It's Saturday evening, after a dinner party that has ended in a somewhat unexpected way: I'm sitting on a couch browsing endless photos of men. One with an awkwardly sensual gaze right into the camera, one staring into the depth of a romantic sunset, one showing off his Rolex watch, one putting his kid in the shot to create the family man allure, one asserts his manliness by posing next to some oversized vehicle. The stream of photos doesn't stop and all you do is swipe left or right depending on whether you find the person hot or not.
I have just been introduced to Tinder. It's a dating app that matches people by using one simple criterion - you need to like each others' photos. If you do, you have the option to start chatting. In one minute you can have a match with dozens of potential candidates and all of them in your area...
Developed in LA, the birthplace of its older sister Snapchat, Tinder has been on iPhones in America since 2012 and has just taken London by storm. Imagine if you could chat to any attractive man you saw on a street, in a club or on public transport - well, Tinder makes it happen. Forget complicated personality questionnaires and psychological profiles. It's all about raw instincts.
Tinder boasts hundreds of thousands of successful matches and among them is Sean Rad, the founder of the app, who claims it helped him meet his girlfriend. Yet besides fostering romantic relationships, Tinder does a great job of satisfying a compulsive desire to be liked. More than anything else, Tinder makes dismissing women or men an absolutely blissful process. When you spend your day at work fighting for approval of what you do, going on Tinder to get a few matches and feel appreciated, even if it is only for a heavily PhotoShopped Facebook profile photo, can be incredibly pleasing.
Forget those unbearable seconds of dismissing somebody unattractive who tried to chat you up in real life... nobody will haunt you for not liking them and the second your finger flicks left or right you forget the image you have just seen. The more matches you get, the more your ego secretly (or openly) rejoices. It becomes almost addictive to be "liked" by dozens of men or women in a very short time.
You can hardly imagine Tinder being a relationship maker, unless you are a giggly teenager at the height of puberty. For most adults, it is a meaningless and self-pleasing swiping. There used to be Angry Birds which had the compulsiveness but little engagement with the core instincts of the human being. Unlike all other dating platforms and sites that people sheepishly admit to using like Match.com, nobody is really shy about having Tinder on their iPhone. But treating Tinder as a game can also be a pitfall. Would I want my boyfriend to have Tinder on his iPhone? Most definitely not!
Tinder in its original meaning is an easily combustible material used to ignite fires. We all know that playing with fire is a dangerous game.