Tinder is the world’s most popular dating app, with 75 million active users per month. And yet, anyone who’s used the app knows that it doesn’t always provide the most satisfying experience. If you’re thinking you might download Tinder for the first time, here are some thoughts that are likely to cross your mind.
“I am ready for love.” When you first download Tinder, you’re bursting with optimism. At least three people from your friend group know someone who has a friend who got married to someone they met on Tinder, so it’s definitely going to work for you too…right? You’ve heard some horror stories, but it’s such a popular app that weird things are bound to happen to people who don’t practice good judgment. You’re here to find love, and you’re pretty sure it’s right around the corner.
“Alright, time to encapsulate my entire soul into a four-sentence bio.” When you’re prompted to make your profile after you download Tinder, you’re confronted with two hurdles: what to write about yourself and which photos to use. You do some quick googling about how to write the perfect profile and discover that all the advice is both extremely broad (“just be yourself!”) and extremely restrictive (“keep it short”). Advice on photos is similarly contradictory, with directions to choose images that are both “sexy” and “conservative.” You do the best you can, feeling significantly less confident than before, and get to swiping.
“So I’m just supposed to…swipe?” For anyone who is new to Tinder and dating apps in general, the interface can seem dystopian right after you download. Swiping right or left to give your verdict on a person’s merits as a potential partner can feel about as soulless and mercenary as The Hunger Games (minus the death). But you eventually get used to it and realize how many options there are. It’s miraculous. Who knew there were so many men in your area named Matt?
“My True Love is one swipe away. Maybe two swipes. Definitely no more than four.” At first, you carefully consider every profile that isn’t an immediate “no.” You stay open-minded about the question marks (maybe “DTF” is just his way of being approachable), and pretend you don’t care about height or photos where you’re not actually sure which guy is the one you’re meant to be swiping on. You know that the love of your life is on the app, just a few swipes away. You download Tinder because you’re sure of it.
“Why are they all at the gym/holding fish/not wearing shirts/saying they don’t have babies?” Eventually, patterns emerge. There are gym selfies. There are “I just caught a huge fish on a boat” pics. There are baby disclaimers accompanying pictures of babies, implying that the guy is great with babies but absolutely does not (not in any way) have one himself. You begin to filter people out based on whether their profiles contain a specific category of photo (the back-flip into the swimming pool, the shirtless beach photo with cocktails and identical friends, the ones with the unidentified woman who looks like a possible ex, etc.)
“My first match!” Once you download Tinder, there’s sort of a vague holding period until you get your first match. There’s a little rush of adrenaline when it finally happens. It feels like someone just walked up to you in a bar and told you that you were the most beautiful woman in the room. It doesn’t matter that they can match with an almost unlimited number of people. You have been singled out! Someone who you thought was attractive thinks you’re attractive. It must be destiny.
“Is ‘Hey’ a good response to ‘Hi’?” Your match sends you a message just as you’re piecing together the world’s greatest icebreaker to send him to get the conversation going. A feeling of deflation hits you when you discover that the best pickup line he can come up with is, “Hey.” You consider responding with something clever and flirty, but decide after a few minutes to just write, “Hi.” Why did you download Tinder again?
More Tinder thoughts that go through your mind
“Gosh, I must really stand out.” Soon, match notifications start pouring in and your confidence soars. You realize that, whatever you did with your profile, it must have really hit the mark. You are getting noticed. Now is the time to be more selective. You start swiping quickly, making instantaneous decisions instead of taking time to look through photos or read bios. You don’t have time to linger. You have to find the perfect candidate. What other reason would someone download Tinder in the first place?
“Wow. Okay. That’s a lot.” Someone will inevitably send you an overtly sexual message with zero invitation or encouragement. Maybe those Tinder horror stories that you heard about aren’t as avoidable as you thought. Feeling violated and a little shaken, you unmatch him immediately and consider deleting the app. But… Maybe the decision to download Tinder was a mistake.
“…I can’t stop swiping.” You’re slogging through small talk with a few of your matches and seem to be hitting a dead end. It’s disappointing, but when there are so many other profiles that you haven’t seen yet, you’re sure there must be someone out there who is capable of carrying on a conversation. You tell yourself that you’ll keep swiping until you find someone who you might actually want to go out with. The decision to download Tinder is turning into a major time suck.
[Three hours later] “Look, this isn’t easy, but if I just put the effort in, I’m sure it’ll pay off.” Your vision is blurry, your mind is numb. But you’ve spent too much time on this app to give up now. You’ve reached what’s called the “sunk cost fallacy,” the belief that you should stick with an investment because of the number of resources you’ve already put into rather than because of the profit it’s yielding. The sunk cost fallacy is one of the reasons people stay in bad relationships, but it’s also a reason people refuse to stop using dating apps no matter how unsuccessful they are.
“Should I send nudes to a stranger?” After you download Tinder, your whole perspective on dating immediately starts to skew. As your mind becomes numb to the bottomless pit of Tinder profiles and chats, you may find yourself wondering if it’s normal to send nudes to someone you’ve never met. It seems like some of the guys you’ve been messaging think it’s part of the introduction process so you can decide if you actually want to meet. If a stranger had asked you to send nudes three hours ago, you would’ve laughed in their face. Now, you’re starting to think that you’re being a prude (you’re not).
“This guy might actually be okay.” In all of the drudgery and existential crises, you strike up a conversation that actually seems to be going somewhere. He seems so normal! To be honest, if you’d seen his profile at the beginning of your Tinder journey, you probably wouldn’t have swiped right, but he seemed like such a breath of fresh air next to everyone else that it was a no-brainer. And after only a half-hour of texting back-and-forth, you’ve gotten his number.
[Massive sigh as you finally put your phone down]. Once you download Tinder, it’s like falling into a black hole. Four hours of swiping later, you have one guy’s number. You close the app and feel a rush of relief. You had no idea how tense you were for the past few hours. You’ll text the guy who gave you his number and see where things go. If it comes to nothing, at least you tried. Maybe you’ll just stay happily single for a while. Or maybe you’ll give Tinder another shot tomorrow once this impulsive download is a little less annoying.