I have a friend who is on Tinder. And a few other dating sites and apps. They are working quite well for him. (Just to be sure: this friend is not real. He’s the sum of all the people I know – male and female – using such apps.)
I’m not condemning Tinder or the likes. There are reasons why people are using it and I can actually relate to those reasons. That doesn’t mean I can’t be concerned about it.
To understand my point, you have to consider Tinder as three different kinds of services. The first is finding someone you think you might like (determined by the looks of the person). This is the harmless part of Tinder. After all, even in a bar you’d pick your next potential date by their looks before you’d approach them.
This takes us to the second part of Tinder’s service: the actual approach. As you are swiping your way through the ranks of available people – left, left, left, right, left, right – you are already “approaching” people: by the simple means of a swipe. However, you’ll never find out if they are interested, too. Until they swipe your profile card into the right direction.
Compare this to the same situation in a bar. You are in a bar, eyes wandering through the room, scanning the people. No, no, no, maybe, no, no, yes! You see somebody, think for a few seconds (or minutes or hours), and then you decide to walk over to that someone. At Tinder an algorithm replaces what follows next:
Walking over through the crowd. Trying to make eye contact. Standing in front of the person. Asking something disarmingly brilliant. (“Can I buy you a drink?”) Waiting and hoping for a response. Decode the answer. (“Ehm, definitely not.”) Publicly admitting defeat and walk back.
Tinder takes the risk out of meeting new people. And not just some insignificant new people – but potentially significant others. And by doing so, it extracts the heartbeat out of the dating game. Tinder makes a joyful, exciting thing, a controllable, rather simple thing. That way, Tinder saves people from taking risks and – ultimately – makes them prone to opt for the easy option: taking the path of least effort. Unfortunately, for every risk of a potential low you take away from dating, you lose a potential high.
That friend using Tinder met someone the other day at a beach. He had to run after her to ask her for her phone number. (Risk of a potential defeat!) She gave him her number. (Opportunity for potential immortality!)
The third part of Tinder’s service – the conversation – is harmless again. Slightly limited, as digital communication always is, but definitely a legitimate way to cultivate a relationship.
You could say now, it was just dating and that it wasn’t important. But then again, you wouldn’t be here reading this, hadn’t someone dated someone quite a while ago. So, dating is the start of everything, right?