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Tinder, we thought, was a way to do that. But after a massive meltdown last week, we can't look at the app in the same way again though this isn't necessarily a bad thing. Armed with a canary and a lantern, journalist Nancy Jo Sales spelunked into the depths of Tinder hell, discovered some pretty loathsome alleged humans, and, like a sadistic circus owner, displayed her findings in Vanity Fair as a freakshow. These terrifying people use terms like "Tinderellas" women they meet on Tinder and allegedly do things like send the pizza emoji to procure sex. Tinder appreciated Sales's story as much as you would a kick to your liver, and responded with a gloriously unhinged tweet meltdown.
North Koreans were cited, as were a "shit ton" of Tinder marriages, and charges of shady journalism. Though Tinder's Twitter fit and Sales's article were both, in their own ways, delicious, the fight pointed to a bigger picture that involves us regular humans, our relationship to technology, and how we talk about dating culture — regardless of whether we're in the business of swiping left or right.
Stock-Asso via Shutterstock. The main thrust of Sales' s Vanity Fair article is that Tinder is a horseman of the dating apocalypse. Sales points out that single humans are now at the point where they've left behind the restrained tradition of dating and graduated into the lurid world of hookup culture.
And it's easy to see why Tinder is part of this ecosystem. Years of human asations have chipped away at the stigma of sex, and suddenly we're not living by the rules that governed generations before ours, the idea of meeting people you're romantically interested in through your friends and family, or even in social situations.
The ardent guidelines of courtship have disintegrated, Sales argues. Instant gratification is now the impetus. And being able to dismiss with a literal "X" potential romantic partners based on six photos they post on Facebook has reduced dating to child's play. Sales's theorem isn't wrong.
But hearing about this in theory is a lot different from actually seeing it happen. Think of a snake: You're told it eats other animals to stay alive. You understand the vague outline of this process, but it's a completely different experience to watch an animal unhinge its jaw, gorge itself, and eventually shit nightmares that make you develop a fear of snakes. Sales found some snakes to illustrate her case, like some guy who's referred to as Marty:.
But Marty, who prefers Hinge to Tinder "Hinge is my thing" , is no slouch at "racking up girls. I just wanna hang out, be friends, see what happens … If I were ever in a court of law I could point to the transcript. If I were like, Hey, I just wanna bone, very few people would want to meet up with you …. But Sales's darkest discovery is a man whom she feels has punched above his weight when it comes to procuring sex:.
Nick, with his lumbersexual beard and hipster clothes, as if plucked from the wardrobe closet of Girls, is, physically speaking, a modern male ideal. In his iPhone, he has a list of more than 40 girls he has "had relations with, rated by [one to five] stars….
It empowers them," he jokes. Sales's story is like one of those terrifying Scandinavian fairy tales that existed before Disney got its hands on it — the kind where a lovely mermaid just wants to try out some legs, but using them feels like walking on broken glass, and it all eventually ends with her having to kill the one she loves.
In this case, Sales shows us what living on the other side of that world is like. It means lying back and thinking of England while the openly mediocre Nick has his carnal way with you and then rates you in his phone or Marty thinking he's playing games with your heart. Suddenly, you realize that the mermaid may have had it easier. Sales didn't paint Tinder in a positive light, but I'm not entirely sure it was as harsh as Tinder thinks it was. Essentially, Tinder is the vehicle that helps these goons find their sexual conquests the awful sea witch, if we're still running with the mermaid analogy.
It obviously can't control its users, and it's more of a product that hookup culture begot than something that created hookup culture. Nevertheless, in response, someone with access to Tinder's Twitter went on a tirade against Vanity Fair and Sales:. Hey nancyjosales — that survey is incorrect. If you're interested in having a factual conversation, we're here.
Tinder's response centered on the idea that Tinder users aren't using it for casual sex but, rather, "meaningful" relationships:. Tinder users are on Tinder to meet people for all kinds of reasons. Sure, some of them — men and women — want to hook up.
Our data tells us that the vast majority of Tinder users are looking for meaningful connections. Tinder didn't supply the raw data to these assertions. These connections, according to whomever is in control of Tinder's Twitter , have resulted in a "shit ton" of marriages:. Travel, dating, relationships, friends and a shit ton of marriages. Tinder's view is that it, as opposed to what Sales reported, creates relationships that go beyond casual sex.
And there's a sense that Tinder is embarrassed about its role in facilitating hookups. But the company's response raises the question: Why does it value marriages over casual sex? And further, are marriages really the goal that Tinder envisions for itself and its users?
Sure, garbage golems like "Nick" prowling Tinder for casual sex are embarrassing. But not everyone is Nick. And Sales did interview women who said they were open to casual sexual relationships, too — using Tinder to procure sex cuts across gender, sexual orientation, and whatever other social identifiers there are.
Tinder willfully ignoring or being embarrassed by this component of its service — especially for an app that works by focusing on looks — is mind-boggling. It also underscores a sense of shame about sex. To be clear, whether it's sex, dates, or marriage, as long as it doesn't involve harm and sobbing there's no "better" result when it comes to Tinder.
There's no rule that every person has to treat casual sex the way Nick does, nor is there a rule that people who have found marriage via Tinder are somehow superior to the rest of the users. The sooner we come to realize that humans are silly, and will do silly things to find someone they're romantically compatible with — whether that in sex, dates, or marriage — the better. It's unclear to me why a company that is heavily reliant on single people meeting other single people is hoping to see people get married. That's just bad business. Tinder expanded further — explaining how it's helped lonely North Koreans find meaningful connections with other North Koreans:.
Talk to our many users in China and North Korea who find a way to meet people on Tinder even though Facebook is banned. Please take a minute to realize that Tinder doesn't work without Facebook. Ergo, it's unclear how Tinder is bringing North Koreans together if Facebook is banned and the internet barely exists there.
Max Fisher has a more in-depth look at Tinder's claim. But yet again, Tinder is reluctant to bring up casual sex — claiming instead that it's a vehicle for more allegedly wholesome human connections. Forgive me, but if I invented an app that allowed some of the most oppressed people in the world a wild romp here and there, I would be standing on the rooftops pounding my chest and screaming into the abyss.
North Korean one-night stands would truly be a human rights achievement. While Sales made more eloquent points than Tinder, her isn't the end-all-be-all about the app. The biggest issue with her piece was that it relied on anecdotes and extrapolated those anecdotes to tell a bigger, sweeping story. Jesse Singal at New York magazine explains that Sales's story might be an accurate depiction of a certain type of user but isn't reliable enough to really paint a bigger picture:.
This is known as confirmation bias. Sales does cite a study that found millennials are having sex with fewer partners than generations. But she brushes it off in a parenthetical reference. She writes:. Twenge and Sherman's study shouldn't be brushed off, though. That study found that only 37 percent of the students they studied reported two or more hookups during the school year. But 90 percent of the participants thought a "typical" student had been involved in two or more hookups. Perception didn't match up with reality, and students thought there was more casual sex happening around them than there actually was:.
Sales isn't definitively wrong, and these studies aren't definitively right. But there's a disconnect that needs to be resolved. If millennials, the people whom Sales interviewed, are having fewer partners and college students are hooking up less frequently than they think, a sweeping declaration that dating has now become a barren land of perpetual hookups might be overblown — especially when the study shows that there's a very real phenomenon of overestimating hookup culture.
Maybe these are just pre-Tinder days. Maybe there's a pool of promiscuous people who are having way more sex than everyone else. But what about the men and women who aren't having sex with multiple partners? What about the humans who would rather eat pizza and watch Netflix than hook up?
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