Most people who know me would probably describe me as high maintenance, no matter how much I would like to be remembered on the exact other end of the spectrum. I do my homework days ahead of schedule and sometimes, if I’m really “on the ball,” I pick out my outfit the night before classes. Dirty dishes never sit for more than 15 minutes in my sink, and if the nail polish on one of my fingers starts to chip before the others, well, you guessed it; I get out the polish again and paint them until each nail is perfect. I sound like Patrick Bateman from “American Psycho,” don’t I?
Somehow I’m more neurotic, perhaps compulsive, than high- maintenance, huh? I’m working on myself, and I’ve come a long way from not being able to leave my room until the sheets on my bed were tucked in without any wrinkles.
Needless to say, my personality has its quirks, which is why in the fall of last year a friend recommended that I try an app called “Tinder.”
My friend always seemed to have men over and I can remember sitting in the corner watching them while I glanced up from memorizing lines for a play. I can recall wondering where she found these men. She must have noticed how I would look up from my script from time to time to observe their interactions, for when they eventually left, she came over to sit beside me on the ledge of my bed. And just like some suave sorority-girl incarnate from “The Revenge of the Nerds,” she placed her hand on my knee and gave me unsolicited advice: “If you want your own, they’re on Tinder.”
“Tinder,” I thought. “What the heck is that?” Thus, on one of the many lonely Saturday nights of my freshman year I downloaded the app out of curiosity and followed the prompt questions to create an account.
“Where do you live?” Edinboro. Currently. This seemed simple enough.
“How far would you be willing to travel to meet someone?” I don’t have a car until the holidays, so I’m limited to the buses and a rusting ten-speed bike. 20 miles. Not so bad, but what are we getting at?
“What age do you prefer?” A spectrum appeared with 18 being the youngest and 100 being the oldest. I dragged the icon to 100, not wanting to discriminate. Friendship is ageless, right?
This went on for a few more moments until it suddenly dawned on me that Tinder was a dating site and I was making a profile to meet with potential, gulp, boyfriends. In my naiveté I had suspected that this site was going to help me locate friends with similar interests — instead I was disturbed to find hundreds of profiles of men ranging from 18 to 100, all looking for the love of their lives.
Tinder works like this: On your phone screen an image of your potential “significant other” appears. You now have two options: swipe left, or swipe right. Swipe left and you’ve decided you don’t like this person. Why don’t you like them? For one of two reasons: a) they’re not attractive enough to you or b) their profile biography is not intriguing to you. Your second option is to swipe right. Swiping right indicates one thing and one thing only: a) you’re romantically attracted to the user.
And the worst part? All of these judgments are made within seconds and a user’s biography is almost always under 140 characters. Is his beard too long? Swipe left. Does he have nice eyes and straight teeth? Swipe right. Is that the confederate flag in his picture? Swipe left. He’s hugging a dog? Swipe right.
Tinder reduces appeal to minute glimpses, to attraction based purely on physicality. If, and only if, both users swipe right on each other’s pictures are they given a message by the app congratulating them on their match.
Can you imagine if this happened in real life? In some regards it does, but it cuts out that unseemly middle-man part where your buddy, emboldened by liquid courage, goes up to your crush and whispers into their ear that the woman or man at the end of the bar would like to buy you a drink, at which point you politely but emphatically decline and get out of dodge. However, can you imagine physically moving people to the side to indicate that you found them pleasing? “Oh yes, Alice you’re lovely, but your nose is too long, could you step to the side? Ah, uhm, no, the other side.”
I deleted Tinder as fast as I had downloaded it, but before I did I responded to a few messages on the account’s inbox partly because I desired to satisfy my notion that any self-respecting man would never resort to this app. Of the four I talked to, over a course of 15 minutes mind you, three had asked if I wanted to “hook up” and the other stopped talking to me as soon as I used a word with more than five syllables.
I picked my script back up and immersed myself in another world again. This is something I do frequently and I worry about the side-effects, but not nearly as much as I do about the people of this world that subscribe to apps like Tinder.
The thrill of Tinder, I suspect, has the same captivating effect as apps like Yik Yak and Snapchat. The element of anonymity is largely enjoyed by people who, for so much of their professional life, are held to a standard of openness. If you have a dissenting opinion at the meeting, you likely stifle it because you want to keep paying the bills. If a customer gives you a hard time at work, you curse them out internally and offer a calm grin outwardly. These choices we make for our long-term financial gain seem to eat away at our short-term gratification, but instead of realizing that perhaps the best decisions sometimes cause us momentary distress, we take to our apps and the Internet to allow ourselves to experience the euphoria of suspended social conventions.
Apps allow the reality of consequence present in the “real world” to dissolve. This is why Tinder would never work in a bar room or a club or why half of those who read and contribute to Yik Yak would be ostracized if their comments were ever made public (if not arrested for hate-speech). I wonder, though, what it says about people who enjoy this lack of social restraint, so much so that they spend hours each week dedicated to finding their ideal partner on an app? What does it say about our men and women that they’re so desperate to be loved that they will utilize superficial means to find it?
In a time where women can freely love and express their bodies, they are abusing them. In a world where men are not limited to certain standards of thought, speech, and belief, they neglect the privilege. The amount of incredible technology we have available to us is used to determine our stature in society and how well you can capture what people “like.”
I encourage everyone to delete their Tinders and their Yik Yaks, to look up from a pixelated promise of acceptance to ask someone you really admire out for coffee. Who knows, they might just say yes.
Emma Giering is the Voices Editor for The Spectator. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org