BY: TYLER FYFE
After verbally assaulting my roommate for weeks about joining Tinder, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of shame punching the last period on my own bio. Of course, I escaped accusations of hypocrisy using the excuse of “embedding for the sake of honest journalism” but in truth—newly single—I had become a lonely social media sloth and my chronic masturbation was losing all sense of temporary satisfaction.
DATE 1: EMMA
As I sat under the smothered light of the otherwise empty tavern, my paranoia that this was somehow a sting operation set up by my ex was diminishing with each passing sip of my pint. I mean this girl seemed promising. She liked books and used a tolerable amount of smiley faces. By the time she sat down, I had achieved the optimal buzz—enough to lubricate conversation without spitting while I talked.
Despite hearing horror stories of photoshopped faces and misleading paragraph bios, beneath the dim incandescent light Emma seemed to relatively match her profile—pale and blonde with a face like a pre-plastic surgery Renée Zellweger.
Since Tinder began as a startup in 2012, the free application has quickly dominated the virtual dating sphere, the company now claiming more than 1.5 billion swipes daily and 6 billion matches to date. As a twenty-something living in a swarming metropolis, Tinder had surrounded me on all sides. Within my circle, virgins to Tinder were becoming mythical.
In a New York Times article, Eli. J. Finkel writes that the expanded dating pool and the accelerated process of meeting are Tinder’s greatest strengths.
“To be honest, I hate people who take Tinder too seriously. I mean you really can’t expect anything. Like, why would you anyways when you have 1,000 other people at your finger tips?” Said Emma.
This was not Emma’s first Tinder date. She had downloaded the app after breaking up with her boyfriend and had been at it ever since.
“I have a friend named Darrien who slept with five girls from Tinder last week. He actually keeps a spreadsheet to stay organized. His goal is seven in one week. It’s like what void is he trying to fill?” Emma said.
“Maybe, he just likes fast food,” I said.
In The Paradox of Choice, Psychologist Barry Schwartz, talks about the concept of choice paralysis, whereby “when people have so many options to choose from, people have a hard time choosing at all.” According to Schwartz, this is a consequence of a rising threshold of expectation resulting in dissatisfaction. As Tinder quickly approaches the 100 million user mark, the act of settling for one dismisses the millions that could have been.
As the centrepiece candle dripped to a stump and my tip hit the cheque tray, we headed towards the exit. Being that our conversation had only a few mild speed bumps of awkwardness, she decided to take me to one of her favourite bars around the corner. I lit my cigarette as we passed through the doorway into the sharp light of the city’s street-lamps.
Around her mouth was speckled by a topography of pinkish bubbles with crusted yellow peaks. And there perched in the top left corner of her lip was The King looking like he might splatter at any second if touched by the slightest pressure of prevalent wind. There was no question. This was herpes.
“Can I have a drag of your cigarette?” Emma said.
I hacked up the smoke from my last pull, wildly attempting to grip at some entrenched notion of politeness. As I twisted my face back to something close to natural form, I handed her the cigarette and watched as the filter grazed The King.
When she handed it back, I palmed the cigarette for about twenty steps before flicking it on a snow covered garbage can. Then we stopped at a fast-food place so I could wash my hands.
And meditate in the stall.
This was a nightmare for a self-professed hypochondriac.
Profile misrepresentation is the number one dissatisfaction of Tinder users. At their core, profiles are self-branding, users becoming the stars of their own lives, editing and inflating identities. And just like the commercial catalogues of online shopping—somehow the clothes will never look as good as they do on the airbrushed model.
Needless to say when we got to the hidden bar she wanted to show me, we finished our last drink with fragmented conversation and wide valleys of awkward silence. We did not kiss.
DATE 2: DYME
A week and a half later I pulled into NYC. In my midtown hotel room my Tinder matches began to stack like the floors of the mid-construction high-rises on 57th street. Eight million one hundred and seventy five thousand people crammed into 302 square miles. By pure odds, this was the Tinder Promised Land.
Through text, she spoke with flat shortness, similar to the way one might order a pizza. Is it possible to be truly genuine through a digital filter when it’s impossible to stutter?
As I walked into a Korean restaurant among the soundtrack of clattering pans, she was easy to spot at the back table—a slight figure that mushroomed into a golden Afro.
“I really only meet guys on Tinder. It’s way easier. Meeting a stranger at the bar and rejecting them is usually so awkward.” Said Dyme.
As she began to rest her painted nails on my lap, I’ll admit that I nodded along with vacant eyes. One sentence had snared my attention like a fishing hook. It had been echoed in every conversation I’d ever had about Tinder.
“It’s way easier.”
Minimal effort with maximum options; this is the definition of convenience consumerism, a motivation that is drastically changing what we choose to consume, and by tacit consent, how we live.
As an example, we can look at the sweeping change in food advertising that occurred in the mid 20th century, which began emphasizing convenience foods to American housewives. Half a century later, frozen and convenience food is a staple in the American diet. In 2008, 84.2 cents of the American food dollar went to the marketing share, while just 15.8 cents went to the farm share. Over half a century of cumulative effects later, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States.
As we finished our make out session in the back corner of the crowded restaurant, a woman leaned out of a booth with a wide smile of admiration.
“You guys are such a cute couple.”
“Haha thanks. We met on Tinder a few hours ago.” Said Dyme.
She stopped smiling.
DATE 3: KATIE
By now, my thumb swipe had become an involuntary function—profiles flashing like exit signs on the freeway of free love. The average Tinder user logs in 11 times a day, for 7 minutes, clocking a daily average of 90 minutes on the app.
It was my last night in New York, and I sat in Greenwich Village with a pair of coffee-stained eyes that held an uncommon softness. What caught my attention was not what she said, but the way she listened—leaning into every word as if they might free her from some reoccurring dream of emptiness.
Three hours later, I sat naked on the queen-sized bed of The Holiday Inn, while she fixed the black smudges of her eyeliner under the fluorescent light of the bathroom.
As I mindlessly reached for the phone on the nightstand and flipped through the assembly line of faces, surely Henry Ford must have smiled from the aluminum clouds of industrial heaven.
It was right then that I realized I had become what I hated.
While Tinder draws a variety of intentions from romance to sex to vanity, there is a common motive—the pursuit of instant gratification.
The term McDonaldization, describes a breakdown of tasks to increasing simplicity in order to achieve a system of maximum efficiency. George Ritzer outlined four major principles leaking from the fryers of the fast food industry into other areas of society: efficiency (speed), calculability (quantity), predictability (uniform outcome) and control (the replacing of human effort with a non-human system).
With 22 million matches a day, now dominating 56 countries out of the 140 in which it’s available, and experiencing an exponential growth in the last 90 days, Tinder is not only rising as a viral application, but as a dominant social force.
Marshall McLuhan famously stated that the medium is the message, believing that the method by which we communicate exerts a powerful influence on human behaviour. He wrote in Understanding Media, that the medium “creates an environment by its mere presence.”
Much like convenience culture and the cumulative effects that microwaveable dinners and hormone-injected beef patties had on public health, or Fordism on the deskilling of workers, so too does the effort-efficient application imply a sociological change.
Should Marx have been writing from a Brooklyn Starbucks, Tinder’s recent launch of a monetized service with subscription rates based on age might have been interpreted as the commodification of love.
In an age of cultural entitlement, where we want everything at our fingertips, I fear that we are sacrificing the most complex characteristics of our humanity for the sake of convenience.
At best Tinder is a growing cesspool of superficial interaction. At worst, Tinder is the lethal dagger in the bleeding heart of chivalry.