Swipe Right For Love: Tinder And The Many Sides Of ‘Hooking Up’ Online

Posted on December 23, 2014 in Sci-Tech, Sex, Society, Taboos

By Sanjana Ahuja:

Gone are the days where suitors wooed their intended lovers with sweet smelling bouquets of flowers, serenaded them with cheesy poetry or slyly glanced at each other from across the street. The timeless dance of flirtation, accompanied by a tentative risk of rejection or acceptance, has been fodder for many love stories. However, things have changed rather considerably and a newly unemployed baby named Cupid isn’t the only one who is mourning the demise of romance.


In a world being centred around the latest apps on the market, Tinder seems to have struck gold in the arena of online dating. It doesn’t offer any fancy patented algorithms promising to help you find your soulmate. Instead, it shows you a picture of another user in the same locality and gives you two easy options – to swipe left (don’t like) or to swipe right (instant attraction!). Two users who mutually ‘like’ each other’s pictures are termed as a match. Sounds rather shallow, doesn’t it? Then why is it so popular among the millions of users around the globe?

Tinder is estimated to have 1.2 billion active profiles, while its members spend roughly 90 minutes on the app each day. This excessive use can be attributed to people’s obsessive need to find a ‘perfect match’ in the quickest way possibly.

Tinder mimics the guilty exhilaration of checking out someone from across the room, but with the bonus tactile feature of being able to swipe a ‘reject’ out of your phone screen (and hence, your life). It thus eliminates the risk of a shameful rejection, as you will only be paired up with someone who responded positively to you and be oblivious to those who ‘swiped left’.

Biological anthropologist Helen Fisher, of Rutgers University, defends this controversial app by delving into the science that goes into it. Quick judgments based solely on an image — the kind that Tinder users often make — may not be as trivial or insensitive as they seem. “There’s a reason they call it ‘love at first sight,’ not love at first conversation, first smell or first joke,” says Dr. Fisher. The human brain is built to process visual information, and that information goes deeper than mere aesthetic judgments. As Molly Mulshine says in this article“Looking at someone’s face, it’s possible to glean their age, grooming habits and cultural background—even their personality. In fact, Tinder is probably more efficient than attempting to find a mate at a bar.”

Kat Ascharya writes in an article titled Tinder Has a Dirty Secret. And This Little Black Book Just Revealed It“But dating on Tinder is giving rise to complications, including what many call “dating ADD” — an inundation of choice that is often counterproductive in making solid romantic connections.” It’s making dating into a game where even people in long-term relationships are checking in to see what their ‘options’ are.

“Theoretically, Tinder could have just happened onto a recipe for techno-utopian feminism” writes Kat Stoeffel in an article in nymag. She further adds “The app had plenty of fans eager to claim that its popularity with women had proven, once and for all, that women can enter casual arrangements just like men — the egalitarian promised land! But the company itself waved away such implications. In an interview with The Huffington Post, Mateen (who was suspended yesterday) was adamant that Tinder was not a hookup app. “Fundamentally women aren’t wired that way, right?” he asked.”

Also, according to a complaint filed by Whitney Wolfe (co-founder of Tinder), Mateen urged Wolfe to avoid being publicly associated with the company as “being a female co-founder of Tinder was ‘slutty’ because it is an app people use to ‘hook up.’”

The fundamental premise of Tinder is objectification of oneself. Your success on the app depends on how well you can ‘sell’ yourself to another based on a physically attractive photo. All it takes is for your picture to hold a fellow user’s attention for a microsecond, long enough to swipe your thumb right. With the app making more than 15 million matches daily, it is greatly troubling that no one seems to bat an eye at the scale at which sexual objectification is taking place here and how problematic the situation is.

Tinder founders do not approve of the app being dubbed a ‘hook-up factory’ and instead see it is simply as a way to meet new people and make even possibly lasting relationship. However, I feel the app is just adding to our addiction of creating a carefully curated, Instagram-filtered mere photoshopped sliver of our true multifaceted, diverse and complex selves. Is it really possible to tell if you’d have a fun night out on the town with a person based on a carefully cropped mirror selfie and a Dark Knight Rises quote?

There’s nothing wrong with having a need for consensual instant gratification and for easy access to a lifestyle choice that one has made peace with, but Tinder also comes with the baggage of psychological distress and social anxiety that is caused by a no one ‘swiping right’ on you. Call me old fashioned but I’d rather bump into someone at the supermarket or a party and participate in real life interactions.

Go out, meet new people, improve your social skills and swipe Tinder out of your life.