TSUTSUMI ACUNA: Love in the age of Tinder

To die without finding love seems to most romantics a tragic fate. But thankfully, that would be a much more difficult fate to achieve than it might have been in past generations. With the aid of technological tools like Tinder and Screw Me Yale, it’s now easier than ever to meet and interact with others who are looking for a special someone. The battle today is less about finding love and more about discerning what type of love you hope to attain.

Theorists have identified many different forms of love. Psychologist Robert Sternberg has a triangular theory of love that places intimacy in one corner, passion in another and commitment in the third. These all combine in various ways to form hybrid types of love and romantic relationships.

But before the mixing and matching of these components began, two kinds of love existed: passionate and companionate. While passionate love can provide a brief high and a rush of sexual attraction, it is typically more short-lived than the affectionate care and emotional support that is provided by companionate love.

So which is it that we should be pursuing — passionate or companionate? Passionate love seems to be the likely winner. We see it in movies as leading characters like “The Notebook’s” Allie and Noah say their last proclamations of “I love you” and die simultaneously in each other’s arms. We document it in works like “Pride & Prejudice,” “Love in the Time of Cholera” and “Romeo and Juliet.” We sing about it, talk about it and are exposed to it as soon as we are introduced to fairy tales and Prince Charmings and happily ever afters.

While the feeling of passionate love should be experienced at some point in life, it is companionate love that can bring greater satisfaction in the long run. Companionate love involves mutual understanding, care and long-term compatibility between two people. While perhaps less dependent on sex, this form of love is a selfless one that fosters loyalty and creates a steady unity capable of withstanding time. And this type of relationship won’t necessarily be lacking in physical attraction as well.

When pursuing romantic relationships, people have to decide whether they’re seeking passionate or companionate love — each requires a different sort of approach. Apps like Tinder, FaceMate and Pure base romantic pursuits predominantly on appearances and sexual attraction, and should be avoided by those seeking companionship.

Tinder states in its advertisement on iTunes that, “It’s the new way to meet people,” insidiously suggesting that it is simply providing a new medium for achieving what traditional dating once did. In reality, the superficial nature of apps like Tinder offer only a path to shallow hook-ups at worst and ephemeral passion at best. Despite what its marketing team says, it will never overtake substantive conversation as “the way to meet people.” But in a culture where the desire for immediate gratification conflates with the Apple gizmo age, people might easily fall prey to this advertising and find the type of love they really seek is at odds with the means promised to get them there.

People have developed even quirkier, purely sexual methods for pursuing romantic relations that are likely to result in only short-lived passion. For example, some people are now mimicking a mating tactic used by cats and dogs by participating in pheromone parties, a trend catching on amongst singles. Singles sleep in a T-shirt for a few days straight, stuff them in Ziploc bags that are placed in the freezer to retain their natural scent and then bring them to a gathering. Participants at the party then sniff the various t-shirts and select their mates based on the scent they prefer. But can smell tell us anything about the personality characteristics of a mate? Can olfaction be the substitute for a meaningful first conversation?

Romantics looking for lasting partnerships need not worry; there are still outlets that have a very different approach from the ones listed above. Apart from the old fashioned practice of getting to know a stranger over a cup of coffee, there are campus dating services like YaleStation Dating, a website that works through the use of compatibility surveys rather than the appearance-based tactic that Tinder uses. Those of you who are less Internet-savvy can try out your conversational skills during a few quick rounds of speed dating. Yale events like Screw and Last Chance Dance show no signs of yielding to iPhone apps.

We are all trying to satisfy a need when pursuing a partner. It is important to identify whether we are trying to quell a momentary urge to be swept off of our feet, or a deeper desire to create a fortified, emotionally satisfying bond. The sooner we draw the distinction between our various desires, the closer we will come to finding our perfect match.

Ida Tsutsumi acuna is a junior in Saybrook College. Contact her at ida.tsutsumiacuna@yale.edu.

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