As Tinder and a spawn of similar dating apps rise to new heights of popularity, Ciara Gillespie takes a look at how this app has taken the world of love, sex and dating to new and controversial dimensions.
Dating. Defined by Urban Dictionary as “The modern day battlefield of romance where hearts are won and broken; the not-so-quite version of chivalry and wooing; the progressed game of cat and mouse.” Dating is an extremely exciting, scary, nerve-wracking delicate practice. For better or for worse, we’ve all been there; in that crazed obsessed state of awaiting text messages and craving the thrilling sexual tension that exists at the start of a new potential relationship. And whilst the dating scene is crammed with painful rejections, embarrassing moments and sweaty interjections, we always go back for more. It seems unsurprising then, that a chance of dating without all that initial embarrassing and awkward eye-contact across a room full of drunken 20-somethings is an opportunity that the majority of us have charged towards in leaps and bounds. Welcome to the world of online dating.
Tinder, You’ve probably heard of it; maybe even had a few swipes on the app itself, or been given a demonstration from your excitable single friends on the wonders of this new app that is dominating the online dating scene. Essentially a socially acceptable app version of “Hot or Not”, Tinder burst with popularity in 2014 and has been a hot topic of discussion and debate ever since. Many of these debates critique whether or not Tinder is an app solely used for the purpose of hooking up rather than finding “The One”. Suddenly, gone is the stigma attached to finding a love interest or a hook-up online; replaced by an air of excitement and expectation that you should at least join the bandwagon before you knock it as ‘beneath you’. And if you’re too principled or too committed in a relationship yourself, you have probably at least enjoyed having an unashamed swipe through your single friend’s list of potential matches. Dating has never been so fun and hilarious. And if most of us are being completely honest, as an app that allows us to fraternize with the opposite sex without so much as leaving our student hovels, Tinder is the best thing since instant noodles.
Tindering (yes, it’s a verb) has become a social norm; an inescapable part of our generation’s quest to occupy ourselves with sex, flirtation and heartbreak over and over again. It offers a world with endless possibilities, excitements and choices; where we can be whoever we want to be with whomever we want to be with. Most popularly described as the ‘Mcdonalds of sex’, Tinder has almost become a dating version of online shopping; demoralizing the act of courtship to nothing more than absently scrolling through ASOS for that perfect pair of shoes. But is the use and engagement of Tinder actually healthy? With the aim of creating a safe and non-threatening environment to meet people, Tinder offers the perfect solution to young, career driven graduates who are way too immersed in killing themselves for a career to be wandering around coffee shops, hoping to catch the eye of someone special to live happily ever after with. In today’s world, we want fast, no-nonsense love affairs that occupy our minds yet ensure little commitment; and if rejection is still a possibility, at least its sting is softened behind a screen that contains plenty more fish. Yet, whilst the casual and game-like demeanour of Tinder can make for an excellent passage of time whilst on the way to work or in a lecture, along with an easy way to elicit some no-strings attached company for the night, it also has a darker side.
On Tinder, appearance is everything. Biographies, personalities, interests and hobbies are secondary to how attractive you are, yet it seems that sometimes even that is irrelevant. Scott, 22, says “Admittedly a guy is less picky than most girls; many guys will not look past the first picture, and there have been times where I have liked loads of people without even looking at any of them; quite literally just swiping right…it is a numbers game after all.” And it is a numbers game; we are no longer satisfied talking to one person, we want options, and lots of them. Steph, 19, tells me ‘‘It’s so much fun, but it’s the shallowest thing I’ve ever encountered.” Tess, 19, tends to agree, “It can be derogatory and puts people in a bad mind set as you’re playing ‘hot or not’ with real people. They could be amazing as a person but you just don’t know it because you’ve judged them on their appearance. Putting it literally; judging a book by its cover.”
Yet we crave gratification and compliments from strangers in order to increase our own sense of self-worth; it offers a constant and addicting source of self-validation; users are only notified of approved matches, never if you’ve been discarded, keeping self-confidence sky high. And thus the endless swiping on Tinder can turn the best of us into shallow and cold hearted creatures, but the lack of feeling involved does not seem to keep many of us from playing the game. It seems that Tess is not the only person who shares this view. In a recent Vanity Fair article, writer Nancy Jo Sales emphasised the blatant devaluing of people and sex in apps such as Tinder. She argues Tinder has made sex much more accessible and thus has made finding real, genuine relationships harder to find. The article chronicles several men who seem completely uninterested in forming relationships through Tinder due to their newfound ability to get sex from it pretty much whenever they fancy as long as the female is consenting. This high demand of sex and reciprocation has been criticized for its devaluation of women into nothing more but a booty call. Is this fair? Vanity Fair seems to agree, but Scott continues, “The majority of guys are normal people like me; on there to find someone they actually like…yes this may mean having one-night stands or flings and all guys do use it for sex, but this doesn’t mean a guy is only looking for sex. This does not devalue women and make them victims; girls are in control of who they talk to on Tinder, many are on here for sex too, and judge and reject guys according to their own standards”.
It seems clear that no one knows exactly what Tinder is for other than to connect with people you would be interested in physically and sexually. There exists an ambiguity that can lead to confusion and disappointment for some, and seedy, sexual and completely inappropriate messages towards females are unfortunately all too common, coinciding with the idea that Tinder is killing modern love. Others describe it as the same set-up as meeting people at a bar. As much as Tinder is slated as being all about looks and physicality’s, ultimately we would ‘like’ a match just as we would ‘like’ someone across a room with an approving glance at their appearance, with no prior knowledge of who they are or what they’re like. It’s our human nature to be somewhat physically attracted to someone we want to be getting involved with. If you’re not on Tinder, essentially you’ll be doing the same sort of thing in your head in a bar anyway.
Tinder acts as the bridge between online dating and real life dating. It lets its users receive instant gratification by the endless amount of profiles and matches, with average users checking their profiles at least 11 times per day. Although some people are happy for this instant and constant stream, some are still concerned about the stigma attached with Tinder. Sam Walker, 19 says: “I think there is nothing inherently bad about dating apps like Tinder, but I’m not sure I would want to meet the love of my life on it, simply because it’s currently still an embarrassing thing and I wouldn’t want to tell the kids that’s how I met their father. But hey, that mentality is disappearing in time.” And it’s true, there is still stigma attached to meeting your boyfriend on an app, yet Tinder does bring people together from all walks of life and it does create meaningful connections. Whilst criticisms of Tinder as superficial and devoid of any real emotion that encapsulates real life dating may hold truth, Tinder gives people so many opportunities to find something real and beautiful. Even if it does begin behind a screen, it can become so much more than that.
It’s safe to say that Tinder has worked and is working for many young people today. Nour Jemaa, 19 says: “Without Tinder I never would’ve met my boyfriend. We matched a year ago and we are still together and extremely happy. Without Tinder I would’ve never had this opportunity.” A lot of people find comfort in always having someone to talk to, even if they are complete strangers sometimes. It can provide a confidence boost on a bad day, a chance to meet new people and step out of your comfort zone. But to properly enjoy and indulge in Tinder you need to be aware of what it truly is; an app mostly used for casual hook ups and meet ups, based pretty much on appearance alone. As users swipe, judge and prowl the Tinder waters for multiple hook ups, flirtations and no strings attached fun, it may not the first place to turn to for Prince Charming; but then again, you’ll never exactly know who you’ll find in the Tindersphere. You might even find The One.