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Finding love in a hopeless place: is Tinder representative of more than ‘hook-up culture’?

ByDido Gompertz

Mar 21, 2016

The Tinder phenomenon has revolutionised the world of dating. It is now possible to flick through potential matches in seconds, blurring the lines between dating and game-playing. The ‘no consequences’ attitude to Tinder has often given the app a bad rep, with some psychologists even concerned that the instant, binary judgements encouraged on Tinder are affecting our daily, real-life judgements. However, the app seems to be fostering far more serious relationships than it lets on. New research by a money saving website in the UK has revealed that more than a third of new relationships formed during 2015 started on Tinder. Perhaps it’s time to rethink the importance of the right-swipe?

Tinder’s popularity is undeniable: its user base has grown hugely since it launched across American college campuses in 2012, and now reaches globally. Remote villages in the Atlas Mountains lack running water and paved roads, but have a plethora of Tinder profiles (potential matches usually pictured with mule). In the UK, new research shows that 34% of relationships in 2015 started on Tinder. Meanwhile, www.VoucherCodesPro.co.uk asked 2,374 participants several questions about the dating ‘evolution’ caused by dating apps, and Tinder ranked as the most common place to find new partners.

In a world where technology makes everyday living increasingly easy, the crossover into our dating lives seems inevitable. It is possible to match with someone and start messaging him or her in seconds, with the knowledge that they live less than a mile away. While this instant gratification is appealing, is there a danger these instant relationships are treated as disposable, and lost as quickly as they are made? While students across the country use the app frequently, the jury is out on whether it is actually effective in establishing meaningful relationships. Georgina, a student at Exeter University, sees past an initial connection based on appearance: ‘Tinder is no different to Internet dating or meeting someone in a club. You start off being physically attracted to them and then you can have a conversation.’ Many see this initial attraction as the starting point for a more personal relationship. Aditi, student at Edinburgh, says many of her friends are in long-term relationships from Tinder. ‘At the end of the day it’s just normal people using it. It’s not inconceivable you could find something more serious.’ Henry, another Edinburgh student, agrees it could be used for both casual hook-ups and longer relationships.

However for others, the superficiality of tinder is a turn-off. Kate, aged 20, is put off by the shallow judgement encouraged by the app. ‘A ‘right swipe’ wouldn’t feel like a victory to me at all, as the qualities that are most detached from the my personality take precedence.’ Rosie from Warwick University is also against the idea: ‘it’s not like a club, because they don’t see you until there’s an already established pretence.’ Undeniably, Tinder’s implicit sexual focus can prevent normal small talk. While the explicit chat-up lines can be funny, they don’t usually encourage love-at-first-swipe.

Even those who find relationships on Tinder are affected by the app’s stigma. In the same survey by www.VoucherCodesPro.co.uk, only 1 in 5 respondents who matched with their partner on Tinder were honest with friends and family about how they met. The lingering idea that Tinder is solely for a one-night stand prevents many from coming clean.

It’s important to remember that while Tinder provides the basic structure of mobile dating, the users decide how to interact with each other, and whether matches last a minute, a night or several years. Perhaps it isn’t the instant gratification and ease of ‘hook-up culture’ that attracts millions of users to the app, but the creation of a social space that allows people to meet a wide range of potential partners, without the awkwardness of approaching someone who isn’t interested. It could be time to drop the stigma and embrace mobile dating, as it isn’t going away any time soon.

Image: JAM Project

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