Who are you kidding? We all know you have it buried somewhere deep in the mysterious realms of your phone. Perhaps it’s hidden in your “Utilities” folder or “Travel.” Or maybe it can even be found in your “Games,” because isn’t that all it is anyway?
Despite Tinder’s reputation of being solely a means to finding a casual hookup, in which desperate, horny 20-somethings can find a quick lay, it is actually one of the most inventive and creative dating applications (or whatever you’d like to call it) out there, not to mention the fastest-growing free dating app in the United States, facilitating more than 2 million matches per day. Long gone are the days of Match.com and eHarmony. Even the relatively new okCupid is seemingly passe. It’s really quite simple if you think about it. Rather than having its users meticulously construct lengthy profiles, Tinder creates each user’s page by merely pulling photos and basic information, such as “likes,” from his or her Facebook (with permission, of course), and in almost milliseconds, users can find people in their area. In fact, the simplicity behind the app, both in its creation and in its use, is arguably why it has become so very popular since its 2013 launch. For starters, it’s basically built for a toddler, or at least an adult with the same technological skill set as a toddler. The idea is simple: you, upon entering the app, are served a succession of photos of people who meet your age, gender, and location criteria. Tinder also allows its users to provide a brief profile if they care to, which can also be seen at this time. It is now up to you to either swipe left, indicating that you are not interested in the user, or swipe right, indicating that you are indeed interested and thus give him or her permission to message you. The app is fast and casual, a far cry from most dating sites, which force you to trudge through countless questions about religion and hobbies, among others, and sort through dozens of messages before finding someone of any appeal. Tinder, on the other hand, lets you find your own matches by doing exactly what we all do in social settings anyway: judge people based primarily on their appearances.
Now, because I’m a feminist, I have to go here. This is exactly the type of scenario that we have often been told women hate. “I think that women more often than not will say that they’re looking for something casual, and there’s nothing wrong with any of that. I think deep down, though, most women don’t actually believe that,” says Amy Webb, author of Data: A Love Story, quite accurately summarizing the general belief. She goes on to say, “Most women do want to be in a long-term relationship.” However, 45% of Tinder’s users are women, and none seem to be at all bothered by the app’s low-commitment objectification. Of roughly 200 million ratings per day, around 70% of them are left swipes and 30% are right swipes. Women are using this app and in roughly the same way as men.
There’s also that old notion that unlike men, women need extensive detail and information on a guy before they can determine if they’re interested. Tinder has disproved this, too. The app’s non-profile profile circumvents the skepticism that naturally comes with signing up for most other dating sites, requiring a multitude of answers to truly unnecessary questions, all of which are designed to determine who you are and what you want in a potential life partner. After Webb gave a Ted Talk last year on her approaches to online dating, she received over 1300 emails, 80% of which were from “people agonizing over what to put in their profile[s].” When the profile disappears, so does most of the stress. A 26-year old Brooklyn woman said on the matter, “I wasn’t really open to the idea of strangers (or even worse, friends) coming across an online profile with me describing in depth. I’m not embarrassed to know that they might have seen five pictures of me and a Simpsons quote, as opposed to my deepest, darkest desires.”
Perhaps the most appealing of Tinder’s features to women is that of messaging. Unlike most dating sites, in which women are bombarded with mass messages saying some derivative of the useless “Hi 😉 What’s up?,” on Tinder users can only receive messages from users they have already indicated as a match. Additionally, Tinder does not allow users to message each other with photos–although, a recent add-on to the app was “Moments,” which are presented as snapshots of what you are doing that matches of yours can see and like, sort of like a Snapchat story. The inability to message photos is something that gay users have become particularly keen of as it prevents the sharing any “dick pics” unlike Grindr.
Before Tinder, hetero dating apps were relatively non-existent, despite the fact that apps like Grindr, which is known as a gay hookup app, have been around for years. Tinder-like apps have been created (e.g. Blendr and OkCupid Locals) but have all failed miserably. Tinder is user-friendly, quick, and quite honestly enjoyable, which leads me to explain why Tinder is amazing on a day-to-day basis. It is genuinely the biggest confidence-booster in the world. I kid you not. Having downloaded the app a few months ago after hearing about all the hype, I can honestly say that every time I open the app, I feel like Kate Upton. So even if you’re like me, in that you never actually meet your matches and hardly ever message with them, Tinder is awesome. Now back to technical stuff.
Pulling data from Facebook was once thought of as the dreaded black hole of all dating sites, betraying the ounce of shame that users felt about blending their “real lives” and their online courtships. However, Tinder has shown that women are actually quite fond of the Facebook data given to them (first names of mutual friends and mutual “likes”), as it gives a sort of social accountability. Even though the use of a profile picture might be a bit antiquated, Facebook is merciless in cracking down on fake accounts, and if you’re really doubtful, you can contact one of your mutual friends to confirm the realness of your match. Thus, any inkling one might have that users are not who they say they are is quickly remedied by this feature.
Arguably most important, Tinder is a far cry from the common exercise in self-deprecation that online dating has brought about for many women and men alike. Natascha Bird of London says of the app, “It didn’t feel like offering yourself on a plate to a collection of the world’s ‘lonelies.’ It also allowed for the more casual type of connection without seeming totally sleazy.” Tinder really is fun. People sign up because they’re drunk and a friend dares them. Or their circle of friends gets to talking about it at dinner or even in a group chat, and they join together. Some friends of mine have called it “playing Tinder.” Some people have even invented drinking games: Take a shot for every bathroom selfie you find or two for every person you know in real life. As Tinder doesn’t require hours wasted on meticulously constructing a profile that conveys “the real you,” all possibility of hurt from rejection is lost.
Erin, a Minneapolis native, who met her boyfriend on the app says, “Tinder was just this funny but also kind of exciting and socially acceptable thing I could do, and with low expectations.” Even the most decorated of online dating veterans crave the simplicity of meeting a partner “organically,” without the robot comparison that determines whether a person is or isn’t soul-mate material. Unsurprisingly, it’s difficult to feel any shred of romance when you’re reading a long list of red flags on someone’s profile.
With less information, though, comes a great deal of confusion. A common complaint about Tinder is that no one really knows what it’s for. Pay-to-play sites like Match.com set the clear goal of finding serious relationships, and free sites like okCupid say they’re for dating, so what about Tinder? As its reputation tells, the answer currently could be for “casual hookups” or for “last-minute coffee dates you feel free to flake on.” But this might change as the app expands. Already, co-founder Justin Mateen says they’ve heard of more than 100 marriage proposals resulting in Tinder matches–kind of a lot considering Tinder hasn’t been around for all that long. I guess it really is just what you make of it.