It has become an inalienable truth; we are the ‘partially present’ generation.
Most of us now spend a large proportion of our daily lives interacting via the exponentially growing medium of apps. We document major life events on Facebook, provide our countless followers with up-to-the-minute observations on Twitter, scrapbook for the future on Pinterest, connect with prospective employers on LinkedIn.
While we may continue to communicate physically, there now exists a whole other universe which increasingly dominates the way we perceive ourselves, our friendships, and furthermore, our romantic interests.
Recent statistics claim that around 6 per cent of Irish people actively use Tinder – the internet’s latest and most discussed dating website – and this figure seems set to rise, particularly among the young adult demographic.
Initially conceived as a one-stop site for those seeking casual hook-ups, Tinder uses your Facebook profile and GPS location to offer you a host of possible dates, under whatever criteria you choose.
Of course, the concept of virtual dating is not a new one, with long-established sites such as Match.com catering to an ever-growing market of singletons.
What sets Tinder apart from these, however, is its ‘flipcard’ interface – you’re faced with a succession of single guys or girls, and you simply swipe to the right of someone if they take your fancy. If they do the same, you’re in luck – you’ve just landed yourself a match! And you live happily ever after right?
My main gripe with Tinder is that it’s built upon the very problem that all of us simultaneously loathe yet feed on Facebook – the notion that you can construct a better, virtual version of yourself, in which vegging-out pyjama days, raging family arguments and relationship woes are erased with a few keystrokes. In other words, the real person is not automatically presented to you.
Added to this is the throwaway culture that the site cultivates; at best, you can romanticise this flaw in Tinder’s #YOSO (You Only Swipe Once) policy, in that one wrong swipe could see you losing out on the opportunity to meet your ‘soul mate’ (if you’re the type that’s prone to sentimentality).
A more realistic view is that choosing a match based solely on their appearance is a shallow method that civilised society has widely come to condemn; it does seems a tad less shallow when done via a 6×9″ screen, however!
If we are to take a wholly cynical view of the site and its more insidious members, we need only look at the recent tragic case of a woman in South Dublin, who, upon meeting up with a Tinder match, was horrifically kidnapped and sexually assaulted.
Thankfully, such cases appear to be in the extreme minority – unfortunately, they serve as a cold reminder of the unpredictable and predatory nature which lurks within certain corners of the online dating community.
As with any online interaction, therefore, it’s important to employ some basic common sense – as Mammy says, you really can’t judge a book from its cover (or profiler). Treat Tinder with a thick skin, a hardy sense of humour and a heavy sprinkle of salt, and you shouldn’t have any problems.
Of my friends who regularly use Tinder, most regard it in the same way as I regard websites such as Buzzfeed or Tumblr – a fun, frivolous way of killing the time which you should really be spending on that assignment that’s due the next morning.
Frankly, I have yet to be convinced that virtual dating is superior to your average nightclub, and in any case, it’s certainly no substitute for that most romantic of Irish pickup lines, “will you shift my friend?”