Is Tinder THAT Bad

Much has already been written about this viral article from Vanity Fair about the rise of Tinder and the proliferation of hook-up culture. If you don’t have fifteen minutes, you can get the gist of the piece just by reading the subheaders:

“As romance gets swiped from the screen, some twentysomethings aren’t liking what they see.”

“Sex has become so easy.”

“Hit it and quit it.”

“Boom-Boom-Boom. Swipe.”

“Too easy.”

“The Morning After”

“People are gorging.”

The writer, Nancy Jo Sales, offers a sensational and searing look at how Tinder and texting has allowed men to dispense with courtship. For many people – especially millennials – dating is ancient history. Why talk on the phone with a strange woman for an hour and agree to buy her a pricey dinner, when you can text her, have her come over, sleep with her, and not have to commit any time, energy or emotion?

For many people – especially millennials – dating is ancient history.

To me, Tinder is online dating – without the depth. That’s a joke, because online dating is shallow to begin with. But at least there’s a written profile. At least you have to exchange a few emails first. At least there’s something potentially substantive in a written profile. Not so on Tinder, which is, essentially HotOrNot combined with GPS technology. Which is why it doesn’t seem like much of a stretch to suggest that it’s the single greatest contribution to straight hookup culture that we’ve ever seen.

I’m no Pollyanna about hookup culture. I partook in the riches offered to me by Match, Nerve, JDate and so on for nearly 10 years. But I was never a sociopath about it. If you read the Vanity Fair piece, that seems to be what this sort of technology generates – men (and women) who are acting largely without conscience.

Listen, technology doesn’t “make” people act a given way; it only enables it. But that enabling is pretty powerful stuff. Much has been written about how smartphones enable us to be connected all the time – and inadvertently rewire our brains. When I can’t stop scrolling my Facebook newsfeed at 1am, commenting on others’ posts, looking for “likes” on my own, well, it’s clear that something has fundamentally changed – and not necessarily for the better.

Technology doesn’t “make” people act a given way; it only enables it. But that enabling is pretty powerful stuff.

New York Magazine wrote a rebuttal to the Vanity Fair piece, which pointed out that the author was overly reliant on anecdotes as opposed to big data. They say the author was looking for evidence to support her thesis and found it. They say that plenty of people find true love on Tinder. They cite a respected author, Jean Twenge, who reports that millennials are having less sex. And yet…

I’m inclined to side with Sales and Vanity Fair. I feel like New York Magazine – specifically, the author, Jesse Singal, is also caught up in his own confirmation bias. In other words, he doesn’t want to believe that what Sales wrote about Tinder and millennials is true so he nibbles around the edges to try to refute it. The data that Singal is looking for can only be provided by Tinder – asking people to self-report their experience on the site and how many sex partners they’ve had, etc. But reporting that Tinder is not a problem because overall, millennials are having less sex really seems to intentionally miss the point.

If you’re a woman who wants to be courted and wants to save sex for boyfriends instead of strangers, you can do so. It’s just a lot harder on Tinder.

The point is that if you’re a woman who is looking for a real relationship on Tinder, you’d better be prepared to deal with a whole bunch of right-swiping men who have more access to NSA sex than the 80’s bar scene or the 90’s online dating scene ever could have produced. That doesn’t mean that all millennials are partaking; it does mean that those who Tinder for love may have every right to question the effectiveness of the medium.

If you’re a woman who wants to be courted and wants to save sex for boyfriends instead of strangers, you can do so. It’s just a lot harder on Tinder.