Swipe right for love?

How Tinder has changed the dating game 

Catherine Paulse (20), a UCT student, had been single for a year, when her best friend dared her to download Tinder, if she didn’t meet a man in a week. In fact, Catherine’s friend, Jessica*, met her current boyfriend on Tinder.

Throughout the year that she used the app, Catherine experienced the good and bad that Tinder has to offer.

“I’ve never been into dating sites, but I thought that it would be a cool way to meet people and look at hot guys. I found the app to be fun more than anything else. I didn’t take it too seriously,” said Catherine.

Tinder is an easy-to-use online dating application (app) that was founded in 2012. It uses your phone’s global positioning system (GPS) to find other Tinder users in your area. They can see your profile, which includes six photos from Facebook, your name, age and any pages you’ve “liked” on Facebook. If they like you, they’ll swipe right, if not, they’ll swipe left. If both of you have swiped right, you’ll match and be able to message each other.

Tinder works on the basis of finding someone attractive at first glance and quickly deciding if you are interested, while bearing in mind that you are only allowed a certain amount of likes per day.

According to CNBC, an estimated 50 million people signed up to use the app last year, but Tinder will not disclose exact figures.   

According to Tinder’s website, the app is available in 196 countries – there are 1.4 billion swipes per day, 26 million matches per day, and more than ten billion total matches. On the website there is a page dedicated to Tinder success stories, for couples who met “the one” through the app.     

According to Fast Company magazine, Tinder has 9.6 million daily active users and connections on the app lead to 1.3 million dates per week.

On average users log onto Tinder 11 times a day, according to an article on The New York Times’ website. Women spend as much as 8.5 minutes swiping left and right during a single session, while men spend 7.2 minutes, which can add up to 90 minutes each day.

According to Wired magazine, “42 percent of people using Tinder are already in relationships—and many of them are men”. Furthermore, according to Global Web Index’s 2015 study, 30% of Tinder users are married.

Tinder has a reputation for being used to engage in casual sex, hook-up or have a one-night-stand, but a recent study done by Tinder found that 80% of users want more than a one-night-stand.

James Thompson* (22), a former Tinder-user, would go on and off Tinder for a few days and then delete the app, because he was not sure whether he wanted to be associated with the stigma of being on Tinder. This is also the reason he wanted to remain anonymous.  

Tinder president, co-founder and returning CEO Sean Rad suggested that Tinder is more of a “social discovery app” than a dating app to facilitate romantic connections.

During an interview with Fast Company magazine, Rad claimed that his vision for Tinder is much bigger than just a dating app. He has plans to build Tinder into a robust advertising vehicle and subscription service.

In March last year, Tinder released Tinder Plus, which comes at a cost (about R140 per month and almost R300 for over 30’s), but has more features. New features include the ability to change your location when you travel to connect with people around the world, unlimited likes and a rewind button for accidental swiping.  

Rad had no problem justifying the price of the app. “How much would you pay me to meet your [future] wife? Ten thousand dollars? Twenty thousand dollars? Some people would probably give me their entire net worth.”

On the website’s description, it says that Tinder “empowers users around the world to create new connections that otherwise might never have been possible. We build products that bring people together”.

Dr Wendy Walsh, an American psychologist who specialises in attachment and human mating strategies, said that “biology trumps psychology”, meaning that men focus on beauty first and foremost, which is what Tinder allows them to do.

Walsh, who is also known as America’s relationship expert, said that Tinder is based on male mating strategies, because of the way that it works, with photos and only a short biography.

According to Walsh, women are searching for “resources, intelligence and kindness, which can be harder to convey on Tinder”. Therefore, Walsh advised men to put as much thought into the backgrounds of their photos, as they do the actual picture of themselves.  

“Women are looking for status indicators. They don’t care about your abs, unless they only want a hook-up. They are looking to see where that lamp behind you is from,” said Walsh.

According to James,  he will not recommend the app to his female friends, because “guys just ask for sex or nude pictures, or even send nudes”.

James joined Tinder to meet new people and possibly go on a few dates. He has been on three.

On one date, he met a girl on campus in between lectures. “That fizzled out, because she wasn’t the same offline (face to face) as she was online. I worked that out very quickly.”

“It’s a common thing when you have a connection with someone on the phone, because you’re texting and have time to think about everything you say, but when you’re face to face, you don’t have that same luxury.”  

James said that his worst experience was meeting someone who did not look like their picture on Tinder.

James prefers Tinder to meeting people in real life. “I like that you’re meeting people you wouldn’t normally chat to and that they come from a different background or walk of life.”

Before Catherine started using Tinder, she never made an effort to meet new people. “If people came into my life randomly, then I thought that they were probably supposed to be there, instead of swiping across my phone screen to meet people.”

Although she would recommend Tinder to her friends, Catherine said that not all of her experiences on the app have been positive.

“A guy started harassing me on Tinder, he kept sending me ridiculous messages asking for nude pictures and if I would sleep with him, but I refused to respond. He persisted.” She unmatched him (blocked him) and wanted to delete the app.

However, before she deleted the app, she started messaging someone promising.

“We’ve been chatting for a month now, but we haven’t met in person. He’s a really nice guy, and we actually have mutual friends. I’m seeing where that could go.”

Catherine believes that Tinder and social media in general have completely changed the way her generation dates.

“I look at how my parents dated and how young people date today. Social media has created more drama in dating. I think that’s one of the main reasons that our relationships don’t last. It opens up these doors where cheating can occur and miscommunication happens. Our generation obsesses over social media through stalking our partners, or girls and guys that we think that they are hooking up with.

“Then I look at my parents and I really believe that the lack of social media meant that they didn’t have those sorts of problems, because they had to talk about their issues, rather than sending passive aggressive messages over WhatsApp.”  

*Names were changed to protect identity. Catherine did not mind.

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