It’s going down — I’m yelling Tinder

The ups and downs of the University’s latest app obsession

The college dating scene has been revolutionized by social media, set aflame by the innovations of the Internet, and recently, a little more tinder has been added to the fire. A mash-up between casual, communicative social media and a hook-line-and-sinker dating site, Tinder has come into the arena with guns smoking — and hundreds of students on Grounds flying like moths toward its incendiary glow.

For those of you who have managed to avoid being roped into this new dating format, here’s the lowdown. Tinder pulls basic information from your Facebook profile. Once you set up an account, you’re free to start swiping through images of guys and girls within a set radius of your current location. A swipe to the left signals your rejection, and a swipe right heralds attraction. If a mutual right swipe occurs, Tinder informs you of a “match.” From there, the two of you may choose to initiate a conversation.

I have nothing against digital dating. With its parent company raking in revenue of more than $713 million, millions of people worldwide are smitten with Online dating expands the pool of possibilities. Sure, there’s a million fish in the sea, but before digital dating, no one had time to plumb the watery depths of the this ocean of love.

The more time I spend on Tinder, the more I am awakened to the intellectual diversity in our collegiate community. One guy started talking about ancient Asian weaponry and its history, which prompted a fairly interesting conversation. Another dude asked me the cerebrally stimulating and grammatically brilliant, “Your hot are you a three years?” To which I responded, “Your hot two u are a four years mayb?” Alas, I fear my irony flew right through his iPhone screen and over his head.

Yes, digital dating has its advantages, but what worries me about Tinder is how shallow it makes its audience. Tinder profiles provide you with somewhere between two and six images of someone, a brief description, and a distance. From that, you base your judgment, knowing absolutely nothing about anyone’s personality.

That sexy girl with the dental-floss bikini could kick puppies for fun. She could walk around telling children Santa doesn’t exist. She could have actually enjoyed the Tobey Maguire “Spiderman” trilogy. How melodramatic is she? On a scale of one to Mary-Kate-and-Ashley-straight-to-VHS-movie, her life could be “Passport to Paris.” If these heinous offenses against humanity were made known, would you still swipe her to the right?

I understand perfectly well the role beauty plays in romantic conquests. I write off guys far too quickly when I don’t find them physically attractive, and I enjoy objectifying Ryan Gosling as much as the next teenybopper. But before I set up my Tinder account a few days ago, I could cheerfully ignore these shortcomings. Tinder has forced me to put my own superficiality in perspective.

My fascination with Tinder makes me no better than the obscene idiots on the Corner who shout profanities at girls passing by. I whine to my friends about men continuing to objectify women in the 21st century, but am I not doing the same when I swipe left?

In all honesty, virtually mediated “flirting” doesn’t compare with face-to-face infatuations. You can’t communicate through a screen. The eyes are the windows to the soul, correct? Speaking to someone through Tinder represents, at best, a window into an “ideal self” we craft, picture by picture, of ourselves. We tie our personal lives to an Internet connection without any conclusive certainty of true connection.

I don’t need fireworks. All I want is a spark. And Tinder has yet to prove to me it can really ignite that spark. Matches on Tinder are not matchsticks; there’s no guarantee they’ll light your fire once stripped of their digitalization.

I cannot say whether Tinder will transform dating. I cannot say if Tinder has successfully cultivated any meaningful relationships, because I don’t know. Personally, however, I’d guess true tinder for that romantic spark lies beyond my smartphone screen.

Laura’s column runs biweekly Fridays. She can be reached

Published February 27, 2014 in Life

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