Is Tinder Like Real Life?

Most Americans have a mental image akin to Sylvester Stallone’s training montage in Rocky IV when they think about their country’s olympic athletes’ downtime: aggressive training to inspirational power ballads (or something along those lines).

This, of course, is not really the case. In fact, many olympians have been getting distracted by popular dating app Tinder. So much so that some turned it off to keep their eyes on the prize. “Tinder in the Olympic Village is next level. It’s all athletes!” said the 23-year-old American snowboarder Jaime Anderson to US Weekly. “There was a point where I had to be like OK, this is way too distracting. I deleted my account to focus on the Olympics.”

Olympians aren’t the only ones getting caught up in Tinder’s appeal. Millions of their fellow Americans are joining the fastest-growing mobile dating service in the country, which won best new start-up of 2013 at the Crunchie Awards.

Tinder is simple. Users sync their new dating accounts with their Facebook profiles, choose which photos they’d like to display, jot a few basic facts about themselves in their profile, and et voila–their Tinder profiles are set up.

The app displays possible matches based on users’ geo-location and age preference. The default settings let users see others age 18 to 30 within 50 miles around them. Users swipe right if they like someone, and swipe left if they don’t. If both users swipe right to each other, it comes up as a match. Users can then, and only then, start talking to each other through the app’s messaging service.

The app’s tagline is “It’s like real life, but better.” It’s interesting to think about, because there’s a certain truth beneath its obvious hype. While the vast majority of users would agree that the app isn’t better than real life, it is a lot like it if you think about it.

Competitors like OkCupid, eHarmony, or Match use complicated algorithms to match users. It’s one of their main selling points. You can see how well you pair with others based on lengthy questionnaires that ask relatively intimate questions about political persuasions, personal cleanliness, and/or hypothetical scenarios. It’s clearly appealing to see how close you might match with someone and you can avoid people with completely different lifestyle choices.

Tinder is more unique in that you only have a tiny bit of information to base impressions on, similar to meeting someone at a party, or bar, or business conference. Rather than treating online dating as its own thing, Tinder kind of replicates real life scenarios where you might meet people. You can decide if you like or dislike someone based on their personal appearance, mutual friends, and only a hint of shared interests.

This begs the question: which approach is the best approach to online dating?

The answer of course depends on what you define as “best.” People use online dating for a number of different reasons. Some might sign up just to meet new people after moving to a new city. Others only want something casual. Some users want the real things–to find true love. Still others only use it to gratify their ego and have no interest in pursuing their matches. (Discovering that more people find you attractive than you think can be quite the confidence booster.)

Most users on Tinder only want casual hookups–nothing serious, but perhaps something that could lead to more. In a relatively recent survey from 2010, found that it led to more than twice as many dates and twice as many relationships than its second ranked competitor. This might make seem more successful, but again, that all depends on how you define success.

Tinder’s unique spin on online dating is taking America by storm. While nobody’s reported any romantic success stories, there’s no doubt that its successful in its own way as evidenced by its popularity.

If social anxieties get the better of you, and if online dating seems a little desperate, then Tinder can be your perfect way to find whatever you define as romantic success.

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