the group have given up on dating apps altogether. Tasmyn Ong, a 21-year-old law student at Queen Mary University in London and administrator of NUMTinder, has never tried any other form of online dating. “I’ve always been a bit too chick to go on Tinder,” she told me. “I have had friends who have had very terrible experiences. When she first joined NUMTinder, she hid for a while, reading the messages and seeing how people were responding. “I saw it was such an inclusive, welcoming and friendly environment so I decided to do a post,” she said. It was April 2019, and she will soon be celebrating her two birthday with a boy who responded by offering to teach her to ride a bike. (She’s embarrassed to admit that she still doesn’t know how.)

Ong said the moderation of the group makes them a reliable alternative for people who don’t want to browse scary messages on Tinder. Godfrey, his friend and co-administrator, agrees. “On dating apps, if someone is really a moron, you can flag it and unlink it,” she told me. NUMTinder avoids this behavior by cultivating community norms for public conversations and relying on well-known and trusted human moderators within the group. “There is an understanding of mutual respect that is already established,” Godfrey said. As is the case with many Facebook groups, NUMTinder members are discouraged from using the site’s built-in tools to report bullying or harassment on the premise that it is better to deal with issues internally rather than to risk the group being deleted (“zucced” as it is called) for having produced too many reports.

NUMTinder was started in 2018 by Nigel Tate, a construction project manager and pizza delivery driver from Flint, Michigan. (He says it started off as a joke, but people took him seriously almost right away.) Over the past few months, Ong and Godfrey have taken over as moderators and lead admins. They changed the questions asked of potential members upon entering to make them more specific to transit, so newcomers know what community really is. They encouraged members to post virtual dates and announced a policy against any post promoting the use of public transportation as a means of traveling long distances during the pandemic.

“My friends and I don’t really go to other dating sites,” Ong said. “I’m not sure I will [now that] I have seen how user-friendly NUMTinder is. I’m just very happy to be a part of the community.

NUMTinder started out as a joke, but there has been at least one NUMTinder marriage and countless success stories. I recently checked in with a woman I interviewed at the start of the pandemic, who was embarrassed at the time by her choice to start dating another NUMTinder member during the lockdown, despite orders to stay away. the House. They’re still together, and she said it was the best relationship she’s ever had. Ong and her boyfriend NUMTOT plan to travel to Denmark and Switzerland as soon as it is safe to do so, as they have heard of some “really, really nice trains” they can ride there, a she declared.

The group is aimed at people who are extremely connected, but it is also a reaction against certain elements of life online. Tinder feels bad, everyone knows that. Dating apps tend to be about an individual, on their own, searching for something specific that they can’t quite name, in a sea of ​​indifferent similarity. Last year, the Pew Research Center found that 45% of Americans who had used a dating site or app in the past year said the experience frustrated them. Thirty-five percent said it made them more pessimistic about dating.

A group like NUMTinder can solve many of these problems. The fact that it’s based on a meme culture that has permeated for years provides meaningful context to each profile. Memes are a form of folklore, and “one of the main uses of folklore is to build community,” says Bobbie Foster Bhusari, a PhD student at the University of Maryland who studies Internet culture. A group built around memes will use this format to communicate their values ​​and mark a boundary around them. “I kind of describe it like when you go to a theme park and he says, ‘You have to be this tall to ride this ride,’” Bhusari told me. A lot of memes carry the message, “You have to be in this thing, or you have to have X amount of knowledge about this thing, to get into this space and really engage in what’s going on here.” You would expect every NUMTinder member, for example, to poke fun at the recent “cart problem” meme that features an empty set of leads: “There is no cart. America killed it in the mid-20th century in favor of urban sprawl and the personal automobile.

It’s an even more modern approach to dating than apps. The connection between irony and sincerity is not easily discerned, which seems fitting for a year where the country’s most discussed novel centers on a woman who thanks for meeting her husband, saying they were “something even better than being soul mates … They were exactly, and luckily, and hopelessly, the same number of people online.” NUMTOTs really love public transit, and they see it as a true indicator of a larger worldview based on fairness and optimism. They want to date people who think and feel the same way, but they also want to date people who are home on the internet and joking around.