“The Tinder Generation
Alana Hope Levinson

Maybe Tinder’s PR team is right. Most of its users are looking for a meaningful connection. The profiles certainly say so. The vast majority of women’s Tinder profiles say “not looking for a hookup,” or the even more fascinating “not looking for just a hookup.” And most guys’ profiles say… well… nothing really.

But the position that a search for a meaningful connection somehow precludes the possibility of a hookup is absurd. And it insults the people out there who know what it feels like to be alone.

A “hookup” and “meeting the right person” aren’t two separate phenomena any more than eating cookie dough and eating fully baked cookies are. You shouldn’t eat cookie dough. You should be patient. Line up the sculpted little balls, bake at 325 for 18–20 minutes (350 if you’re at a high altitude), and get the piping hot cookies you deserve. But…

Sometimes you’re drunk, or high, or thinking about an ex. You’re home alone and it’s Saturday at 1 a.m. and you’re staring at the fridge. And the dough is just… right… there.

I keep trying to remind myself that there’s a difference between happiness and pleasure. Happiness is a state you reach somehow — the things around you haven’t changed so much as your perception of them, and how you allow them to affect you. Pleasures are devices people use when they haven’t gotten to a happy state. They’re “hits” of something to get buy. A Shake Shack burger. A bottle of Jack. A hit of heroin. A hookup.

It’s a complicated tapestry what sex means to an individual. Your color palette is probably very different than mine. When you’re in a relationship with someone, it probably moves closer to some norm — it becomes an aspect of your relationship with that person. But casual sex? Is it an exercise of hormones? Is it a justification of my masculinity for femininity? Is it a validation of my attractiveness? Is it a defiant assertion of my power against the fates that are conspiring for me to be alone?

The duality of Tinder is that Tinder claims it’s not for hookups, the profiles claim it’s not for hookups, but there’s a lot of people hooking up and saying that relationships are impossible. And I can’t help but remember the times I was on road trips with my friends. Driving down The Merritt Parkway, we’d keep saying that was didn’t want to eat crap, we didn’t want to eat crap. But road sign after road sign offered nothing but crap. And we were hungry.

So all the people who are traveling down that road looking for something meaningful — eventually they’re going to want to eat. The mechanism for finding something meaningful is “be attracted… but find out a little more, and wait until you’re sure.” The mechanism of a hookup is “be attracted… just make sure he’s not a psycho.”

It’s like a choice between family therapy and a bong. And the bong is RIGHT there. In your hand. With dozens of choices.

In a way, the stripping away of personal information on Tinder mirrors the embracing of hookups by a generation because “relationships don’t work for me.” It’s throwing out the baby with the bathwater. The difficulties meeting people is inherent to the process of meeting the right person — not a defect. And so stripping that away is the same as eating McDonald’s every day — because it’s on the corner closest to my apartment. You can do it. But you’ll be unhealthier for it.

That said… I prefer Netflix.

I’m told that every time someone reads one of my other stories, a seagull is freed from one of those plastic sixpack things. Look, I’m no scientist — this is just what they tell me.