Once a term most commonly associated with the nefarious pursuits of a furry bandit on Dora the Explorer, the word became synonymous with an activity entirely different. And definitely not kid-friendly.
Yup, you guessed it: Tinder.
Since its release 6 years ago, the app has revolutionised online dating like nothing before. Not only did meeting people become a whole lot easier, there was also no longer a need to fret over whether to send that Facebook/Instagram direct message professing admiration to a random stranger. Instead, with Tinder, we knew where we stood.
She swiped right, I swiped right. Great, time to let the sparks fly and turn the match into a raging fire in our loins.
Recently however, Tinder usage has waned. Word on the street is that singles have become jaded with meeting people via the app, and it’s just another means of validation.
But do these experiences carry any weight?
Determined to find out, I spoke to a few Tinder connoisseurs to get to the bottom of the issue.
“I was quite late to the game and only started using the app about three years ago. Back then, I had just gotten over my break up with a long-term boyfriend and was finally ready to start meeting new people. My colleagues encouraged me to try the app and it was great. I went on quite a lot of dates!”
Leaning back in my chair to give her a once-over, it’s not hard to see why. Adeline is definitely an attractive lady, no surprise anyone with a heartbeat and penis would swipe right.
I tell her this, half-expecting a knowing smirk to form on her face. But Adeline is no Regina George. Instead, her bubbly-self brushes it off, candidly thanking her parents for how she looks.
Adeline then goes on to tell me what being spoilt for choice on Tinder is like.
Curiosity getting the better of me, I jokingly ask if that’s what she meant by “a lot of work”, which results in a playful punch on my arm. After laughing, Adeline continues.
“Tinder is great for casual flings but once the novelty wore off, I got sick of it. My best friends (who didn’t use the app) always used to ask me for dating horror stories and somewhere along the way, I started wondering what their profiles would look like. They aren’t exactly lookers if I’m completely honest, but that didn’t stop them from being wonderful people. Call me naïve but I guess I wanted to see if anything close to that kind of bond could be found on Tinder.”
In pursuit of intellectual and emotional connections, Adeline altered her swiping patterns, focusing on witty bios and meaningful conversations rather than carefully curated pictures. She then began conversing with all her new matches but only went out with a handful.
Unfortunately, even then, her investment of time and effort didn’t pay off. With a hint of frustration in her voice, Adeline confides that face-to-face interactions were vastly different from how the conversation was online. On a platform used predominantly for casual sex, her efforts were a waste of time.
“It’s just exhausting trying to give everyone the benefit of the doubt, only to be disappointed later. Maybe my expectations were too high or the nice guys were all taken but whatever the case, I’ve given up on trying to meet somebody through Tinder,” she says.
“I’d rather let love find me organically now. I mean, if it happens, it happens right?”
At the tender of age of nineteen, Wen Si kept her thumbs busy during study breaks by swiping on Tinder.
“I remember downloading Tinder during my freshman year in university. It was still relatively new and everyone around me was joining, so I jumped on the bandwagon too. I don’t think any of us really used it for the explicit purpose of dating though. We were just curious to see what the people on it were like. ”
Interrupting her for a moment, I ask if she had ever swiped right despite having no intention of dating. In reply, Wen Si tells me that she did, but only in extremely rare instances.
On one such occasion, she matched with a guy called Tim. Having been tickled by the self-deprecating humour in his Tinder bio, she had swiped right not expecting anything to come out of it. A few days later however, he said hello.
“Suddenly having a stranger talk to you online was a little alarming at first so I definitely proceeded with caution. But the more we chatted, the more comfortable I became. I got the feeling he was a genuinely nice guy. And he was.”
Wen Si shares that Tim was a year older and was in the midst of his national service at the time. That said, they still made it a point to chat whenever their free time coincided. Eventually, the pair exchanged numbers before starting to hang out as well. They took things slow and after about eight months of dating, got into a relationship.
Well, until the couple broke up a year and a half later, that is.
Pausing for a few seconds, Wen Si inhales deeply before telling me that less than a week after her relationship ended, she received an influx of messages checking up on her.
It was strange. She hadn’t told her friends about the break up but suddenly everyone was consoling her. After a bit of probing, she soon discovered the cause of their concern: they had seen Tim’s Tinder profile online again.
“It really stung. I mean, it was honestly a good relationship and there wasn’t any drama involved when we decided to end things so I was shocked that he got over it so quickly. I also felt kind of … cheap, I guess. Like I was just one of the many digital presences he’d meet online. I knew I had no real reason to be upset but the reality was just a sucker-punch.”
As a result, Wen Si has never used Tinder again, preferring to rely on the good old-fashioned ways of meeting people. Interestingly, she also doesn’t consider Tim to be an asshole, but rather, a victim of modern speed-dating.
“I love Tinder. I’m a flight steward and it’s my go-to app whenever I’m in a foreign city. Let’s not kid ourselves, everyone knows what it’s for. It cuts out the need for small-talk and we can get straight to the point. It’s gotten me more ass than a toilet seat,” he says, before chuckling.
“You can’t use Tinder the way I do in Singapore. Not for very long anyway, until you’re labelled a “fuckboy”. We are far too small a country. Everyone is a friend of a friend and word spreads pretty quickly. It’s not that I’m particularly worried about being called that though, it just doesn’t do me any favours when attempting to hook up with someone new. In Singapore, I mostly use it when I’m bored or for validation.”
Unlike Adeline and Wen Si then, Alex has never had any desire to look for anything other than physical connections on Tinder. As such, he’s never really considered the possibility of a serious relationship blossoming from a match. But he does have an interesting take on those who do.
“In my opinion, it’s honestly quite stupid if you go about looking for love on an app like Tinder. I mean, there are other dating sites better equipped for that – those with questionnaires and compatibility tests. On Tinder, all you need is a picture of your face and one of your body. Done. It was designed to be superficial. The “about me” section’s like an optional captcha program to prove that you’re not a bot. That’s all.”
At this point in our conversation, I find that even though I might not agree with how Alex chooses to use Tinder, I can’t deny that he makes sense.
Before we part, I ask Alex if he’s noticed anything different about the way locals use Tinder now, as compared to before. His reply is almost instantaneous.
“Definitely. For one, there are a lot fewer people using Tinder these days. I think the hype has well and truly worn off. Either that or people have moved on to more female-centric dating apps like Coffee Meets Bagel or Bumble.
For those that remain however, I think Tinder has become just another tool for social validation. It’s like Instagram, only more personal because of its premise. Conversations take place less often and don’t last as long anymore. It’s like a silent, mutual pat on the back now. Hey, we both think each other’s hot. And that’s it.”
But for all the good Tinder has done for shy introverts everywhere, it’s not without its flaws. Dating has never been easier. Yet at the same time, it’s never been more plastic.
We’re forced to make snap judgements based on a couple of superficial markers, when real life hardly works this way.
Call me old-fashioned, but I think relationships should originate from face-to-face interaction. From having the balls to walk up to another person and say hello. Or in the awkward moments of silence that follow an introduction by a mutual friend.
It’s about going on a shared journey of discovery together from day one, building chemistry by reading the small nuances of human back-and-forth.
So yes, while Tinder does simplify everything, it doesn’t mirror real-life completely. And 6 years of its existence has only made this more evident. We’ve realised this, along with the fact that our friends who’ve managed to have successful relationships on Tinder are really the exception rather than the norm.
It turns out that while we might crave connectivity, we value intimacy more.