I was first introduced to the world of Tinder last winter, when one of my best friends from high school showed me the app over Christmas break. After spending her first semester of college in Chicago, she explained to me that Tinder was all the rage in the city, an easy way to meet new boys and ultimately to hook up with them. She let me take the reigns of her account for a few minutes, where I scrolled through the profiles of seemingly endless bros — some fratty, some alt-looking, but a lot of just normal, nice-looking guys.
For anyone out there who has been blissfully oblivious to the dating lives of college students, Tinder is an iPhone and Android app that takes basic information from your Facebook page, your first name and age, a few pictures, and puts them on a basic profile that says the last time you were active on the app and how many miles away you are from the person checking you out. Matches are based on geographic proximity, and you must either swipe left for no, or right for yes to move onto another profile. If you swipe right for a person and that person swipes right for you, you’ve made a “match” and you can now start a message conversation, where you can decide if the person is cool, weird or interesting enough to meet in person. Tinder is based on Grindr, a similar app exclusively for gay, bisexual or curious men that launched in 2009, and Tinder’s setting can be changed depending on your sexuality as well, so it’s not just exclusive to heterosexuals.
Here’s a disclaimer: I don’t personally have a Tinder. I’ve been in a happy, monogamous relationship for a year and a half so my need for a hook-up app is negligible. But I find the whole process fascinating enough to check out my friends’ accounts when I see they’re swiping through dinner. It also fascinates me that of all my single friends in Ann Arbor, almost all of them have experimented with Tinder in some way. Love it or hate it, it’s everywhere.
The first time I was shown the app, I was perplexed. My friend moved at lightning speed, swiping left or right depending on how douchey the guy looked, barely reading the short bios these guys provided. Shirtless in all the pictures? Swipe left. Surrounded by a large group of girls? Swipe left. From my experience, the more normal looking the pictures are and the more creative the few sentences of bio, the more likely you’ll get a swipe right.
It’s weird, shallow and hilarious. And what demographic would embrace this more willingly than horny college kids with nothing to lose?
The truth is, Tinder is genius. An app to quickly meet up with single people near you for whatever amount of intimacy you seek works seamlessly in the constant shuffle of college life, particularly in high-stress schools like U-M. We’re a generation completely used to instant gratification thanks to growing up with the rise of the internet. We don’t have the time for OKCupid or Match.com, we want sex at the touch of a button and in the same amount of time it would take to order Pizza House.
Millennials are constantly scrutinized by older generations for our widely publicized “hook-up culture,” considered a correlation to lack of scruples and doomed adult relationships. Tinder itself has been hugely scrutinized for being shallow, since almost all that swipes depend on are the pictures on a person’s profile.
But the thing is, how is this process more vain than approaching someone at a bar or party? It’s still a decision based on how attractive you find someone. I’d even argue that Tinder is safer than a night at Rick’s, since conversation can’t even start until both parties have confirmed “yes” to the other person. You exchange messages for a little while, decide if you want to meet for a date and if the date goes well maybe both parties can get what they want. Sure, the date could be awkward and you could go home disappointed, but you could also have a great time. I even have friends who’ve started seeing boys met on Tinder semi-regularly. Just don’t try to explain that to your parents.
Tinder away, Ann Arborites. You’re young, fun and as long as you’ve got the sense to stay in your comfort zone, you could end up meeting cool new people and have stories to tell your friends. You’ve got the rest of your lives to settle down.