Hearing a friend say they’re going on a date always prompts the question, How did you meet this person? Increasingly, I’ve begun to accurately anticipate the answer: Tinder. Sitting in class or on public transport watching people swipe left and right has made me question the dating app that most of McGill appears to be using and that is increasingly intertwined with how teens and young adults form relationships. Surrounded by people and educational stimulation, students are undoubtedly living through a formative period in our lives. Therefore, dating apps like Tinder are capable of disrupting the way we form relationships and view other people both in a present and future context.
The app’s structure and navigability is fairly simple: users pick a cover photo and several other images which potential matches can look through should they find the visual bait intriguing. To complete their profile, users can provide a brief bio about themselves, allowing them to determine if they want to be read as funny, aloof, or as a simple way of working in that Frank Ocean reference that only the people ‘that really get them’ will recognize. While Tinder does not sell itself as being purely image based, it’s safe to assume that the guiding force behind most swipes is based on what you see rather than what you read.
To complete their profile, users can provide a brief bio about themselves, allowing them to determine if they want to be read as funny, aloof, or as a simple way of working in that Frank Ocean reference that only the people ‘that really get them’ will recognize.
This bears a striking resemblance to now common activities like online shopping, where selecting the date for your Friday night plans similar to choosing a new pair of pants. This does not account for the nuances of arranging a meeting or messaging someone once you have matched, or the fact that what you are shopping for are autonomous beings rather than inanimate objects. Yet many of the parallels suggest that Tinder runs the risk of commodifying the relationships — sexual or otherwise — the app promises. While browsing for people based on visual appeal might be appropriate within the context of Tinder, this could have potential consequences later in life, where initiating conversation to access late night company isn’t always as easy as navigating through a host of eligible and attractive partners.
Allowing images to act as the basis for initial contact with a potential interest is not too different from spotting a potential library crush across the fourth floor of McLennan. Biologically, we’re driven to pursue humans with pleasing facial features; using images as one of the primary components of a person’s profile is reflective of a visually-oriented society. Yet Tinder removes many of the nuances that accompany a person’s physical appearance, including the way they carry themselves, body language, and the way a person engages in conversation—even if seen from afar—that are contributing factors in prompting our romantic or physical attraction.
Allowing images to act as the basis for initial contact with a potential interest is not too different from spotting a potential library crush across the fourth floor of McLennan.
Tinder can also engage users in a self-perpetuating cycle, where they are less inclined to pursue relationships in day-to-day social interactions due to the belief in the dating app as a ‘back-up’, while simultaneously allowing people to believe that meeting romantic interests outside of Tinder is difficult. Attending a school like McGill and living in Montreal means that we are exposed to great volumes of people on a daily basis. While the vast majority of these encounters do not extend past casual eye contact in the hallway, it seems unnecessary to turn to digital resources to pursue relationships considering that the volumes of people we have access to now are likely to decline later in life.
Though many Tinder users claim that Tinder can be used for pursuing long-term relationships, the primary purpose for the app is essentially hooking up and casual sex. With as many as 72 percent of college students use Tinder, it can at times feel that everyone around you is flitting in and out of relationships, or that there’s something largely intentional about being alone. Sex still occupies a large social focal point, and so from certain perspectives, Tinder is seen as changing our relationship with sex by allowing it to become more casual and in, some ways, trivial. At the same time, Tinder effectively emphasizes the sexual side of relationships, inverting a more traditional model where the initial relationship is based off a mutual desire to get to get to know one another before moving to the bedroom.
While Tinder might be leading our generation astray in changing the way we view both sex and love, it’s also important to consider the profitability of dating platforms outside of our student years. With social circles and the desire to hit the bar scene dwindling as we age, online resources might be a viable option for those attempting to navigate the forty-something dating world. Yet, in a time when we have the ability to network and encounter a plethora of new people, coupled with a degree of mental malleability, we need to more closely examine Tinder for its material consequences.