in Tech

The Trouble with Tinder

Tinder is the newest app craze to sweep the college crowd. The concept is very simple: you sign up, put in your preferred gender, age limits, and maximum distance from you, and then are presented with a stack of profiles that fit the bill. Based off of up to five photos, a tagline, and any shared friends or interests you may have on Facebook, you give the thumbs up or down to the profile,  accompanied by a gleefully self righteous “LIKED” or “NOPE” stamp, respectively. If you approve a profile and the profile also approves you, then the app connects you like a normal chat client, and if that hottie you swiped right with such vehemence gave you a “NOPE”, you, and your ego, are  none the wiser. Plausible deniability for the win.

It’s no surprise this has become the new craze – it’s an updated version of “Hot or Not” with the additional possibility of face to face encounters down the road. Even when I don’t encounter any mutual matchs,   Tinder sessions entail me swiping my way through an endless parade of beautiful women. It’s addicting.

That’s one thing I can’t figure out –the percentage of  Tinder women that are attractive is much higher than real life. Speaking for myself, I am only swiping left on around 15% of these ladies, but walking around the real world, that threshold is much higher. A friend hypothesized that attractive women already know they are attractive and want to have it reinforced by endless Tinder matches, but I’m not sure. Whatever the reason, in my personal experience there sure are a lot of them.

And they seem to fall into certain categories – a large portion of the Tinder ladies in my area are die hard Giants fans, belong to a sorority, and want me to check out their Instagram even before we even match up (they put it in their Tagline). Also, I have never in my life encountered so many ridiculously spelled female names. Jennifur? Shauntel? Meow?! What kind of parents name their child Meow!? I can’t even take those girls’ meticulously staged picture seriously because it’s displayed next to an phonetically spelled version of 1991’s most popular girl baby name.

Tinder’s main shortcoming is that most people don’t seem to take it seriously. Part of the initial fun of downloading it was that it  purposefully straddles the line between a hook up app and an actual dating app. But it’s too slow to connect you for the former, and too casual for the latter.  It’s almost impossible to learn anything worthwhile about your matches through texting them – that requires meeting them in person, which is often an insurmountable obstacle for these women wary of digital sex predators. That said, it’s a fun gimmick, and recaptures the middle school thrill of texting half sentences to someone who may be romantically interested in you, waiting with bated breath for their response.

Why do I say they don’t take it seriously? Out of my few dozen matchs over summer (hardly statistically significant, I know), only five of them  carried on a conversation with me – the rest never responded to my neutral opener of “Hi!”. Maybe  they never use the app, or maybe they have far too many other matches to pay me attention. But this fact coupled with the behavior of those who have responded (lots of flippant, noncommittal answers), and one of my matches grilling me on why I downloaded the app in the first place before she would consider a date, makes me think otherwise.

Tinder’s ease of use is a double edged sword – it makes us place less importance on each person because they’re just another face in the stack. Whereas before you would while away a few minutes while waiting for the bus playing Angry Birds, now you can swipe through a few dozen attractive women in the area who may be inclined to meet up with you. It’s an perfect little time killer, but these are real people! The unimportant method of introduction makes you less likely to treat the person on the other end with respect. That’s why I stopped using the app – I didn’t feel like it was worth my time – that none of the women were taking me seriously.

That said, it’s a clever business idea and incredibly well executed. The idea got me to thinking about similar spin off app ideas, like dating apps that would require you to answer questions about a certain passion before allowing you entry. Tinder4Progammers = pass a simple coding test before being able to meet other code monkeys. Tinder4SportsFans = answer trivia questions correctly about some sports team or recent events to meet others who are just as gung ho about the locals colors. Tinder4Politicos, Tinder4Nerds, the list goes on and on.

Or you could have a Tinder that lets you swipe through an area before you arrive – for instance, if I’m planning to be in a different city next weekend, I could Tinderize the local population before I got there, and arrange plans to meet up while I’m in town. That’d be ripe for short term hookups, as you know that they wouldn’t always be around, but it could also be good for travelers looking for people who are willing to show somebody around town, or maybe even Couchhost them, regardless of gender. Hosting a stranger might be too intense for such a simple mechanic, but you get the idea.

You could also have an exremely localized Tinder version that stresses meeting up with someone who happens to be in your area. Think about it – you enter a bar, a restaurant, a house party, even airport lounges or what have you – and then you are presented with simplified Tinder profiles which you can swipe just like before, but this time if you swipe right it tells you exactly where they are in the venue so that you can approach them rather than text. Bam – instant conversations starter. “Hi, are you Paisley from Tinder? I’m Corey, I think you just swiped me right.” With this method you’d lose the plausible deniability, as you could have someone swipe you left and then identify them in person, but few people would have enough gall to approach them at that point. It nullifies all the fear of face to face rejection that a face to face approach has. And you’d have to take it seriously – though I doubt I could keep a note of incredulity from entering my voice if I ever approached ‘Meow’.