University News

Left to their own devices, students swipe right

Despite reputation, Tinder sparks relationship success, everyday amusement

Senior Staff Writer
Friday, February 13, 2015

For some students looking for love on Valentine’s Day, Tinder, the popular mobile dating app, seems an unlikely source.

“Most people think Tinder is just for hooking up,” said Mary Martha Wiggers ’18. “I usually use it as a joke,” sometimes sending strange messages to see how people will respond, she added.

“A lot of people just mess around with it but don’t actually use it,” said Sheena Raza Faisal ’18, adding that she rarely talks to people on the app.

Instagram accounts and Tumblrs such as “Bye Felipe,” “Tinder No Filter” and “Straight White Boys Texting,” which catalog bizarre, rude or hurtful messages received by female users, paint the app as a joke at best and a hotbed of misogyny at worst. In December, BuzzFeed published an article titled “27 Times Tinder Proved 2014 Was The Year Love Died.”

Despite the app’s negative reputation among some students and bloggers, other students have had more varied Tinder experiences — some have even found relationships.


Game, set, match

Andrea Chin ’15 said she downloaded Tinder while studying abroad in France and used it to practice her conversational skills. She deleted the app once she returned to the United States, but friends from Brown who told her of their good experiences with Tinder persuaded her to reactivate it.

Within the first day of reactivating the app, Chin matched with her current boyfriend, who is not a Brown student. The two have been dating for the past five months. Chin was the first person with whom her boyfriend, who had just downloaded the app, had ever matched.

Vivien Caetano ’15 had a similar experience: She had been on Tinder for “two weeks, max” before matching with the man she has been dating since August, she said.

Both Caetano and Chin said that the most common reaction when people find out how they met their boyfriends is surprise or disbelief.

“It’s usually sort of an incredulous ‘Wow, it actually worked,’” Chin said, adding that people often ask, “How did you get it to work for you?”

The reaction Caetano receives is “never really negative,” she said. She and her boyfriend, who is not a Brown student, are “very open about being on Tinder,” she said, and the conversation usually “moves on very fast.”

Even students who haven’t found relationships through Tinder reported that the app can be a confidence booster — seeing all the people who have indicated interest in you can be gratifying and fun.

“Tinder can be a social experience,” said Will Allen-DuPraw ’15. “I’ve definitely just sat and Tindered on the couch with my buddies before,” asking for friends’ opinions on whether to swipe right or left, he added.


Deepening the dating pool

Tinder has expanded many students’ dating pools beyond College Hill.

“A lot of people sort of find it refreshing to not be dating somebody at Brown because our community is so small,” Chin said.

Sam Hillestad ’15, a Herald opinions columnist, wrote a November column denouncing the now-defunct “Brown Hookups” Facebook page and portrayed Tinder as a better option. “You get stuck in the same circle of people, so something like Tinder helps you get out there and meet new people,” he told The Herald.

The app can also be useful when students are away from campus.

Allen-DuPraw said he began using Tinder as “a way to broaden my horizons” while at home in Washington, D.C., for the summer. He dated a woman he met through the app until returning to Brown in the fall.

While in Providence, Allen-DuPraw has met students through Tinder who attend nearby universities. His encounters with matches have included awkward dates, “one-night stands” and even a relationship with a Rhode Island School of Design student.

“I feel like Mitt Romney with binders full of women,” Allen-DuPraw said. “It’s kind of strange to be able to literally scroll through a catalog of women.”

But other students see the app as a diversion with little connection to real life.

It’s a game that can be just as addictive as Candy Crush or Trivia Crack — several students reported using the app at least weekly and as often as multiple times a day. According to data provided by Tinder for an Oct. 29 New York Times article, the average Tinder user logs into the app 11 times each day.

“It’s mostly been a game of swiping left and right. There’s not really an end goal in mind. It’s just something to do when you’re bored,” said Andre Vogel ’18.

The app is “an interesting social experiment” and a “people museum,” Allen-Dupraw said.


Missed connections

Despite some students’ success with the app, not everyone has a positive experience. Lucy Zhou ’17 said she initially enjoyed using Tinder and met up with several people after messaging through the app. But soon the appeal wore off. “After a while you realize that the connections are, in the end, kind of hollow and meaningless. … With Tinder there’s a ton of hits or misses. I’ve definitely had my share of fun, but I’ve definitely also had my share of misses.”

One big miss was a man who was “the classic example of someone with yellow fever,” Zhou said. While the man had seemed normal while chatting through the app, Zhou said that when they met in person, he expressed disappointment that she did not “have an Asian accent,” even though she had previously told him she was from the United States.

“As an Asian-American woman obviously I’ve experienced my share of microaggressions in my daily life, but it was definitely the first time I’ve felt so blatantly fetishized because of my race, and that was one of the experiences that definitely turned me off from Tinder.”


New tech, old school charm

Though several students said sexist and offensive comments and over-the-top pickup lines often associated with Tinder are not the norm, they noted that behavioral differences based on gender are very apparent on Tinder.

For male-female matches, men are usually expected to initiate conversation, students said. Many also said female users may be more selective, while men may swipe right on nearly everyone in the hopes of accruing as many matches as possible.

The data back up their perceptions: Men swipe right in 46 percent of cases, while women do so just 14 percent of the time, the New York Times reported.

While Tinder may have a reputation as a hookup app, most students interviewed said they do not use it in that way and consider it largely irrelevant to Brown’s hookup culture. When in-person meetings of Tinder matches do happen, they tend to take the form of dates rather than hookups, students said.

Tinder is strikingly traditional in some ways: People meeting their matches in person often go on the kind of dates that are otherwise rapidly dying out in the college hookup culture, students said.

Caetano said her Tinder dates usually involve very little physical contact and are more about getting to know each other, adding that her friends had similar experiences.

Tinder helped Caetano find a partner who is interested in a serious relationship, she said. As someone “who likes being paired up,” she had been “frustrated” with Brown students’ reluctance to commit to long-term relationships. Tinder enabled her to find someone like-minded.


It is what you make of it

Though there might be stigma surrounding Tinder, there is far less than with other online dating platforms, students said. Most reported they had never used any online dating platforms other than Tinder.

The app feels more natural than traditional online dating sites, Vogel said. “My theory is that Tinder bridges the gap between online dating and meeting people in real life. So in the same way that you meet somebody in real life — you look at them, size them up and say, ‘Okay I’m interested in them or not,’ and then you go talk to them — Tinder gives you that opportunity.”

Ultimately, users’ attitudes and intentions determine what they get out of the app, students said.

“Tinder’s just a platform that people can use to do whatever they want,” Hillestad said.

“There’s a way to Tinder where you’ll actually meet people, and there’s a way to Tinder where you’re just playing the game,” Caetano said. “People’s success or not with Tinder 100 percent depends on their attitude toward it.”


— With additional reporting by Grace Yoon


Due to an editing error, a previous version of this article attributed a quote to Andrew Vogel ’18 that should have been attributed to Will Allen-DuPraw ’15.