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Viewpoint: The Tinder experiment

BY RACHEL JOHN

Published June 25, 2014

Mom, Dad, don’t read this.

Two months ago, I embarked on a journey to delve into the world of Tinder. A bunch of strange interactions and 341 matches later, I have more than a review to share of Tinder — the app that many of us have but rarely talk about.

Like almost every college student, I knew what Tinder was. It was the “dating” app notoriously known for hookups. Yet, actually using Tinder changed my perspective on the app. To my surprise, it wasn’t all about hooking up. After analyzing my matches, I realized that only 5 percent of my matches were people solely interested in hookups. The majority, 75 percent, were people who either never responded or didn’t have the conversational capacity to get past a “hello” or “how are you.” If this app was 75 percent boring, why was I continually swiping and comforted by the glow of Tinder flame notifications at 3 am? How and why was the app getting millions of daily active users?

Since Tinder is a relatively new app, there isn’t much published research on it so I had to settle for my personal hypothesis. We humans are social creatures and studies have shown that our interaction with others is important to “human development and behavior.” Tinder offers a chance to converse and even physically interact, unlike Facebook and Twitter, without the fear of rejection. In other words, we crave interaction even if it means sitting through a few awkward pickup lines.

At the same time, Tinder is innovative because it reflects our generation’s need for speed. As its description says, “it’s like real life, but better.” How different is the act of swiping than the usual yet silent discrimination of people that occurs at any college function? Knowing that both parties are mutually attracted, the key advantage of Tinder, makes interaction a bit faster and easier.

On the other hand, Tinder still adheres to cultural and evolutionary norms. I noticed the parallels between Tinder and the traditional dating scene and animal mating scene. In nature, females tend to be choosier in selection than their male counterparts (you can take Bio 171 or Psych 230 to learn more about this fascinating phenomenon). Tinder is no different — my female friends left swipe or reject many more people than my male friends do. Similarly, the profiles on Tinder are reflections of hegemonic gender archetypes. Men can often be found showing off their shirtless gym body or donning a giant fish whereas women flaunt their feminine curves in usually some bikini-clad way. I’ve come to the conclusion that perhaps the dating game hasn’t changed, but only the means have.

Now that I’ve developed a basic understanding of Tinder, you probably are wondering how my story concludes. Well the truth is, it doesn’t. Though I’m deleting Tinder and the experiment is over (since I’ve exhausted the potential matches in my area), the experience was much more serious than expected. As observational as I tried to make this, I couldn’t help but get caught up in the assortment of emotions that went along with using Tinder. As an upcoming single college sophomore searching for my place in the world, I knew I needed to go beyond my horizons, my radius. I, once an introverted high school girl, quickly became enveloped in the thrill of Tinder. I was encompassed in the conversation, the people and the stories behind them.

Tinder can be an instrument, albeit an unfortunately stigmatized one, to spark relationships and reignite the flame of curiosity about what makes us human.

Rachel John is an LSA sophomore.


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