By Sarah Marinos
September 26, 2014
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WITH 10 million users worldwide and about a million users in Australia, Tinder has become the go-to dating app for 20 and 30-somethings. But is finding true love really as simple as swiping right or is Tinder just a cesspool of casual sex?
It was a weekday evening and Erica was at home in inner Melbourne, browsing through the latest faces and physiques on Tinder, when she spotted a family friend from primary school days.
“Our parents knew each other well and he and I played together,” the 28-year-old says. “We hadn’t seen each other for at least 20 years. I recognised him instantly but it was obvious he didn’t recognise me.
“I swiped right and so did he and we started texting. But within three texts he wrote, ‘So, fancy a f—?’ I didn’t take that any further.”
Erica has had three Tinder dates with guys who’ve passed her unofficial selection test — she spends a few days texting and talking on the telephone to find out more before agreeing to a first date in a public venue.
“While you’re texting and talking you can usually work out if they’re crazy or married or if the spark isn’t there,” she says practically.
“My first Tinder date went well but then I got busy at work. When I messaged him a few weeks later I didn’t hear back. The next guy I went out with was a bit quieter than the guys
I usually go for but I liked him.
“But a few days later he sent me a message saying he’d met someone else. I respected his honesty and with Tinder there are always plenty more fish in the sea!
“I went on my last date at a bar in Brighton. The guy was about three inches shorter than me and while we got along well we both sensed it wasn’t going to be a romance.”
DATING FROM YOUR LOUNGE ROOM
Erica says Tinder is helpful in connecting people who have busy lives.
“Sometimes at the end of the day slapping on make-up, doing your hair and going out to dinner or to a bar is the last thing you want to do. With Tinder you can find people and chat without leaving home,” she says
“I don’t think you can expect to meet the love of your life anywhere — it will just happen. But by interacting with more people, it opens up your opportunities.”
Since it launched in late 2012, Tinder has more than 10 million users worldwide and has become the international go-to app for 20 and 30-somethings looking for friends, social opportunities, a date or, ahem, a little more.
And Australia has embraced it with open arms. Tinder co-founder Sean Rad says Australia is the third largest user after the US and UK, though he won’t confirm exactly how many people here use the app.
For the dwindling number of people still unfamiliar with Tinder — mostly the 40-plus age group and those preoccupied with mortgages and kids — Tinder’s technology allows people to use their mobile telephone to browse profile photos of other Tinder users within a set geographical distance from themselves.
If you like the look of someone’s photo you swipe right and they join your list of “liked people”. You swipe left to reject a profile and that person will never know you’ve rejected them.
KEEPING IT SIMPLE
If the person you swipe right “likes” you too, then you can start chatting via text, phone or arrange to meet.
“Our vision was to make it more simple and organic to meet new people,” Rad says. “We put everyone on a level playing field and they figure out who wants to meet who. Initially we tested Tinder with college students because they’re at a stage of their lives when meeting new people is top of mind.
“But it grew beyond that. It’s become very mainstream now — people talk about Tinder on daytime TV. It has entered the fabric of pop culture.”
Modern-day icons of pop culture have been quick to jump on the Tinder trail, too.
Katy Perry says she has been using it following her split this year from boyfriend of two years John Mayer. Singer Lily Allen says she has been looking at what Tinder has to offer (though this admission left her fans wondering about the state of her marriage).
Earlier this year Shane Warne tweeted that he was debating whether to join Tinder.
Warne made the tongue-in-cheek comment after ex-girlfriend Liz Hurley swiftly healed her broken heart with a new love. In response, Warne mused: “It might be time to take up my single friends’ suggestions and join Tinder!’’
And Aussie singer Natalie Imbruglia says she’s also considering the app.
“My girlfriend in London has fallen madly in love on her third Tinder date — and I’m incredibly jealous — everyone I know who’s single in London is on Tinder,” she said.
AN EGO BOOST
Rad says Tinder’s core user group is 18 to 35-year-olds, fairly evenly split between men and women. He believes the app’s popularity lies in the fact that “you can make what you want out of it’’.
“You can look for a date, for a short-term relationship, for a person to marry or a friend,” he says.
“We’re in the business of making that initial contact and what people then make of that is completely up to them. I think people initially start using Tinder because they want to see how many matches they can make — it’s an ego booster, just like posting content on Instagram and seeing how many likes you get.
“But when you get a match on Tinder you could then meet a best friend or fall in love.”
Rad dismisses criticism that Tinder is superficial and encourages casual sex and disposable relationships.
“Yes, it is initially based on appearance but that’s humanity, right? That first impression counts,” he shrugs. “That first impression is how we initially make contact whether we like that or not.”
THE TRAVEL APP
Caroline Chagas, 30, a St Kilda business owner, has used Tinder when travelling.
“In Scotland recently I met a local guy through Tinder. He invited me to a gallery because we were both interested in art — though after we first matched and started texting he said he wanted to have sex,” Chagas says. “I told him that wasn’t going to happen and 20 minutes later he messaged me and said the urge had passed and did I want to keep talking?
“So we kept texting and I made it very clear nothing would happen between us. But we went to the gallery and it was great to be in a new city with a local showing me around.”
Chagas is a recent recruit to Tinder after stories of instant hook-ups initially put her off.
“I’m not judging — but it’s not something I do and often I tell guys that and don’t hear from them again!” she laughs.
“I think one of the worst things about Tinder is that in the process of using it I’ve found husbands of friends using it, too. That’s pretty confronting. I see Tinder more as window shopping and if you’re looking for a soulmate perhaps you should stay away.”
HOOKING UP, BUT LONELY
Relationships Australia’s Melbourne manager Sue Yorston says Tinder fits well with a generation used to getting the information they need from technology.
“They are also an ‘I’ generation who’ve been told they can do and have what they want and they’re an instant generation looking for instant gratification. I think people using Tinder aren’t getting anything they don’t expect out of it,” she says.
Yorston says the concept of dating has changed from a time when people often met a potential partner through work or friends and got to know them gradually.
“Dating isn’t really in our vocabulary any more. Now people hook up,” she says. “Tinder is very instantaneous and I think it seems to be based more on popularity — people can start to judge themselves based on the number of ‘likes’ they get.
“So if I am using Tinder I exist and if I’m getting hook-ups and likes, someone is looking at me. I think the current generation of 20s and 30-somethings are often isolated. Our research has found the highest users of social media websites also scored highest on a scale of loneliness.
“As humans we can only thrive if we have that caring, nurturing personal contact. We need empathy, cuddles and care so we know that we matter to someone and that they have our interests at heart.”
JUST DOING WHAT COMES NATURALLY
University of Melbourne’s School of Social and Political Sciences senior lecturer Dr Lauren Rosewarne believes apps like Tinder have taken off simply because it’s a way to do more quickly what humans have strived to do for eons — connect with others.
“Tinder simply makes easier what is already happening offline: men and women connecting for friendship, romance or just sex. Therefore the same pitfalls and perils of the dating world — for both genders — exist in the context of Tinder,” she says, referring to the risks of unwanted pregnancy, STIs, heartbreak and feelings of being exploited.
However, she adds that with a larger time gap now between when people become sexually active — at around 17 — and when they marry in their late 20s or early 30s, it’s to be expected that people will have more sexual partners, with or without the help of Tinder. But Rosewarne says double standards exist.
“Society as a whole still judges women more than they judge men when it comes to how many sexual partners they have. We have this fear of what will happen to society if women don’t toe the line,” she says.
“I think if you are using Tinder you have to keep your expectations modest. But if there weren’t a place or a market for Tinder, people wouldn’t be using it.”
SAVING TIME AND MONEY
Felix*, 32, works in contract management in Melbourne and has been on Tinder for six months — friends persuaded him to try the app after the end of a long-term relationship.
“I think a forte of Tinder is that it saves people time and money. If you go out to meet people. you might go to 10 bars or clubs in 10 different weeks and you’re dropping money everywhere,” he says.
“I’ve been on about 12 dates and most people have been quite nice. I tend to swap messages with someone over a week and then talk on the phone and if that person sounds interesting I take it from there.
“I’ve only had one weird Tinder experience — I arranged to meet a girl who was the opposite of the person I’d spoken to on the phone. I wasn’t even certain she was the same person, actually. She was very full on and not the sort of person I’d want to catch up with at all.”
Felix is using Tinder to meet new people when he moves to Sydney this year.
“It’s a great way to make connections in a new place — people have been advising me on where to live. For me, it’s been more of a friend finder,” he says.
WEIRD DATES AND A WEDDING
Chris*, 31, works in sales and began using Tinder about a year ago — it’s a favourite pastime on a Friday night when he’s out with mates.
“They’re always keen to help me make a decision. I like the simplicity of it. I’ve used the Blendr app before but the downside of that is you could be texting someone and not know if they are interested or not,” he says.
“With Tinder there’s an immediate common ground but that can be a downfall. I think people can in the end be too personal and impolite. I haven’t used Tinder for the quick ‘wham, bam, thank you ma’am’ and I think some girls now expect that.”
Chris has been on a dozen Tinder dates with mixed results.
“Early on I met a girl and I was two minutes late for our date but I sent her a text to let her know I was running behind. When I arrived the first thing she said was, ‘what drink are you buying me?’ There wasn’t even a hello and she was preoccupied with everything else happening in the bar — I think she was interested in my wallet basically,” he says.
“But I have been to a wedding of a couple who met through Tinder and I recently met a girl who is a generous and considerate person. So we’ll see how
* Some names have been changed