Columns, Opinions

Okin ’19: Making good choices in an age of Tinder swipes

Staff Columnist
Monday, February 26, 2018

Perhaps the only phenomenon that rivals the prevalence of dating apps on campus is the amount of energy we spend discussing them. A familiar scenario: At Ratty dinner, the “ping” of a new match breaches your roommate’s black iPhone display, and suddenly everyone is debating the virtues of messaging first on Tinder.  Or maybe: Your dad emails you this viral New York Times piece, with the subject line “is this what you’re doing now?!” Suffice it to say, whether or not we use dating apps ourselves, we’re all becoming experts in the mentality of quick, detached swipes.

College may be the time to experiment and figure out who we are, but it won’t be for long if we approach real-time decisions with the same logic we use on Tinder. I will not be contributing to the endless back-and-forth that is the digital dating debate, as I am neither qualified nor patient enough to conjure up my own opinion of the Bumble sphere. Rather, there is a specific element embedded in the fad that is worth writing about: the impact of these limitless choices on our daily decision-making. The mindset with which we swipe in a controlled and instant world — distracted and rushed — should not be the same one we apply in our everyday real lives.

In their article “The Tinderization of Feeling,” Alicia Eler and Eve Peyser point out how Tinder represents the “speeding up and mechanizing (of) decision-making, turning us into binary creatures who can bypass underlying questions and emotions and instead go with whatever feels really good in the moment.” Both the disconnect from our emotions and the instant gratification we derive from these choices warrant concern.

When we log onto dating apps, we process uncountable quantities of dog-holding, shirt-lacking men with the hope that the more we do, the higher chances we have of swiping upon the perfect one for us. Meanwhile, we are able to ignore the effects of our decisions in more ways than one: Not only are we distracted as we swipe and tap (by other apps, by our walk to class, by the real-life boy sitting next to us in the Blue Room), but we also are spared any response besides the positive, definitive, “You’ve got a match!” In this world, all choices can be framed solely in terms of immediate success or soon-to-be dismissed failure, rather than accounting for the myriad possibilities in between. 

The problem is that this seemingly endless stream of digital choices leaves us feeling a sense of control and instant gratification that does not exist in the real world the way it does in the world created by our devices. Thus, we may find ourselves disappointed when we try to assume the expectations of Tinder-swiping in our everyday lives. There is no wonder why I consider dropping a class when I am not immediately captivated by the thrilling recital of the course syllabus when I am so used to instant gratification. (I’m not alone in sometimes losing interest fairly quickly: The average human attention span is now just eight seconds, according to a 2015 Microsoft study that blamed our constant mobile multitasking for the drop.)

Rather than instill us with confidence in our ability to make choices, the all-or-nothing attitude and instant gratification that we begin to live by actually leave us more averse to taking risks in all aspects of our lives. When we become too accustomed to quick choices that bring near-instant gain, we start to lose perspective of the benefits of unexpected and delayed rewards. As an English major, my decision to take a statistics class was not founded in the belief that the only thing standing in the way of me and my true academic passion was understanding the mechanisms of a t-test. Rather, the choice came from the desire to try something new and the hope — though not the certainty — that maybe its worth would be revealed to me in a future undertaking.

The solution is not to exclude the mechanisms that allow these choices from our lives, as they have indisputably made certain things easier. However, we need to consciously decide to make other, real-time decisions grounded in the principles of risk and delayed gratification. If our choices define us, what does it mean if we get too used to turning to the quick and easy decision, one solely focused on instant gain? We need to practice our ability to make emotionally nuanced, thoughtful decisions if we want to see ourselves in the choices we make.

Rebecca Okin ’19 can be reached at Please send responses to this opinion to and op-eds to