Tinder: Is it helping or hurting our dating culture?
Story by Annie Ricks
SALT LAKE CITY — Tinder: an app where you can find a husband, a hookup, or a way to kill time by simply swiping right. This dating app fad has skyrocketed in the last few years. When a group of young college women were asked their reasons for using the app, responses varied from “boredom”, to “as a confidence booster”, “desperation”, or “as a rebound”. Maybe this increase is due to a lack of traditional dating methods, or perhaps it is our technology-crazed generation which drives people to online dating. In a growing app culture- our lives revolve around our phones- it is unsurprising that we have resorted to online dating to meet “significant others”.
Erin Wyness, 21, is a student at the University of Utah, and shared her method for “mastering the app”. After her multi-year relationship ended, Erin joined Tinder to pass time and to meet new people. If she got a “match” and the conversation was interesting, she would suggest they meet in person. “I feel like you can talk to people online forever and not really understand what they are really like in person,” she says “I did all this to avoid doing that whole hookup thing. I could nip it in the butt right away if we met in a coffee shop or somewhere public and I knew right away if it wasn’t worth my time.” Erin wasn’t looking for a boyfriend, she says, “but I also was not looking for a one-night stand.” After going on several Tinder dates Erin matched with Mike, a 24-year-old University of Utah graduate. He messaged her first and they had an instant connection. They went out for coffee that same evening and ended up spending the night together. Since their first date last October, Erin and Mike have been together everyday and 10 months ago they moved in together. “I remember feeling really comfortable with Mike, we stayed up all night talking and we had a lot in common.”
Erin’s Tinder success story is shared by 20 percent of current, committed relationships that began online but what does that mean for the rest of Tinder users? 60 percent of female Tinder users say they are looking for a match yet how do we explain the remaining rise in online dating over the past years?
Perhaps the increase in Tinder usage is due to a hookup culture we have created as a society. Before online dating, people would either meet through their pool of interaction, which could mean their peers, their coworkers, those they meet at a bar/club, or even those whom they could be setup with. However, with the app, their pool of options has expanded to hundreds of people within a 10-mile radius.
Coincidentally, the upsurge of users on Tinder, about 50 million, has coincided with a precipitous rise in STD’s. “Some experts have pointed to the ‘Tinder effect’, the idea that online hookup sites are making casual anonymous sex easier and more common than it used to be,” says The Sun, a UK based Newspaper. A Tinder use can rack up several Tinder dates a week, according to one article from eHarmony, “33 percent of women who use online dating websites say they have sex on the first online dating encounter.”
On a state by state basis, the correlation between online dating and increased STD transmission is shocking. “In Utah, huge increases in the number of gonorrhea diagnoses since 2011 — 700 percent for women, nearly 300 percent for men — have been at least partly blamed on apps like Tinder. Apps make casual, anonymous encounters easier, and it’s almost impossible to find partners again afterward — meaning that it can be harder to track down others who have an STD and help them get treatment,” says Lynn Beltran, an epidemiology supervisor in the Salt Lake County Health Department.
In 2015, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation put up billboards throughout California encouraging Grinder and Tinder users to go get checked for STD’s. Angered, Tinder sent a cease and desist letter to AHF, demanding an end to the campaign. Although they did not appreciate those billboards, they did add a special feature to their app: a locator for STD testing.
Could that be a step in the right direction? Perhaps. But what are some of the other ways we can ensure safety? Dr. Jennifer Childs-Roshak, president and CEO of the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts said that, “Access to testing and treatment, along with education about STD prevention, are the best ways to ensure that people stay healthy and safe. Unfortunately, too many barriers stand in the way of health care and education, especially for young people”. Perhaps the popularity of these dating apps has finally drawn attention to the vitality of health care resources and education necessary to inform individuals of these dangers. It is unacceptable for online dating to have this much negative feedback and it is alarming that many young people don’t understand the problems that our hookup culture has brought about in recent years. Whether or not online dating has proved successful in one’s life, it has presented far more concerns than it has benefits.
To read the author’s reflection blog, click here.