This Fourth-of-July weekend I celebrated the wedding of a longtime friend, Jared, and his new wife Jen. Just a year apart in age, I grew up with Jared and his three siblings on Glen Park Dr. Although our days of kickball and mario kart are distant memories now, our parents have remained dear friends, and it was quite an honor to see Jared all grown-up in his wedding tux. Congratulations, J & J!
And with that, I’ll transition to the opposite end of the love spectrum. Two weeks ago I wrote the first post in a series dedicated to my experiences in online dating. In case you missed it (but how could you?), in Online: Part I I discussed the reasons behind why I decided to join the delightful world of online dating world five years ago. I also shared the below graph of the online marketplace as I’ve experienced it, which can be summed up in one simple relationship: Quantity vs. Quality.
I’m guessing many of you aren’t as intimately familiar with the online marketplace as I am, so I wanted to take a post (or four) to introduce you to the four dating sites I’ve used: Tinder, OKCupid, JDate, and Match.com. I’ll start with Tinder, as it is the latest dating (if you can call it that) craze and the one I’ve used most recently. Tinder is actually not an online dating website but a dating “app” for your phone. The premise is simple: Tinder will show you guys (or girls) that are within a certain radius of you at any given time. You are presented with these men one at a time, and are asked to “swipe right” if you are interested and left if you are not. If both you and the guy swipe right, then you are “matched” and can begin chatting through the app – very similar to texting. If either one of you swipes left, then you are not matched and you can’t talk through the app. Think of it as “hot or not”, and both parties have to say “hot” or it’s a no-go.
Make sense? To start “Tinder-ing”, one simply downloads the app and links it up to one’s Facebook account. You then select a profile picture and a few supporting pics, and you’re off and running (or should I say, “swiping”). Simple as that. No lengthy set of profile questions to answer, no hours spent agonizing over your “self-summary”. You can write a few sentences about yourself to give the swiper something to ask you about should you become a match, but that’s not necessary. I, for one, have nothing written on my profile – just a picture of my smiling self. It seems to be quite effective – I have a 95% match rate! (don’t worry, I’m not so popular on match.com – more on that later).
From my perspective, Tinder’s unique value proposition – what makes it different from all other dating sites and apps (that MBA is paying off already) can be boiled down to two things:
1. Attraction: By cutting out the lengthy profile associated with other dating sites, Tinder gets to the heart of dating right off the bat: attraction. “Am I attracted to this person?” is the first, and only, question asked on Tinder. The rest is up to you. Yes, traditional dating sites have photos, but they also have copious amounts of text in effort to convince you that looks aren’t the only thing that matter. And of course, they aren’t. But Tinder is betting on the fact that for most singles, attraction is pretty darn important. At the very least, it’s a way to screen potential mates (or potential one-night stands, as the case may be for some).
2. Mutual Interest: The second feature that makes Tinder unique is the concept of mutual interest. Anyone who has spent more than an hour on a dating site knows that 99% of the attention one receives is unwanted – creepy emails from creepy guys. And it goes both ways – I’ve spent precious hours crafting clever email messages to guys only to have them ignored. On Tinder, however, all it takes is a swipe of a finger to know if someone is interested in you or not. And if you both swipe right and are “matched”, then only then can you start talking – cutting right to the chase.
Reading so far, you might think Tinder is the greatest thing since MTV’s “Singled Out”. It’s fun, straight-forward, and effortless. But Tinder isn’t all swipes and roses. You see, the very things that make Tinder unique are also what makes it very flaky. Tinder is fun – what isn’t fun about swiping through a never-ending series of men and deciding whether they are hot-or-not? But because it’s so fun, it’s not taken seriously. I’d say 50% (at least) of the matches on my phone were made by people other than myself. Most often married friends that get a kick out of Tindering. What could be more fun as a happy couple than reveling in the single-status of your friends? Thus, I pay very little (if any) attention to my matches and ignore most of the chats that come through. Especially if those matches were made by friends who think it’s hilarious to right-swipe on guys like this charmer below (you know who you are). Those same friends also think it’s hilarious to send these guys messages such as “want to make out?”. Good friends I have.
It goes both ways. I’ve also received messages from guys like, “want to make out in my car tonight?” (this was at 2PM on a Thursday), and most recently, something very Rated-R: “did you know there are only 5 people capable of whistling while performing cunnilingus and I’m 3 of them?” Yep. That Happened.
To further complicate things, Tinder is all about having the right timing. If you swipe right on someone who might not swipe right on you til much later, it’s easy to forget about that match and move on to someone else. And because it’s high-volume, with lots of swipes and lots of matches in a short period of time, it’s easy to forget about someone. Tinder is based on the “here-and-now” concept – two people both in the right frame of mind at the same time – and it doesn’t work so well when that’s not the case. It’s also notoriously casual – people just looking for a one-night stand, not a relationship.
That being said, I’ve been on a few Tinder dates that are just as normal as any other date. I’ve also known people to have long-term relationships with people they’ve met on Tinder. After all, once you “match”, what difference does it make how you met? You’re still just two people looking for a connection. My advice to anyone who is thinking about joining Tinder is to not take it too seriously. Swipe, give your phone to your friends to swipe, laugh, and chat up a few guys. Maybe it’ll lead to something, maybe it won’t. But one thing is for sure – you’ll definitely have fun!