If you’ve been single at all in the past few years, there’s a pretty good chance that you made a Tinder account at some point.
There’s also a pretty good chance that you renounced the app after about a week, then reinstalled it, probably because you saw your ex going around with someone new and shiny. Then you uninstalled it again, and then you reinstalled it. Ad infinitum.
For the uninitiated, here’s how it all works: by applying a fairly simple algorithm based on pre-selected age and location preferences, Tinder allows users to “swipe” through an apparently bottomless selection of potential romantic and/or sexual partners. Two users “match” by making affirmative right swipes on each other’s profiles, signifying mutual attraction.
The two users then communicate with each other via the app’s direct messaging feature. From that point forward, the matched pair are left to gauge individual compatibility and decide whether to pursue something further.
Tinder first launched in late 2012, 17 years after the debut of Match.com officially kick-started the online dating revolution in 1995. The app experienced immediate traction, gaining over 50 million active users in its first two years. Its reputation was less than favorable. Over the years, public reception of Tinder has remained overwhelmingly negative; users themselves have cited Tinder as superficial, even cynical.
Superficial? Only inasmuch as its user base is. Humans are nothing if not. But cynical? This human begs to differ.
The more vocal among Tinder’s critics tend to hark back to the “good old-fashioned days,” a supposed Golden Age of dating in America during which couples had no choice but to meet in real life.
It’s a sentiment which—steeped in misplaced nostalgia as it is—fails to provide a solid argument as to how or why the circumstances under which two people meet would happen to have any bearing on the quality or validity of the relationship that follows.
There’s this idea that Tinder commodifies relationships somehow, that it reduces people into swipes—right for yes, left for no—but I don’t think that’s true. Just because the app’s handy algorithm gives its users more convenient access to a broader array of individuals doesn’t mean that the resulting matches are any less meaningful or worthy.
The difference between the structure and procession of “old-fashioned” relationships and digital relationships is fairly minimal. On Tinder, matched individuals are still entirely responsible for carrying out the actual heavy-duty relationship work, just as if they had only chanced upon each other in a bar, or in a coffee shop or wherever else it is people are expected to meet organically.
The increased autonomy enjoyed by users on Tinder and similar dating apps in setting expectations and selecting suitable partners means that these partnerships often have stronger and more deliberate foundations to build from than couples who meet “the old-fashioned way.” These stronger foundations may become healthier, longer-lasting relationships.
There’s no doubt modern romance is changing. People, especially students, are busier than ever. Most of us can hardly find the time to sit down, let alone go out and try to meet new people, but Tinder isn’t to blame for this; it offers a possible solution. If you’re out there looking to find someone and trying it the “old-fashioned way”, why not try swiping right? After all, it just might make the perfect match.
Grace Pulliam is an 18-year-old creative writing junior from Zachary, Louisiana.