In August, a Vanity Fair article set off a Twitter kerfuffle of near-epic proportions. Journalist Nancy Jo Sales described the smartphone dating app Tinder as being a sign of the "dating apocalypse." Amid a long scrolling of hyperbole, Sales painted a picture of deceitful 20-something men and their app-fueled locker talk about the many, many women they sex up after short chats on Tinder. To hear Sales tell it, Tinder is where one swipes right to be lied to and sexually pursued by good-looking strangers in your area. Tinder swiped back on the company Twitter account, defending the app and pointing out its many benefits.
Plenty of people take jabs at hookup apps. Heck, even I've even done it as a writer. But its success keeps right on going. In November, the company went public, amid announcements that the app now has millions of users worldwide. Despite dire predictions and criticism, this swipe-right style of dating appears to be here to stay. But, of course, people used to say the same thing about Internet dating, and personal ads, and so-called "computer dating," and the bar scene. People keep saying that romance should happen naturally, spontaneously, and that it should never be forced. That's all well and good if you're in a Hollywood movie, where chance romantic encounters with great looking people is the norm. However, the rest of us are more likely to meet our partners through school, work, via friends, or by actually seeking people out with dating apps or websites or, as it turns out, Tinder.
Is There More to Tinder Than Just Hooking Up?
The question remains. Is Tinder a place where like-minded singles have fun chatting and maybe meeting up?Or is it a hotbed of lies and trickery designed to help swaggering jackasses add notches to their bedposts? I figured the only way to find out was to try it for myself. Online dating was successful for me in the late '90s, and I'm married to a guy I met at a dating site. As I recall, it was pretty easy to tell right away who was seriously looking for a relationship versus who was trying to spend the least amount of money on a date before trying to sleep with you.
For this experiment, I needed a Tinder account. For that, I needed a picture. Since I'm in my 40s and fat, I asked my younger, cuter cousins to let me use some pics. My youngest, cutest cousin was happy to help out. (Thanks, BTW!) But .. in order to have a Tinder account, I also needed a Facebook account. It also had to be done on a mobile device. To find people close by, the location tracker had to be on. This was already more than I was comfortable with.
Dating sites let you sign up, calling yourself whatever you want, and adding (or keeping private) whatever info you want. Not so on Tinder. They seem to think forcing clients to link their Tinder with Facebook offers increased authenticity. Obviously, it wasn't impossible for me to pretend to be younger, thinner, cuter, and single. However, it was more difficult than I expected it to be. Within a day though, I had a Facebook account and a Tinder profile, which was only about two sentences long.
I used the first name of my childhood pet. In my profile, I presented myself as "serious minded, not looking for bullshit." Surely if I made it clear that I wasn't looking for random hookups, random hooker-uppers would be deterred, right? The next step was to go through pictures of guys (for the sake of simplicity for my experiment, I kept it cis and hetero). This was tricky, since I wanted to be fair about it. I swiped left if there was more than one person in the profile pic or if the person looked overtly unpleasant (snarling, squinting, posing with an intoxicant). Anyone looking directly into the camera and smiling got a swipe right. Swiping right alerted me whenever someone swiped right on me. In the first day, I had over 30 matches. My Tinder persona was more demure than my real life one - and I didn't message anyone who didn't message me first. That's when, I presumed, the fun would begin.
My Experience With Tinder Messages
So what happened? On the first night, I chatted with six different men. One of them wanted me to meet him immediately. Another wanted to "stop by after work at 3 a.m." Both guys continued to leave polite, but persistent, messages after I said "No" and then stopped responding. The remaining guys asked me questions about myself, causing me to have to make up a back story that got more involved with each text. "I" was about to start back to work, had married young, but was now divorced. I even had to make up what my imaginary Tinder self liked in a pizza. I also learned, but did not take advantage of, that it's possible - nay, easy - to get men to send you pizzas via Tinder chats. Although one guy asked me about pizza, I certainly wasn't going to give my home address to a total stranger.
By the end of three days of this, I had matched with more than 70 people. Most of them didn't ever message me. Some who did went right for the first meeting, "Let's get ice cream!" and "Should I come over?" and "Netflix and chill?" were all proffered after little or no chat. I got zero overt requests for sex, for nude selfies, or for anything at all untoward. Of course, it's possible that all the requests to meet would have been met with requests for sex, but they were all gentlemanly about it. I wondered if men had just gotten better at hiding whether or not they were lying wannabe Casanovas, or if technology enhanced dating was really the dawn of a new era of brighter, kinder, and more romantically-inclined advances.
My Final Verdict on Tinder
There were eight different guys between the ages of 22 and 35 that I chatted extensively with. From my perspective, they all seemed kind, sincere, and genuinely interested in connecting. Only one of them asked to meet. When I apologized and said I "just wasn't ready," he said that was fine, and we continued our conversation. Another told me, after I revealed a divorce in my recent past, that I should take things slow and not rush into a serious relationship. Still another wanted to talk about art, film making, music, and being a foodie. In fact, a few of them seemed so engaged and engaging that I started to feel bad about the trickery that I was indulging in. Seriously - how judgmental can I be about honesty in dating when I'm pretending to be a beautiful 20-something who's looking for love? On the fourth day, the dishonesty of the project was getting to me. I deleted the Tinder account and deactivated the corresponding Facebook page.
It's worth noting that the Facebook page, which I put almost no effort into (and only added horror movie accounts like Jason Vorhees and Michael Myers), gained over two dozen friend requests from men and boys in that three-day period. Several of them left messages complimenting the body in the photos, making suggestions for sexual things we could do together, or asking me to pose in different positions. So by my experience, women may encounter more creepers on Facebook than on Tinder. In the end, it's clear to me that there are indeed people looking for genuine connection on Tinder. If you're able to swipe left on shenanigans and swipe right on the good guys - you may even find a real connection. And hey, even if you don't, what's so wrong with an app that helps you connect with casual sex?