First, thanks to the beauty of iCloud and notifications across iPhones, my mom staged an intervention — “Really, Caitlin? You’re that desperate?” — and rejected all of my explanations — “It’s entertaining!” “It’s funny!” “I’m bored!”
Second, I noticed certain characteristics and features that repeatedly appeared from guy to guy. I thought I understood the aesthetic and culture of the 20-mile radius around the Dallas area, but according to Tinder, 18- to 22-year-old guys are all fishermen, drive pickup trucks, hunt in their free time, and love country music. One described his life in just a few words in his bio: “God. Guns. Good Whiskey.”
I began to take note and pay attention to these qualities, and their occurrence became slightly overwhelming. Any visitor to Dallas looking to meet new people would swipe through the app and believe that these are the kinds of people that populate Dallas. He would be under the impression that this is who we are.
At Georgetown, a school that takes pride in its commitment to diversity, my friends from all parts of the country and the world ask me about Dallas. “Do you own cowboy boots?” “Do you have barbecues often?” “Do you spend Christmas on your ranch?” “How often do you see tumbleweed?” About 47 percent of the class of 2016 hail from the Mid-Atlantic region or New England, as opposed to the 5 percent that are from the Southwest (classified as Arizona, New Mexico and Texas), according to the student profile on Georgetown’s website.
At one point, I directly asked a friend of mine who lives outside the United States what she knows or believes to be true about Dallas and the South. “What are some keywords?” I surveyed.
“Big. Barbecue. Gluttony. Guns. Southern hospitality.”
Amidst all the Tinder profiles and stereotypes, there is a reality to Dallas, but it’s not the whole picture. The Dallas-Fort Worth area is the largest metropolitan region in the South and has the largest corporate headquarters concentration in the United States, home to 18 Fortune 500 companies. Dallas is the ninth largest city in the United States and hosts over 22 million visitors annually, according to its visitor site.
While many of the men on Tinder were white, they do not represent the entire population. Dallas has become a melting pot in recent years. Dallas is perceived as right-wing, Protestant, and predominantly white, and many neighborhoods are. However, Dallas is also home to many other localized cultures and populations, including African-American, Chinese, Taiwanese, Korean, Thai, Indian, German, Middle-Eastern, Polish, Russian, and Jewish peoples. Dallas is a major destination for Mexican immigrants as well, as we are relatively close to the U.S.-Mexican border.
Yes, we eat a lot of barbecue and Tex-Mex cuisine, but with a wide array of cultures, and the qualifier of having the most restaurants per capita of any city in the United States; Dallas is into all types of food. The arts are a huge part of Dallas’ culture, and we are proud of the opportunities to educate Dallasites with the museums of Asian art, the Sculpture Museum, the Museum of Nature and Science, and more. Dallas is a growing city, and the events and festivals held throughout the year are a testament to that.
As I swiped left and right, I reminded myself that Tinder isn’t reality. People I know in Dallas are entrepreneurs and arts enthusiasts. They enjoy a range of music genres, go to food-tasting festivals, and drive a variety of different cars. Many are conservatives, but some are liberals. The type of person I saw on Tinder is part of a concentrated group of people that, yes, is in Dallas. However, that group of people is male, within just a twenty-mile radius, in a certain age group, and chose to join the dating app. There is a whole realm of people, 1.3 million, to be exact, outside the screen of my iPhone in Dallas, and they are not homogenous in stereotypes.
Caitlin Karna is a rising sophomore in the School of Foreign Service. The Southern Drawl appears every other Sunday.
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