I'm no good at this, I don't know where to start. I'm from California via Washington, I moved to NYC five years ago. I'm a student, a musician, I paint, I dabble in photography. I'm a freelance writer for a tech blog. I cover miscellaneous news and tell people what's happening on the Internet. I make GIFs. I like the outdoors. I'm not looking for anything serious, but you never know what might happen. Write me.
Internet profiles are a pain in the ass, aren't they? We've all seen them, at least those of us that are using the Internet to lure in dates, penpals, group sex buddies, or just good ol' activity partners. Masses of teenagers and adults pour their souls into the online dating game–as well as their wallets, forking out monthly fees for eHarmony, Match, JDate and Ashley Madison. Online dating is now an industry that has surpassed $1 billion.
It's also an industry that may also be nearing its peak, as sites like OkCupid, Plenty of Fish, Mamba, Tastebuds.fm, and Gay Romeo continue to win users to the free side. It's a wonder how all the paid and freemium sites (free until you want to actually connect), like Date My School, Badoo, and Fuckbook, manage to find new signups. All the free stuff is just as good, and it has a latent wholesomeness that online credit-card hookups can never seem to achieve. The pay sites always boast success stories, but don't people feel a little more obligated to follow through when they're paying? People paying money don't want to play games.
But what if you simply get rid of the lengthy self-summaries, boring introductions, and favorite films? Online dating has its newest "let's cut to the chase" app, and it isn't completely sketchy either. Enter Tinder, a geolocated game of Hot or Not for your phone. Remember Hot or Not? (Even a young and mischievous Mark Zuckerberg put together his own version, called Facemash at Harvard in 2006.)
Tinder's minimalist interface
But Tinder isn't as much about popularity and ranking as it is about making low emotional investments and hooking people up. The social media director from Tinder told the OSU Lantern that other sites where you make profiles can have a, "scary and awkward anticipation... Tinder eliminates the hurt of getting turned down.”
Like the now-defunct Bang With Friends and Bang With Professionals, Tinder is a mobile dating app that pairs users who have approved of each other (by pressing the green heart button). But unlike the 'Bang With' sites that try to mix you with your own friends and professional networks, Tinder seems less dependent on a fluke. That's because users on Tinder are actually present and playing the game. It's a little sad to have to clarify, but the current online dating climate leaves me no other choice: People you see on Tinder actually know Tinder exists.
Before you decide whether or not you like someone based on their picture–which tends to be an automatically selected Facebook profile pic, which also tends to be a pic with another friend (who is she?)–you can check if you have any shared friends or interests on Facebook.
But there's no need to read about who you're looking at. I tend to cycle through the mess of profiles as fast as I can, often while demonstrating the app to friends who haven't heard of it yet. Sometimes I'll go full-on Russian roulette style and press the shit out of that green heart. And even though I can't be taking this thing too seriously, I am amazed by the throngs of attractive 18-27 year old girls that are actually playing this game. I hope some of them are real.
After a short bit, trust me, you'll get matched, but don't get too excited. Someone else is probably out there on Tinder, without a care in the world, doing that Russian roulette thing I was talking about. I spent some time torturing the coworker that had originally told me about it, ooh-ing and ahh-ing as I scanned the local area for girls. He can't get the app himself because he has an Android phone, so he eventually made me switch it off. I had a nice little list of matches going:
After being matched, you're able to chat, share links to your favorite poems, exchange numbers, or do whatever it takes to connect. Tinder doesn't annoyingly frisk your message content and ask you to buy tokens. So say what you want. Just remember, Internet hook-up courtesy applies; in other words, you should probably stick to Craigslist if you're into weird shit.
What really struck me about Tinder is what strikes me with each new network I peruse: the homogenized vernacular. Where does it come from? Have all my matches held a summit? Almost all of them spell the words "Hey," and "Hi," with an extra Y or I. Is it understanding of what we're doing? Is it self-reflective? It feels implicitly internet flirty. It sort of communicates, "I know why we're here, and I own that. I'm a participant, let's get our awkwardness out of the way, and let's do it with extra vowels." Got me? Heyy.
So far, I've collected a couple phone numbers and had some decent text conversations. Since you're first messaging your matches within the app itself (and the app has a fair share of glitchiness), making the transition from in-app messaging to texting is almost a necessary refuge. Most of my conversations haven't really gone anywhere (see screenshot above), but I've given my number to a couple girls that live nearby.
It all happens pretty quick. I downloaded Tinder on Saturday night, and already have a couple options for Valentine's dates. I'll probably end up going with a platonic friend to Guy Fieri's American Kitchen, but I'm not the first person to suggest Tinder for arranging V-Day companionship .
One is an Ivy League student that knew about Shoenice. The other said something about fashion. Judging at a glance of these girls and the hundreds of other profiles I've thumbs-upped, I'd say Tinder users feel pretty similar to the crowd on OkCupid, a site where I've met some really worthwhile people.
Of course, aside from surface-level intrigue and picture-oriented introduction, Tinder leaves you more blind than OkCupid would. You don't get any basic physical info, religious beliefs, drinking, smoking, diet, languages spoken, field of study or work. You get a picture, a first name, and an age.
Since signing up for OkCupid about a year and a half ago, I haven't felt confident in using another unpaid dating service or app until Tinder. Tinder clears a lot of the bullshit out of the way. You get a look at someone and then you move on.
(As far as making money is concerned, I'd guess Tinder's value will be in the amount of users it attracts, and that its ultimate plan is to get bought. Who knows, perhaps Tinder will roll out some in-app purchase models, like a match-even-if-they-didn't-like-you-back feature.)
But the joy of Tinder is in taking a step backward in the evolution of online dating, which has increasingly convinced users that analytics can solve all your love woes. Could it be that some heightened level of risk is the medicine the serial online dater needs? With the other apps that are bound to fill in all the gaps on our devices, Blendr (now a Badoo property) and Grindr might consider some lightweight redesigns, hoping to attract the other fish in the sea.
Could this type of instantaneousness in mobile virtua-dating help eradicate the endless search for someone with the perfect profile? Is dating online more fun when there's a whole lot less to create? I think so. While my biggest qualm with Tinder remains the impossibility of knowing which girl is represented by a profile picture that has three girls in it, something tells me it'll be less painful than feeling obliged to bang a friend whose picture I only clicked on for fun.