By Rainer Wasinger 17
It all started in my AP Chemistry class. My mulleted, hockey-playing, but deceptively intelligent friend entered the classroom with his eyes ablaze. He immediately asked me whether or not I had tried the dating app Tinder, and I, being generally behind on the technological advancements of my generation, said no. The idea was simple. The app flashes a face of someone who you may match with based on the gender interest you supply, their location, and their age. You have two options here; to swipe left to “nope” or swipe right to “like” them. If you and someone else both “like” each other based solely on appearance then you have a “match”. This is you winning and you have an opening in the app to start a conversation.
Though I was slightly repulsed by the overwhelmingly physical nature of the app, I was quite intrigued. So I created an account, added a photo in which I look unusually “likeable,” and got to swiping. At first, I was hesitant to turn someone down because I understood that there was a person on the other side of the screen. After a few disappointing rejections in the opposite direction, I became much more vicious, showing no mercy and silencing the side of my brain that pleaded “She looks like a good person.”
On the other side, my profile was falling prey to the same marauding philosophy that I was utilizing in my swiping. For a few “matchless” hours, I sat in my room agonizing over my lack of success on the app. In hindsight, I was not only ridiculous, but also completely hypocritical. I was concerning myself with people not “liking” me, while I was swiping left with reckless abandon.
I sat in this gloomy state of failure for a while before finally, a match came in, and then another, and in a matter of moments, I had transformed from a miserable Tinder loser to the formidable alpha-dog. Just minutes before, I had been a trembling mess of failure and now, with the healing effects of a few right swipes, I was swaggering around my house like this guy. I don’t think it was the possibility of talking to these girls that made me so proud, but instead, it was the universal healing power of feeling accepted. I had the validation that I, the charming, intelligent, attractive, magnanimous Tinder-deity had earned with that two-inch thumb movement I had craved since I had downloaded the app.
When I sat down to message the accepting few, I found that I was relatively uninterested in actually reaching out to these people. Did they seem like kind, intriguing people? Sure, but frankly, this deity had more pressing matters, such as the outcome of the local game and the freshly bought pint of Half-Baked ice cream chilling in the freezer.
After a few more days of the cycle of despair and validation, I found that the ladies on the other side of the screen likely had the same motives as I. They maybe wanted a connection, sure, but given that very few ever sent me any messages either, it seemed that these girls were more interested in the soothing comfort of feeling accepted and beautiful. On my end, I only sent one message, a half-hearted “Hey” to a girl who probably fell a couple notches higher than way out of my league. Frankly, her lack of response, though a blow to my ego, really didn’t surprise me. Not only had my attempt been quite feeble, I was pretty sure that this girl had really the same interest in using the app that I developed. She wanted attention, and someone to tell her she was worth it, and I think I played my position to a tee.
So where does all this take us? My use of this app definitely didn’t make me any more successful with the ladies, and I’m probably a more judgmental person as well. However, Tinder certainly taught me a few things. Firstly, humans are nothing if not fundamentally vain and self interested. If we weren’t, it seems unlikely that Tinder users would have such an affinity for finding matches but never making any contact with them. This gravitates far past the adolescents fumblings with an app designed for adults, and into the greater world. There are those who claim to have committed cold case crimes, just for a bit of time in the limelight, or those who stage the tragic transport of a young boy into the upper atmosphere for a reality T.V. show. Our survival instincts require us to think that we are the most important people, that our opinions matter the most, and in order to get the attention we desire, we resort to everything from coaxing a gullible and misguided 17 year old to give us a swipe right to convincing the national media that our ridiculous actions are worthy draws for the eyes of the Union.
I found the notion that my generation was in some way more promiscuous or “hook-up”-oriented was misguided. In my time on Tinder, I’ve found that the app, often referred to as the “hook-up” app by my peers, rarely acted as such. Not only did I find that neither I nor my matches had any interest in meeting up, we didn’t care to talk to each other. We were content to get our little nuggets of approval and validation, and move on with our lives. My friends had similar experiences. The aforementioned hockey player told me that the most progress he made was a couple messages back and forth with one of his matches, while a female friend of mine told me that although there were some slightly disturbing advances from some of her matches, the most contact she ever made was a few messages through the app and a Facebook friendship. If my generation fit the description that has been plastered on it by adults, Tinder would have been a minefield of hormones, ruled by the desire to continue to propagate the human race. However, it was the opposite, a self-obsessed, anti-social wasteland of the adolescent search for validation.