Tinder is used in 196 countries and boasts 1.6 billion swipes every day. Then there are the lesser known dating sites: purrrsonals, where you can “Meet other cat lovers who really match your PURRsonality!”; Gluten-free singles—pretty self-explanatory, and my personal favorite, Farmer Wants a Wife. Then again, meet-an-inmate.com sounds rather…interesting.
Earlier this week, I had the pleasure of chatting about all-things-dating culture with Michael K. Feinstein, writer and director of the new feature film, The Browsing Effect, and one of its stars, Nikki SooHoo, who you might also recognize from The Intern, Stick It and The Lovely Bones. (Swoon.)
The Browsing Effect is an ensemble comedy that centers on a group of friends who get caught up in a whirlwind of sex, jealousy, and self-doubt, thanks to the endless availability of dating apps, and examines dating culture in the age of swiping. It’s a very fun, insightful and relatable film I recommend checking out!
Here are some of the topics we explored:
- Modern dating slang, such as R-bombing, cloaking and bird-boxing
- Pros and challenges of meeting people through dating apps
- What inspired this film and what Michael and Nikki most enjoyed about the experience
- What it’s like dating in LA’s acting and filmmaking industry
- Using dating apps in San Francisco (and other cities) versus Los Angeles
- Using apps to meet friends, versus potential partners
- Strategically using certain photos in a dating profile
- Connecting with old flames online
- Social media after breakups
- Nikki and Michael’s top advice for up-and-coming artists
Dr. Megan Fleming also weighed in for a listener whose long-term relationship ended after Facebook flirtations led to an affair with a high school boyfriend. Is the notion, “once a cheater, always a cheater” true? And how can you feel less alone while dealing with difficult feelings and healing from relationship upheaval?
Stream the Girl Boner Radio podcast episode on Apple Podcasts, iHeartRadio, Spotify or below! Read on for partial transcripts, featuring highlights from our chat.
The Browsing Effect: Nikki SooHoo and Michael K. Feinstein on Girl Boner Radio (partial transcripts)
August: Michael, this is your second film, and first feature film, centering dating technology. Why did you want to make this film?
Michael: I think as writer I’m always looking for subjects that haven’t been done to death and also subjects that I feel a personal a connection to. And I’ve been meeting people the last five or six years, so it felt like something that I had a lot of first-hand experience with. It was something that I had ideas about and it was something that I hadn’t really seen portrayed in film or TV yet, or portrayed seriously and that wasn’t condescending to the people who were using these apps.
August: Which I think you do really well. It points out some of the challenges and funny things that can happy, but it also really shows respect for the opportunities and some of the good things. Nikki, tell us about your character.
Nikki: So my character is Rachel and she’s one of those go-getter women who is all about having the best career, the best life, and showing that to the world. But even though everybody else may think that she has everything, from the inside, she still doesn’t feel fulfilled… She’s still missing something. Nothing is good enough. So it’s kind of that struggle of wanting what her best friend has, but then trying to show, “Well my life is great!” even if she’s broken on the inside.
August: Which social media can really fuel… Do you relate? How similar or different are you from the character?
Nikki: I definitely relate to her go-getter side. I am always trying to better myself and make sure that I’m on the right path in life—especially when we made the movie, which was a couple years ago. I was trying to find myself and I was holding these societal structures of what it meant to be successful. Luckily, I kind of grew out of that and I learned to follow what makes me happy rather than what society said should make me happy.
August: Michael, you mentioned that you use these apps yourself. Did you incorporate any very closely inspired-by experiences?
Michael: Yeah, sure. I’d say 65-70% of the movie is stuff that either happened to me exactly as it is in the movie or in some way.… There’s an old adage: the more personal you make things, the more universal it’ll be. And I had to kind of trust that, as a writer, as I went closer and closer to my experiences that it would be more accessible to other people.
August: I love the scene with the “tinder-napping.” Without giving the film away, could you share a little bit about what happened there?
Nikki: I think it’s kind of trying to touch on security risks that can happen with dating people that you don’t know at all. Your friends don’t know them, your family doesn’t know them and in the film, basically I get myself into a situation— I don’t know how to not give the film away..
Michael: It was important to me to kind of talk about how, with these apps, there’s such a wide range of experiences. When we’ve seen it before, we’ve seen a very narrow sliver of, “Oh, this person’s catfishing me” or whatever, and I really wanted to show that range. Of course, on one side of the range you have people meeting the loves of their lives. You have real romances with people they wouldn’t have met before that are outside of their circle, and I wanted to show that.
And I wanted to go to the other poll. What’s everybody’s worst nightmare that when apps first came out, your mother warned you about: You don’t know who these people are; they could kidnap you. And it has happened, in real life… Multiple times people have lost their lives because of people they’ve met online. So it seemed within the world of what I was trying to say, to show both of those polarities.
August: Totally. It’s an entertaining way to bring light to things that we should just keep in mind—not be paralyzed by.
Michael: It’s definitely the exception. But listen, exposing yourself to people that you wouldn’t have normally, it can go one of two ways….Like all things in life, everything’s a risk. Risk and reward.
[Here Nikki and Michael guessed what several dating slang terms mean! Hint: Their responses were more entertaining than the actual answers.]
August: One of my favorite things about the film was the creative filming, where somebody would be texting somebody and this apparition of the person appears… It really illustrated the way we meet someone online, then create these fantasies.
Michael: When you start writing a movie about app dating, you realize very quickly that scenes of people staring at their phones aren’t going to be terribly compelling. So you want to try to find a way—especially because you’re trying to capture the emotion, that feeling of talking to someone new, someone you can’t quite see—so you look for more surreal, maybe creative ways to depict those emotions. That’s what I try to do throughout the film.
August: What was the best part of making this filmi?
Nikki: Ah, man. It was really cool because I had never experienced online dating, and I felt I was living the epitome of what anyone’s fantasy of what an online dater would be like—getting requests for threesomes, getting to date all these different guys and just having all of these crazy experiences, even though I never actually experienced them, was really fun…. I got to play it in a pretend world, which was safe.
Michael: This is my first feature film. This whole process was really a dream come true. Every day getting to work with other really talented artists, whether it was actors or cinematographers, people who do the lighting, my producers who I’ve known since film school… Getting to do something that you love. It was a great feeling… You want it to be as good as possible, but you don’t know when the next time you’re going to be able to make a movie is. It’s so tough. It requires so much money and talent and work. So I tried to have a good time. I tried to make it a fun set. I tried to make it comfortable for people to tell me ideas… I think a lot of us became friends. It’s kind of like camp friends, where you get very close for a couple weeks and go your separate ways, but you keep in touch.
August: One last tip for up-and-coming artists… Nikki, so many people have [creative] aspirations—whether it’s in acting or another art form. What would you advise?
Nikki: I just met with my mentee just before this… I always tell them to put out there dreams and be very specific about it, so that people that you tell will know ways to help you, or they can figure out ways to help you. One is saying your dream to people, and not being afraid. Just owning it. Because people see that you’re passionate about what you do, and they love to support passion. Everybody’s looking for that. You’d be surprised how many people will be willing to help you, if you show that you’re in it, that you’re working hard and that you love it. They want to see people who are happy and following their dreams. And two, I would say put yourself out there first to help others. I’m a real believer in karma and what you put out into the world is what you’re going to get back. And so if you want to attract people to mentor you and help you, you have to do that for them, too, or do that for the world and the ones that are right for you will come to you, too.
August: I love that advice. It’s a much more pleasant experience, too, to know that you’re going out there and helping people. What about you, Michael, especially for people wanting to create something from scratch?
Michael: People want to do things for different reasons and that’s fine, but if you’re someone who cares about your work…you need to surround yourself with people who have similar motivations. It’s only going to hurt you to connect with someone who maybe you think, “Oh, this could lead to something or other.” But if they don’t care, if this is just another stop along the way or they’re looking for something else out of it, it’s not going to help you. The best way to go about anything is to surround yourself with people who care as much as you do.
Learn much more, and have some good laughs, by streaming the full Girl Boner Radio episode above or on your favorite podcast app!