The evolution of any social media site or dating app is interesting. Imagine if you woke up tomorrow and found that YouTube didn’t want to host videos any more, and instead was re-launching itself as a written news site. Or Tinder, where you used to be able to make snap judgements about how attractive someone was, rebranding itself as a site where you really have to know and consider a person’s attributes before you make a meaningful connection.
For any Tinder vet or person who downloaded the app in its heady first days, the idea that Tinder wants you to get to know people before you match might seem counter intuitive. The app was designed with off-the-cuff reactions in mind, and users were basically encouraged to look at the first photo – there were more, but who cared? However, any good business will change with the customers’ requirements, and Tinder, with 50% of its users in Gen Z, has found that they want to do more than just swipe left or right based on a picture… because originally, none of us ever even read other people’s bios.
I’m going to be honest, though. The person I’d be most open with would be a therapist, possibly a close friend or maybe a serious significant other – not a dating app. Tinder, to their credit, seems aware of this, and their efforts to get people to open up in their online profiles seems pretty shallow. For example, users can now add short videos to their profile. Sure, there are dating apps that seem to believe (with shocking earnestness) that they’ll change the game by introducing short videos instead of photos, but most of us see people’s limp TikTok dances, roll our eyes and move on. If people want to gyrate in front of a camera, that’s great, but I don’t really believe it reveals anything about their dating lives, personalities or whether we’d be compatible.
Similarly, Tinder is launching “Hot Takes” where users are presented with a statement, four different responses and then get to discuss their answers with other users for a limited time until the clock runs out (or hits midnight) and they have to decide if they want to continue talking. A couple of thoughts: firstly, really? Chuck in a foot fetish and a pumpkin and you’ve got Cinderella- or Tinderella, I guess (groan). Secondly, I always took the initial meaning of a “hot take” to be a fresh or original idea about something important. I love reading hot takes because they have the potential to find a concept I had taken for granted and turn it upside down, but I think selecting from four corporate-approved answers to a corporate-approved statement and then defending your point in a system that values speed over thoughtfulness kind of misses the point, to be honest. Finally, I don’t know what Tinder intends to suggest as topics, but I would really recommend they stay away from the following: the Israel-Palestine conflict, Black Lives Matter and any debate over reproductive rights. Important conversations to have, for sure, and people will certainly have opinions, but it’s just not the right platform.
Tinder will also be trialing an “explore” section. There will be features and games (like Hot Takes and Vibes) and users can set filters so they’re only shown matches with certain interests. This doesn’t seem like a bad idea – we’ve all sat through a tedious conversation with someone who replays every moment of the previous weekend’s football match whilst mentally making a shopping list and trying to work out what to get a friend for her birthday. So if “explore” means that all the (slightly insufferable) travel enthusiasts only talk to each other, I think that might be for the best. We’ll have to see if Tinder keeps this – or any – of its new features, but this is the one that seems the best.
So what does this all mean? If we’re being philosophical, I think it means that most people are basically the same, regardless of our generation. We might act like we want a “meaningful” connection, but if you’re on Tinder, you’re probably there for some quick, casual sex from someone you aren’t planning to see again. If you’re feeling insecure and want to think that it was meaningful because you looked at videos of each other’s dogs, then great! But I think everyone, if they’re being honest with themselves, is aware that the latest Tinder features are simply the online equivalent of having a quick date at a bar before heading back to your bedroom with a match or the awkward conversation you have whilst tugging off your jeans. It’s only skin-deep and that’s all it was ever meant to be.