As AOL is to Yahoo and Facebook is to Twitter,
Match.com is to Tinder.
(Or something like that.)
One of my hippest best girlfriends happens to be six years younger than I am and lives in New York City. After hearing about my online dating woes on the left coast using some of the better known online dating websites, she suggests that I join Tinder.
“Is that like Grindr but for straight people?” I ask, taking a swig of coconut water and throwing the remainder into a blender filled with kale.
“I don’t know, but everyone here is talking about it.”
A former New Yorker myself, I know that NYC is always on top of the next big thing; so when John Stewart cracks a joke about Tinder on the Daily Show that same night, I know it’s got to be kismet (for you New Age kids, that’s Jew-speak for “synchronicity”).
While I wait for the Tinder app to download on my iPhone, I google “Tinder.”
My results yield a Huffington Post article that won’t load, a GQ piece about why the app is such a great success and a somewhat offensive, yet amusing, piece written for women about what not to do on Tinder. I learn, through a Marie Claire post, that Tinder will pull my information from Facebook, access my profile pictures, my likes and my friends.
I am relatively protective of my online identity, particularly when it comes to Facebook; I even insisted on using a Facebook alias pre-Edward Snowden. Still, review after review describes Tinder as “highly addictive” and I know immediately that I have to try it—at least once.
When the download completes my heart actually starts racing as the Tinder app opens on my iPhone 5 for the first time. I feel like I am about to get caught doing something bad.
If Tinder really is the straight Grindr, and everyone on here is looking to get laid, I don’t want to be a part of it. What if people who know me professionally see me on here? I can’t have that. I wait while my Facebook profile pic (minimized and in the form of a perfect circle) rests in the center of a white screen, and a pink circle pulsates outward—searching the blank canvas around it like some strange Breast Cancer Awareness-colored sonar.
“There’s no one new around you,” it reads. My heart drops. No one??!! But then something magical happens. Photos of boys appear.
I say boys here and not men, because while Tinder may be the new great thing in NYC, it appeared, at first, that the only people who discovered Tinder in San Diego had also recently had their braces removed and traded their learner’s permits in for bona fide driver’s licenses.
Many of the boys appear to be newly 21 as evidenced by the ubiquitous photos of them drinking at bars, drinking at clubs, and drinking from red Solo cups at parties. “Look ma, I can drink!” I really hope this isn’t a hookup-only site. If it is, I really want to contact some parents around here.
The app tells me that if I swipe someone’s main profile photo to the right, it means that I “like” them. To the left? “Unlike.” One image after another appears on my screen. The first is of a muscular bald guy holding, and aiming, a very large gun, I swipe to the left and the app stamps the word, “NOPE” on his photo in all caps and then his photo disappears to the left forever. I never have to see him again.
I start swiping to the left repeatedly, thumb-fatigue rivaled only by morbid curiosity. I want to see all of the boys—even though they are so young I’m not at all attracted to them.
Swiping, swiping, swiping. I feel like it’s 1981 and I’m sifting frantically through my giant pile of Garbage Pail Kid cards again. I can almost smell the powdery bubble gum. My brain can’t get enough.
There is a photo of a 19-year-old, leaning against what appears to be a private jet, and a Mercedes. I swipe him to the left, but not before taking a screen shot—because yeah, it’s just that bad it’s good, and it needs to be shared with 250 of my closest friends on Facebook.
When will it stop? When will I have seen all of the photos? I take my phone with me to the bathroom. Swiping, swiping, swiping.
Right about the time that I decide that I’m the only grown up at this party, a 50-year-old man’s photo is staring me in the face. I’m pretty sure that we are the only two people on this thing that knows what an 8-track player is, but I do not find him attractive so I swipe him to the left too. That’s the good (and evil) thing about Tinder, I guess.
Tinder distills online dating to what matters most to most people. Cheapened as we might feel admitting it, with Tinder our “dating” experience hinges on one question only: “Do I find this person attractive?”
With Tinder you don’t see a tagline, you don’t have to answer any personality questions and you actually have to click on the photo of the person to see anything other than their first name, age and photo. Once you get to their profile, you get to read whatever they have deemed worthy enough to say in 450 characters or less. You also get to see what Facebook “likes” you have in common and if you have any mutual Facebook friends. I find a cute guy named Brad who likes the Dalai Lama, Sarah Silverman, Joseph Campbell and the Daily Show too. What are the odds?
Many Tinder users post extra photos that you can sift through which is great. (More swiping.) The extra photos are really where you will find important visual clues about your potential match, like, “Is this person holding a drink in every photo and therefore most likely an alcoholic?” “Does this person surf?” “Does this person snowboard?” “Has this person ever been on a hike?” “Does this person have children?” “Cats or dogs?” “Does this person ever wear a shirt?” And most importantly, “Is this person really Bob Marley?”
I was feeling a little melancholic prior to my investigation of Tinder, but I was doubled over in laughter by the time I hit the third swipe. Plus, Tinder is free which is a huge (non)selling point—I’m starting to feel like some of the other online sites should be paying me to keep my subscription.
Alas, after a few minutes add up to a few hours, my thumb gives out and my eyeballs start to feel like they might begin to hemorrhage any remaining usable brain matter.
I’ve got Tinder-fatigue and I’ve only found a few men that are even close to my age that I am remotely attracted to. The rest of these boys make me want to ask them if they can help carry my groceries to my car or if they have any boxes of Thin Mints or Samoas left.
After seeing a few photos of young boys posing with duck lips— and not in an ironic way—I become more than a little concerned for the future of mankind. Is Tinder the future of online dating? And how many men my age (and older) are sitting somewhere scrolling through half-naked photos of duck-lipped, scantily clad, 19-year-old girls within a 50-mile radius? Worse yet, how easy would it be for a predator to find, or schedule to meet, one of these unsuspecting young women?
The Tinder trend starts to give me the heebie jeebies. I delete my account as easily as I signed up, happy that I’ll have more free time to live life away from my iPhone.
I decide that, like most things on the internet, Tinder is somehow inherently evil and proof that mankind is devolving and not evolving, and I write this takeaway:
- Men on Tinder are sometimes named “Reggae” and “Stetson” and “Shai.”
- The shirtless-bathroom-mirror selfie with iPhone (and shower curtain) clearly visible still reigns supreme.
- Some men put their hands down their pants when they want to look sexy.
- Some men on Tinder actually are Calvin Klein underwear models.
- Out of the 500 things I’ve ever “liked” on FB, I’m bound to have some “likes” in common with one of the many men on Tinder. (Usually, it’s Pink Floyd.)
- Tinder is not just a hook-up site. (I don’t think.)
- I’m way too old for Tinder.
- I’m about to beg a man-friend to sign up and show me what the women on Tinder look like. (I’m guessing they are wearing far fewer articles of clothing.)
- Men still cannot spell or use proper contractions. (Your to funny!!)
- Men still think they are better looking than they actually are. (See bathroom mirror selfies.)
- Mankind is most certainly devolving. (See Tinder.)
- This is how kids these days waste time on their phones while driving.
The unexpected addendum:
Shortly after deleting my account, I went back on Tinder and reactivated it. (How else am I going to get my thumb exercises in?) I found the age range button (duh) and starting searching for men my age and older.
The strangest thing happened! Every time I liked a man that I found attractive or interesting, his little profile picture circle would gravitate toward my little profile picture circle with the same pomp and circumstance as when Pac-Man meets Ms. Pac-Man in the moment called “And they meet.” Then, Tinder declares in a girly cursive script: “It’s a match!”
Wow! He liked me too?! He really likes me?! The app makes it all look so exciting! All I need now are sound effects of coins falling out of a slot machine and for my Wynn Las Vegas rewards card to load up with points whenever I get three matches in a row! Cha-ching!
Before day’s end I have 20 matches and about a dozen different Tinder chats happening with a dozen different men. I have to keep referring back to their profiles and older comments because I can’t keep them straight. I ask a few of the men if Tinder is for hookups only and few say they don’t think so while others seem to indicate that it is by replying, “It’s whatever you want it to be.” Other Tinder men list in their profile that they are looking for a “LTR.”
I cancel my paid subscription to that other archaic pay-to-play online dating site and turn my attention back to the brave new world of Tinder—but not before making one critical profile paragraph edit in my 450 allotted characters.
“Not just looking for a hookup,” I type out on my phone, thumb throbbing, and then I edit the sentence again with my remaining six characters. “Not really just looking for a hookup.”
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editorial Apprentice: Lauren Savory / Editor: Rachel Nussbaum
Photos: Courtesy of the author (and Tinder)