As Valentine’s Day approaches, many Occidental students are looking to social media for potential dates. Whether students are looking for love this Friday, or simply to get lucky, one app in particular may facilitate the stars’ alignment.
Using data from Facebook, mobile application Tinder presents users with a stream of profile pictures. The user then decides whether the candidate on his or her screen deserves a green heart of attraction, also known as a “swipe right,” or a red “x” of rejection, a “swipe left.” When two users “heart” each other, the app kindly subsumes the burden of making the first move by immediately creating a private chat room in which the two can get acquainted.
An anonymous female student said that although she created her Tinder account on a whim, it turned out to be a surprisingly convenient way to meet people with similar interests without having to sort through all of the strangers in bars.
“It’s not like I’m not meeting people. It’s just that it’s nice to meet someone and immediately be able to be like, ‘We have a lot in common, we should hang out,’ as opposed to just going to a bar where maybe guys are creepy,” the student said.
Unlike on Omegle, a site that anonymously places two random strangers in a chat room, the people encountered on Tinder are either physically nearby or friends of friends on Facebook.
“Since you see pictures, that puts a face to who you’re talking to. You know you’re talking to a real person,” physics major Sweddy Perez* (first-year) said. “It’s harder to fake a Tinder profile, whereas on Omegle, a chick who says she’s eighteen and from L.A. could very well be… a 60-year-old dude in India.”
The anonymous female student, who went on a date with a Tinder match for the first time last Saturday night, enjoyed her experience despite initial nervousness.
“We’d been talking for like a week and a half before we went out. I had checked him out on Facebook, trying to make sure he was who he said he was – a Ph.D student at UCLA. So it wasn’t a totally blind thing,” the student said.
Tinder profiles consist of a user’s name, age, location, a few photos and liked pages on Facebook. Public access to that basic information holds users more accountable for their messages.
Objectives for casual chatting range from flattery to entertainment to procrastination.
“I jokingly once did get paired up with a 60-year-old man from Orange County and he messaged me soon after we got paired asking me if I wanted to spend the weekend with him in his beach house,” sociology major Koryeh Cobb (sophomore) said. “But that conversation quickly ended due to the overall absurdity of it.”
Not all of Cobb’s matches have been so unusual.
“If you weed the creepy conversations out then you can actually talk to some really cool people,” Cobb said. “I had a great conversation with someone who had just finished the Peace Corps, and due to my interest in that, I had an insane amount of questions for him. We never met up or anything, but it was still fun talking to him.”
Though the app requires personal information, no system of verification besides opting to connect through Facebook exists. Other online dating sites require comprehensive profiles of their members and entail the expectation of an in-person date, two features which mark a clear distinction between Tinder and sites like OkCupid or eHarmony.
Tinder also appeals to a larger population than singles looking for dates; many users sign on primarily to rate their neighbors. OkCupid, offers a similar feature, but it serves as more of a supplementary activity, or to strike up flirty convos for fun. The combination of interests gives the app more of a casual, hook-up feel.
“It’s kind of like they figured out a way to advertise eHarmony to kids – except almost solely for sex,” undeclared Charles Pollnow (first-year) said. “They advertise it as being more little creeks merging into your stream of sexual experiences, the goal being to have the biggest stream possible. I was like, well that’s one way to think about it.”
Many students reported they would never even consider meeting up with a Tinder match in person.
“I would never meet up with anyone [who I met] on there,” Perez said. “Tinder at 25 is more of a one-night stand kind of thing. My friend’s gotten a lot of girls through Tinder. He talks to girls other ways; Tinder’s just like an extra thing. Think about it, he can be at a bar talking to a girl and be on Tinder, doing this with one hand, talking to a girl with the other. Boom. Cost-benefit analysis. The opportunity cost is that second girl you’re dropping by not being on Tinder.”
Some students on Tinder do end up going on real, genuine dates – even the users who initially downloaded the app just for kicks.
“One of my friends convinced me [to download Tinder]. It was over winter break and I was really bored,” the anonymous female student said. “I wasn’t even looking for anything; it sort of just happened. I think things have changed so much that it doesn’t seem lame to me anymore.”
Other Occidental users report success finding dates on Tinder despite initial hesitation.
“I did meet up with one of the Tinder people. The first time we talked on the phone before meeting… the first thing I said was, ‘Please don’t kill me,'” Cobb said. “Having seen a couple episodes of catfish on MTV, I was worried that the whole night would go terribly wrong. He was super, super sweet, and we actually still hang out to this day!”
The app can also be a source of bonding. Whereas online daters tend to be more shy about their memberships, Tinder owes much of its rapidly growing popularity to its suitability for parties as a conversation-starter or even a communal activity. Friends confidently exchange funny Tinder encounters and even swipe through the app together, all without a sense of embarrassment.
“Over winter break I was at a party and my friend was going through Tinder hitting a bunch of girls with the ‘Hey :)’ and I was like, ‘Damn that looks good. I gotta download that,’” Perez said. “We were going through it together, hitting girls with the ‘Hey :).’ It was nice to see my friend and it was a nice joke we had.”
Students also say the app can be a fun and exciting way to see who’s into you.
“Sometimes it’s just nice to know that someone swiped you to the right. It’s like a little ego boost on your way to class. Especially if they’re pretty,” an anonymous male student said.
Tinder can be a great way to branch out and meet new people, which isn’t always easy on smaller college campuses where social scenes can get claustrophobic.
“It works out for a place like Oxy, where most people tend to avoid getting involved with other students because of how small and connected everyone is,” the anonymous male student said.
Occidental students tend to have mixed opinions about getting matched with someone they actually know, especially other students on campus.
“I did end up deleting my account because I kept seeing people from Occidental and for some reason that weirded me out,” Cobb said.
Others are more optimistic about using the app to find love on campus.
“One time I matched with a girl from Occidental,” Perez said. “I saw her in the Marketplace a few days ago actually. She didn’t respond to my ‘Hey :).’ Girl from Oxy, what is good with that?”