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She enters my life like the dozen women who came before her and the hundreds who will follow: in the palm of my hand, flickering on the touchscreen of my phone. Being nearly a decade older, I find her youth a bit distressing. Further stoking my curiosity is the knowledge that Michelle is three miles from here, which has the effect of making her seem more real than the catalog resembles, blurring the line between fantasy and reality, pixel and potential.

But mainly what I'm drawn to in Michelle is her looks: brown hair blown straight, white jeans that seem to have found their way onto her slender frame via skin graft, a face punctuated by the sort of vaguely suggestive grin made culturally ubiquitous by the selfie.

RELATED: 5 Dating Apps That Actually Work It takes about 10 seconds to understand Tinder's cleverness: a dating service designed to never explicitly feel like a dating service.After the initial download, you're forced to link Tinder to your Facebook account, with the thin assurance that your Facebook friends won't know you're using it – at least until they stumble across you on Tinder.The effect is that instead of feeling like another lovelorn castaway handing the reins of your heart over to the algorithm of, say, Match.com, you have the sense that you're merely putting a minor addition to the same social network you already share with a billion people. " So reads the message that appears on my phone the next morning. There's Michelle, as well as -year-old Ashley, and Lori, a 22-year-old whom I felt vaguely creepy for liking in the first place.Indeed, a few minutes into the experiment and I've already forgotten how under ordinary circumstances, Tinder is exactly the sort of digital-age phenomenon that makes me want to move to a yurt and learn to spearfish. Thirty-four years old, newly single for the first time in years, I have dealt with the breakup by impulsively moving from New York to New Orleans, where I know next to no one. I am at one of those disorienting life junctures where you find yourself hunched over your phone entertaining the idea that maybe 50 years from now your grandchildren will gather around the holographic fire to hear the story about how you and Granny met on Tinder. While this is not as thrilling as catching a stranger returning your nervous smile from across a room, my ego swells at the thought of these women deeming me worthy of a rightward swipe.I swipe Christine to the left, watching the flash across the screen in glib orange lettering.

Nope, nope, liked, nope, liked, liked, nope: This is what romance looks like on Tinder, the fastest-growing mobile dating service in the nation, and either the most superficial one to be invented or the one most honest about the primal instincts that have been drawing strangers to each other since the beginning of time.Using the magic of GPS, Tinder finds potential mates nearby and presents them to you.Should two people independently like each other, a "match" is made, prompting a private text-message box to open up, and leading to the fiery, 21st-century beginnings of... For all I know, Michelle, the first woman I've liked, has already gone and given me the nope.Or, if not that, then perhaps sex, an act you have fond but increasingly dim memories of enjoying, will be involved. Michelle has gone ahead and taken the initiative, writing me a message that reads, in its hieroglyphic entirety: "hi)." I delete five drafts before settling on a response ("Hi there. for straight people," a reference to the app that has become a staple for gay men looking for no-strings-attached sex, I find Michelle's overt randiness more suspicious than titillating.Good morning") and feel, as I hit send, like a ninth grader who's just passed a note to the cheerleader in algebra class. While waiting for Michelle to respond, I instigate conversations with both Ashley and Lori. I try to steer us into more innocent terrain: "What part of the city are you in?This is the digital equivalent of hitting on a woman at a bar while the woman you've been hitting on is in the bathroom, a tightrope walk the analog would never attempt. " The question doesn't seem to register with Michelle: "I want a guy that can make me cum...." she replies. political science – an appealing combo, since I've taken up yoga and pretend to be interested in politics; Lori, meanwhile, informs me that she has just graduated from LSU and, having "fallen in love with the Ebola virus," plans to attend medical school in a year.