Tinder changed the game

By Shannon Findley

Tinder, the dating app that caught fire on college campuses all across America, has made its mark on Baylor. Whether someone is looking for a friendly date, a hookup or simply an ego boost, Tinder makes it easy to find the perfect match with a simple left or right, “yes” or “no” swipe of the thumb. App dating’s simplicity is its strength, although the simplicity of it could be viewed by many as superficiality.

Tinder is a location-based app that allows the user to set his or her “search radius” anywhere from six miles to across the globe. Using Facebook profiles, Tinder gathers users’ basic information and matches potential candidates that are most likely to be compatible based on geographical location, number of mutual friends and common interests. Matches appear on the user’s phone screen one by one, and the user determines whether to swipe left for “no” or right for “yes.” The app only allows Tinder users to talk when both parties have selected one another as “yeses.”

According to Bloomberg Businessweek, 2 million matches happen on Tinder each day. It’s the fastest-growing free dating app in the U.S. Whether someone uses the app to avoid face-to-face rejection at a bar, to fulfill a sexual lust or to see if that hottie in their English class thinks the same thing about them, Tinder turns the rejection and selection of people into a kind of game, making it as quick and easy as the swipe of a finger.

Jeremy Uecker, assistant professor of sociology at Baylor, said online dating skyrocketed in the 2000s. He speculates that part of the reason people opt for meeting potential partners via the Internet or an app such as Tinder is because simply clicking “yes” or “no” on someone online does not require the same amount of boldness it would take to, say, walk up to someone at a bar at introduce yourself.

Dallas sophomore Megan said she met her current boyfriend Mark over Tinder. Megan and Mark’s relationship panned out very differently than the multiple hookup relationships that Tinder results in every day. Megan said she first noticed Mark on Tinder because of his attractiveness, but soon became drawn to the gentlemanly, non-sexual way he initiated conversation with her via the app.

“It started with a simple ‘Hey, how are you?’” Megan said. “It definitely felt like the start of a legitimate friendship right off the bat. It wasn’t sexual at all.”

Uecker said men are far more likely to initiate connections online, just like in other settings.

Megan and Mark chatted via Tinder for about a day before Mark asked for Megan’s number. They continued to text and Skype for about a week before Mark, a resident of College Station, decided he wanted to drive down to Megan’s apartment and take her to dinner.

“I had checked out all his social media profiles and lots of his friends,” Megan said. “I creep hard, so I wasn’t nervous about him being weird or dangerous when we finally met in person,”

The first face-to-face encounter between Megan and Mark was a little awkward, Megan said, but the two still clicked just like they had over text and Skype.

“We are both just very specific people and we’re both just really nerdy,” Megan said. “We talked about things that people don’t usually talk about, like Star Trek.”

After their first dinner date, Mark drove down to Waco once every week for a month to visit with Megan and get to know her before asking her to be his girlfriend. The couple still sees each other weekly.

“My advice to people actually seeking out a legitimate relationship via Tinder would be to be very forward about what you’re looking for,” Megan said.

Statistically speaking, Megan and Mark’s relationship has quite a high chance for success. Uecker said over the course of the past year, only 16 percent of relationships that started online ended in a breakup.

“Relationships that began online have similar relational qualities as other relationships,” Uecker said. “There are no findings of any negative or positive relational effects of relationships started online.”

The only negative effect of statistical significance that is reported in the context of relationships that began online is, Uecker said, that people often report less social support of the relationship by friends and family.

However, Uecker says that there is definitely less stigma these days about meeting people online or via an app. According to him, using the Internet to meet people is kind of a natural extension of how people do everything – online.

Megan admits although her experience from Tinder resulted in a dating relationship, most people she knows use the app for hookups.

“One guy was like ‘want to go halfsies on a baby?’” Megan said. “You get messages like that.”

Uecker recently learned of the Tinder phenomenon and said while an online dating site such as eHarmony or match.com is geared more toward relationship building, an app like Tinder probably leads to more casual physical encounters.

“Whether or not people are looking for legitimate relationships or to find hookup partners is going to be based on the site,” Uecker said.

Tinder users’ reasons for swiping right may vary, as is exemplified by Megan and Mark’s relationship, but a match’s looks are invariably a factor in the case of this app.

“If I’m going to swipe right, they have to be hot,” Megan said. “They also have to be at a good university.”

“In order for me to swipe right, a girl has to be generally attractive,” Baylor sophomore Jason said. “She also has to be not [pictured with] a big group of girls.”

Uecker does not necessarily agree that online or app dating has anymore to do with looks than any other type of dating.

“I would say that online dating is not based on looks any more so than ‘regular’ means of meeting people,” Uecker said. “Race and other factors are big things that people sort online more so than looks.”

Jason, who has been using Tinder for about three months, admitted he mainly uses the app as an ego boost — a way to see if girls he finds attractive find him attractive too.

“Usually I don’t spend very long on Tinder,” Jason said. “But if I’m bored and drunk, then I’ll spend hours on the app.”

When used as an outlet to scope out potential hookup partners, Tinder makes it easy for just about anyone to find what they are looking for which has the potential to pose a threat to pre-existing relationships.

“I’ve come across guys on Tinder looking for hookups that I know are already in a relationship,” Megan said.

Both Megan and Jason said the majority of their friends use Tinder regularly. Uecker says that he is not surprised that an app like Tinder has swept the Baylor campus.

“It is a way to expand the pool of eligible partners,” Uecker said, referring to online and app dating.

“It kind of cuts out all the hassle of filtering through people you’d never consider. A lot of dating apps do that for you.”

First names have been changed for privacy purposes.