Do You Think Tinder is Bad for the Dating World?

[Originally posted as an answer on Quora]

This has to be one of my absolute favourite topics, as I find the exploration of dating culture and dating apps to be relentlessly interesting. To start, I want to share some of an article I wrote on this very topic for a local publication called Narcity Toronto (I will expand further below). Please read on if you are interested:

Last year, an article came out in Vanity Fair which explicitly dissected what the author deemed as, “The Dating Apocalypse”. The article was as brilliant as it was downright depressing to read, even though we likely anticipated the realities that were written within it’s depths.

After all, this isn’t a new conversation to be had. We are all, to some extent, aware of the dating culture currently at work and the way in which dating apps like Tinder have changed the romantic game for most of Generation Y.

Admittedly, as a single 20-something living in a busy city who works 40–60 hours a week while balancing the rest of the demands and interests imbedded into my life, I can understand the frustration felt when it seems impossible to meet the right people.

Sometimes there simply aren’t enough hours in the week to get out to get out to (hopefully) make those connections. So, what is the most convenient solution? Bring the action to you: Tinder.

The funny thing about dating app culture is the drastic shift it has inspired within our social understanding. Online dating, after all, has been around for a long time. People used it, sure, but it was rarely openly boasted about. That’s not to say it was “taboo”, but there was something about the whole “lonely people actively seeking companionship” vibe associated with online dating that people simple weren’t entirely comfortable with.

Alternatively, dating apps have now completely normalized that culture. The complete ease-of-use associated with the apps and mindless, lackluster motion of swiping right or left based solely on someone’s picture as a means to an end makes it okay. It makes it cool.

Technically speaking, this is fine, as it suits people’s needs without giving anyone a complex over how it looks from a social standpoint, but it’s allowed people to become rampant in their (lazy) dating efforts and, in hand, completely inflated the hook-up culture.

So what’s the problem with this? Well, a few things.

For one, it has notably affected people’s grasp of conversation or engagement. Many daters will either find it nearly impossible to establish interesting conversation within the premise of a Tinder conversation window, or they will learn to depend on that medium as their source of confidence and persona. It can become a crutch.

Not only that, but both parties likely know that the other is also engaged in various other conversations, dates or “casual” relationships.

Nothing about it is sacred. If one conversation doesn’t work out, there’s always plenty of other people to swipe through. The ‘paradox of choice’ naturally takes over and allows us to think theres always something or someone better just a few swipes away. We view the exchange on the judgement of profiles (made up of carefully selected pictures), proximity and availability, instead of people and genuine connection. Why? Because it’s easy.

This allows people to be reckless. It allows people to not care. It allows for emotional detachment. This may be liberating to some, but it’s also potentially harmful when it becomes a habit of disregarding failed dates because “Who cares, it’s just Tinder”. A ‘quantity over quality’ mindset is eating away at our time as hours are spent swiping away.

When things do progress to a “date”, the participants are usually either disappointed by the culmination of events (maybe your date isn’t as charming in person, or doesn’t look like their pictures) or simply plagued with feelings of insecurity as they wonder “Do they think I look as good as my pictures? Is this their third Tinder date this week?”

You have to come across as cool. Engaged, but not too invested. You don’t want them to think you’re searching for a date, or lonely in any way. You’re just busy, independent; the perfect balance. You have to be laid back, can’t reveal too much about yourself, right? We have to sell ourselves, like Matt tried to do with me.

Dating has become calculated.

We allow ourselves to fall into scenarios in an effort to win, to come out on top. It’s this exaggerated desire for acceptance combined with a twisted sense of youthful, single entitlement that has mixed with the convenience of apps and dating culture to create a monster.

Then there’s the sex. The driving desire behind this whole charade, right? Let me tell you something; it doesn’t matter how casual dating may seem to be, sexual encounters shouldn’t be viewed as disposable.

Having sex with someone shouldn’t be as easy as swiping right on their profile, but today, for many, it is. Call me a prude if you will, but the way this process unfolds into the over-saturated laps of young daters can potentially breed a continued need for cycles of instant, shallow gratification.

We feel so swept up by the demands of life that it becomes easy to buy in to the culture, join in. We swipe and swipe some more. We go on a date. We hang out, we have sex. We are gorging on the easy availability of knock-off dates and sex.

That’s not to say this applies to everyone, I have no doubt that some people use this technology with the utmost sincerity. For that, I applaud you for staying above the fray.

Nevertheless, I understand the way these apps, this culture, can become addicting. It’s a highlight of our culture today; this sexy, convenient tool we have at our disposal. But if you ask me, it’s may be doing more harm than good, on the larger scale.

Because after we lose count of the swipes, the matches, the endless string of first dates and the casual sex that might never really satisfy the desires we feel, we could be left feeling pretty empty.

We should be left wanting more.

You may read this answer as being overly critical of Tinder and its effect on the dating realm, let me clarify: I do not mean this to demonize the app itself in any way. Apps are nothing if they are not used by people like you and me, and popularized through the way in which we interact with them. Their effect is ultimately up to us, they are simply the tool. I also recognize that some people have found wonderful relationships on Tinder, which is an incredible thing. I am simply speaking as an observer of sweeping, popular culture.

I can’t say that Tinder is bad for the dating world, but the way in which many of us use Tinder is, in fact, bad for the dating world.

With that said, let’s consider a comparison:

Think back to a time before iPhones existed. We had flip phones and seemingly archaic Blackberries and we likely primarily used our phones for texting, calling and maybe playing Brick Breaker. We liked our phones, but we probably weren’t on them all the time because eventually Brick Breaker gets old, right?

Then came the age of iPhones, an all-encompassing tool which brought all the action to us. We have email, texting, phone calls, web surfing, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, an endless list of games, music etc. all within the palm of our hand. The convenience is unrivalled and something many of us have grown to feel that we need. With so many options, it can be easy to spend a few hours each day switching between Candy Crush and Clash of Clans. The potential entertainment is seemingly endless.

With this in mind, many of us struggle to pull ourselves out of our phones, unplug or get back to the basics.

Think of traditional dating as the original Blackberry and Tinder/Bumble etc. as the new iPhone. Is the iPhone more convenient? Absolutely. Is it trendy? Absolutely. Does it simplify the process? Technically, yes. Does it deliver what we want right to our fingertips whenever we want? Yes. But is it always a healthy influence? Is it helping us become better from an interpersonal level?

I love my iPhone. I don’t miss my Blackberry at all, in fact. And yet, I try to remain mindful of the way in which I use this tool and how much of my attention it consumes. The same mindset should apply to Tinder. Regardless of your intentions with the app, remember that how you use it is up to you. You control the effect that the app has on your life and your behaviour. You should rule it, it should not rule you.

Remember that an over-saturation of choice can make it difficult to appreciate that which is in front of us. More importantly, remember that things that make a certain task or process easier, aren’t always making it better in terms of the true, inherent experience that process should provide.