I had been single for six months before I decided to activate my Tinder account within Nunavut’s borders. I had always been apprehensive of online dating, especially in the North, not only because of the fresh shame of disclosing to the world that I was single and looking, but because of who I would be admitting that to. I lived in Nunavut for over 8 years. I knew everyone.
Embarking into the world of online dating in Nunavut feels a little like asking someone to take pity on you than to genuinely consider you for a relationship. It’s like inviting your sister to prom. If you’ve been in the territory for any amount of time, you already know everyone else on the site, sometimes too well. You know their stories, their history, their families, and likely have personal experiences with them already. Likewise, they know all the same things about you. We can’t date! I saw you do that thing that one time!
Within minutes of activating Tinder, my fears were confirmed. Three of the first four people I was introduced to were already my Facebook friends. The moment the first connection appeared, I freaked out and tried to disable my phone and rip the battery out. My friend would know I was lonely and desperate! Abort! Abort! But hey - they were on the site, too. So, we were both lonely and desperate. We were in this together, whatever this was.
In addition to your neighbours and friends, there are the temporary contractors, people who are likely in Iqaluit for a week and don’t realize their phones are broadcasting their romantic availability to the select few of us willing to look. Tinder is unique in that it requires an advanced smartphone and faith in the stability of the Iqaluit cell system. As such the number of people actually using it is limited. How limited? It took about one minute of browsing before the familiar, “There are no more matches in your area” screen appeared. After about eight profiles, my foray into Tinder ended. I had been matched with no one, be it an acquaintance or a stranger.
Now Tinder is not the only option when it comes to online dating in Nunavut. You can literally cater your tastes to whatever it is you’re looking for. Nunavummiut are represented across the spectrum of dating possibilities. Match.com features a number of available Nunavummiut looking for more serious commitments, and OK Cupid does the same for Nunavummiut on a budget.
Looking for casual sex, or do you just want to see a bunch of Nunavummiut penises? Adult Friend Finder is your hookup. If you cater to specific fetishes, Nunavummiut are out in droves on Fetlife, an online kink community. You’re unlikely to see any faces or real names on these hookup sites - unless you recognize someone’s naked body or alias.
The disadvantages to using online dating in Nunavut are really no different than the disadvantages of dating in Nunavut, period. The selection of potential partners is limited, as is any real privacy beyond the walls of your computer. We often end up all working together, so if anything goes wrong online, you’re literally going to have to live with it IRL. And lets not even mention the chance of actually getting matched with your sister, cousin, aunt, or teacher - something I didn’t really have to worry about, but I imagine can and does happen to other Nunavummiut online.
While there are some obvious disadvantages to relying on the Internet for emotional or physical connections, there are some interesting advantages, especially in Nunavut. First of all, dating sites are full of fake accounts, specifically ones targeted at men with women who are “too good to be true” and ask their matches to visit an external site and enter their credit card information.
Now, there is no questioning which accounts are fake and which are real in Nunavut. If someone just wants to connect over drinks in a dry community, see a movie, or take long walks on the beach, they probably don’t live in Nunavut and quite possibly don’t even exist. On the other hand, if you see an Inuktitut word thrown in there and maybe a sealfie, you’re likely looking at a legit Nuna profile.
Online dating in Nunavut also allows users to get one step away from the vicious gossip cycles that plague most small communities. As many Nunavummiut are testing the waters with online dating, the vast majority of us aren’t. That leaves some amount of privacy as you and potential partners can explore your similarities and differences without your real-life community watching and judging.
One of the biggest barriers I’ve personally had to overcome entering singlehood in Nunavut is the notion that there is something wrong with seeking out companionship online. But in order for someone to judge you, they’d have to be scrolling through the same list of profiles on the same dating site, right?
It’s kind of like catching someone with their eyes open during the dinner prayer. Doesn’t that mean you also had your eyes open, and shouldn’t we all just look out for each other?
Online dating is, at the end of the day, not as big a deal as I had made it out to be initially. As much as putting yourself online to seek companionship can be intimidating, it is as terrifying for you as it is for everyone else doing it. It takes guts to say “I’m lonely," especially in a community where everyone knows yours business. And, there is an unspoken understanding that what happens online, stays online, so, if (when) you do see someone you know on a dating site, it may be an opportunity to approach him or her in a way you couldn’t before. If my experience with online dating in Nunavut has taught me anything, it's that finding romance is universally complicated, but wholeheartedly worth it once you find that someone who could be the tinder for your fire.