Aileen Barratt calls herself the Tinder translator.
Barratt, 38, began using dating apps like Tinder in 2016 after separating from her husband. As an older millennial, she hadn’t used them before her marriage, and the new dating scene surprised her. Specifically, some men on Tinder seemed to repeat the same phrases in their profiles that acted as codes for wanting sex and not a relationship.
She began an Instagram account in 2019 to comically point out the euphemisms she found men using on dating apps. She called them “Tinder translations.” For example, she came across the phrase, “Looking for someone who doesn’t take themselves too seriously,” and wrote her own interpretation: “I keep meeting women who have these ‘standards’ and want me to ‘treat them with respect,’ so I’m looking for someone with less self worth.” It resonated with a female millennial audience and with single mothers like her.
Her new book, Tinder Translator: An A-Z of Modern Misogyny, is the product of her popularity on social media. It breaks down dynamics of dating into 26 chapters, each referencing a letter of the alphabet, like “Y is for You’re Not Like Other Girls.” It comes out on Nov. 15.
Originally from London, Barratt now lives in Manchester where she manages her Instagram account, which now has 77,800 followers, almost fulltime. She does freelance copyright work on the side and participates in short plays at local theaters.
The Observer’s Rachyl Jones recently spoke with Barratt. This interview has been lightly edited.
How did you get your start on social media?
I myself was on dating apps, and I’ve always been really interested in language—euphemisms especially. And with dating apps, there’s so many of what I call “stock phrases” and so many things that are repetitive. I followed a few different accounts where people screenshot funny or bad bios, and I thought it’d be funny to take those screenshots and translate them into what they really meant. I set up an account as comic relief, because when you’re on dating apps, you see so many awful profiles. It’s quite nice to think, “Aha, I can use that for content,” rather than thinking, “Oh no, another awful man.” It really resonated with people in a way that surprised me at first, actually.
Could you just give me some examples of these stock phrases?
“Just looking for some fun” means “I’m just looking for sex.” “No drama” in all caps—the translation there is “don’t have emotions, opinions or challenge me in any way.”
How do you make money off your social media?
I am just rubbish at monetizing my account. There’s a lot of brands I wouldn’t work with because my whole thing is that people have to respect my opinion and it needs to be authentic. But then I’ll approach brands and they’ll say, ‘We don’t feel like your vibe fits our brand aesthetic’ or whatever. Fair enough. But I have done lots of different things—like sex positive brands, self love brands and randomly, renewable deodorant.
Where do you think the creator economy is moving?
Most of us are very grateful for and care about the people that follow us, because they literally make our lives possible. When it comes to ads, we don’t want to feel like we’re being exploitative. If you’re in the millions [of followers], it’s easier to promote hyper-consumption because those numbers are untouchable, and you’re not going to lose your credibility in the same way as a smaller creator. If I suddenly started doing Shein hauls, I would lose followers. People would be like, “I thought you were into women having a living wage?”
When did this account transfer into you writing a book?
Quite early on. But I overthink everything. I was actually approached by a literary agent on Instagram in early 2021. She asked if I’d ever thought of writing a fun book about Tinder Translators. So that’s how it became a real thing. I always thought once I got a certain amount of followers maybe I’d be able to make it into a book. Hardie Grant made a good offer, and I began writing.
How have you used your social channels to promote your book?
I think the biggest post was my announcement post, and it was a static post on Instagram, so I thought no one was going to see it. But I got such gorgeous, lovely feedback. The first time I got a proof copy of the book, when I opened it and saw it for the first time, I videoed it, and put that up. And closer to the release, I’ve posted graphics the publisher had given me, like previews of different quotes. I’ve done quite a few podcasts in the U.K. and Australia, had extracts published and written a couple of articles that are based on the book. And we’ve sent it to lots of other content creators as well. I think in terms of book recommendations, smaller accounts are really great to do that, because they have that rapport with their followers.