Senior Angelica Thompson contemplated the face staring back at her from her smartphone. The young man she observed was a stranger — an attractive stranger — but a stranger none-the-less. And it would remain that way unless she made a decision on which direction on Tinder to swipe.
Tinder is an online dating app where users decide if they’re interested in another local’s randomly suggested profile solely based on their photo and a brief description. If intrigued, users can swipe right on the screen. If the opposite user thought to do the same, it’s considered a “match.” Users are immediately notified and then granted the ability to message each other privately. However, if initially uninterested by the profile, the user can swipe left and never have to worry about seeing them again.
Thompson swiped right. It was an instant match. And while on summer vacation, she decided to meet up with one of her matches at a nearby target.
“I had an eerie feeling about it,” Thompson said, “but I made sure I told a friend where I was and everything that was happening.”
Before meeting with the young man, Thompson clarified they would not be hooking up. He agreed. His true intentions, however, became clear later that evening.
“When I got there, that’s exactly what he wanted to do,” Thompson said. “He wanted to fool around.”
The man pressured her to take him to her car in the back of the parking lot. Nervous, and in an unfamiliar place, Thompson excused herself, saying her mom wanted to know where she was.
Tinder received its reputation for quick hookups and sketchy encounters. Open for users ages 13 and up, it is a go-to application for talking and meeting with people in your area.
“I would say the majority are looking for someone to talk to and not actually meet, or hooking-up-whenever type thing,” Thompson said. “It’s mostly those two things.”
Hooking up may be the most popular motive for using the app, but others use it for meeting new, interesting people or as an ego boost.
For many who use Tinder, the app can simply be a game of hot-or-not.
Junior Cody Melin has more than 244 matches, although he currently chats with only two of them.
“It’s just interesting to see who is around you and if they’re interested in you or not,” Melin said. “It’s one of those things that makes me feel good. Like, when I get matches, I think, ‘Oh, someone thinks I’m attractive,’ or ‘Oh, somebody thinks I’m interesting.’”
Dr. Tanner Babb, professor of psychology, believes the app could well serve its intended purpose of meeting someone in a quick, simple way.
“It’s convenient,” Babb said. “I mean, you can sit in your dorm room and … screen people without having to go through any real work. I think in that way, it feels very easy.”
The catch with this easy version of dating is that people on the app can potentially be misrepresented.
“But then you meet them and the reality doesn’t fit the fantasy,” Babb said. “You don’t have a whole sense of the person. You really only know part of them because you don’t get to see and interact with them. You don’t get to see their communication style. You don’t get to see anything emotionally about them, [like] how they handle anger, frustration.”
At around 50 million users, Tinder has quickly become the most popular Lifestyle app. Despite some negatively-percieved aspects, it appears to be here to stay.
“It’s kind of like fast food,” Melin said. “Yes, I could go to a restaurant and sit down and wait 30 minutes for a burger and fries, but I can also go through a McDonald’s drive-thru and get it in two minutes. It’s cheap and it’s convenient.”