Swiped Out: Confessions from Tinder Research
By Alexa Day
About a month ago, I went to Charlottesville to meet the inimitable Sven Gillingham for Girls’ Night Out, where I led a discussion about the various sexual things one can do with one’s mobile phone. Part of my presentation was about Tinder, the hookup app that seems to be morphing into a dating application. In order to speak about it intelligently, I spent part of a week fooling around with it.
Tinder doesn’t work like standard online dating. Because it originated as a hookup site, its roots are substantially more superficial. In essence, Tinder shows you the pictures, first names, distance from you, and age of people you might be interested in, and you use that information to decide whether or not you want to contact that person.
Tinder is supposed to be fast-paced. You’re not looking for a spouse. You’re not even looking for a date. You’re looking for a hookup. The idea is that you’re either interested (in which case, you’d swipe right) or not (swipe left). If you and the other person both swipe right, Tinder connects you to make the arrangements. If you swipe a person left, Tinder makes sure you never see him again, which is a lovely courtesy.
That sounds simple enough, right? Yeah, I thought so, too. The whole thing is supposed to move quickly, so I figured I would just need a couple of minutes on my lunch half-hour, while I ate.
The first day, I got everything set up and started swiping. I admit that I spent a little too much time between swipes initially. I’m not going to apologize for that. I certainly don’t want to hook up with just anybody.
Not that *I* was in it for the hookup, you understand. I was just about the research. You know, for the party. Just to be clear.
After left-swiping an ex-boyfriend with more vehemence than necessary, I finally encountered someone who looked interesting. I swiped him right, and Tinder announced in joyous script that “It’s a match!” I was kind of joyous myself. I’d begun to worry that I wouldn’t have anything to discuss at the party.
The first guy is not a bad-looking fellow at all. By that time, unfortunately, I had about three minutes of lunch left. My new friend told me to feel free to text him and sent me a phone number. The gesture reminded me that I hadn’t arranged for an alternate phone number of my own. I certainly don’t want the Men of Tinder gallivanting around with my real phone number.
Not that it mattered, of course, because this was really about research. I should have told this person that. As I’d left it, he probably thought I was trying to hook up with him.
Tinder was difficult. Should Tinder have been difficult?
The next day, again at lunch, I went back to Tinder, resolved to make things easier for myself. That day’s crop of potential partners (for research) was different, though. Instead of shirtless posturing or posing with various landmarks, I saw pictures of kids. Sometimes they were alone, in Little League uniforms. Sometimes they were with their parents, whose names and ages appeared on my phone as usual. I didn’t make any matches that day — I swipe left for kids — so I was more discouraged than usual when I sought out a Tinder-aware friend for advice.
She explained that I was probably taking too much time between swipes. She only spent a few seconds deciding which way to swipe, the way I had when I saw my ex. She also said Tinder pulled photos from users’ Facebook albums. That explained the kids; parents often forgot to remove their kids’ pictures from their Tinder profiles.
“I thought you didn’t have any pictures of yourself on Facebook,” she said.
I didn’t. What I did have was my most recent cover, which features a woman provocatively posed in a man’s arms. I should mention that neither of those people is clothed. It had not occurred to me that my fellow Tinderfolk might have presumed that I was in the photo.
I went right for self-deprecating Tinderfail humor. “I guess guys are probably swiping right for that.”
She smiled gently at me. “Alexa, guys swipe right for everyone.”
I’d have felt bad about this if I hadn’t just been in it for the sake of research. Instead, I decided I had probably seen enough of Tinder to discuss it intelligently at Girls’ Night Out. Once I arrived at the party, I pulled Madeline Iva aside for a bit of a demonstration.
I got Tinder going on my phone and got to swiping for her. Two left swipes, and then … a lean, muscular, shirtless fellow displaying his tattoos as he lifted weights. Sure, his back was turned, and we couldn’t see his face, but whatever, it’s just Tinder. For research.
“We’ll want to talk to him,” I said.
I swiped right and was matched with my tattooed friend. Of course. Men swipe right for everyone.
I greeted him and said I was about to give a presentation for a group. I asked if he was interested in answering a few questions.
He asked if I wanted to hook up. A fair question, this being Tinder and all.
“Right now?” I asked. I explained that I wouldn’t be available for a while.
After some thought — maybe two full minutes — he said that would be fine. Then he asked where I lived.
But it was time for my talk. I closed out and got down to business, and by the time I was done, I imagine he’d found a more convenient partner. I never heard from him again, and I think he’s expunged our conversation from his end. I might have felt something about that if it hadn’t been all about the research.
So it’s been a month now, and now that I’ve told all of you about my Inspiring Adventures with Tinder, I can uninstall it once and for all. And I will. As soon as I’m sure there’s nothing else I need to research.
As for you, you’ll want to follow Lady Smut. We’re here looking for friends first, and maybe something more, if things work out.