Tinder provides more than shallow hook-ups

Remember the good old days, when you could just collide with a stranger in the frozen food aisle and fall hopelessly in love? Neither do I. You know why? Because real life is not scripted in Hollywood and these serendipitous meetings don’t happen to the majority of the population.

That’s also why the modern trend of dating through mobile phone applications has become a common occurrence. Granted, certain mobile apps are regarded as ways to find no-strings-attached hookups. That is one road a digital dater can take — but it’s not the only road.

One such app that has gained a recent boost in popularity is Tinder. Developed by local entrepreneurs Sean Rad, Justin Mateen, Jonathan Badeen and Christopher Gulczunski, Tinder has seen a rapid increase in users since its Sept. 14, 2012 release. Mateen and Rad are USC alumni and as a result, the University of Southern California was one of the first colleges to which Tinder was introduced.

As the fastest-growing free dating app in the United States, dating through Tinder has recently come under fire. Two million matches are made every day, according to Bloomberg Businessweek. Such rapid matchmaking can’t actually be considered legitimate dating, can it?

Tinder is a uniquely designed application. It appeals to the instant gratification that enthralls our generation by employing a swipe-to-the-left, swipe-to-the-right user interface. Judgment can be passed upon another in less than a second; some Tinder users seem to do this mindlessly, as someone would judge the hotness of a passersby on the way to class. Others take a minute or two for photo analysis and careful consideration of personality potential.

No matter your method of attack, all you have to do is pass your finger to the left to say “Nope” or flick it to the right to indicate you’ve “Liked” the other person — using Tinder really is that simple.

Or is it? There’s a subtle art to creating a profile that will catch the eyes — and right-swishing fingers — of others. Yes, that professionally done headshot makes you look real pretty, but c’mon, this is L.A., and headshots are a dime a dozen. Choose a photo in which you look presentable but also make sure it’s indicative of how you look on a day-to-day basis; there’s nothing worse than pulling a Catfish and pretending to be someone else through social media.

Tinder is also constructed to sync itself with your Facebook profile. Don’t worry, though: The app won’t post to your profile or announce to your entire newsfeed that you’ve begun using a dating service. Instead, Tinder uses the movies, books, films and other random stuff you’ve “Liked” on Facebook to match you up with other Tinder users of your preferred gender.

Mutual friends also factor into the equation, with the intention that these components will combine with physical attraction to ensure a better match. Users are only allowed to chat with each other when the Liking has been mutual. As a result, the harsh blow of rejection is somewhat softened. No match means no meaningless chat.

At this point, you might be asking yourself whether using an app such as Tinder is a good idea. After all, let’s consider the facts: You’re smart, funny, cute, all that good stuff. Why shouldn’t you be able to just meet someone in real life, through a normal situation, without the help of technology?

That’s just it, though. What is a normal circumstance? Who cares if you and your boyfriend or girlfriend or whoever met through an app or at Starbucks? It’s 2013. Stranger things have occurred.

I’ve used Tinder. I’ve also used Grindr. Yeah, I’ll admit it. As an uncertain, nervous sophomore entering the confusing and intimidating social sphere of gay collegiate life, Grindr was useful. It was a way to show myself that there were plenty of other guys around me who were just like me. Well, maybe not just like me, because I think we can all agree Grindr can get a little sketchy. For the readers who don’t know, Grindr is a location-based dating application that’s exclusively for gay men of all ages (and when I say all, I really do mean all).

In addition to Grindr and Tinder, there are countless other dating apps, some just for straight people, some just for lesbians, some just for gay guys and every other combination of people seeking romance that you could think of. So, back to the larger issue at hand: Does the usage of a mobile dating application diminish the validity of a relationship?

My answer is no, it does not diminish anything at all. L.A., as is the case with any other metropolis, is filled with people. Yet so much distance exists between these people that sometimes it does take an outside influence to bring them together. It shouldn’t matter whether that influence is a mutual friend or a mobile app or a dating website or pure dumb luck while out in public.

That’s why Tinder is actually really great. You’re taking fate into your own hands and making a direct effort to find someone based upon your own interests and social spheres.

How else would a West Coast university student meet an Ivy League graduate who just moved to the area? In what other way could a painter and a financial consultant realize they both like the Facebook pages for curly fries, Nietzsche and Lolcats?

If you’re still doubting the validity of a spark ignited by Tinder, consider this: Nana Meriwether, the 2012 Miss USA and an all-around hot mama, was on a July front page of the New York Post confirming that she has used Tinder. Enough said.


Nick Cimarusti is a senior majoring in English and Spanish. His column “#trending” runs on Wednesdays.

 Follow him on Twitter @NickCimarusti