Tinder: An Outsider’s Impression

I’m not single so by extension I am not on Tinder. But the concept is fascinating to me. The idea of the big red “NOPE” that appears over the face of a suitor deemed unsuitable is worth the price of admission (or download) alone – even more so when you realise that that price is nothing. Of course, there’s a lot more to the dating app than just engaging your perverse fascination with rejection.

I know plenty of people who use the app and I’ve had plenty of conversations about it. That’s one of the most interesting things about Tinder and what sets it apart from other online dating platforms out there: everyone’s on it, and everyone’s happy to talk about it. Internet dating, while more widespread and successful than ever, still tends to be talked about behind cupped hands and in whispers, as if anyone who finds out you’re eHarmonising will immediately cast you out of their life like a romantically-challenged social leper. At the other end of the digital romance scale there’s Blendr, Grindr‘s straight cousin, which tends to turn people off with it’s thinly veiled impetus of just getting people sexed – and god forbid anyone finds out that you’re using an app explicitly designed for explicit purposes (regardless of whether or not you’re using Tinder for the very same purpose, it hasn’t been positioned as an unequivocal hook-up enabler).

So it’s socially okay to be on Tinder and that’s good. There’s no need for internet or mobile dating to have any stigma attached to it at all; sure, there are creeps on the internet, but there are creeps in real life too. The” Mutual Friends” feature of Tinder probably aids in its acceptance. It takes away one level of anonymity by reminding you that these faces are only a few degrees of separation from people you already know pretty well, lending them credibility by implying that they’re slightly less likely to want to wear your skin as a suit.

But does Tinder’s rapid-fire Hot Or Not style of matchmaking work?  An executive told Business Insider that the app has generated over 75 million matches and at least 50 wedding engagements. The ‘matches’ thing doesn’t impress me – 75 million instances of “yeah, I’d consider texting them” isn’t surprising given that the app is reportedly downloaded by 10,000 to 20,000 new people a day. And I’m going to go ahead and take their wedding engagements statistics with a grain of salt. So that leaves me with just anecdotal evidence to go off.

Of the people I know personally who are on Tinder, only a few have gone further than the first stages of giggly picture-perusing, snap judgement-making, screen-shotting hilarious profile pictures to show friends later, and maybe occasionally chatting with some matches. Those who have gone on dates (and there aren’t many) have not wound up writing to the Tinder executives, eager to be added to the list of engagements. I don’t know of any first dates that have eventuated into seconds.

Pedestrian’s Tinder-using buddy Anna, who explained “Tinder is a bloody great app and a thoroughly intriguing experience. When have you ever been able to tap into a resource of people who you probably will never happen upon in your boring, hapless every day existence? Tinder’s whole vibe is to get you in the line of sight of friends-of-friends who you never even knew existed” went on to outline a weeks worth of judgmental swipes, dodgy photos, conversations that veered from banal to bizarre and back again, with a final result of no dates (or at least none that weren’t too scarring to write about, anyway).

So, given the imbalanced time invested vs romantic outcome equation, it surprises me to find out that these same people continue to use it. Based on my observations as a spectator, Tinder isn’t a dating app – it’s a game. And a hugely addictive one at that. It combines the ego boost of getting a match, the endorphin rush of realising YES! I AM GOOD LOOKING ENOUGH TO BE SWIPED RIGHT! with the giddy schadenfraude of NOPE-ing some lesser being off the left-hand side of your screen – two forms of instant gratification. And the speed with which the process continually repeats itself, the speed with which the people presented to you – hot or not – just keep coming, is hypnotic.

Harry Cole wrote in The Spectator “There is an argument that Tinder is a progressive social construct which is helping to make online dating acceptable and that that is a good thing. I disagree. If you are not capable of holding real-life conversations in the hope of eliciting romantic outcomes, then you should not be allowed to use technology to cheat. If you are looking for casual sex, that is one thing, but anything more and you are building a relationship on a lie. In bypassing your own failings by using your phone, you are only heading toward disappointment.”

But I think Harry Cole is taking it too seriously. Love isn’t a game, but Tinder is.

Of course, I’m just one guy, who’s never used the thing. The Tinder website says “Tinder is how people meet. It’s like real life, but better.”

Is it?