Are you on Tinder? For the majority of generation Z singles, this is not an unusual question. Described by The Guardian as “a strange phenomenon, yet also a natural evolution of what the dating scene for the millennial generation already looks like”, Tinder is a mobile matchmaking app. Using geolocation technology to allow you to ‘swipe’ through face after face of singles within a certain distance, the free app cuts out the lengthy registration process of online dating. Described by some as revolutionising the matchmaking process, and others as the shallowest app ever created, the jury is still out on Tinder.
With a wide range of opinions being flung around on this new mode of dating, I decided to investigate the real stories of those brave enough to embark upon that first Tinder date. After requesting information from close friends and family, I sat back and waited for the horror stories of false identities and awkward first encounters to flood into my inbox. Despite such expectations, what happened over the next few hours was nothing of the sort.
Last year, The Times printed an article titled: “Welcome to Tinder, the dating app that’s revolutionizing casual sex”. Although gossip whispers across campus often suggest this, the responses I received mainly consisted of relationship success stories. To my astonishment, distant friends and acquaintances got in touch to inform me of their recent celebrations of one year ‘Tinderversaries’. One couple, who as of a year ago were complete strangers, spoke of their plans to move in together in London to find jobs in the city, proving that ‘love at first swipe’ may exist. Perhaps the most interesting of success stories came from a late night phone call I received from France after my request for responses. I was surprised to see Monica’s name appear as an incoming call, a chic school friend studying at the University of London Institute in Paris, who was traditionally against conventional online dating. She quickly began to explain that the mysterious man who kept popping up in her Facebook photos was in fact her boyfriend, a 26-year-old travelling jazz musician, who was also a former ‘match’ on Tinder. As a 20-year-old student, she established that she only downloaded the app to join in with all her friends at university, confirming The Telegraph’s statement back in 2014 that Tinder is “spreading faster than glandular fever across college campuses”. A clear success story of the app’s matchmaking ability, Monica stated that she enjoyed her ability to choose a specific age range of men. She also highlighted the advantage of Tinder first dates, stating that as two strangers going into a situation with purely romantic intentions, neither knows the other’s past and could easily never see each other again, meaning they have nothing to lose. With numerous twenty-something friends reporting success with the app, it appears that Tinder has revived the once stigma-ridden world of online dating. The Guardian recently noted that whilst online dating used to carry an assumption that the individuals signed up carried social ineptitude, the likes of Tinder now simply assume they are instead “working 13 hour days to convert their unpaid internship into an underpaid graduate job”. UK statistics show that our age group are holding off longer to marry, allowing Tinder to step in and ensure we make the most of this extended dating period. As app users tend to be smartphone holders at the dawn of their careers in urban centres, Tinder works to their benefit as a form of ‘dating on the go’. With the app claiming to make more than 15 million matches a day, users clearly value this no-nonsense swiping of profiles, with The Independent stating the benefit of daters “no longer having to trawl through lengthy profiles like an HR director looking for a new recruit.”
The simplicity of Tinder has resulted in the decline of rival matchmaking businesses, with companies such as Cupid, who were worth £180 million a few years ago, declaring in December their plans to sell the last of Cupid.com and uniformdating.com for a mere £3 million.
However, the often-praised simplicity of Tinder profiles also faces criticism, mainly centring on the arguably vain judgement of complete strangers. With an online blog recently highlighting the “grocery store mentality” of judging Tinder pictures, whereby it becomes “one long romantic shopping expedition with a never-ending supply of humans to sniff, squeeze and price-compare”, it has been suggested that the reasons for its success is that it allows you to be cruel anonymously. These critics highlight that the only outcome of this app can be that the best looking people gain matches, while the rest are cast aside. In addition, the simplicity of a profile that may carry only two pictures, a shared like of Bruce Springsteen, and a bio that reads “wearer of hats” (a genuine biography I came across), carries with it a sense of stranger danger. The fear of dating a potential drug dealer is not unreasonable, as I found out when Ellie, a student at Leeds University, responded to my request for stories. With her second Tinder date with a boy resulting in her being told to “hop into the back of this car” whilst her date “took care of some business” (exchanged drugs with his supplier), Ellie “quickly deleted Tinder after that”.
Of course, such criticisms are hardly unlikely when an app results in you doing exactly what your parents always advised against, talking to strangers. However, the importation of user’s information from Facebook allows those on Tinder to identify mutual friends with potential ‘matches’, meaning the validity of that person’s profile can be checked with friends. Sean Rad, founder of Tinder, responded to claims that the app was ‘shallow’ by stating that it was merely real life, asking: “when was the last time you walked into a bar and somebody said: ‘excuse me, can you fill out this form and we will match you with people in here?’.” This question reminded me of watching Rhys James perform a comedy show at the Fringe this summer, when he jokingly attacked those who criticise Tinder, an app that matches people with mutual friends and similar likes before meeting up, yet are more than happy to “lick the tongue of a stranger in a nightclub”.
Alice, a medical student at Newcastle, told me that she found the app “super addictive” but would only use it for the entertainment of “swiping”. This appeared to be the founders’ intentions, when they stated upon launch that “nobody joins Tinder because they’re looking for something, they join because they want to have fun”. With genuine opening chat up lines such as “just to inform you, I’m on the phone to iTunes customer service right now, they’ve made an error; you’re the hottest single of 2014”, there’s no doubt the app is fun. However, with The Independent recently reporting that an “unsettling number of men” appear in Tinder profiles “cutting cakes next to glowing brides”, perhaps it is wise to double check matches with mutual friends before embarking upon that first date.