Closer Look

One Girl’s Failed Attempt To Start A Fire With Tinder

Photo courtesy of Guian Bolisay// Flickr

Was it love at first swipe? Definitely not. But with everything I had heard about Tinder, I wasn’t expecting it to be.

Tinder, an immensely popular dating app, has become something of a cultural phenomenon. On its website, Tinder claims to build relationships between friends and lovers, but it’s notorious for being a hookup app. Tinder is free and matches users based on their locations, which makes meeting your matches relatively easy. So is it just for hookups or is it something more? With love in the air and Valentine’s Day around the corner, I decided to join 50 million users, estimated by The New York Times.

My lover’s leap into Tinder wasn’t graceful, and I definitely face planted while trying to navigate the app. Notifications would appear on my phone saying things like, “You’ve been Super Liked! Swipe to find out by whom.” Super Liked? What does that even mean? (At least Tinder uses proper grammar.)

I later found out a Super Like is an upward swipe that indicates you really like a person. You can give one Super Like per day, so once I figured out what it meant, I knew I’d picked the right profile picture.

Once I got the hang of it, I was swiping away. Swipe right for people you want to match with and left for people you don’t. Having to judge someone solely on their profile picture was disappointing to me. Yes, Tinder allows room to include a brief bio and interests, and it also displays your mutual friends, but the idea of swiping based on a picture goes against what most of us were taught growing up: Don’t judge a book by its cover.

Although looks aren’t everything, I’d be lying if I said they aren’t important. People are judged every day based on how they dress, act and look. Looks were even one of the determining factors in whether I swiped left or right. Tinder doesn’t provide much else to consider when skimming through user profiles, so there I was, judging books by their covers. Proximity and similar interests were important, too.

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I had gotten 12 matches in two weeks and ended up talking to six. Some were kind, others were trying too hard and some seemed, to be frank, boring. The lucky match I met for a date was a Northwestern University medical student who we’ll call “Jim.” Jim sent me a message, and after a few exchanges, we decided to meet for coffee.

I had never been on a blind date before, and every rom-com I’d seen made me nervous to go on one. I was sitting at a high-top table waiting to meet him. Every time the door would open, my eye would flash in that direction to see if it was Jim. The anticipation was killing me.

Would he show up? Would he be as nice as he seemed through messaging? Was I about to be the next star of Catfish, the popular MTV series where people with online relationships meet and it rarely turns out to be who they thought it was? After all, 81 percent of people lie on their online dating profiles, according to The New York Times.

Fortunately, Jim was exactly who he said he was. Unfortunately, I knew there wouldn’t be a second date before the end of the first one.

We met at a Starbucks and he bought my chai tea — what a gentleman. Our one-hour conversation had me yawning more than my 8:30 a.m. classes. We chatted about school, careers and hobbies — you know, the typical ice breakers. The conversation flowed easily as we shared facts about ourselves, but it lacked the “spark” those rom-coms taught me should be there. The most interesting part of the conversation was when I told him I was a triplet. I still don’t think he’s over that little fun fact. We ended the night on good terms, said our goodbyes and went our separate ways.

Jim was a safe choice, which was a bit of a relief considering the bad rep Tinder has for fostering hookup culture.

According to a report in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, millennials participate in casual sex with more likelihood than earlier generations. The study revealed that 35 percent of people had casual sex in 1980 compared to the 45 percent of Millennials in 2010. Some, such as Vanity Fair in the article “Tinder and the Dawn of the ‘Dating Apocalypse,’” attribute this increase in casual sex to Tinder.

In reality, hookup culture existed way before it was “cool.” Millennials are just the generation taking the hit for it. Many assume Millennials have lost interest in building relationships and are more interested in casual sex. I am not one of those people, and studies show I’m not alone.

A research study called “Risky Business” showed that in a survey of 3,907 students from 30 universities in the U.S., 1 in 10 students said they have casual sex in college. A paper published by the American Sociological Association found “no evidence of substantial changes in sexual behavior that would support the proposition that there is a new or pervasive ‘hookup culture’ among contemporary college students.” 

So what is hooking up? The expression “hooking up” (or “messing around” or “friends with benefits”) is used to describe everything from kissing to having oral sex or intercourse, but it does not necessarily denote a relationship, according to WebMD.

I thought I was going to feel pressure to hook up with people when I made a Tinder, but that wasn’t the case. Some users are genuinely searching for real relationships. I went on a date with the hope of making a real connection, but the only connection I made was with the Starbucks Wi-Fi.

There is certainly more to Tinder than meets the eye. Today’s technology and connectivity makes meeting friends and lovers easier than ever. Tinder makes connecting easy, but what you do with those connections is entirely up to you.


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