The benefits of Tinder might come at a cost
By Jacob Foote
NIAGARA UNIVERSITY, NEW YORK – With the light of a new day, students across campus stumble out of bed and grab their phones, catching up on whatever they missed in their sleep. In the bathroom they’re swiping their screens left and right, seldom looking away during their morning business. Between (and during) classes, a quick vibration in one’s pocket alerts them to check their phone. At night, they type messages to one another when the only light in the room emanates from their screens and flows over their faces.
But they are not playing the latest mobile game or texting their friends. Instead, they are using Tinder, the immensely popular matchmaking app.
The basic premise of the app sees that users create profiles advertising themselves with pictures and maybe a description of oneself. From there, the app allows others to see that person (that is, their profile) and offers them the option to swipe right for “like” and left for “not interested.” Once two people “like” each other in this way, the app congratulates the users with a notification saying they matched and allows them to begin communicating with one another through a built-in text messaging system. At any time, one of them may cut-off the contact, or simply ignore the other person and go back to swiping.
“I’ve used in the past,” said junior Sofia Castro. “I was in Peru, and my friend was going to a concert and she was like ‘oh just download Tinder so you can talk to people’ so I was like, okay!”
An anonymous freshman said he used Tinder “just out of boredom, and it’s fun. It’s a nice little ego booster.”
Idealistically, this seems like an efficient way to meet a number of people in the pursuit of a relationship, or just to chat. However, not everyone is convinced.
“There’s just something about the concept of judging people based on how they look, swiping left, swiping right,” said sophomore Jack Klem. Rather than creating couples, he felt that the app – among other things – encourages hook-up culture. “I don’t think Tinder really helps with the situation.”
“I think it is sex driven. I’ve never heard a good outcome from it,” said sophomore Maria Pedini. “I think meeting people online is fine in a lot of cases, but Tinder is just different.” She felt that Tinder had a bad reputation, noting creepy experiences she had heard of.
In disagreement, Castro said, “I think it depends on the person, like it’s very subjective because I have a friend that literally met her boyfriend of like 4 months on Tinder.”
Dr. Tewksbury, Associate Professor of Communication Studies, seems to agree with Castro. In his eyes, the way media technology is used is determined by the user based on their desires. That is, there tends to be a variety of different functions one technology may serve.
“It’s like asking why people use twitter … it’s all up to the user,” he said.
While it is up to users how they use Tinder, many students felt the app fostered a sort of narcissism.
“I think it does everything that is kind of ‘instant gratification’ about our society,” said Castro. In her eyes, matches appear as a sort of self-validation. “I do think it’s more personal than it is about others.”
“I think it makes people more arrogant,” said an anonymous senior women. “I think it’s almost like a game, because that’s how I saw it.” Instead of looking at Tinder as a way to meet someone, she found herself interested in how many people she could match with. It was a gateway to attention.
However, attention for what?
“They only see your outside image,” said sophomore Cody Pinicwiki. “They don’t really see who you actually are, so they’re just seeing if you’re attractive or not.”
“Nobody wants to be judged that way, yet we all judge other people that way on something like Tinder,” said Dr. Tewksbury.
In a way, the mentality of consumption pervades through match-making apps like Tinder. With its emphasis on appearance and efficiency, participation in the “human market” seems at times to be of a detriment to its users.
“It almost dehumanizes people kinda,” said an anonymous junior Tinder user, noting the psychological effect of losing touch with the fact that you are browsing through human beings.
“If you’re looking for your match, you want to match personality and who you are. That’s not what pops up when you’re swiping left or right,” said Pedini.
Given the problems Tinder has, it comes with no surprise that people have a vision of a better way of doing things.
Pinicwiki, finding the image-based nature of Tinder unsatisfactory, advocated something like eHarmony where users have more to their profiles than just pictures. Klem agreed with this sentiment, saying a profile should include one’s interests, school major and general life goals.
Other students had a different approach in mind.
When asked what the ideal dating app would be, the anonymous freshman said “not using an app and going out to a public place and meeting a person.” Pedini agreed, saying nothing was ideal.
“An app where it tells you every local bar’s lady’s night, and you go out and you meet people in person,” said the anonymous junior. “I think that’s the perfect dating app. Anything that encourages human connection.”
While it might not be the most efficient way to meet people, perhaps efficiency isn’t what we need. Perhaps, more than ever, we need to focus on humanizing our relationships.