Following in the footsteps of the illustrious Maria Yagoda ’12, Aisha Matthews ’13 is going to be WEEKEND’s new romance and sex columnist. Look out for her work on the WKND BLOG — it’ll be on a screen near you soon!
So, as a social experiment, I joined Tinder for 48 hours. From what I’ve heard, it’s taken Yale by storm, mesmerizing our iPhone-wielding population and even inspiring DKE to throw a couple of Tinder mixers. I had to get the scoop. And given that I’m taken, I had nothing to gain and nothing to lose. This is what I found…
When Tinder was first described to me, I imagined it as a portable dating service. Like some of the ill-fated classic dating sites that I admittedly perused in high school, I thought that it would be a place where lazy singles gathered to lie about their skills and interests and subtly hint at a casual hookup. The only twist that I imagined was that Tinder brings the art of lying about one’s intentions into the mobile world: i.e., lie while you work, eat, wait in line for the bathroom. But upon joining Tinder, I’ve discovered that it’s much better than that — or worse, really.
Unlike the millennial dating sites, which require one to carefully craft one’s persona, Facebook-style and define one’s status and expectations, Tinder has no such prerequisites. After resignedly accepting that Tinder will link to your Facebook and silently praying that they won’t post it to everyone you know, you realize that the app is incredibly simplistic in nature. With the exception of your sexual preference (male or female), scouting radius and a few photo options, Tinder pretty much cuts out the bullshit of pretending to care about someone’s inner self. After registering, Tinder users can flip through potential singles, or maybe not-so singles, within a desired radius and either “like” or “nope” them, the former of the actions immediately starting a chat window if this someone has also liked you.
What’s so strange about the activity is how addictive it is. I’m sure we’ve all had a time when we wished that eligible suitors could be presented to us “Bachelor” style, with the option of accepting or rejecting them based solely on physical characteristics. And, even more so, I’m sure we’ve all wished for an instant way of knowing whether the guy talking to us at the bar is really interested in us or, instead, one of our friends. Well, Tinder’s heeding the call. And even more importantly than taking the guesswork out of meeting strangers, Tinder has given us a less creepy way of looking for casual sex. After scrolling through a mountain of “nopes” and making a few likes based solely on appearance, I was able to chat with a few of the “men of Tinder” in my instantly organized chats. While two guys pretended to be interested in where I’m from and where I go to school, one brazen dude just cut straight to the chase and told me, “You’re hot. … We should definitely meet up sometime.”
Without so much as a “What things do you like?” or “What do you do for fun?”, Tinder pretty much encourages single 20-somethings to make contact with no demonstrated compatibility aside from the desire for anonymous sex. In general, aside from the “mutual friends” and “shared interests” features, the app gives you no way of knowing what the person on the other end is all about.
While the overall idea of giving like-minded people a means of getting together isn’t a bad one, I hardly feel that Tinder can be considered a dating app. Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but nothing about Tinder screams, “let’s start a long-term relationship” to me. And what’s worse is that whereas people might be shy about meeting up with a person they’ve met online in real life, Tinder somehow alleviates that skepticism. Suddenly, you feel as though your “match” must be a safe individual to talk to, because … what? They have a Facebook? Hardly the criteria we’d accept under any other circumstances.
As one of the lucky few to have spent my college years in a happy relationship, I know it’s easy for me to talk. I go on dates and get to cuddle at the end of the night and don’t have to play the game of hoping to get lucky every Wednesday through Saturday. I haven’t pulled a “15-minute Toad’s” or a G-Heav one-night stand because I haven’t had to. But I’m realizing that Tinder reflects the acceptance of a change in our dating culture that is, in my opinion, for the worst. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with casual flings or dance-floor makeouts, particularly if they help you learn something about yourself, but this Tinder culture suggests that we’ve lowered our standards. While we may accept that guys aren’t going to buy us flowers for a first date or that girls often shut guys down when they try to buy them a drink, there’s a huge difference between finding new people in new places for casual encounters, and picking through a list of random faces looking for our next “kill.”
In college, none of this seems harmful. If every college student spent all of the hours they spend out looking for action on studying, we might be in a second Renaissance by now. Cutting down the time and the costs associated with finding new romantic interests is every college kid’s dream. But what happens to us when we’re 30? When we’re all still single and socially incapable of forming meaningful relationships. Or worse, when we decide that we want to settle down and realize that our culture no longer values or promotes monogamy, but instead shies away from seriousness. The changes we’re seeing represent a move away from a society that values commitment, at least throughout our 20s.
And maybe that’s fine too. But instead of talking about it, we seem to be ignoring the signs. We’re not placing value on virginity or faithfulness or respect. Tinder, despite using your Facebook information, does not utilize your relationship status. We’re indulging in a culture that facilitates cheating, or, at the very least, a very serious lack of transparency. Anonymity is great. A lack of it is part of what makes dating sites so scary. People constantly fear being discovered by their friends or co-workers because we see it as lame to be looking for love online. But, on the other hand, when we make the decision to sleep with someone random, it’s usually after a fun night out, or because of a mutual friend. We know something about this person’s interests, personality and the likelihood of them turning out to be a serial killer. Eliminating that step is not only less fun, but more dangerous, both figuratively and literally. Beyond the physical dangers, both guys and girls should respect themselves enough to want more from their hookups, be they for the night or for the long haul.
I do think that Tinder is an interesting social experiment. It shows us how we’d act if sex were always at our fingertips. It gives us a way of thinking about sex discreetly but constantly, without fear of judgment or of our pasts following us into the hookup world. But think about this: At the same time that Tinder is hiding your secrets, it’s probably hiding someone else’s. Most of us wouldn’t look for a casual encounter on Craigslist, but our opinion changes when the subject is between 18 and 25 and ready to chat at a moment’s notice.
I don’t think Tinder is bad. But I do think that we should always be paying attention to who we let into our lives and our beds. The world might be moving away from the days of dinner dates and dancing, but we’ve still got frat parties and Toad’s and bars to go looking for love. Maybe that’s the new old-fashioned. But finding love in the hopeless place that is a frat basement has to be a step up from searching on your phone, when you could be meeting people in real life. Who knows? Splitting the last of the beer from a tapped keg could be the beginning of a beautiful romance. But would you really want to admit to your future kids that you met via iPhone? Creep on. Just maybe creep in person, too.