About three weeks ago, much to my horror, I discovered that I actually liked Tinder. For those of you who don’t know, Tinder is the smartphone app equivalent of MySpace’s “Hot or Not” game, allowing you to swipe through profiles left and right. Everything’s verified through Facebook so there’s no need to worry about fake profiles and the only person who can see your choices is you. Swipe left, and you indicate that you’re not interested; swipe right, and hope for a match! It’s fairly simple to use and despite its somewhat seedy reputation, mostly frequented by average human beings like myself. You can even set it to filter certain characteristics like age, geographic location, and gender.
At first, I rarely “Liked” anyone. I read through every bio and nitpicked every photo I saw. I made fun of the fact that I had Tinder. To accentuate that point, my roommate and I even made it into a game, keeping a tally chart of all the repeated characteristics we found. Every time a guy had a picture of himself holding a big fish, I’d mark it down. (This was more common than you might expect, given where I live.) Every time there’d be a picture of a guy wearing a bowtie (outside of formal wear occasions) or with no picture at all I’d mark it down. And of course, I marked down any instances of blatant vulgarity or nudity in someone’s profile, though I’m happy to say there wasn’t much of it.
But the easy interface and hilarious profiles aren’t actually why I like Tinder. No, the reason I like it is much more shallow than that. To be blunt: it’s an ego boost. Sure, people put out their best photos and edit their bios to suit themselves, but it still feels really good to get a match. The whole point is to correspond with and message your matches (safely and privately through the application unless you want to properly meet up or exchange numbers), but even if you take that away, how nice is it just to know that someone finds you attractive? The “Hot or Not” game never used to tell you if the feeling was mutual; Tinder makes a point of it. That’s like going into a bar and watching two people go to talk to each other at the exact same time, instead of one person walking into possible rejection. How cool is that?
Some people have the confidence to do this in person and I truly admire them for that. Most of us don’t have that kind of self-confidence when it comes to dating, even if we’re happy with and totally comfortable in our own skin. We fear rejection, putting ourselves down and accentuating flaws in ways that others wouldn’t for myriads of reasons. It might be shallow to swipe people away left and right on a dating app based on a few pictures and a short bio, but who’s asking you to put your future in Tinder’s hands? Certainly I wouldn’t judge someone I met in real life based on those same qualifications; I like to think I’m a bit more open minded than that. (That said, anyone who says that physical attraction has no place in their relationship is lying to you. It may not be as big a factor as personality, but if there’s no physical chemistry than the relationship is sort of romantically doomed. In my opinion, anyway.) But no one says that you have to marry the people you match with on Tinder or even talk to them. Unlike a traditional online dating site, it doesn’t presume that its users have any intentions by opening an account. You can even “un-match” people if you change your mind.
And before you laugh at me and shrug this off, let me ask you this: if we can’t be candid about our preferences and shallow tastes in a private application setting, where can we be?