I. A Woman Walks into a Bar
She approaches a man she does not know and tells him to leave. She approaches another man. Leave, she says, and points to the door. And then another and another and another and tells them all to leave. Finally, she sees a man in a pink Banana Republic button down and, before she before the word Stay exits her mouth, a tall blondish man approaches her. Leave, he says, and points to the door.
If Tinder emulated real life and our interactions with others — as it markets itself to do — this is perhaps the real life it’s looking to emulate. And this, of course, does not exist. And if it did, well, that bar would totally suck. The new-ish dating app recalls Hot or Not, which heavily influenced this thing called Facebook. With Tinder, users are shown a photo of another user in their area and they must either swipe left (Adios!) or swipe right (Hey there, stud cake!). If both users have swiped right on each other, it is considered a “match” and then and only then are they able to spark up a conversation. And if you care, below each user’s photo are your shared Facebook friends and interests, if any. This will probably not influence your decision on whether you swipe left or right. If the person is hot and they like Mad Men, swipe right. If the person is a dog and likes Mad Men, you’re swiping left for sure.
Once a match is made, the team at Tinder decided to give some words of both encouragement and light-hearted taunt for you to start the chat up. Staring at this screen won’t start a convo… , Tinder remarks. Conversations don’t write themselves and Are your hands tied? Once a hello is made on either end, only chat is allowed. No naughty photos or video, just good old-fashioned words and phrases. This should lead to a text or a phone call, a date, a friend, a kiss, a baby. And so on.
II. Matchy Matchy
While I am no expert on dating apps as I am in a loving LTR, I decided to download this hype machine to get a better sense of what it has to offer. I was definitely three sheets to the wind when the download was made and the tiny flame appeared on my phone’s home screen, which in return made it even more fun. After just a minute or two of setup I began my left swipes. And they continued pretty consistently until I realized I had no chance of a match if my standards were so unimaginably high. And thus began some right swipes here and there and finally, to my surprise, a match. What a nice feeling! While of course, match has many definitions in different parts of speech, I couldn’t help but feel as though Tinder had discovered something, when in fact this Erick character simply liked the way I looked. This trendy word has taken on meanings on two sides of the spectrum. In its rawest form as on Tinder, two similar actions were rewarded with a nice feeling as though turning over two orange cards in a game of Memory, while in its more complex form as on Match.com, the word has come to mean a life partner.
After a few more right swipes and ten times more left swipes, I headed to bed. In the morning I woke to even more matches and some chat greetings as well. The gratification is so instant and fun that I went on to swipe through all the men looking to be matched with men within 100 miles of myself, seriously! There’s gotta be some hotties in Stanford and Mountain View, I thought, and nope, I went through them all. Tinder is a game that has the ability to yield deeper results, if you’re game for them.
III. Don’t Hate the Game, Hate the Playa
The reality of life is that some people are better looking than others. Remember the controversy over the website beautifulpeople.com? In this model, users submit one (!) photo of themselves, set up a small profile and wait 48 hours for the rest of the community to vote them in or out. According to The Daily Mail, only 20% of applicants are accepted, just about the same rate as getting into Middlebury or Wesleyan.
I decided, since I was on a roll, to sign up for this as well. What was most surprising and not surprising at all was that there’s a countdown that appears right in your face in large numbers as soon as you sign on as an applicant. It counts down the time until you find out if you are accepted onto the website a.k.a. until you find out if you are beautiful enough. Yikes! Below the over-sized clock are votes given so far under the categories: Beautiful, Hmmm Okay, No, Absolutely not. Thus far, I’m teetering between Hmmm Okay and No with 25 hours to go.
In January 2010, the website dumped thousands of members who had gained weight over the holiday season and made them reapply. Over 5,000 of these re-applications were rejected. The site has elicited adjectives like “disgusting” and “inhumane” and the founder has received a number of death threats. While Tinder and beautifulpeople.com are obviously different platforms, there is this sentiment of rejection by your community if you are not pretty enough. Tinder and beautifulpeople.com are not making us shallower humans, we were shallow to begin with, and that’s why these sorts of apps and websites exist.
IV. A Tinder Tale
As I mentioned, I had been drinking the night I signed up for Tinder. Since then, I have been Tindering (verb!) sober and on the regular in order to write this article. My matches have been semi-consistent, but I haven’t struck up conversation much. The addictive quality is still there, but I am unsure if I am addicted to the swiping or to the matching aspect. It’s probably both. A friend of mine who I would consider a fan of Tinder has taken it to the next step and met some dudes in person, which is great, and the eventual objective of the app. “Surprisingly,” she tells me, “Tinder has enabled a more mature way of dating. You cut to the chase — let’s meet if we’re interested. And if it doesn’t work out, it’s reassuring to know there are lots of other guys out there open to meeting you. So you don’t need to waste your time if there’s no compatibility or chemistry in-person.”
Meeting someone in person can be a daunting thing, especially someone you don’t know. Tinder seeks to lessen the nerves by providing users with shared interests and friends. If you meet another person for coffee, you could always talk about the fact you both like The Cure, Mad Men, or your friend Tina. “Shared friends is way more interesting and definitely influences my decision,” my friend says. “If I’m on the fence, but you know a ton of cool people I know, then right swipe. You’re probably pretty cool, too.” However, shared interests don’t carry quite as much weight unless there’s one specific “like” you made on Facebook such as a band that’s only well-known in Canada and you were in Vancouver once and you saw them play live and it was amazing. Otherwise, the shared interests serve more as an afterthought or a conversation starter.
Tinder could be the next generation of dating apps providing users with an easy, low-commitment way to meet new people in their area or it could be just another platform for us to satisfy our pleasure-seeking selves and boost our egos. But one thing is for certain, Tinder does not emulate real life, it is real life.
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story said that Facebook was founded by the creators of Hot or Not. That is untrue and the story has been edited to reflect that.