Noah* ’19 scrolled through his camera roll, looking carefully for the perfect profile photo. He decided on a photo with a big smile to make him look friendly, some stubble to make him look older and a blue t-shirt to bring out his eyes. Just a few clicks later, he became Noah, 18, 2.4 miles away, initiating his entrance to the world of Tinder.
Tinder is a dating app that allows users to swipe to like or dislike other users and allows them to communicate if they “match” by expressing mutual interest. While it is commonly referred to as a hookup app, its original intent was broader, co-founder and former CMO Justin Mateen said.
Mateen said he designed Tinder to provide a fun and convenient platform for people in close proximity to be introduced.
“We never told our users how to use the product,” Mateen said. “We simply facilitated a connection and let them figure out what they want from each new introduction.”
In a Chronicle poll of 265 students, 12 percent said they use Tinder and 8 percent said they plan to in the future.
Amy* ’19 said she believes that talking to someone and expressing romantic interest over a screen eliminates the awkwardness she sometimes struggles with in-person.
“I’m known to be a very shy person, and I would never have the courage to go up to someone I want to talk to in a typical social setting,” Amy said. “With Tinder, all you need to do to express interest in someone is swipe right, and that is much easier knowing that the other user will only see if they swipe right as well.”
Of the respondents who said they used Tinder, 33 percent said they used the app to increase confidence, and 22 percent said they used it to meet people.
Amy said seeing matches fill up her chat box raises her self-esteem.
“I, along with many of my friends, use it as a confidence boost,” Amy said. “I have personally never met up with anyone through the app, and my friends just swipe on people when they are bored and want attention. It’s kind of like ‘Hey, I didn’t realize that all these people find me attractive or want to be my friend!’”
However, school psychologist Tina McGraw said the use of Tinder as a form of validation could have harmful psychological effects. The effects of social media on the dopamine reward system in the brain are well documented and can be viewed analogously to addiction, McGraw said.
“Teenagers are a particularly vulnerable group of people because they seek a lot of external validation, have a need for thrills and are in the process of forming their identity,” McGraw said. “This mix can be challenging when navigating the uncertainties of dating apps. From experiencing rejection more deeply than an adult, to engaging in potentially risky sexual behavior, teenagers can open the door to negative psychological outcomes for themselves by participating in the toxic culture of hookup/dating apps.”
Noah said that through his many text interactions on Tinder, he has only had one negative experience. However, it affected him in a profound way, he said.
“After we had been texting for a few days, this one girl started asking me to send her selfies so that she could get a better idea what I looked like,” Noah said. “She explained how the last guy she met on Tinder looked significantly different in his profile picture than in person, and she doesn’t want to deal with that again. I sent her a few pictures, as she wished, and never heard back from her again. I definitely think less of myself now because of it.”
In addition to the psychological consequences, Lindsey* ’20 said meeting Tinder matches in person can led to uncomfortable encounters.
“I had one meet-up from Tinder a year ago, and it was so awkward because we were both completely different than the way we portrayed ourselves online,” Lindsey said. “Overall, Tinder is fun, and I’m pretty happy with it. I would just warn people about being careful with who they choose to meet in person.”
Some horror stories are more severe than others. An Instagram account named Tinder Nightmares publicizes awkward exchanges between people communicating via Tinder. The page currently has two million followers.
Carl* ’20 said he and his friends, inspired by the absurd submissions posted on the account, started using Tinder to joke with each other.
“My best friend and I made a bet to see who would get more matches using aliases and fake pictures,” Carl said. “Turns out we matched with each other and didn’t realize until after we were texting for two weeks. We began to say the most absurd things.”
Despite using it as a joke to begin with, Carl is now a frequent Tinder user, and his utilization of the app has changed.
“After experimenting with the app for a few months, I set up a time to meet a girl I had matched with,” Carl said. “Although I don’t want to have anything to do with her in the future, it was an overall positive experience, and I will definitely keep using the app moving forward.”
*Names have been changed.