By Joanna Chiang
Walking home from a party on a Thursday night almost two years ago, a man in a luxury SUV with a familiar-looking flame sticker on the back popped his head out of the driver’s window to ask me a question. ‘Excuse me miss, are you on Tinder by chance?’ Coincidentally, I had just recently downloaded the iPhone ‘social discovery’ application after seeing several of my female roommates mindlessly swiping left and right to various profiles as an easy cure for boredom. I chuckled and told this mystery man that I was indeed on Tinder. He proceeded to ask me a few questions about why I laughed when I said that, why I use it, and if I chat or meet up in-person with my matches. At that time, I was only using the application as a way to kill time and even as an occasional ego boost, but the app had admittedly become quite popular throughout my social circles. To me and a lot of my peers, Tinder was just a fun little game with no consequences; it had very little effect on my romantic life and was widely seen as a kind of joke. I had no intention of ever responding to any of my matches, let alone meeting up with them in person.
It turns out that this mystery man was Justin Mateen, one of the co-founders of Tinder, and he was conducting some casual field research at his alma mater in order to improve his app. His main goal was to spread the word about the so-called ‘social discovery’ or location-based online dating app. He also wanted to see what they could improve to gain mainstream success and expand their popularity beyond the University of Southern California. Apparently I was within the target demographic as a typical female college student. Justin gave me a free Tinder flame sticker that I misplaced soon after, and I continued my walk home without a second thought. Little did I know, that flame symbol would become one of the most recognizable and stigmatized images within my age group. Over a year later, Justin’s research and hard work has certainly paid off in spades. Tinder has increased its popularity to nearly every corner of the world, operating in 24 languages. According to an interview Justin did with Huffington Post (2013), the app received 400 million profile ratings (a swipe ‘yes’ or ‘no’) a day with an average user logging on 11 times per day for 6 minutes at a time. Its uses have come a long way from the university joke that it once was.
Despite the fact that online dating still has a highly negative stigma especially in youth demographics, Tinder seems to be transcending those stigmas and appealing to people of all ages. What draws youth populations to Tinder as opposed to other online dating platforms such as OKCupid or match.com?
And yet, Tinder’s popularity does not come without controversy. There is a lot of criticism aimed towards Tinder culture and how it is seen and used by many as a tool to perpetuate the ‘hookup culture’ that is allegedly dominating youth lifestyles. Is the existence of hookup culture the reason for Tinder’s success, or is it the other way around? Is Tinder streamlining and contributing to hookup culture? Is Tinder’s success due to the fact that it reflects or shapes this reality? What exactly does Tinder culture consist of, and does this newly formed culture relate to how youths view interpersonal relationships and/or the prospect of love in the modern age? How have perceptions changed alongside the popularization of this app? Has the alleged ‘hookup culture’ diminished youth ideals and their hope for love?
Researching the practice of Tinder
The overall objective of this paper is to broadly relate a popular new space where youth are digitally aggregated to the way in which these same youth view and conceptualize modern love and interpersonal relationships within their own lives.
Since Tinder is such a new phenomenon, I was not able to find very much specific literature on it besides through popular media sources such as GQ and Huffington Post which have both written editorials on the app. My research was focused more on my own observations through participant observation and interviews than through academic sources. As previously stated, I began using Tinder in Los Angeles in 2012. However, the bulk of my findings will be drawn from the participant observation that I have engaged in since I have been on exchange in Amsterdam as well as from the 10 interviews I conducted during the semester.
The participant observation consisted of my own regular Tinder use throughout the semester. I engaged in many stages of the typical Tinder interaction. This included swiping left (dislike) and right (like) on profiles of men within a 20-mile radius, chatting with those who I mutually matched with, and even meeting up in-person with select matches (Tinder dates). Through this hands-on method, I was able to experience and critically analyze the potential motives and intentions of Tinder users by both acting as one and by interacting with other users within the structure of the application.
The interviews were done in person and via email, but both forms included the same 28 questions. Questions ranged from asking about the participants’ Tinder profiles and motivations for using the app, to broader questions about love in the modern age and belief in love/marriage. With the exception of one participant who was a Dutch student, all of the participants were American college students aged 20-23 (some of which are studying abroad in various European cities). I interviewed 4 males and 6 females. This sample group is certainly not representative of all Tinder users, but nevertheless, I was able to gather valuable insights from a variety of users regarding the intricacies of Tinder youth culture as well as their views on themes of love and relationship formation in an increasingly digitized society.
The structure of the Tinder application
Tinder is a location-based mobile app in which users create individual profiles that consist of up to 6 photos, the user’s age, and a space entitled ‘About (Name of User)’. Users must have an active Facebook account in order to sign up because this is where the app gathers the library of photos the user can choose from, the user’s age, the user’s friends, and the user’s interests. The user can further configure his or her profile by choosing whether he or she identifies as Male or Female, the age range and distance range he or she would like to see profiles from, and whether he or she wants to see profiles of men and/or women.
Once the user’s profile is configured to his or her satisfaction, the user can begin looking at and swiping through profiles of potential matches. User profiles show up on the screen in a card format — it displays the user’s first picture, their name, age, and how many friends/interests you share. A swipe left or the ‘X’ button means ‘uninterested’ while a swipe right or the ‘Heart’ button means ‘interested’. When a user clicks on another user’s profile to learn more, ‘Shared Interests’ and ‘Shared Friends’ (if any) will appear. This is where the Facebook connection comes in.
A ‘match’ is acquired through a ‘double opt-in process’. When the user swipes right or clicks the heart button on somebody’s profile and that person has already mutually swiped right on the user’s profile, a screen will pop up indicating that a match has been made. The pop up screen also shows two options: ‘Send a Message’ or ‘Keep Playing’. People can only communicate with each other if the users mutually like each other. Users only have one chance to swipe on each profile, so if a user swipes left on a profile, that profile will never show up again.
Tinder has a self-contained messaging interface that users can utilize in making the first interaction. All of the user’s matches will show up in the Messages tab, and there is also a Search option at the top of the list. Most recently chatted matches will appear at the top.
Models of human behavior and attraction
While the structural aspects and functionality of the application seem very simple, the CEO of Tinder, Sean Rad, explains in an interview with Huffington Post (2014) that the flow of the app is modeled after real world interactions and social dynamics. In contrast to the myriad of other online dating platforms such as OKCupid and match.com, the Tinder profile has room for much less personal information. By simply requiring name, age, and GPS capabilities, the app bypasses any tough questions such as political or religious views. Rad references a basic analogy of going to a party in order to justify the simplicity of the profiles, stating:
‘…when I walk into a room and go to a party, I’m not forced to answer questions about what my political beliefs are and what my religious beliefs are. I am just there mingling and meeting people…I just sort of am who I am…and discover about other people and share about myself as I progress.’ (Yury, 2014)
He further elaborates on this subject by saying:
‘…there are some apps where you sign up and they ask you questions like, “Do you belong to this group or that group? Are you this or are you that?” And by making these comparisons and categorizing the individual, you are automatically alienating them to some degree.’ (Yury, 2014)
The Tinder team’s vision is to bring real-life desires and social behaviors seamlessly into a digital context. By eliminating the categorizations of difference within the very basic structure of the app, it becomes more inclusive which likely contributes to its widespread success. Though the app is modeled after primitive human behaviors, this actually promotes a culture that’s not centered on difference, which is quite evolutionary and progressive compared to how much of society is structured. This model avoids the oft-controversial politics of race and identity. However, it is not perfect; users are only able to choose between Male and Female for self-identification and attraction though there are many more gendered and sexual ways in which people can identify (i.e. gender fluid, transgendered, bigendered, etc). This likely plays into the Tinder team’s desire to make the user interface function in a way that is similar to how quickly our brains work in real-world first impressions.
Tinder’s success is not that it merely replicates the way real-world scenarios occur onto a digital interface. It goes far beyond that, solving a key issue that Sean Rad, CEO of Tinder, cites as a daily roadblock in relationship formation. He says that our daily fear of rejection, whether it is in business or romantic relationships, has made us less prone to putting ourselves out there in order to forge new bonds (Roadmap2013). This crippling fear of social rejection that most people experience is the foundation for the silly dating and social mind games that we practice and that are often portrayed in media. For example, it is quite common among youth to wait a certain length of time before responding to a text or chat message in order to appear aloof, hard-to-get, and more desirable. Rather than being transparent or vulnerable in communicating with others, it has become commonplace to put up these types of behavioral barriers to soften the blow of potential rejection.
Tinder employs the idea of the ‘double opt-in’ which Rad says stemmed from middle-school and high-school crush culture — the process of telling your friend that you have a crush on your classmate, who will then tell the friend of your crush, and then word will eventually get to your crush letting them know that you are interested (Roadmap2013). Rad states that when this signal is exposed, it creates a trust that gives someone the strength to step outside of the normal boundaries and pursue somebody (Roadmap2013). This is essentially what is happening when there is a mutual attraction established through a match on Tinder. It bypasses the unknown space of whether or not somebody you are attracted to is mutually attracted to you.
While the act of swiping right on a profile is indeed an act of vulnerability in that you express your interest in somebody else, if the swipe right is not reciprocated, there is no real consequence or feeling of rejection. Since the profiles are shown at random, it is plausible that this person may not have come across your profile yet and that they will the next time they use the app (Bosker, 2013). And even if they don’t, you will have forgotten about this Tinder stranger ten minutes later. Because of the anonymity, you simply swipe onto the next profile and continue on without a second thought. Many participants I interviewed stated that they felt ‘indifferent’ or that it is ‘not a big deal’ when they do not get a match on a certain profile.
Several participants that I interviewed, both male and female, cited this double opt-in as a majorly positive aspect of their Tinder experience. For example, Kevin explained that the real-world pressure of not knowing whether somebody is attracted to you is eliminated. He continued by stating that the application streamlines the dating process and simultaneously lessens the blow of potential rejection. For some, this is the only reason they use the application — for an ego boost. The double opt-in creates a culture of validation in which a swipe right could create a match, meaning this person you find attractive also finds you attractive or interesting.
All participants I interviewed estimated that they receive matches upwards of 50% of the time, and some even estimated that they receive matches up to 95% of the time. In both my participant observation and interviews, I observed that this feeling of validation and instant gratification has become quite addictive for Tinder users. Laura stated that the validation that comes with Tinder matches feeds our insecurities. She said that it operates on a rewards system in which the incentive to stay on Tinder is to keep getting matches. She explained it as ‘a way for us to feel culturally significant’. Perhaps in our never-ending quest to feel significant, receiving matches on Tinder helps fill that intrinsic desire.
When asked why an interview participant uses Tinder and what he is seeking through his use, Matthew stated:
‘I use it as a self-esteem boost. I don’t actually talk to people. I like to see that I get matches.’
And when asked how he feels when he gets a match and when he doesn’t:
‘I mean, I never remember if I swipe right. If I didn’t get matched with them I wouldn’t remember them. I am never like ‘oh I also really hope they swipe right.’ And when I do get a match, it’s a very simple self-esteem boost.’
This sentiment was shared among several other participants, though this is not everybody’s sole motivation for using the app since most other participants also chat and/or meet up with their matches.
Self-presentation, identity manipulation, and impression formation
In Goffman’s theory, self-presentation is defined as the ‘effort spent to shape others’ impressions of oneself’ via what the actor says, how they behave, and the appearance of the actor (Blackwell, Birnholtz & Abbott, 2014: 4). This concept is crucial in the world of online profiles and especially when it comes to online dating. When creating a Tinder profile, the user is aware of the fact that the photos and information he or she chooses to display will be the sole determinant of whether other users find him or her attractive and whether they will swipe right or left. Ellison et al. aptly explain ‘how [online] profile construction affords some flexibility in self-presentation, though manipulation of attributes is constrained by the likelihood of a physical meeting. Thus, there is an incentive to present in an attractive, but plausible, light’ (Blackwell, Birnholtz & Abbott: 2014, 6). However, this incentive is not always enough to be totally honest on your profile.
Over half of my interview participants admitted that their Tinder profiles were not totally accurate representations of themselves. There was a trend in wanting to be ‘flattering but realistic’, as Kevin put it, since there is only a small window to ‘make a good impression’ within the app’s infrastructure. You have just a few seconds to catch a potential match’s eye through that first photo on your profile. The participants talked about actively thinking about and choosing pictures that they feel convey who they are (or want to be seen as) while still being attractive. This creation of a digital identity is a form of identity manipulation with impression formation in mind.
When asked what attributes and personality traits they want to convey through their profiles, my interview participants answered in several ways. Some of the female participants mentioned not wanting to look ‘slutty’ or that they are ‘asking for it’, while others mentioned being ‘effortlessly uncool’ or ‘not taking it seriously’. The ways in which the participants constructed their profile hint at what their intentions are in using the app, and how they want potential matches to perceive them. Some are using it as a legitimate form of social discovery and source for potential dating prospects, though there is a constituency that uses it merely for entertainment purposes.
There was also a trend in participants’ profile pictures being outdated and up to a year old. This is problematic when thinking about youth and their ever-changing identities. Nobody is the same person they were one year ago, neither physically nor mentally. Brickell explains that:
‘Many internet spaces help us to constitute ourselves as social subjects. To some degree we become our pages on Facebook, MySpace and anywhere else we announce our presence to an online audience. As we establish and embellish our profiles, we build ourselves out of the raw matter of everyday life and the architecture of the site in question: photographs, social relationships, text boxes, quotations and online ephemera. We construct subjectivity as we navigate the discourses available to us through these sites. If subjectivity is always in process, these kinds of websites play an important part in our ongoing self-shaping.’ (Brickell, 2012: 30)
Because we publish these profiles on the interwebs, these sanitized versions of ourselves become a large part of how our peers perceive our identities regardless of whether they are accurate or not. Since the proliferation of creating our own profiles on digital platforms, we’ve continued to think of our own identities within the bounds of certain categorical boxes rather than in a more fluid way that more accurately reflects reality. Our identities have become neatly packaged, more like products for consumption rather than the messy and emotional, beautifully flawed humans that we truly are.
‘Catfish’ on Tinder
Since the participants admitted to stretching the truth or constructing their Tinder profiles in a very flattering way, it is only reasonable for them to assume that their Tinder matches would do the same. ‘Campbell (2004) discusses identity manipulation and sense among his participants that people met online would often differ substantially from expectations’ (Blackwell, 2014: 6). The infrastructure of Tinder partially mitigates this concern since it is connected to users’ Facebook profiles which in turn demands more integrity. This aspect was cited as another positive aspect from the viewpoint of the interview participants. Kevin explained that it is relatively easy to ascertain which profiles are fake due to his age group’s increased web literacy and constant contact with various social media platforms.
Nevertheless, the ‘catfish’ phenomenon of meeting up with somebody you’ve met online and seeing that they’ve lied about their appearance and/or identity, is not totally eliminated. Though it is not as common on Tinder to be ‘catfished’ to the severe extent of the popular MTV show, participants explained that it is more of a personality deception rather than a fundamental deception of identity. Abigail stated:
‘Men are wizards at normalizing themselves or seeming more interesting via the interwebs.’
I also experienced this slight form of deception when I met up in-person with Tinder matches for participant observation. None of the men I met up with were quite how their Tinder profiles or even Facebook profiles painted them to be.
After meeting three men for Tinder dates, I came to the conclusion that it is very common to envision a person in a certain way according to their constructed profile, and to be slightly disappointed in the end. That’s not to say that they are entirely unattractive or uninteresting, but more that we accentuate our positive traits and ignore the negative ones when creating our online identities. This ultimately sets us up for failure. It is impossible to capture the entire essence of a person within the confines of an online profile, and so in the situation of a Tinder date, we fill in the blanks with our own machinations of what we want these people to be. Through the construction of our online identities, we build up unrealistic expectations for our peers in comparison to what our real selves can uphold.
Perceived control over communication
There was a general understanding and acceptance among all participants that the motivation for Tinder use varies from person to person, and can range from just casual chatting to hookups to seeking serious relationships. During many of the participant interviews, the participants referenced how ‘low-stress’, ‘simple’, ‘no pressure’, ‘casual’, and ‘convenient’ Tinder is. Wendy cited the fact that you match on a whim and yet there is no pressure to talk to the match as a positive aspect of Tinder. This ties into an idea referenced in Barraket’s (2008) article on online dating: ‘perceived control over communication’, as a benefit for many users.
Laura elaborated on this more negatively, saying that it is easy to hide behind your phone and ignore regular social cues. While Wendy felt that not being obligated to respond was a positive aspect, Laura saw it as a diminishment of genuine and vulnerable face-to-face interaction. She explains that you would never flat out ignore somebody who said ‘Hello’ to you in a physical setting, but that you can only conceivably do so in the digital space. Laura furthers her negative view of this culture of interaction by saying that humans become disposable on Tinder; because you quite literally swipe somebody out of your view with just a split second of judgment based on superficial criteria, your brain begins thinking more like this in real face-to-face interactions. You are essentially saying that a person who you do not find physically attractive is unworthy of even one minute of your time or a small fraction of your brain space.
Laura later informed me that she deleted the Tinder application from her phone a few days after we conducted the interview. It seems that talking critically about the implications of this type of behavior repulsed her to such an extent that she eliminated it from her life.
Stigmatization and changing perceptions
Criticism for Tinder lies in the fact that the very nature of the app is based on superficial snap judgments. Several popular news and media outlets have published pieces on Tinder, most of which acknowledge the app’s reputation for shallowness. Coupled with the criticism for superficiality is the question of whether Tinder is just an app for casual sex and ‘hookups’, and if either of these things are actually problematic or just realistically reflecting the modern manifestation of relationship formation.
Stigmatization of online dating is nothing new, but it seems that the stigma revolving around Tinder is a little bit different. In general, online dating is seen by youth as a desperate plea for companionship and it sends a message that you can’t get any on your own accord. Many of my Tinder-using interview participants stated that they would never join a traditional online dating service such as OKCupid…at least not yet. When asked why then they were on Tinder, some of them explained that it is much more casual and not quite as purposefully seeking love. Another reason several participants cited is that Tinder can be ‘whatever you want it to be’ and isn’t necessarily confined to the space of online dating. Thereby, Tinder acts as a vehicle for youth agency in that is used according to each user’s own social needs and practices.
Youth openly use Tinder, but as Abigail explains:
‘[there is] a strong stigma attached to Tinder in the US, but most of my study abroad friends and acquaintances in London use the app’.
It seems that being in a new city justifies the legitimate usage of Tinder, but if you are in a place where you have an established social network, it is much less accepted. To borrow from Bucholtz’s (2002) idea of the development of global youth cultures, it seems that Tinder is an example of the vast ‘possibilities for cultural production offered by new technologies’ (p. 544) which young people are readily accepting into their lives around the world. However, the blending of traditional cultural forms with these new technologies is not totally seamless. Kevin explains that:
‘… a main drawback is what people would think if things worked out with you and a Tinder match. Would you tell your friends and family that you met on an iPhone dating app?’
To the same effect, Wendy reiterates this by saying:
‘It’s embarrassing to say that you met on Tinder, but whatever.’
There is undoubtedly a negative stigma and embarrassment revolving around relationships formed on Tinder, but it seems to be steadily diminishing especially within the international student constituency. Since they’ve experimented with the Tinder app and experienced its benefits, many students have changed their perceptions about Tinder and online dating in general. When asked what she thought of online dating in general, Wendy explains:
‘I feel like I had a very negative perspective on it. Before, I wouldn’t have wanted to say I found my significant other through online dating, but I’m more open to it now. Tinder is online dating, and I’m open to it. It’s kind of fun, and you get to meet a lot of new people.’
Abigail sees it as a great tool for certain people, saying:
‘Tinder opens a lot of doors for people who work often and thus can’t go out as frequently in hopes of meeting a significant other.’
Though she personally does not use online dating seriously, Abigail sees how it could be a viable form of dating for others, indicating changing perceptions and perhaps lessening stigma among youth.
Furthermore, some participants foresee online dating as the future. Kevin states that ‘in a decade, more people will be saying they met online than at a bar’, but that meeting in person is still ideal. Hannah explains that she has experienced the evolution of Tinder from being just an app that facilitates hookups to becoming more of a legitimate way to meet people and form meaningful relationships. Hannah is currently romantically involved with a man she met through Tinder, and has expressed satisfaction in this relationship. Kevin described a meaningful experience he had as a gay man on Tinder:
‘I continue to talk to one person who is struggling to come out to his family. Never thought I’d have a conversation like that on Tinder.’
It seems that how we meet one another has changed to incorporate alternatives within the digital arena, but the process of actual dating has stayed the same. We have experienced more of an evolution of incorporating digital avenues rather than a total replacement of traditional methods. Tinder is simply another gateway to meet potential companions, but the relationship ultimately progresses within physical space just as any other relationship does. In this way, Tinder is a digital facilitator of real face-to-face interaction that has the potential to surpass the superficial first layer of the app. Youth are experiencing Tinder in substantial ways that move beyond superficiality.
‘Hook-up culture’ and love
The superficial nature of Tinder can prompt reasonable assumptions that the relationships formed on this app are also superficial, and grounded in the ‘hook-up culture’ that has generated a lot of buzz in popular news and media outlets. When asked what the phrase ‘hook-up culture’ meant to him, Matthew stated that:
‘[It is] a culture where people hook up casually more than they are in monogamous relationships. It happens with most college-age students and people in their early 20’s. I don’t see a problem with it.’
Hannah even expressed that it would be ‘kind of weird if someone didn’t experience it at least once’, confirming that within her social circles, ‘hook-up culture’ is thriving.
While nearly all of the interview participants acknowledge the ‘hook-up’ as a real phenomenon within Tinder culture and an experience they have in their own lives, most expressed that their use of Tinder is geared towards more meaningful experiences and relationships whether they are friendly or romantic. However, if that Tinder date ends in just a hookup and no follow-up, it is perceived to be normal and fine.
The normalcy placed upon ‘hook-up culture’ is partly attributed to the way popular media depicts sexual encounters. This subsequently shapes youth perceptions of sexual norms. As such, ‘[p]opular culture is simultaneously representing aspects of actual contemporary sexual behavior and providing sexual scripts for emerging adults’ (Garcia, 2012, p. 161). The question is whether the proliferation of this noncommittal lifestyle is changing the way youth view intimacy and romantic relationships within their own lives.
When asked if they believe in love, every single participant answered affirmatively. Most answered with a simple ‘Yes’ answer. Matthew and Rebecca elaborated that they do believe in love, but not so much in the idea of a ‘soulmate’. Rebecca states:
‘I don’t believe that there’s only one person that you can be in love with and that they’re your soulmate. I feel like you can love a lot of people. There’s not just one perfect person.’
This finding aligns with the permeation of ‘hook-up culture’ within youth perceptions in the sense that multiple partners (simultaneously or not) is accepted. More fluidity with love and intimacy are being experienced by youth and perpetuated through popular media and apps like Tinder.
Furthermore, the participants were asked if they believe in marriage. Every participant answered affirmatively to this question as well, but some elaborated stating that though they do believe in it, they don’t see it as a necessity. Wendy stated:
‘I also do understand why people don’t want to get married. In the Netherlands, a lot of people don’t, but they’re still in very committed relationships. You don’t have to be married to be committed, but I still think marriage is a fine institution.’
These optimistic perceptions of love and marriage within the sample group coupled with the seemingly noncommittal viewpoint of youth in general is surprising. What is even more surprising is that only one participant in the entire group expressed that they have been in love before. This suggests that hope for love and the often sought after ‘happily ever after’ still lives in the hearts and minds of youth even in the changing modern landscape.
Reflecting back on this research experience, I realize that I have gained a sense of solidarity with my peers. Being in a new place with new people and an entirely new culture has been eye-opening in every possible way. It has also been alienating and lonely at times, as if we are ‘alone together’, to borrow Sherry Turkle’s (2011) phrase. I have become ultra-sensitive to noticing how my peers (and myself) use social media and mobile devices like a crutch for the loneliness and emptiness that pervades everyday life as a college student on exchange despite our vast international student network. Our generation is unlike any other previous generation, and I believe lesser in many ways. But through the process of researching about how this wired behavior intersects with our beliefs of love and relationship formation, I feel a bit more optimism towards our generation.
Speaking in-depth with my peers about this topic was surprisingly refreshing and enjoyable. Hearing their opinions and criticisms reminded me that not everybody is a mindless zombie that only cares about how many ‘likes’ they garner on social media. I’m not alone in my disdain for such things. Learning that all of those I talked to wholeheartedly believe in love was what surprised me most of all for some reason. I think it is because we operate within certain boundaries on a daily basis, social boundaries that we create around ourselves. As such, it’s rare to see the vulnerable side to people, even those you call your friends. This process allowed me to see that side to several people.
While my generation is drawn to Tinder for a myriad of reasons, superficiality and mindlessness being some, we shouldn’t be persecuted for this. Just because we sometimes engage in this type of activity doesn’t mean we don’t see through it. All of the negative light shed on Tinder shouldn’t matter, especially if this type of app brings you to a meaningful experience or relationship. Why does it matter how you meet, as long as you meet? Everybody I talked to during this process is experiencing a change in their own perceptions of online dating. They all truly believe in and want love. Perhaps the reason Tinder is so popular among youths is because it is simply another avenue towards love that they feel comfortable operating within. Maybe they won’t admit that this is the case because of the negative stigma, but it seems that even this is changing. If the sample group I interviewed is indicative of this age group, online dating will soon be stigma-free or close to it. Abigail made a great statement:
‘I think that increased digitalization and permeation of the Internet into every facet of our lives has decreased our patience. We want what we want, when we want it. Tinder is convenient, and many people feel more comfortable on the Internet as it continues to become increasingly present in the rest of our lives.’
Even though the processes to find meaningful relationships have evolved, the end goal is always the same. The success of Tinder reflects this idea while also perpetuating it. Despite these changing youth dynamics regarding relationship formation and sexuality that have sparked criticism from older generations, our belief in love has remained constant and steady — however, the ways in which to express that love and how to attain that love have become more flexibly defined.
(Written for Youth Cultures in a Transnational Context)
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