My 19th birthday present for myself was downloading Tinder. It may sound a little unconventional, as most people would treat themselves to a good meal or a luxury item, but I chose to step out of my comfort zone. I have always felt uncomfortable with the idea of Tinder. It seemed impersonal and superficial to formulate opinions of complex, multidimensional people from six carefully selected photos and a rigorously crafted bio. To me, it just wasn’t enough. I preferred the traditional method of meeting a potential significant other, the whirlwind romance that I’d read about in books and seen in movies.
Tinder is not foreign to me or most people my age. It’s all around us: we watch YouTube videos about Tinder horror stories, we know older siblings who have met significant others on Tinder, and we know people in real life who regularly visit the app.
Despite its overwhelming prevalence, I had never used Tinder. My only knowledge of the app came from my friends’ stories and pop culture. Tinder was a combination of a lot of my fears: being judged just for how I looked, strangers with unclear motives, and potential one-sided conversations—to me, every swipe on Tinder seemed like a shout into the void. But I wanted to challenge myself.
When I woke up the day after my 19th birthday, I downloaded Tinder.
It may have been a bit of an odd choice for a birthday present. As I grew older every year, though, receiving materialistics birthday presents seemed less rewarding; the anxiety of growing older had completely dethroned the feeling of holding a brand new Barbie doll. I have never been the best at communication, and I’ve struggled a lot with sharing my honest feelings and opinions. This has followed me into my adult relationships, both platonically and romantically. In my article about ghosting, I expressed my inability to let down romantic interests directly. This trait of mine made Tinder—a platform where ghosting is an accepted, common outcome—appealing. There aren’t read receipts on Tinder to make you fully aware that you’ve been ghosted; it’s just assumed.
Despite a heavy undertone of ghosting, people are more direct on Tinder in expressing their feelings for you (through the swipe right, swipe left, and unmatch options). At times, people even state or imply what they’re on Tinder for in their bio. Ultimately, everyone is looking for some sort of companionship on Tinder. Some permanent, some temporary, but companionship nonetheless.
But I wasn’t looking for companionship—I was looking for answers.
After I created my account, I picked out an embarrassing photo that I had already posted on my Instagram and a witty bio that presented me as a laid-back person in the hopes that it would drive responses from like-minded people.
I went into this experiment with a studious attitude. I wanted to know more about this phenomenon that has taken my generation by storm. Intertwining the internet with our personal lives has become the new norm, after all; we’re used to meeting people online, allowing strangers to view our online profiles, and strengthening our “IRL” relationships by utilizing online messaging services. Tinder provides just a fraction of the socializing people are able to do online these days.
I began swiping, and I started to understand how people spend hours on this app. It’s the allure in hoping your attraction is reciprocated. I felt excited when people watched with me—it feels good knowing that others find you attractive or interesting enough to swipe right.
I did further research, and I found that women and homosexual men are more likely to receive matches than heterosexual men. Female users had a 10.5% chance of matching with people they swiped right on, while men had only a 0.6% chance. Even though women had a higher chance of receiving matches, this is only reflective of quantity, not quality. Among the abundance of matches I’ve had, the vast majority are creepy men using outrageous “pick-up lines” to gain some attention. But these backfired, resulting in an instant unmatch from me.
After I typed “why are some men creepy on Tinder” into Google, about 5,900,000 results showed up within 0.37 seconds.
I wasn’t the only one wondering this. As I went through article after article, I read personal horror stories of men throwing big tantrums because women hadn’t responded to their texts, men who used derogatory terms towards women upon being rejected, men who stalked their matches via the Snapchat map function (“surprising” their matches in person), and men sending unsolicited genitalia photos and requesting them of female matches out of the blue.
A common explanation of this kind of behavior lies in the idea that Tinder is a playground without consequences. Most people wouldn’t treat people they know in real life like this, but talking online lacks the reality of rejection. As a result, these actions are performed without fear of consequence.
Overtly sexual men aren’t the only ones that have made me feel uncomfortable. Being an Asian female on Tinder has showed me a side of people I had only heard of before. Maybe it was because I started my small experiment within Asia, but my profile attracted plenty of Caucasian males, the majority of whom proceeded to message me in Chinese, completely disregarding the fact that my entire profile is in English—even the text on my profile picture is in English.
It was yellow fever.
According to Rosalind Chou’s 2012 publication, Asian American Sexual Politics: The Construction of Race, Gender and Sexuality, 20% of married Asian women have a non-Asian spouse, and 75% of Asian/Caucasian marriages involve an Asian female and a Caucasian male. Asian women are considered desirable because of the stereotypes that stemmed from their cultural dimension. In traditional Asian society, Asian women tend to play submissive, intelligent, quiet counterparts that serve their partners’ needs.
In general, on dating apps, Asian women received the highest response rate of all races. Even though not all of these responses came from men with an Asian fetish, the phenomenon was enough to make an impact on the overall party. When I started receiving matches from men outside of my race, I couldn’t help but wonder if it was simply my ethnicity they were after.
After this happened a few times, I couldn’t help but feel angry. So, I sent some strongly worded responses. I couldn’t understand the logic behind their actions—wouldn’t it be offensive if I went up to Caucasian guys and started speaking French or German simply because of their race?
My experiences further solidified my previous opinions about Tinder. People didn’t always see me as a person—I was an age, name, and race. Though I did have a couple of interesting conversations with people, the majority were with people I happen to know in real life, and the connections I seemingly established with strangers fizzled out in a day or so.
While my Tinder adventure only lasted two weeks, I’d say I learned a lot. For starters, the app isn’t for me. I didn’t feel the desire to converse with people on the app—these people didn’t feel real, and most of the conversations felt contrived.
Tinder encourages people to be bolder and more confident through pick-up lines and small talk, and by taking away the awkwardness of meeting a person for the first time, but unfortunately it also removes some boundaries. I know that not everyone on Tinder is like that, but the most brazen boys I spoke to left a sour taste.
On Tinder, I felt like I was in an endless loop of unmatching and swiping again. It felt like I was running on a treadmill and I wasn’t going anywhere. Maybe it was because I wasn’t meeting the right people by chance, but it felt exhausting to have dead-end conversations with people that couldn’t care less about who I am.
Maybe it takes a few more swipes, but I’d rather take my chances offline.
The profile pictures and names presented in this article are blacked out for privacy purposes.
Annie Walton Doyle