My first experience with Tinder was on the patio of my favorite bar one night last summer, sitting with friend. “You have to try this app,” she told me. “You’re gonna love it.”
I was out of a relationship, not interested in dating, but needed some sort of nudge to get me back in the game, any game, lest I die alone in an apartment surrounded by empty cans of cat food and back issues of Us Weekly. Tinder seemed to be the trick, and at first, I was fascinated. Technology is truly a wonder. I had my pick of whatever Williamsburg had to offer — the good, the bad, the eye roll-y. What a world!
“Stop swiping so fast!” she exclaimed. “Here, give me that.”
She started swiping with reckless abandon. “It’s quantity over quality, here,” she told me. “Trust me, I wouldn’t do you wrong.” Powerless to stop this force, I sat back and finished my beer. My phone was back in my possession, face down. Within minutes, it started vibrating, lighting up with messages from different dudes that my friend had taken it upon herself to reach out to on my behalf.
“I knew you weren’t going to do it yourself,” she told me. She was right.
Tinder is the best and the worst way to begin the process of online dating. It’s extremely low-stakes, the kind of thing you do in line for the bathroom at Starbucks, or waiting for the bus. It’s Candy Crush for your libidio, a mindless form of entertainment, but with a dangerous twist — the potential to turn into something real.
Does anyone actually transition their Tinder boos to real life, actual relationships? At first glance, Tinder seems to be a marketplace for no-strings attached sex. With the lack of actual information, and the quick way you decide in a snap whether or not someone is attractive enough to want to engage with, Tinder is the best place to get yourself into a good friends with benefits situation. It distills the essence of physical attraction into a single action, making it the perfect place for someone new to the game to test the waters. A match on Tinder is almost a tacit agreement, that yes, if we were to meet in person, and got along enough to have one to two drinks, then maybe we could bone, or at least make out. Nothing more, nothing less.
The best part about Tinder is that it provides you with a tiny bit of validation. The millisecond it takes the app to register a match is heavy with anticipation. Did this person feel the same way about my cleverly-angled and heavily curated collection of profile photos? When the answer’s yes, that tiny sparle in your chest is the feeling of your self-esteem levels rising just a tad. I don’t care if you’re the most confident, self-assured person out there — it never gets old to hear that someone you find attractive thinks the same of you.
Tinder eliminates the risk of the unknown. The worst part about online dating is that you have no valid way of vetting the person before meeting them. I am not the kind of person who does well with strangers. I’d much rather date someone who was a friend of a friend. I like to know what I’m getting into, and nothing assures me more than a friend’s reassurance that the person they’re setting me up with is a decent person. OkCupid is an abyss of strangers, Tinder a little more so, but there’s a catch — everyone who is on Tinder is also on Facebook. You can see who your mutual friends are, and that tiny bit of information is all I need. If you see a potential that happens to be friends with your ex, that girl you don’t like from high school, your shitty coworker — swipe left!
The worst part about Tinder really mirrors the worst part of life — the risk of seeing people you don’t want to see. Seeing a coworker on Tinder is funny. Seeing your boss on Tinder is amazing. Seeing your ex on Tinder sucks the air out of the room. Once their grinning face is there on the screen, you’re faced with the choice to swipe left or swipe right. The instinct to swipe right is powerful, no matter how good you feel about the way the relationship ended. Swiping right is a tacit I SEE YOU, a digital acknowledgement of the fact that you’re moving on, and you see that they have too. There will be no followup from this move, no awkward happy hour drinks where you hash out what you’ve been doing the past couple of months but the point is that you saw them. They see you. If you don’t match with them, it’s not the end of the world. The fact that you guys aren’t together is proof enough.
Friends of mine who use Tinder regularly do it mostly for amusement — something to keep them occupied when they’re on the couch watching “Nashville”. I know very few people that have had actual success. A friend uses Tinder regularly, but rarely meets the dudes she chats with. “It always fizzles out before it’s go time,” she told me. The only success story I’ve ever heard is a friend who has been dating a girl he met on Tinder for almost 3 months. She’s very nice, and they seem to really like each other. “We realized that this was going to be more than just a hook up,” he told me. “We tried to give it a shot, and it worked out.” This unicorn of a success story gives hope to us all.