September 11, 2020

In Defense of Tinder

I don’t know why I feel the need to defend Tinder, but I’m really annoyed with all of the undeserved flack it’s getting. Here’s why:

“It’s a hookup app”
Many people dismiss Tinder as a hookup app. It’s certainly possible to use it that way – and that may even have been the intent of the creators – but apps like these produce results based on how you use them. Some people want to hook up, and Tinder makes it easy for them. Don’t want to hook up? THEN DON’T USE IT TO HOOK UP. What is it about the app that only allows you to meet a stranger for sex versus having conversations and asking each other out on a date? Oh, it’s YOU! Additionally, if you think there aren’t a ton of people using other dating sites/apps to try to score quick hookups, you’re…well…no one actually thinks this, do they?

Anecdotal evidence: I’ve matched up with many men in my time using Tinder. Sure, some of them are obviously just looking for hookups, but I can usually spot that in their profile. If some do make it through to a match, their intentions become obvious pretty quickly, so I just unmatch them and move on. And then what’s left are the people that start an actual conversation that has nothing to do with sex. More than you would think, actually. After a few messages back and forth to get a feel for each other, we eventually decide to meet for coffee, a drink, etc. I have gone out on several very pleasant dates with very nice men. Yes, I often sleep them, but that’s not the main focus for either of us, and many of these dates lead to long friendships or even fulfilling romantic relationships.

“It’s superficial”
The emphasis on photos in the Tinder app has also come under fire. During the swiping process, you are shown a photo of a potential match as well as their name and age. You can swipe left for Not Interested or right for Interested. It’s kind of like window shopping for dates. But here’s the thing: you can also tap the photo to see a bio (if they’ve written one), shared interests on Facebook, and even shared Facebook friends. It’s not much different than what you find on other dating apps, although it is more condensed. But, can we be honest with each other here? EVERYONE LOOKS AT THE PICTURES FIRST ON THE OTHER SITES, TOO. I’m sorry to yell it, but it’s true and it’s time we admitted it. OKCupid knows it, and they’ve said as much while analyzing data in blog posts. I’ve received countless messages from guys who made it very obvious that they didn’t read a single word of my profile. So what makes Tinder the bad guy? Oh, because they are blatant about it. What’s more, this is no different than what we do when we are out in the real world meeting strangers. Actually, in these situations you have even LESS information than what you find on Tinder. Assuming this is a complete stranger, you know almost nothing about the person, other than the fact that you are attracted to their looks.

I’m not saying that looks should be your ONLY criteria when making dates, but, in general, physical attraction is the first step in generating interest between two people, regardless of which site you use, or whether you’re using a dating site at all.

Take, for instance, these three real-life dating scenarios:

  1. I see a cute guy in a bar. I think he’s giving me interested looks. I strike up a conversation and end up talking to him for a little while as we sip our beers. I’m delighted to discover that we have a lot in common and he’s quite funny. We exchange numbers and look forward to meeting up again soon. 
  2. I’m browsing OKCupid and see a cute profile photo, so I click through to read his profile. He seems cool. We send a few messages back and forth and seem to have a good repoire. We make plans to go on a date. 
  3. I’m swiping through Tinder. I see a cute boy and tap his photo to see more. His bio is funny and we both like Lady Gaga. I swipe right. It’s a match! I go to my inbox, click on his name, and start a conversation. The conversation goes well and we makes plans to go on a date. 

All perfectly “respectable” scenarios. All started with physical attraction.

And have we all forgotten about the old adage, “A picture is worth a thousand words”? There are a lot of things you can convey in just a few photos. For example, if someone was looking at my profile he’d see that I play the saxophone, like to dress up in silly costumes, go to Burning Man, change my hair color a lot, and play bumper pool. If you’re looking at profiles and seeing nothing but a bunch of selfies and an ab/cleavage shot, you can be pretty sure there is not much more to this person than a decent body with a side order of narcissism. Swipe left. People with substance and personality will show it in their photos.

“I can’t tell if people are a good match because there’s not enough information”
Okay, you’ve got a point there. Other than front-loading people who have already Swiped Right on you, it doesn’t appear that Tinder makes any attempt to match you up with like-minded individuals. So yeah, you’re going to have to do a little bit of that work yourself. JUST LIKE YOU WOULD DO WHEN MEETING A STRANGER IN A BAR. You can actually tell a lot about someone based on their collection of photos and bio. In addition to the photos mentioned above, which already give a good indication of my personality and interests, my bio states that I’m non-monogamous and like to say “bro” a lot. More pieces to the puzzle are put into place. What next? How about a conversation? Just like real-world dating, Tinder forces you to have actual conversations with people to find out their interests, opinions, hopes, and dreams. The long bios, stats, and opinions you may find on other dating sites will come up organically as you get to know the person, and you might even find that things in a long bio that might have caused you to dealbreakers take on a new context when they come up in natural conversation.

Those are the main complaints I hear, but here are a couple of honorable mentions:

“It’s full of creeps”
What dating app isn’t? I haven’t seen any evidence in my own experience that suggests there are more creeps on Tinder than other apps, nor have I read any stats that prove this point. If anything, the requirement that you both like each other before you’re allowed to connect has drastically reduced the number of creepy/annoying messages I get.

“No one writes back”
Again, how is this different from other dating apps? I’ve actually found that more people write back to me, presumably because we’ve already established a mutual attraction by swiping right on each other.

Sure, the Tinder app has its flaws. There are probably some features that would make it easier to use and help you find better matches. And there are people who use it in ways that contribute to all of the “flaws” I’ve mentioned. They’ll have fun judging people based on their looks and get their quick hookups (or not), but that doesn’t have to be your experience. It certainly hasn’t been mine. With all of the features and percentages and methods of matching the other sites offer, in the end these dating apps are what you make of them. Just like many things in life, you get back from things what you put into them. Maybe you should just give it a chance and really pay attention to the way you are using the app. Or not. That’s fine. It may not be your cup of tea, but plenty of people are having great success with it, and it certainly doesn’t deserve the villain status that popular opinion has assigned to it. So keep that in mind the next time I mention the really great Tinder date I had the other night, and shut the fuck up.

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