Who should join Tinder?

I’m like a Tinder ambassador right now. In the month that I’ve been using the app, I’ve convinced a co-worker, a neighbor, and a friend to join. I’ve also accidentally convinced 6 people in 3 seriously committed relationships that they are missing out.

The most effective thing, when convincing people to join Tinder, is just to show them the app. It’s so simple. It’s so fun. This is usually how this goes—I explain to people how it works, and then I hand them my phone, and they play for 5–10 minutes, choosing and rejecting guys for me. Then I take my phone back. Then I say, “Get your own.”

My friend and I were crossing the street when she decided to download the app and she literally stopped in the middle of the crosswalk to try to take a new, more flattering selfie. I had to drag her out of oncoming traffic and convince her we could get that same glow without a rush of life-threatening adrenaline.

I’m trying to get my friend in New York, and all I had to do was screenshot a couple of cute guys and text them to her. Pretty soon, she was texting me, “Make out with all of them! Who are they? Why can’t I have them? I am signing up so I can make out with all of them.”

This is a friend who is vehemently against online dating. She also won’t date friends within her social circle or mutual acquaintances. She also won’t date strangers she meets in a bar because they could be serial killers.


Did you hear that Tinder just made its first match in Antarctica? Here’s the thing. They aren’t in love. They may never be in love. But they’ve met now.

I’m going to make some really cheesy statements about hope and possibility, considering I’m talking about a dating app that appears, on the surface, to be the most superficial of all the dating sites.

Feel free to argue with me in your head, but I turned comments off on this blog a long time ago, because like America, this isn’t a democracy. It’s a republic.

Say it’s a sunny day. You’re walking down the street, looking at everybody you pass, and everybody’s heads are up, and people are smiling. Everyone is interesting. Some of them look like people you’d like to be friends with. Someone is the best bucket drummer you’ve ever seen. And some of them are handsome motherf***ers who you’d like to date.

Maybe you even make eye contact with someone. But how in the world are you going to meet him? Basically no one is aggressive enough to ask someone out while passing them on the street, and that attention is almost never welcome in that context, and even if those two things line up, that move would be so aggressive that you would be suspicious and threatened by its existence. Totally cute guy that you would want to ask you out if you met through friends? –> Serial killer/creeper/street harasser if he stops and harasses you on the street.

This is fine. Totally ok, even. If it’s a choice between overcorrecting and undercorrecting, I choose overcorrecting until all women feel safe to walk all places all the time. Then we can work on being “friendly” or whatever you street harasser apologists call it.

But Tinder! Tinder is like walking down a very crowded street full of people about your age, in your city, of your preferred romantic-partner gender, and when you see someone you like, and they like you back, a text message conversation opens. Literally. That’s actually what happens. Except for the walking part, because Tinder is best done from the safety of your couch while watching Broad City.

I was reading an article that said you shouldn’t swipe through people for more than 15 minutes at a time, because you become more picky at that point, and you’re probably eating cereal in your underwear, so let’s knock off the judgment, ok guys?

Which I thought was a very fair point, since I was eating cereal and reading articles about Tinder in my PJs at 7 pm.

On the other hand, I maintain that using the word “bitches” in a profile is a fair reason to dismiss a dude, even if it is in the context of, “Big fan of the Oxford comma…bitches love the Oxford comma.”

You could argue that all online dating gives you the chance to meet new, cute people, which is all I’ve really managed to say so far.

But Tinder’s gamed the system in two very effective ways: the barrier to entry is low and the entertainment level is high.

Have you ever heard anyone say they were excited to sit down and make their OkCupid profile? Or even seen someone pull out their phone to spend a few minutes casually looking at other people’s OkCupid profiles?

It all feels like a commitment. There is so much work required that it takes real effort to do it. All of which feels too heavy to me. I’m not actually searching for a serious relationship. I’m not saying I would turn one down, I just don’t want to put energy finding one. A lot of stigma about online dating has been removed, but not the (fair) perception that people who are doing it are looking for something, relationship-wise. I’m not even sure I really want to be dating right now. I’m not against it. It’s just sort of last on the list, after writing more, remembering to cook dinner, figuring out what I’m doing with my life, watching all of my Netflix queue, reading my stack of library books, cleaning my bathroom, flossing more, jogging, and getting allergy shots once a month for five years.

But what I did want was something new to look at on my phone while doing all of those things. What happened was this: I listened to Serial. Serial ended. I downloaded Tinder.

I’m not the only one. I think this article—”How Tinder Solved Online Dating for Women”—summed things up pretty nicely:

In July, most of my single female friends weren’t playing around with online dating at all. They were busy with work and friends and not looking to settle down immediately, so why put the time and effort into meticulously constructing a profile, screening dozens of messages, and going on dates with guys who look nothing like their pictures? By August, all they could talk about was Tinder.

The article goes on to explain that besides being easy, Tinder is fun. It doesn’t feel like a chore to open up your messages and be worried about what you might find in there. (And if there is something unwanted, there is an “unmatch” feature that quickly cuts the offender off and removes their ability to talk to you. There is also a way to report abusers.)

I also like that Tinder isn’t pretending to know what you want. It doesn’t even ask you to know what you want. We know that dating sites’ algorithms—while largely based in very real behavorial psychology—are mostly bullshit. Just read OkCupid’s blog. Have you read OkCupid’s blog? Go read OkCupid’s blog. I’ll wait here.

The fact of the matter is, I don’t know what I want. I went on Tinder thinking, I’ll just look. Pretty soon (ok, really soon), I thought, “Well, I could talk to some people.” Then, “Well, this is a dating app. What’s the point if I’m not going to meet people in real life?” (Psssst: going on dates is fun. Going on dates with low expectations is even more fun.)

If I don’t know what I want out of a relationship right now, then I certainly don’t know what I want in a person. Besides, so many of us think we want something that we don’t. So many of us think we want “someone like us,” when in fact almost none of us wants to date ourselves. How many of you have ever ended up in an unexpected relationship because you just really liked the person?

Everyone just raised their hand? Earth is tilting from all the hand raising?

Yes, Tinder requires you to make a decision about a person based on little information—a picture, a short bio. And yes, I could reject someone who I might really like if I gave them a chance. But I could still meet him in person! He still exists! Though Tinder may not be our medium, but he doesn’t get killed if I don’t swipe right (like). He doesn’t even ever find out I swiped left (nope). This isn’t Ender’s Game, you guys. I hope. Oh god, what if it’s Ender’s Game?

In the meantime, while we try to figure out if Tinder is fighting a war in outer space and deciding who lives and dies through our arbitrary actions…I’ve found that Tinder has made me more open to the idea of meeting people, in general. My friend pointed this out, too. “I actually think Tinder is very good for me. I’ve talked to more new people through the couple of months of being on Tinder than in the past six years of living here.”

It’s reminded me, too, that meeting new people can be easy. That talking to a guy and seeing where it goes doesn’t mean declaring your intentions toward him, or toward what you want out of life. That other people want to meet new people, too. That who we “like” isn’t based on some objective standard of who looks like a model—but who looks like someone we might like. Real-life like.

That decision’s based on all sorts of cues—and not all of them superficial.

Plus…everyone likes getting this little digital present:
Someone who you think is cute thinks you’re cute.