Tinder? What's a Tinder? As my mom pursued Google a completely perplexed expression came across her face, and she read allowed, "tinder (noun), a dry substance that readily takes fire from a spark?" That's when I considered how I could explain to someone from a "pre-Internet generation" the mobile application that seems to be ruling the hookup culture and sex lives of young people today.
Studying abroad in Spain, I've been a bit out of the loop from reality. So I was shocked when one of my beautiful, intelligent, and reasonably independent friends told me with genuine enthusiasm that she finally went on her first Tinder date.
Though her review was less than favorable. "We texted for a while after, but he was only interested in a cheap hook up and nothing more." As a third party observer I wanted to tell her how ridiculous this sounded to me. To expect anything more. An application using only your Facebook photos to rate, text, and date whatever gender preference you enter? In five pictures you press the heart symbol or give them the X. It's completely based on the physical, with little profundity. If he was interested in something more "significant," more "substantial," wouldn't he look for it in the real world?
Later that same day another friend, male, recently graduated from college, mentioned he was going to meet up with a girl from Tinder as well. He raved about how informed she kept and how interesting her mind was. Fascinating descriptions about a girl he clicked "hot" on when her image came up on Tinder. It was as if he thought it necessary to provide disclaimers for using the dating application (for its intended purpose). I then got a Snapchat of another girl laying on a couch with the caption "Tindering, hungover on a Sunday..." Suddenly my most unsuspecting friends are legitimately using this app that seemed to have started out as a practical joke.
As the most used application during this year's winter Olympics; it's taking, not just the U.S., but the entire world by storm. UrbanDictionary.com is defining it as "the McDonalds for sex."
Even my Spanish classmates at the University of Sevilla always walk in on Mondays with entertaining stories of who they met and what they did that weekend, many of them "gracias a Tinder." When I asked a student why she uses Tinder she replied, "I mean, it's a sexy and exciting way to kill time I guess."
After considering this, I realized how rewarding the concept could be. We are all programed to desire praise, to crave attention and affection. Tinder has created this compact world that offers all of these things to its clients. Quiet teens and successful intellectuals alike, Tinder allows you to interact and experiment with virtually no consequences. Users engage in interesting conversations, keep their minds active, and are able to maintain an anonymity until the lights go off. It's allowing people to more freely express themselves. Tinder is making sexting a common trend, and helping to make promiscuity more socially acceptable than ever.
Although, at the same time it detracts from a certain element of affection, connection, and in consequence, respect for the other person as a human being with their own three-dimensional story, fears, and fantasies. Here lies the danger of relying on a mediator (Internet especially) in our relationships, sexual and otherwise.
Another friend and user of Tinder remarked that he hadn't actually chatted with anyone yet. "I just like going through the pictures that people post. Catching that chubby girl for trying to make herself look skinnier. It's really funny." Ouch. It calls to attention though, that online people can carefully plan their every word, picture, post. We construct an identity for ourselves that is a fallacy of our true self.
On a coffee date you can't stop and ask for advice on how to reply, or post a photo of "your good side," with a flattering filter. We're creating impossible expectations that make the ideal seem better than the real. These unrealistic expectations, this charade that we are all constantly living posh and luxurious lives (as shown in the Tinder website commercial) simply isn't true. Everyone has a bad hair day. The standard discourse that apps like Tinder (only one of the many) are perpetuating is not one we should be raising for ourselves nor our sexual partners.
If not before, it's now clear that today's youth is conditioned to continuously seek new and diverting media as forms of entertainment. A two-hour documentary can be condensed into a 5 minutes spoiler, and now the dating process can be shrunk to the glowing rectangles of our cell phones and intermittent chats throughout the day.
In what direction are we going? Are people soon going to be bored with Tinder all together and start seeking out relations in new spaces? Perhaps the most ingenuous people will find sex or even love in a mere hard drive or an operating system like Joaquin Phoenix's character as the soft spoken writer in the recent movie Her. Ladies and gentlemen, it's not too far off base. #makesyouwonder