The dry, highly flammable wood previously defined by the word ‘tinder’ has been replaced with a far more volatile meaning. With over 750 “swipes” and 10 million matches per day, Tinder is a full blown bushfire.
The app has ignited criticism since it was first hurled into the hands of horny college students in 2012. For many, Tinder perfectly sums up all-things-wrong-with-today’s-youth. Sleazy, superficial and unsafe, it is the holy trinity of ‘hookup culture’; responsible for a generation that is “unhappy, sexually unfulfilled and confused about intimacy”.
But let’s not burn the house down yet, right?
Aria’s* Tinder story is no fairytale. After downloading the app following a break up from a long-term relationship, she was curious to see what made the app so hot. Don’t be mistaken though, she wasn’t looking for her Prince Charming and this certainly was not going to be another Tinderella story, rather the app presented a unique opportunity for her to access something she had been craving for quite some time, sex.
Yes, this girl is not afraid to use Tinder as her personal pimp, freely admitting that she has had more action in one week on Tinder than any other time in her adult life. But is Aria just buying into the ‘hook up’ hysteria sweeping today’s youth? This behaviour has been aptly described as ‘hook up culture’, meaning “casual sexual contact between nondating partners without an (expressed or acknowledged) expectation of forming a committed relationship.” It is precisely this lack of consideration for expectation and commitment that is so concerning to the older generation, who quite vocally bemoan the footloose and fancy free morals of this smart phone toting generation.
However, not everyone is a hater of the ‘hook up’. At least not Lauren Rosewarne, a Lecturer in Social Science and Politics at the University of Melbourne, who in speaking with the Sydney Morning Herald said, ”the idea that women want to be romanced is quite an old-fashioned notion and it’s also that assumption that sex is something women give men as opposed to an equal participation and women having their own sexual agenda. As long as they’re taking precautions, why can’t sex be fun?”
Aria concurs with Rosewarne. She freely admits her behavior on Tinder is a “more male approach” to dating. She recommends the app to women who aren’t looking for a Shakespearan romance, but are still above a booze- induced -banging, “I would recommend it to women who want to liberate themselves sexually.” A kind of women’s liberation for 2.0? “To be honest, I fucking love Tinder. It’s the best. It’s purely about looks. When you’re only after sex it’s very convenient because there’s none of this being drunk in a club and thinking, oh they’re attractive and then waking up and thinking oh my god what was I thinking. You know what you’re getting yourself into looks wise, and the chatting function just lets you make sure that they’re not a weirdo. It’s all fun.”
But what about relationships? Is Tinder really just the ignition for hook ups and the facilitator of fucks? Or is there opportunity for those initial sparks to burn a little longer?
We spoke to Bettina Arndt, one of Australia’s first sex therapists and an online dating expert, who was slightly more optimistic about the longevity of Tinder based relationships, “There’s no question Tinder is helping people establish relationships. I know many young people who have met through Tinder.”
Yet does meeting on Tinder carry the same stigma formerly attributed to couples who secretly met online and spent the rest of the time hiding this shameful fact? Aria doesn’t think so, “Tinder is really odd. If a couple of years ago someone had said to me you should really get on e-Harmony, I would have literally laughed my arse off, because that’s pathetic, I don’t need to meet someone online! But Tinder is different, it’s a gateway, it has really broken down that weirdness around Internet dating. It’s like a new genre of it’s own.”
But is this new genre of mobile app dating in for the long haul, or is it just another Internet floozy to be adopted and forgotten (like KONY2012 and Tom from Myspace)? Bettina explains, “I think the idea of [an internet dating] phone app is here to stay. Tinder works well because it only matches people when there is a mutual interest which has a number of strong advantages. It requires women to be as proactive as men which takes the load off the male. It also means people need to get real about who they are likely to attract. They learn their market value because they won’t be put in touch with people they can’t attract.”
Clearly, Tinder is what you make it. For Aria it is a medium of sexual satisfaction, a virtual vending machine for dick dallying. For others it is becoming a stigma free way of meeting their potential Tindella/fella and hopefully living happily ever after.
Tinder Fun Facts
According to a recent report by IBISWorld, the dating industry in Australia is worth $113 million with over 275 registered businesses. The report singles out Tinder as a key player, arguing that “…the emergence of Tinder…represents significant competition for the industry, particularly among younger consumers.” But ‘young users’ doesn’t necessarily mean teenagers or college students. The average age of a Tinder user is 27.
Tinder founder and CEO, Sean Rad claims that Tinder has solved the “inherent tension” of traditional pre-dating scenarios. Before the app, finding a date meant adopting one of two roles; the hunter or the hunted. The hunter is at risk of savage rejection whilst the latter is consistently violated by unwanted attention. Tinder disables this scenario. As Rad argues, Tinder provides the ‘optimal connection point’ where “you’re both responding to something.”
While Tinder may have evened the score in the dating game, dissolving tensions with a single swipe and breaking down the hunter/hunted dichotomy with every match, it is also responsible for fuelling it’s users burning desire for a mate.
Whether it be a search for sex or something more, remember You Only Swipe Once.
*names have been changed for privacy