Disclosure: This blog is based on genuine experience… Unfortunately.
Recently the fate of circumstance led me to dive into the world of online dating – or more accurately, social media dating. Downloading Tinder was really more of a choice to boost personal morale (spoiler alert!) than a serious effort to meet ‘that special someone’, but I quickly learned this love-to-hate-but-still-a-secret-addiction app brought about all kinds of unusual behaviour from my social circle. Within a matter of days, I had friends telling me how ‘great it was because the people on it aren’t overly desperate’, or ‘how it was just a hook up app’, or how ‘there are hilarious one-liners that have 100% success rate of response’ (one of which inspired the title of this article). But what amazed me was the way in which social interaction is manipulated and the boundaries of appropriate social commentary are altered by the virtual world.
So has face-to-face interaction lost its value? Or are people just becoming increasingly comfortable and perhaps even more connected on a personal level through social media platforms? Research shows that, unsurprisingly, when people are looking to meet a dating partner for the first time, they will adjust their self-presentation and behaviour to what they think that potential partner desires (Ellison et al., 417). But further research puts forward that with this ideal image, we also feel the need to present our authentic self; this is what creates a foundation for intimacy in our relationships. Now while it could be argued that our genuine and true nature can be expressed in an online environment, do we not communicate primarily through body language? How can you truly establish intimacy without knowing someone’s mannerisms? Or to a greater extent, how can you do something as simple as practice the art of flirtation through touch?
What Tinder has revolutionized is the simplification of the social process of dating. Just like Google Maps eliminated our need for paper maps and Facebook messages provided an alternative to sending postcards, Tinder has broken down dating to its skin and bones. A name, an age, some carefully selected photos, and perhaps a sentence or two. With that we form a split second decision of if this person is a love match. In a Huffington Post article, Joshua Pompey argues we’ve been ‘Tinder-ing’ since the beginning of time – after all, isn’t it an initial physical attraction that drives us to approach a love interest in any public setting? Perhaps yes, but the follow-up is what throws this theory off (an opening liner in a bar or café of ‘how hot you look’ or ‘hey sexy’ is more likely to send you running than engaging in a deep and meaningful conversation).
Beyond the endlessly complex world of dating, social media has brought about a new kind of social addiction. It’s called ‘Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD)’, according to a 2012 study by the National Institutes of Health. It works like many other addictions: we get a good feeling when we’re engaging with it, and a bad feeling when we’re not (which blogger Jason Thibeault assumes is related to a dose of Dopamine that our body rewards us with when we’re using it and craves when we’re not). In short, we become a narcissistic version of ourselves that thrives off the approval – or ‘Likes’ – of other users. This behaviour can arguably be applied to the world of Tinder: when we get a match, that self-gratifying feeling kicks in for a short moment and perpetuates a desire to experience it over and over again. So is Tinder really about dating then? Or is it about fulfilling a certain personal desire or emotional need? Perhaps it can be a blurred line between these two ideas, but like any social media, it is always essential that we are the moderators of the app – not the other way around.
Needless to say, my venture on Tinder ended almost as fast as it began. As connected as I am to the constant online flow of information, I’ll leave the real social relationships to exactly how they should flourish – in reality.
Ellison, N. et al. (2006). Managing impressions online: Self-Presentation Processes in the Online Dating Environment. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 11(2), 415-441.
CBS News article on ‘Internet Addiction Disorder’:
A Guardian article on Tinder as the millennial dating method: