I suppose if there’s any silver lining to my most recent breakup, it’s that it put me back on the online dating scene and gave me more blogging fodder.
Ah, Tinder! Where do I even begin with you?
I assume that by now, everyone is at least marginally aware of how Tinder works, but just in case: Tinder is an app-based dating platform. In order to create a profile, you need to have Facebook, which Tinder will use to show you mutual friends (either first degree or second degree) you have with the people you encounter on Tinder, much like Coffee Meet Bagel, and mutually liked pages.
As with any site/app, you’re welcome to add as much personal information as you want. Unlike other sites/apps, Tinder does not give you any sort of prompts or suggestions, but rather presents you with a blank box and lets you fill it in with whatever your heart desires, including nothing at all, if you so choose. Tinder will choose photos for your profile as well, but you’re welcome to switch out whichever photos it selects and replace them with ones you like, such as, say, a photo from the CARA banquet where you cropped out your now-ex-boyfriend because you looked bangin’ in that dress and forced him to take a picture with you so you could put it on Facebook and show off to all of your non-friends that you both had a boyfriend and a super amazing little black dress, but then after he drove you home you spent nearly two hours sitting in his car successfully convincing him to delay breaking up with you for a month, and decided, in light of that conversation, that perhaps Facebook would not be the appropriate place for that photo, but held on to it anyway, and then post-breakup decided, oh, eff yes this is going on my Tinder profile. Not that I did that, because I’m not petty, shallow, or predictable.
So, once you’ve done all that, the real fun begins, and you get to swiping. Tinder will use the location services function of your phone (and drain the hell out of your battery, let me tell you) to find you potential suitors within a distance you’ve specified, anywhere from one to 100 miles. It will then present you with people who fit the gender you’ve selected to be shown (men, women, both men and women) and the distance you’ve requested. Upon initial swipe, you will see their photo, their name, their age, and their school and/or job information if they’ve allowed Tinder to share that from their Facebook page. If you want to know more, you can tap on this area, and it will open their full profile, with more schooling/job information if they’ve chosen to share that, their distance from you, any mutual friends/interests, and the ability to scroll through the rest of their photos. If you like them, you can tap the green heart or swipe right. If you don’t like them, you can tap the red x or swipe left. If you really like them, you can tap the blue star, which will “super like” them (I don’t think anyone uses this function, or at least not on purpose). If you swipe right, Tinder will hang onto that person for you, but you can’t find his/her profile again unless he/she swiped right on you in the past or swipes right on you in the future. If you swipe left on someone, they are, allegedly, gone forever, unless you upgrade to Tinder Plus, in which case you get access to an undo function. Or you could just be patient, because I’ve definitely had people I swiped left on show up again later.
If you match with someone, the two of you now have the ability to chat and/or sexually harass each other. Chatting in Tinder is basically identical to texting, so if you hoped to woo someone with your command of the English language, I suggest moving your efforts over to OkCupid or Match.
Now, let’s tackle the number one thing everyone associates with Tinder: hooking up. Can you find a hookup on Tinder? Yes, absolutely. People looking for hookups are fairly easy to identify. If you see someone with no profile information, someone whose profile says, “In *insert city here* until *date not that far in the future*,” or someone who matched with you at an extremely obscure hour of the morning, like 3 a.m. obscure, I’d be willing to bet a very pretty penny that they’re on Tinder with the primary goal of finding a hookup. Now this, of course, doesn’t mean people who have profile information aren’t looking for a hookup, or that only sleaze balls swipe at weird hours, but if you are (or aren’t) looking for a hookup, those above profile indicators are the things I’d pay the most attention to.
I actually spent a couple of weeks on Tinder right when I started talking to my most recent ex-boyfriend. I had been a Tinder holdout for quite some time, but one of my roommates (who met her boyfriend, likely soon-to-be fiancé, of over two years on Tinder) was quite insistent that I at least give it a shot. After a summer of failed OkCupid dates and absolutely no success on Match, I decided I’d start using Tinder on Sept. 1. I caved and downloaded it the weekend before Sept. 1 (so either Aug. 29 or 30). I then met and started talking to my most recent ex-boyfriend on Aug. 31. I had stopped actively Tinder-ing before I actually went out with him, because I was really interested in seeing where things would go with him and wasn’t all that invested in Tinder during the whopping two weeks I tried it last fall. And to be honest, I was pretty disappointed with my experience. I had very, very few matches, despite not being that picky. The few people that I did match with rarely messaged me, and if they did, it never lasted beyond one or two days. I certainly never got asked out, or even asked for my number.
Side note about messaging: I, personally, will never first-message someone on Tinder. I will happily first-message boys on Match and OkCupid, but never on Tinder, because I don’t trust anyone on Tinder. I’m sure there are guys who swipe right on every single girl who comes up for them, just to see who’s swiped right on them, and quite frankly, I have no interest in getting involved with anyone like that. Therefore, on Tinder, I always wait for someone to message me, because I figure if they message me, they must have some sort of interest. I also apply all my other messaging rules to Tinder, which is to say if all I receive is a, “hey,” “sup,” “hi,” or any other shocking lack of effort that makes me weep for mankind, I do not dignify that with a response.
When I got back on Tinder after my most recent breakup, I expected the same experience. I had no illusions that I’d match with people, no assumptions that I’d receive messages, and absolutely no expectation that I’d be asked out. I wanted a low-effort, low-expectation way to ease myself back into the world of online dating, and Tinder seemed like the best way to do that.
Well! Was I ever wrong. In my first few days on Tinder, I matched with more guys than I ever expected possible (however, after that initial match-fest, the number of times I’d match with someone dropped off dramatically. I’m talking going from matching with at least a dozen people per day to maybe matching with three people per week, at best. My one theory is that Tinder recognizes fresh blood, and pimps you out accordingly. My other theory is that after matching with so many people, Tinder had run out of other viable guys for me to match with that fit my age and distance criteria). To my great surprise, some of these people messaged me. To my even greater surprise, almost all of them asked me out, and generally pretty quickly. With the exception of one guy, everyone that I matched and then engaged in a conversation with asked me out within less than a week. I had been out of the online dating scene for six months, so maybe a huge cultural shift took place during that time, but this was lightening speed compared to my past experience. Out of everyone I met on a non-Tinder dating site, only one asked me out quickly. Otherwise, it usually took a week at the absolute best, but usually much longer than that–sometimes up to a month–for someone to ask me out. I was blown away by how many people I met on Tinder that asked me out within hours of matching.
I went on a string of Tinder dates with mixed results, so in that department, I’d say the quality of people I met on Tinder is fairly equal to the quality of people I met elsewhere. The one biggest issue I personally ran into, however, was religion. Every other site I’ve used has had a place where you can identify what you believe religiously, if you believe anything at all. Because I’m a Christian, and it’s important to me that the people I date are on the same page as I am in that department, at least in a general sense, I’ve never before paid any sort of attention to anyone who either doesn’t say what they believe on their profile, or says they believe something different than I believe. While I’m not necessarily husband hunting, I do see marriage as the end goal of dating, which, for me, makes it very difficult to even consider dating someone who doesn’t share my religious beliefs, as that’s one of my very few non-negotiables when it comes to what I’m looking for in a partner. Obviously people can change, but, as I think most people know very well, you can’t change someone else, and I think you especially can’t change someone else when it comes to religion. Certainly they could change themselves, but this isn’t like telling someone you don’t like their cologne and want them to wear something else, you know? This is a really big thing, and expecting someone to change in that realm seems like setting yourself up for failure.
All that to say, the whole religion thing has made things sticky for me on Tinder. I’ve gone out with guys that I’ve really liked, only to find out they aren’t religious at all, which has been wildly disappointing and frustrating for me. You certainly can bring up religion in your bio on Tinder if you so choose, but from what I’ve seen, it’s very uncommon to do that – about as uncommon as it is for people to talk about their religious beliefs in their bios on other dating sites (Match and OkCupid, for example, both have basic, fill-in-the-blank forms that allow you to disclose things like religion, height, body type, etc. This is where people usually say what they believe, if they say anything at all. Rarely does someone reinforce this message through their bio.). It’s entirely possible I just read too far into things, but since it is so uncommon, I know when I come across someone who includes their faith on their Tinder bio, I assume that they are a particular type of Christian, and the type of Christian I assume they are is not the type of Christian I am–namely, the type of Christian who advertises, in no uncertain terms, that they are a Christian. While my faith is intensely important to me, it is also intensely personal, and not something I usually/ever bring up apropos of nothing. So it makes Tinder difficult.
Beyond that, Tinder also has a reputation–and I think nearly everyone gets on Tinder knowing this–of not being serious. I’ve never taken Tinder all that seriously, and I would consider myself pretty serious about dating. Tinder is a bar; Match is a singles event. You go into Tinder knowing something could happen, but having very low expectations that anything will happen, and, if it does happen, that it will lead to anything exclusive, serious, or long term. Does it happen? Sure. Does it happen often? I doubt it–or at least less often than on other sites/apps. You go into Match expecting something to happen, namely: a relationship, and quite possibly a long term and/or marriage one. But because Tinder is so casual and so low key, it feels weird to talk about religion. If you met someone at a bar and struck up a conversation with them, are you going to ask them right off the bat what they believe religiously, or expect them to ask you the same question? Probably not. If you were at a singles event, where you intended to walk out with at least one, if not more, potential people to date, would you feel more inclined to ask about religion? I’d imagine so. That’s where things get complicated with Tinder and religion, at least in my eyes, and for a religious person, that can make things really complicated in general.
Tinder to me also feels more like a sprint, whereas I’d consider OkCupid, Match, and even Coffee Meets Bagel to be more of a marathon. I get burnt out on Tinder a lot faster than on any other site, not because of consistent disappointment, but because honestly, there’s only so much you can do. You can stay on OkCupid and Match for hours, searching through literally hundreds of thousands of profiles, tweaking your own profile, answering questions, sending messages to people who’ve never contacted you, etc. On Tinder, you’re much more limited. You can swipe for hours, sure, and exchange messages with people you’ve matched with, but I think it’d be tough to spend hours on Tinder, which is not at all hard to do on Match or OkCupid. Everything on Tinder, in my experience, is rapid-fire. Match, message, exchange numbers, go out, never speak to each other again. Boom. Done. Case closed, all within seven days. Other sites, for me at least, moved much slower. It’d take days, weeks to find someone that wanted to message with you. It’d take weeks, up to a month, for them to ask you out. It would drag on and on, creating a very different sort of environment than Tinder. I don’t know if I’d say one is better than the other, but they are quite different, I think.
I don’t hate Tinder, not at all. Based on the number of people I’ve run into on there that I’ve also known in real life compared to other sites, it certainly seems to be the most popular app to use. It’s easy, it’s simple, it requires very little effort. But remember, it’s a bar, not a matchmaking event. Adjust your expectations accordingly, and you’ll do just fine.