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There’s a popular new app called Tinder that promises to make dating less awkward. For curiosity’s sake, I surveyed my friends and tried it out myself to see whether it accomplishes that.

Spoiler alert: It does not.

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Tinder is a location-based app that allows users to sign in through their Facebook accounts. It displays a very basic profile that shows up to 6 photos, an optional short bio, and mutual Facebook friends and “likes.” If you’re interested, you swipe right; if not, you swipe left.

“Tinder works like walking into a room, looking around and subconsciously going ‘yes, no, yes, no’ while scanning people,” co-founder Sean Rad explained. “If you give someone across the room that look and they give you that look back, you’re now both responding in the moment and that’s a match.”

Essentially, users make snap judgments about whether they find a person hot or not. It’s as simple, and superficial, as that. The main benefit it touts is there’s no risk of rejection. If two people both swipe right, they become a match and can communicate. But if an interest is one-sided, the uninterested party is none the wiser.

Tinder has been around for more than a year, but its popularity — at least in Knoxville — is much more recent. I heard mention of the app a couple of months ago, unsure of what it was exactly. So I downloaded it and quickly figured it out.

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Weird encounter #1

My first interaction on Tinder was a bizarre one. Only a few minutes after matching with a guy, with whom I shared no mutual friends, I received a friend request on Facebook. Kinda creepy. Moments later, I get a 600-word email — sent to my work account. Totally creepy.

In specific detail, this stranger divulges a very personal story. Apparently he’d read a previous #trending column I wrote about addiction and wanted to share his own struggle with me.

While I can appreciate the connection he felt to my work, it seemed a bit intense, especially when Tinder doesn’t include last names. In fact, he admitted …

" … to falling victim to contributing to the creepiness of tinder by googling your name/knoxville journalism."

My first experiment with Tinder ended there.

As the weeks went on, so did the Tinder buzz. I couldn’t escape it and, honestly, felt my curiosity creeping back. If my first experience was so strange, I wondered what else might happen.

Weird encounter #2

I downloaded the app again and gave it a second chance. My second impression was that Knoxville is small. So many of the people I came across were either friends or people I regularly see around town. I even “matched” with my ex, and several of his friends. (In fact, I made a habit of swiping right to anyone I knew in real life — because, you know, it’s funny.)

Still, I carried on. At this point, I had several dozen matches and a couple of interesting conversations. It was a few days into Experiment No. 2 before I had another unusual encounter.

A guy visiting from New York to work the Big Ears music festival struck up a conversation. I offered up some suggestions for things he could do in town but said I would, unfortunately, not be able to attend Big Ears. A few hours later, he offered me a free weekend pass. Did I want it? he asked. Um, YES, I replied.

I met up with him at a show, where a bunch of my friends already were. He was a nice enough guy who had obviously sought out a wristband to offer me.

I felt obligated to hang out for at least a little while but soon departed. We exchanged numbers and I said I’d text him later that night. I did, and he met my friends and me at the Tennessee Theatre for the Television show.

He turned out to be one of those people who asks a lot of really annoying questions when you’re trying to watch a show — but, all things considered, Tinder really came through for me this time.

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Something for everyone?

Everyone uses Tinder in a different way. Some people genuinely are looking to meet a partner on the app. Many use it almost exclusively as a “hook-up” app. Others think of it as a big joke and use it in such a way.

I know people who fall into each of the above categories.

A friend who recently moved from Knoxville to Colorado found her current boyfriend using Tinder.

"I downloaded the app, not taking it seriously at all, and I met him the first day," Carli Ferrari, 26, said. "Now we’re talking about our future together. I never in a million years thought I’d meet my fiance on an app."

In fact, the founders of the app recently revealed that they are hearing about "at least one marriage proposal a day" from people who met on Tinder.

Many more, it seems, use the app as a means for casual sexual encounters. In fact, Tinder has somewhat of a reputation for this. There are countless blogs and Twitter accounts dedicated to these stories. Some people put it right out there and disclose their intentions in their bios, while others make it clear with their opening lines. I’ve experienced both methods firsthand.

But perhaps my favorite use of Tinder, and the one that feels most natural to me, is Tinder as a joke. Online dating can be incredibly uncomfortable, so having a sense of humor with it is necessary.

I can’t tell you how many screenshots I’ve seen from friends of awkward and hilarious conversations. It’s helpful, of course, when both parties are in on the joke — but it’s pretty funny when it’s one-sided, too.

My favorite Tinder feature is by College Humor — a compilation of one user’s hysterical attempts at chatting up women on Tinder.

The Tinder end

Since my second go at Tinder, I’ve been looking forward to the day I could delete the app. It’s been an interesting experiment, but frankly, it’s just not for me. This might work for some people, and I’ve certainly got some interesting stories to tell, but I think I’ll stick to perusing the Tinder stories shared by others.

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