16/02/2017 12:38 GMT | Updated 17/02/2018 05:12 GMT

The Problem Of The Hater Dating App, And Being Too Cool For School


My taste in music is a long-running joke among my pals. The time, as a student, all my compilation tapes were stolen out of my car, the barbs piled up - "clearly not by anyone with any taste" ran to, in true Two Ronnies style, "the police are looking for a tone-deaf suspect". Smooth.

A while ago, one of these same pals and I were having a serious conversation about music, about our different favourites artists and tunes, and her face suddenly changed. She told me, "I was getting all ready with a pithy line, but I decided I wouldn't, that I'd actually listen to what you were saying instead. I thought I might learn something new."

While I love a bit of barbed banter, this choice to be curious or casually dismissive taps into the root of my problem with the latest addition to the dating app market - Hater - a few buttons that promise to match you with your potential soulmate, based on your mutual dislikes and derisions - from Tom Brady to tuna fish, via babies and 'The Big Bang Theory'.

Are we really drawn to other people for their list of loathings? Anecdotal evidence would appear to support it. At a recent awards ceremony, I was seated next to a stranger. Friendship was built on a wall of polished put-downs as we cast our weary eyes across proceedings. Oh how we tittered when we said the identical dry insult at the same time. Intimacy was forged in this game of sarcasm snap. We were like Staedtler and Waldorf egging each other on to greater heights, or lows, from the balcony in the Muppets. It was very addictive, very conspiratorial, very Mean Girls.

It's easy to see why this kind of social exchange is so tempting, so we can hide our true selves behind a shield of contempt. But revealing what you dislike really reveals nothing, it's simply a list of things, places, films, people, that leaves you cold. The opposite is laying yourself out there, compilation tapes and all, saying, "This is me, what moves me, what I would choose if you weren't here and I weren't trying to curate the catalogue of my best, most enticing self." It's like walking someone around your brand new bathroom and crossing everything that they say something nice about the tiles. It's a risk, in an increasingly risk-averse universe.

Steve Coogan, a man who more than just about anybody made his name on a platform of ironic distance between his character and his fans, talks about this choice a lot these days. "It's easy to be cynical," he said when his film 'Philomena' was released. "I've become bored with irony. There's a danger of becoming too detached, too cynical, basically too cool for school. It's much harder to be authentic. But being vulnerable, that also empowers you."

So yes, I hate the concept of this particular hating/dating app, and no, the irony of my hating it is not lost on me. There will be people who enjoy hating this article about it, and thus the daisy chain of contempt is constructed one sneer at a time.

There is so much to be contemptuous of right now to be sure, but I don't think the majority resides in people's private passions. Perhaps we should keep our powder dry for the divisions that matter, and not throw the baby out with the bath water. Isn't it more important than ever, in a world increasingly described in partisan terms, to shout out for those things both we and others adore, and to throw bouquets not brickbats where we can?

Or, instead of weighing up and finding wanting prospective partners' various tastes in all things musical and otherwise, we could just remember Nick Hornby's wise words at the end of 'High Fidelity', when his soul-searching hero Rob Fleming found out the hard way that, when it comes to every prospective date, friend and fellow journeyman, what matters ultimately is "not what they like, but what they're like".