Tinder, now a year and a half old, has 13 million active users, with 53 percent between the ages of 18 to 24.
The app provides an updating queue of profiles for users to swipe through. They essentially decide if they would like to connect with the person based on a few pictures and a short description. If both users swipe right, they are able to message each other. If a user swipes left, the profile disappears.
Debashis Aikat, an associate professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, studies social media interactions. He said Tinder emphasizes the flirtatious aspect of meeting someone without the rejection factor.
“In this modern day and age, we have a scarcity of our identity,” Aikat said. “We want the convenience of digital things. In this case, it is speed dating done digitally.”
After matching with another user, the app prompts the user to send a message, including the option to share the news with friends via Twitter, email or text message.
“It’s almost become Angry Birds or something I sit and play on my phone with while I wait at the airport,” said Justin McNabb, a graduate student in geological sciences.
Ben Li-Pen , who will be a student in the Eshelman School of Pharmacy in the fall, downloaded the app after his company asked him to review the interface.
“The design is fluid; you swipe across without lag, and so the simplicity is attractive to the consumers,” he said.
Aikat said the simple design attracts people who otherwise wouldn’t use a serious dating website.
“Once a product becomes fun, everyone wants to join in. Some join in just to watch the fun, even if they aren’t looking to date,” he said.
While most people know Tinder as a hook-up app, the creators said it can be used for other types of interactions.
Nikita Srivastava, a sophomore at Campbell University who used the app while she took summer classes at UNC, said her best Tinder conversations were with people looking for friends in the area.
“I talked to someone who had lived in London, and when I told them I was planning a trip, they gave me advice to help me navigate the city,” she said.
Li-Pen, who used the app after reviewing it for his company, said he used it to meet friends while traveling.
“When you move around like that, it’s nice to have an app like Tinder to help meet people,” he said.
For young adults trying to balance work, school and extracurricular activities, an app like Tinder can help form connections, but that doesn’t make them all long-lasting.
“I will not meet my future husband on Tinder,” Srivastava said. “That’s the least romantic thing ever. A serious relationship on Tinder? How do you explain that to your parents?”
Senior Josh Campbell said he thinks the vanity is part of the appeal.
“It’s pretty shallow for everyone on there, but it’s like hot-or-not,” he said. “For millennials in college, that’s the maturity level they’re at right now.”
Several girls said they had received inappropriate advances from guys.
“I was astounded at the number of messages I got from guys that immediately asked for sex,” junior Kristen Stephenson said.
After speaking to a guy for a few weeks, Srivastava found herself in a relationship she didn’t know she was in.
“After three weeks of not texting this guy back, my phone blew up with 50 text messages from him,” she said.
“I called him to tell him to cut it out, and he told me I was the worst girlfriend he ever had. I was so confused I started cracking up. And then he said he was breaking up with me, and he hung up. My friends asked me what that was all about, and I said, ‘I think I just got dumped.’”
Campbell created a Tinder resume that he sends out to interested girls. The resume includes a full-page cover letter, work and education experience, achievements, leadership positions and a list of references.
Senior Vincent Salvati said he received an application for hooking up from another user.
“They had made an application for ‘casual encounters’ with a full page of questions asking for testing and sexual history. It seems unreasonable, but it’s pretty responsible when you think about it,” he said.
At a conference in February, Tinder’s CEO Sean Rad said it removes the “hunter versus hunted” dynamic.
“The hardest thing about approaching people at a party or a bar is hoping the other person finds you attractive, whereas Tinder puts that question to rest for both parties involved,” Campbell said.
Aikat said applications try to fulfill the needs of the niche market of college students.
“People use Tinder because it is convenient, it removes the possibility of the initial rejection, and it allows you to directly search for people based on your preferences,” he said.
Aikat said while telling people you met your date on Tinder might be embarrassing for some, online interactions are part of daily life now.
“All of us would love to attend a farmers’ market on a Saturday morning where we meet someone we like, but that farmers’ market scenario is over. The community is not there, but we now have digital communities.”
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