During my days as a restaurant host last year, my coworker stood beside me swiping on Tinder. We were supposed to be greeting the poor drunk tourists who stumbled in from the heat. I did, she didn’t. She was too busy swiping furiously, absentmindedly, sometimes with commentary: “Ugh, never.” “Hmm, maybe.” “Total douche.”
She finally opened up: “It’s Tinder. It’s a dating app like Grindr, but for straight people.”
I knew what Tinder was, but didn’t think twice about it until more recently.
Her claim was not actually true. Tinder is not like Grindr or Scruff at all. The thrill of these gay hookup apps, at least for me, is meeting people you do not know. Anonymity is fun and exciting. You can be anyone you want. Grindr is always more fun in a new and unfamiliar city.
Tinder, taking a different route, involves your Facebook account and shows you people you have mutual friends with, people you are connected to by others, people who may share your social circles.
Pure and unadulterated anonymity — the ability to invent your character and perform in bed for two hours — does not exist for straight folks, apparently.
Maybe that’s part of the app’s appeal. I’ve spoken with a small number of queer women who use the app, and a smaller number of homos who like it. But what my coworker revealed is that Tinder has taken off in a predominantly straight user base.
Using Facebook is brilliant if you like knowing friends-of-friends; if you like banging people separated from you by only a few degrees of separation. Everyone has used Facebook to creep on strangers’ profiles, but the Facebook interface is not designed for meeting strangers. Tinder took what we were already doing (clicking through the hot profile pics of that distant friend-of-a-friend) and turned it into an app.
When you see someone sexy on Facebook, stumbled across their profile under “People You May Know,” there’s no built-in way to talk to these people without looking like a creep. Tinder solves this problem.
After you download the app, you are prompted to sign in and create an account through Facebook. You upload six photos from your Facebook account, but the app only displays your first name. It restricts the amount of information people can see while using your Facebook connections. The list of people it shows you first are the people you have the most mutual friends with.
If, on your Facebook profile, you have your “Interested In” tab set to “women,” Tinder will only show you women. If, like me, your Facebook profile’s “Interested In” tab is set to “men,” it will show you men. Frustratingly, Tinder does not explicitly show gay women or gay men; if you’re queer, you have to make that information known on your Tinder profile, and sift through the myriad of same-sex options that aren’t interested in you sexually.
The game-changer with Tinder is how the app only allows you to communicate with people that you show interest in, and who show interest in you.
The app presents you with a stack of profiles — a name, some pics, and a teensy description. If you swipe left, you’ll never see that person again: “Nope” gets stamped across their picture. Swipe right and you’ve “liked” their profile. If they “like” you back by accepting your message, boom! You’ve made a Tinder connection.
Final say: Tinder is awesome. It does something no other app does. If you don’t like banging strangers, Tinder is the opposite of an anonymous hookup app. The app forces a level of honesty: unless your Facebook profile is a total fabrication, you will have to show who you really are to people you want to date, lay, or both.
Some folks I’ve asked about the app say this feature encourages people to be a teensy bit nicer on Tinder as opposed it’s gayer, scruffier compatriots.
Let the straight folks have their fun.