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Does Tinder spell the end of romance?

Tinder has skyrocketed in popularity since its inception in 2012. Its trajectory has proven remarkable: within two short years it was registering about one billion ‘swipes’ per day opening up a whole new world of internet assisted casual sex.

Tinder for the uninitiated

After five years in operation Tinders is now valued at over $3 billion, so what is it about Tinder that has made it so incredibly successful?

For the uninitiated, Tinder works by presenting the user with photos of other users to which they are given the opportunity to ‘swipe’. Swiping right means yes, you like them – swiping left means bye bye. If both users swipe right, then the pair are matched and can proceed to chat with each other through the app.

Users can narrow down their preferences based on gender, age and proximity. Recent additions to the app include ‘Tinder location’ where users can adjust their location to a country they are planning to visit, and swipe through potential matches there — obviously so as to waste no time on arrival. Tinder’s worldwide reach is extensive; it is used widely across the globe and is available in about 30 different languages.

Their demographic consists of mostly 18 to 34 year olds, with the older divorcees or long term lotharios preferring to steer clear, and it’s road to app infamy has not been without controversy. In February 2014, security researchers in New York discovered a flaw in Tinder’s code which made it possible to locate users’ precise locations, rather than just number of miles away, constituting a serious breach in user security – not to mention an internet stalker’s paradise. Once brought to light the issue was quickly resolved. However it highlighted the potential dangers of internet dating that arise from putting yourself up on a pedestal and inviting strangers to rate you.

Later that same year Whitney Wolfe, Tinder’s co-founder, filed a sexual harassment and sex discrimination lawsuit against her fellow co-founders, alleging that they had engaged in discrimination and sexual harassment against her. The suit was settled for over $1 million and spurred an international conversation about the treatment of women in tech.

Tinder lowers barriers . . . and inhibitions

And yet despite its security breaches and sexual harassment lawsuits, Tinder still enthrals its 50 million active users. CEO Sean Rad has claimed that this is because Tinder “removes the friction associated with walking up to someone and introducing themselves.” Others have claimed that Tinder operates within a culture of users seeking sex without relationships. In reality, its success is due to a winning concoction of a number of variables — exposure, and being connected with a larger number of like minded individuals than you would get the chance to connect with in the real world. Tinder lowers barriers, and with it, inhibitions.

This increased sexual selection isn’t without its downsides. American health officials in Rhode Island and Utah have seen a rise in STDs and have linked this to the increasing popularity of Tinder and availability of casual sex. Though of course, such a link can never be explicitly proved.

Since Tinder’s ascent to app stardom many lookalike apps have popped up in an attempt to replicate its success – Bumble, Happn, Once,  But none so far has found quite the notoriety that Tinder enjoys. Whether Tinder is indeed killing romance remains to be seen, with many users actually meeting serious partners and forging long term relationships from the app. Internet dating is a new and progressing phenomenon and Tinder is simply one permutation of a trend that is set to continue.

City Addictions, April 14, 2017

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