We love to hate Tinder. Its an app many try to avoid, download in a moment of loneliness, and delete in disgust soon after. We question why we use these apps in the first place and why we can’t seem to connect in person. But do we adequately question why we hate it?
A few months ago, my roommates and I all sat in our living room. One of them hadn’t been on a date in a while and contemplated downloading Tinder along with the suite of dating apps Millennials use. I supported her decision, but both her and my other roommate hemmed and hawed.
“I just hate the dating apps.”
“They are so many creeps.”
“I just wish I could meet people in real life.”
These were the themes I remember hearing, and not only in this conversation. These themes crop up every day amongst so many of us looking for companionship. So many of us have become disillusioned and dejected by the current state of dating.
As a gay man, I find this disillusionment fascinating. I first downloaded Tinder when I was 20, as my friends and I drove home from a spring break trip to Gulf Shores, Alabama. I immediately felt a sense of excitement. I attended a small liberal arts school in Texas, so I had very few options. Tinder had opened the door to a possibility I had written off as only for my straight friends.
For those in the LGBTQ community, apps like Tinder helped us navigate around the paralyzing fear of figuring out someone’s sexual orientation. When the straight community avoided approaching people in public due to fear of rejection, the LGBTQ avoided approaching people in public due to both the fear of rejection and the fear of harm. Tinder gave us the ability to connect while lowering our risk.
Despite this ability, Tinder and these other apps have begun to grate on me as well. Their appeal has diminished. And like so many of my friends and peers, their use more frequently results in emptiness rather than satisfaction.
Based upon this growing dissatisfaction, my roommates’ complaints about Tinder resonated with me. However, I disagreed with questioning why we use Tinder and lamenting on the declining in-person introductions — likely due to my own low-expectations for these interactions. I found my own dissatisfaction much more important and warranting investigation.
I don’t believe there is anything inherently wrong with Tinder and these other dating apps. If anything, it allows more and more people to connect. My roommate, the one who questioned downloading these apps, is currently dating someone from an app. I’ve seen plenty of good come from Tinder, but the pain and emptiness come from the high frequency of rejection.
Interacting through a screen lowers the barrier for initiating a conversation. It makes everyone much more comfortable interacting with someone they wouldn’t dare initiate a conversation with in person. People become much bolder and initiate more connections.
Unfortunately, interacting through a screen does not equally lower the pain of rejection.
In a world dominated by social media, where we all project the best versions of ourselves to the world, Tinder feels like a referendum on your image.
And here lies the dissatisfaction. Regardless of the medium — in person or through a screen — rejection stings. It makes us question our value and self-worth. Apps like Tinder make us more willing to initiate a conversation, and as rejections stack up, we fall deeper and deeper into dissatisfaction.
How do we reverse this fall? Simply put: self-love. Its easier said than done, but ridding your need for external validation will make a huge difference.
So next time you swipe through Tinder:
The person doesn’t match back?
The person doesn’t respond to your funny pick-up line?
Their cursory rejection of you means nothing. You are valuable. You are lovable. You are worth it.
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