Flirting in meatspace with Finder
“I’m very bad at flirting,” Culture Studies alumna Nadine Roestenburg confesses. What with a number of disappointing experiences on dating apps and Finder was born. Finder is the analogous answer to apps like Tinder. The name is pronounced in the same way, except with an F of course. The idea is simple: you wear a bright green badge, showing that you are single. The badge signals an invitation to others to have a chat with you or maybe even make a date. Just like in the old days, really.
Nadine: “I’d been contemplating this idea for quite a long time. It happens to everyone, doesn’t it, that you see somebody in passing and think: “Ooh, he/she is cute!” But you don’t address that person because you don’t know if they are already “taken”. That’s were the dating apps came in. Personally I’m not too keen on them. You know that the algorithms of these apps involve a lot of manipulating. Besides that, it is difficult to get a good click online or to be able to assess it properly. If someone asks if you have slept well, you think: Well, that’s an inane question. But if they immediately raise a serious issue, that can be a bit much. When I discussed this with a friend, we came to the conclusion that we felt the need for flirting in meatspace (as a counterpart to cyberspace, red.). Therefore, I developed Finder, together with Krakers Tilburg, a group of young people from Tilburg based in De Nieuwe Vorst theater, who generate creative ideas.”
For € 3.95, you get a badge and a few chance cards. If you feel like flirting, wear the badge. If you see an attractive person with a similar badge, you can address them or slip them a chance card (sjanskaart) with your name and phone number. Approximately 200 people in Tilburg have already ordered the badge.
“I have not been addressed yet, but I know it has happened to others,” Nadine says. “I love awkward conversations. On online social media platforms and dating apps, you can easily evade them; that’s a bit of a pity. I’ve also heard that the generation after me is even afraid to make phone calls. The human voice is very direct and they find that intimidating. But if we constantly avoid direct, face-to-face contact, we will lose the ability to connect effortlessly with people. Next thing they will be hiding and yelling anonymously on the social media. This increases polarization in society and then you get these excesses with people suddenly storming the Capitol or rioting in the streets of Eindhoven. The digital world is increasingly blending with the physical world. I do not believe in the existence of separate online and offline worlds. The two are simply intertwined.”
“Sherry Turkle, an American social psychologist, describes how youngsters at birthday parties retreat to their phones whereas a party is a good opportunity to talk to people. Because they shut off, they do not learn how to talk to other people with empathy, let alone how to argue or patch up a quarrel. I think it is very important to communicate face-to-face and that we need to learn at a young age how difficult that can be. Try not to shut off from the real world using your phone. And remember that you are always dealing with real people, also if you are communicating using digital devices. I am sure that this happens way too little. And that worries me.”
I hope to make instructors and students enthusiastic about exciting online and hybrid forms of education
Long way to go
Nadine does not only speak from personal experience. In her day-to-day life, she is a research explorer at Fontys university of applied sciences. As part of the knowledge theme of Creative Economy, she conducts research in digital culture. Three themes are central: the future of the internet, online wellbeing, and hybrid art. Nadine: “We are studying, for instance, in what innovative ways to digitalize analogous art forms. Corona times have shown us that there is a lot to be discovered, also within education, in terms of digitalization. For instance, take the circus artist study program. How do you graduate if everything has to happen online? In this field, too, there are still many opportunities to explore. Drama companies are experimenting with online interactive performances. There are a great many interesting possibilities to do so. I hope to make instructors and students enthusiastic about exciting online and hybrid forms of education.”
After Nadine has caught her breath, she continues: “I do notice that we’ve all about had it with our computer screens. I myself am not looking forward to the next online meeting. I would like to throw my computer out the window, in fact. But well, I think we need to find a good mix that meets current needs. In the past year, we have all become more media savvy by necessity. We had hardly noticed that we had already entered the post-digital era, in which digital technologies are an important part of our lives, without us being aware of it. You do not realize how much you depend on the internet unless the Wi-Fi isn’t working.”
As if you are in a bad relationship but do not have the courage to end it
“Don’t get me wrong, I’m very happy that we have the internet and all kinds of technologies. They allow me to keep into contact with many people. At the same time, I also see the limitations. In my book Van Meme tot Mainstream, I describe my own struggles in this context. I’m not a techie, but I do know what makes the social media tick. Yet I am on almost every major platform. I know that my data are being sold and that they are not handled carefully, but still I continue to use those media channels. In that respect, it’s like being in a bad relationship and not having the courage to end it because you feel trapped. Many people are now switching over to Signal because it is a privacy-friendly alternative to WhatsApp. Leaving it altogether is quite a step to me. I don’t dare leave Facebook yet either because alternatives like Mastodon are not yet accessible enough. This only goes to show how ingeniously some social media have been set up. The upshot is that I am now on just about every messenger service going. Why? Because I want to stay in touch. For my work, but also because I want to know what everybody else is doing. It’s a bad case of ‘fomo’, my fear of missing out.”
“The same goes for my Fitbit and my iPhone, incidentally. It costs a lot of time and energy to find acceptable alternatives for them, also because you have gotten so used to the way these devices work. There are a lot of opportunities here. For that reason, I’m so glad that a Minister of Digital Affairs is now being advocated. It must be made easier to switch over, especially for people who are not so tech-savvy.
No, I would not want to go back to the time before the internet, but it would be good if there was more openness about how it works. If Tinder made a bit of an effort, they could easily offer me three outstanding matches. Except that is not how they make their money. If I find Mr. Right, I won’t be coming back and they don’t earn anything. It is the same with smoking. The manufacturers want you to buy lots of cigarettes, but not too many or you might die and that is bad for their business model. Everyone wants to find love; Tinder conveniently exploits this need.”
Out of hand
No, Finder is completely different. This initiative does not make any empty promises, does not work with sneaky algorithms, and does not inundate you with annoying ads. The more people wear the green badge, the greater the chance of success. Therefore Finder wants to spread its wings beyond Tilburg. “Praktijkcollege now ships the packages for us and we are looking for ‘pin points’ where people can buy the badge. Once the pubs are allowed to open again, things will really take off. We would also love to be able to hand out badges at festivals. Then visitors can use them right away.”
“To be honest, a lot was happening directly after the introduction. It’s an idea that has gotten slightly out of hand. All of a sudden I was packing and shipping badges and cards. And I already had a more than full-time job. I hadn’t thought that one through, hahaha!”
Nadine Roestenburg (1988) studied Graphic Design at St. Joost Academy of Arts. As part of her graduation project, she went analogous for one month and lived without using any debit and other cards. The Netherlands was in a financial crisis when she graduated. To buy time as well as obtain some theoretical knowledge, she registered for the Culture Studies Master’s program at Tilburg University. Her thesis, entitled Virtureëel, was about the transition from the analogous to the digital world and the blending of the two. She further elaborated on her findings in her book Van Meme tot Mainstream.
In her working life, she did the online communication for Dutch Design Week, MU, and the De Pont museum, among other things. Since 2018, she has worked for Fontys, lately as a research explorer. In addition, she is a program manager for STRP, that initiates, produces, and presents internationally innovative creative technologies for a broad and interested audience at Strijp S.
Photos: Simone Michielsen