In 2015, it’s difficult to argue that technology is not pervasive in society.
One would be hard-pressed to find a college-aged person who isn’t active on at
least one form of social media, especially with the continuous development of
app-specific media, like Instagram and Yik-Yak. One example that has sparked a
dialogue recently is Tinder, a matchmaking app that allows users view pictures
and a short biography of people within a certain distance.
The app, which connects through Facebook, has users swipe a photo to the right
if they’re interested. If two people swipe right for each other, it’s a “match,” and
they can begin talking.
While it’s marketed as a way to “meet people,” it seems to be an assumption that
many users are looking for hook-ups and casual sexual encounters.
With an app like this, where people are seeking some sort of interaction, there’s
bound to be some surprising consequences.
Take, for example, sophomore student Josephine Latimer, who met her now-
boyfriend on Tinder.
Although she was aware of the app’s implications, she decided to download it for
fun, not anticipating that she would find someone she legitimately enjoyed being
“I didn’t really expect much from Tinder, maybe just a quick ego boost and a
laugh,” Latimer said. “You don’t go into it expecting to meet genuinely incredible
Experts often cite computer-mediated communication, like texting and instant
messaging, as harmful to interpersonal communication. Apps like Tinder,
however, may represent a shift in that school of thought.
“Communication theory says we’ll learn to adapt, and now we’re adapting to
‘faceless’ communication,” Jane Elmes-Crahall, Wilkes University professor of
communication studies, said. “It’s not totally harmful to relationship
Elmes-Crahall cited “social information processing theory” to complement the
idea that text or computer-based interactions may actually have more benefits
than previously considered.
For example, Elmes-Crahall said that a highly visual and instant medium like Tinder
allows for users to be more selective in self-presentation. First impressions matter, so
being self-conscious about how a stranger online will view you, in this case, may be a
“If you’re talking to a student in class that you know, you’re gonna see them look bad
sometimes,” she said. “But if it’s a self-selected presentation, it’s pretty likely to be
Elmes-Crahall also noted that online interactions have an element of time not present
when speaking face-to-face, which allows users to respond more fully.
“Online, you don’t give a response until you’re ready to, and it may be better crafted
because of that.”
While Tinder and similar mediums may offer some benefits, they are not without
Mia Briceno, Wilkes University assistant professor of communication studies, noted that
there is still a taboo against dating someone that you met online.
“We still have a romantic ideal about how relationships are ‘supposed’ to happen,” she
said, citing the organic boy-meets-girl model found often in mass media.
“It’s like another reiteration of a fairytale. But if you meet online or through an app, even
though it’s widespread, there’s still a stigma there.”
Briceno also noted that the power dynamics in “traditional” relationships echo in online
ones, in the sense that women may often be bombarded with messages, and if ignored, be
blamed for being superficial.
Similarly, Elmes-Crahall mentioned the app’s potential negative consequences if only
used for casual encounters.
“For most relationships to develop, you need time, shared values and morality, and I’m
not sure hooking up allows for that,” she said.
Whether Tinder will ever be able to serve as a legitimate platform for committed
relationships is up for individuals to decide. One thing, however seems to be clear: The
relationship needs to eventually move into a real-world context to truly form.
“A relationship can begin online, there’s no doubt about it,” Elmes-Crahall said, “but it
needs to move from first impressions to actual social interactions for it to develop.”