Tinder: Revolutionizing or Revealing Dating and Hookup Culture?

The logo of the mobile dating app Tinder.

Long gone are the days of dinner dates and ice skating romances and park picnics. Or so it seems. Millennials appear to have forsaken the art of dating, substituting in something that is far more practical and to the point, slicing away the unnecessary components of trying to get to know someone and giving unlikely potential lovers a fair shot. But these have recently given way to being able to scope out backgrounds via social media outlets, a quick Google search, or even one’s professional profile on LinkedIn. Before even meeting someone in person, we now have the luxury of getting to know nearly everything we would need to know about a person within sheer minutes due to our Internet footprints. Instead of testing the waters on a blind date it becomes possible instead now to almost get to know someone’s personality before ever even meeting them in person, via online exchanges, thereby removing the shroud of secrecy and mystery from dating.

In this piece I want to talk about Tinder. Instead of trying to make the argument that Tinder is the new kid on the block somehow diminishing what dating or hookups once were with its new ways, I argue instead that Tinder is simply the creation of all of the things Millennials have always wanted in dating and hookups. It is not a foreign entity, but rather, more or less, was fabricated from the minds and desires of our generation. This idea is only reinforced by its recent and incredible popularity among our generation.

For those of you who haven’t experienced Tinder, the concept is simple. First, you set up a profile. In order to ensure authenticity and to prevent bots and other scamming tactics, Tinder profiles are often linked to one’s Facebook, through which you can also upload photos. After filling out and completing a brief description and deciding which gender(s) you’d like to view and be discoverable to, it’s time to start playing.

On Tinder you can either swipe right to “like” a person’s profile or swipe left to pass (“nope”) someone’s profile. Of course, you can read the mini-bios that are provided, but oftentimes people will simply neglect the bios and only view the photo(s) provided to make their decision (which direction they choose to swipe). That said, there are many concerns raised about the sort of culture this may be promoting, one in which we systematically separate people based on looks, a form of objectification almost, to see if someone is worthy of whatever purpose we have in mind based only on superficial appearances. While it may seem that this sort of behavior and setup is completely unjustifiable, I wish to offer a point. This is exactly what we do in real life too. This is not necessarily defending this aesthetic binary distinction, but instead pointing out that this isn’t quite as rare as we’re making it out to be. If anything, Tinder is simply more honest and upfront about what people look for when looking for dates or hookups.

Whether or not people choose to admit it, many people will make preliminary judgements about others based on their appearance before really getting to know them. Is this the right thing to do? Not really. But instead of lecturing about the merits of not judging a book by its cover and giving everyone a chance. This becomes even more common when it comes to forming intimate relationships, such as dating or hooking up with someone. As such, Tinder provides users with an efficient way to quickly sift through nearby users to see if someone else also “likes” your profile, thereby resulting in a “match”.

The appeal of Tinder, I propose, is that it feeds off of exactly what we look for in others, whether or not we want to admit it. People complain about the app and more often than not seem to criticize it, but its usage and popularity speaks volumes about how individuals actually feel about it. Something about instant gratification mixed with spontaneous boosts of self-esteem when getting a match sprinkled with the excitement of possibly finding what you might be looking for lead to a perfect combination. Tinder is able to utilize all of these aspects, especially capitalizing on mutual interest, which sidesteps, for the most part, the issue of one-way interest. Of course, there is still always the possibility of not finding someone to be quite that appealing post-match, but it nevertheless does reduce the chances of encountering someone you would rather not like to.

All in all, Tinder provides Millennials and other users with a platform for online dating and hookups. I’m not sure if the application itself will be here to stay or if it will turn into passing trends like MySpace or AIM. What I do know though is that Tinder provides important insight into what the “customers” or in this case, users, really want from intimate relationships. Tinder may shed light on the future of these sorts of relationships, perhaps foreshadowing a greater acceptance of open relationships, casual hookups or sexual encounters, or other aspects of our interactions with others.

This article was written by Amar Ojha, founder and writer at dusk magazine. 

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