Apocalypse, Nah: Why Dating Will Survive Tinder


In MY day, we swiped one of these babies! And we LIKED it! (This image was made by Loadmaster (David R. Tribble).)
In MY day, we swiped one of these babies! And we LIKED it!
(This image was made by Loadmaster (David R. Tribble).)

By Alexa Day

I underwent a brief experiment with Tinder some time ago as research for a presentation I made at a Girls’ Night Out event. I’d never been on Tinder before, although I had a decent idea what to expect, and although nothing truly unpleasant happened (by which I mean that I received neither dick pic nor vulgar message), I don’t feel the need to return to Tinder. I don’t have any strong feelings for or against it, I suppose. It just is.

I am aware of confusion regarding the actual purpose of Tinder, though. I don’t understand how it can be confusing. It uses your Facebook profile to put you into the pool of users active at the same time in the same area, and then you swipe right if you’re interested in them and left if you’re not. There’s just not very much to Tinder. How confusing can it possibly be?

I suspect the disconnect lies with people who think of Tinder as a dating app. Don’t misunderstand me — I do know people who are actually dating the people they meet on Tinder. But these success stories do not transform Tinder into a relationship app, unless we are willing to radically redefine the words “dating” and “relationship.”

Vanity Fair recently released an article linking Tinder to the “Dating Apocalypse.” I was intrigued, especially after my thankfully brief experience with Tinder, so I went to check it out.

The story held few surprises. A group of guys brags about the number of Tinder-facilitated hookups they’ve had. Women express their varying degrees of disappointment with the hookups, including a fairly high incidence of erectile dysfunction one might not expect from twentysomething-year-old men. None of it makes Tinder feel like a pleasant experience. Its most successful users are those … well … reptilian guys, and women don’t seem to speak fondly of it at all. Tinder had a bit of a corporate Twitter freakout following the article. I guess they didn’t get the memo about not responding to unfavorable reviews.

But is Tinder responsible for a “Dating Apocalypse”? I have to say no. Tinder cannot be responsible for a “Dating Apocalypse” because Tinder has little to do with dating. To say that Tinder threatens dating is like saying that fast food is a threat to steakhouses.

I think dating is going to survive Tinder for a couple of reasons.

First, I think enough people understand that Tinder is not about dating. Dating is about more than swiping one way or the other as fast as one can. It’s a time-consuming process that involves a surprising amount of intellect and emotion, but people interested in dating don’t mind the investment. Well, not much. In short, people who want to actually date other people are probably seeking out other resources to get that taken care of. At least, I hope they are.

Secondly, I think the people who just want to engage in the venerable sport of Hit It and Quit It are perfectly happy with Tinder and apps like it, so they’re avoiding the dating scene altogether. That’s good news, too. I personally couldn’t get past the whole personal safety/Stranger Danger thing, but I’m not going to get in anyone’s way, either.

In between these two groups of people, however, there lies a third faction of folks who think Tinder is representative of the current state of romantic relationships. Among their concerns about the world of dating: the upsurge in vulgar, sexual, overly familiar texts from people they’ve just met. I understand their worry. How many times can you get a text that invites you to “come over and sit on my face” before you decide something is wrong with the world in general?

Let’s go one question further, though.

Why does this person feel comfortable sending a text inviting a total stranger to “come over and sit on my face”?

Because at some point, a woman responded by coming over to sit on his face.

Put simply, this conduct persists because at some point, it worked.

None of this requires us to buy into that system. If we want dating to continue, all we have to do is continue dating. If we don’t want to get caught up in the cycle of #ByeFelipe messages, all we have to do is be more judicious with our contact info.

The system won’t work perfectly at first. Felipe is going to get through every so often. But with a little persistence and a lot of patience, we can keep our corner of the world safe for dating. Apocalypse never.

How we rid dating of its own particular set of annoyances is another topic entirely.

Are you following Lady Smut? We’ll swipe right for you. Promise.

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  • Post authorMadeline Iva

    I have a friend who is taking a break from the whole online dating world for a while. Her reasons had to do with a) discovering that texting strangers/potential dates when trying to make dinner when she’s starving and could devour a small nation do not mix.

    She also found herself sitting at dinner dates with people that–had she met them in real life first?–no, never would have happened. Not wanting to ‘be rude’ and cut short the dinner before they even ordered food meant that dating the internet was turning into a huge time suck.

    Clearly there’s some disconnect between a certain vibe or energy she’s looking for and the ability for that quality to translate over the internet.

    I have a question for you, Miss Alexa. Why did women asking men out — why did that never seem to work out? I’ve noticed some single friends lurking at Whole Foods in full make up and a cute dress. And wasn’t barnes & noble kind of super-busy on a Fri/Sat. night at one time? When does ‘stranger danger’ go away? When you see a guy reading Jane Austen?

    Reply to Madeline Iva
    • Post authorAlexa Day

      Well, I’m no dating expert, but this is my experience.

      I agree that your friend is probably not sending out the right energy via the online dating. I’ve done quite a bit of online dating in the past, and I loved it, but it many respects it is like offline dating, at least for me. I have to communicate with Mr. Whoever for a little while to determine whether I want to go out with him. I know a lot of these guys want to rush past this process and meet in real life. In my experience, this leads to the sorts of dates your friend is going on. That’s just my take.

      With regard to the question you actually have for me, though.

      I see women asking men out from time to time, and it’s working for them. But when I say that, I mean that women are going up to men and actually asking them to go out. They’re not just standing around looking cute at Whole Foods with their fingers crossed.

      I personally do not ask guys to go out with me. I’m very Old South about the whole thing; I think that’s his job. In my experience, when a dude is interested in going out, he will take the step to make that happen. When a woman asks a man out, he has any number of reasons for saying yes, including the desire to just be polite. Guys hate rejection as much as the rest of us, if not more because the onus of asking tends to rest on them, and a good guy will often seek to spare a woman the sting of rejection by saying yes when he’s not all that interested.

      Instead of actually asking the guy out, I prefer to make an overture by flirting. Flirting indicates to the cute guy that I am both available and interested. It sends the message that if he wants to ask me out, I will probably say yes. Then he’ll either ask or he won’t, and I’ll know whether he’s interested.

      Stranger Danger is kind of separate from this. There is, sadly, a subset of dudes (and probably a set of women) out there who just want to cut me into convenient bite-size pieces. Because I do not want to be cut into bite-size pieces, I try to keep everything public and visible for the first date. This is at odds with Tinder — at least for me — because it facilitates the sort of hook-up that involves my going to a stranger’s place or my inviting a stranger to my place before I can determine whether he’s going to cut me up. That’s not for me. I am in favor of the One Night Wonder, but my personal process involves rather a lot of conversational vetting. I’m not going straight to anybody’s house.

      Reply to Alexa Day
  • Post authorTiffany N. York

    How funny that I literally just read an article about Tinder and the downfall of dating about 5 minutes ago. Here’s my .02. Tinder is simply indicative of the culture we’re in now: the hookup culture. I’m in my 40s and have never been married, so I’ve been dating for a hellava long time. While I can’t claim to have never had a one-night stand, they’ve been few and far between. I’m not old-fashioned and I’m very sexual, but I’m sorry, it’s just icky to f*ck someone I just met 3 hours before. But I’ll tell you this: Every man where it had started out as just sex without being around them for a certain period of time evolved into NOTHING. Whereas the men I’ve gotten to know first before having sex always turned into relationships.

    That being said, I’m not sure where women’s heads are nowadays. I know a guy who tells me he f*cks every girl he goes out with on the first date. I’m kinda embarrassed for these women, because while they may ultimately think they’re doing it just to get their groove on, inevitably they end up wanting more from him and it never happens. So…where did that get them? Good sex memories? Are they really going to be thinking about how many guys they’ve had sex with on their deathbed?

    The easier it is to f*ck us, the less men have to try. Plain and simple. So you can’t expect a man to try really hard AFTER he sleeps with you, can you? Online dating means if this girl says no or this one or that one, who cares, because there’s always another and another…

    I just read a few relationship books and here’s some info they have in common: Women may think they can have no strings attached sex, but they rarely can if they actually like the guy, due to all the hormones that are released during sex, namely the bonding hormone, oxytocin. This doesn’t happen with men. So unless you’re trying to satisfy some low self-esteem issue, I don’t think women prefer having sex with a hundred guys purely for sport. But then they wonder why these guys don’t want a relationship with them.

    And to answer Madeline’s question, women who make the first move with men are establishing themselves in the more dominant role. So if you want the man to be the dominant one in the relationship, cherishing you, providing and protecting, etc. you need to let him “be a man” and make the first move. If you want to be the masculine energy because you’re a career-oriented woman who wants no-strings-attached sex and likes to call the shots with her man, then by all means, she should initiate first. How you begin is the precedent you set.

    Anyway, these are just my thoughts on the matter…

    Reply to Tiffany N. York
  • Post authorKel

    I find this whole thing extremely baffling.

    Seriously. People spend an inordinate amount of time trying to find other people who will fulfill their needs and desires without… actually identifying those needs and desires. Seriously. Who does that and expects it to work?

    And I’m not talking about having a list of unattainable must-haves and refusing to date anyone who doesn’t meet them all. I’m talking about knowing yourself and being honest with what you want, and being able to identify what’s important to you and articulate why and what you need well enough to have a conversation with a stranger who might become a friend, and then see if you’re interested in making it into something else.

    But then I remember that other people aren’t interested in dating their friends… and I honestly feel a bit sorry for the world. Desire is wonderful, but understanding and common interest is what makes the bad days work. If all you have is sex, it’s a long one-night-stand, but without it, you’re just friends. Neither of these is bad, but they’re… different. And they’re probably not the thing that most people trolling the online dating sites are really looking for.

    Sad to be them, really.

  • Post authorDenise Golinowski

    Very interesting blog post, Alexa! I heard a snippet of a story about Tinder and I was at your Girls Night Out event, so I admit that my knowledge-base is very small. However, I feel that blaming one form of social media for the Dating Apocalypse is terribly naive and simplistic. We are a world of diverse souls and how we make connections will be equally diverse. While I don’t think Tinder would be my venue of choice (were I out there, which I am not, so perhaps I should stop now, but I’m not), I feel that there are plenty of other options for those who are uncomfortable with Tinder. Anyone’s success or failure to make connections cannot be blamed on the source of that connection so much as on the judgement and perception of the folks involved. Learn about your chosen venue before you launch yourself into it. Okay, now I will shut up.

    Reply to Denise Golinowski
  • Post authorDenise Golinowski

    Reblogged this on Denise Golinowski's Blog and commented:
    Is Tinder to blame for the Dating Apocalypse? Alexa Day’s take on the Vanity Fair article and the brouhaha it ignited. Got thoughts?

    Reply to Denise Golinowski
  • Post authorLeah St. James

    You know, I’ve been married so long, dating isn’t something I ever think about, but this really opened my eyes. I think if I were ever to re-enter the dating world and try the online route, I’d have to “know” the guy for a long time online before attempting an in-person meet. But I think there are so many men out there on the hunt for vulnerable women online, it’s a scary though.

    Reply to Leah St. James

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