ADRIANA VICIC – “Which Ashley should I super-like?” asked 22-year-old Scott Relay* as he swiped through photos of girls in bikinis.

 “She’s kind of cute; I’m not sure about this one though.”

Relay, A St. Thomas, Ont. native, is one of the 50 million people swiping on Tinder, arguably the world’s most popular dating app.  

But Relay doesn’t use the app for dating. “It lets me try out my risky pickup lines and see if they fly,” he said.

Relay’ is not alone in this trend of using Tinder for motivations. It’s a lifestyle curated by laziness and desire—also known as hook-up culture. 

“It’s this idea that you’re looking for, maybe, a one-time sexual partner rather than looking for true love or a committed long-term relationship,” said Anabel Quan-Haase, professor of sociology and digital intimacy at Western University. “So, I would say that in terms of the culture element, it’s understood by a group of people that that’s actually what you’re looking for.”

Tinder is often perceived as a perpetuating factor of hook-up culture. Statistics show that almost 47 per cent of its customers use it for short-term sexual encounters

To be a registered Tinder user, you must be 18 or older, have a profile that includes a description and at least one photo.

From there, it’s game time: Swipe left. Swipe right. 

Swiping right is a ‘like’ and left is a ‘pass’. Super-likes, which are limited to one per day unless you pay for the premium version, show the other user that you’re really interested. 

If two users both swipe right or super-like each other, it’s a match! But what does that really mean? 

You would think the match would lead to a potential relationship between the two—that has become uncommon in the age of hook-up culture.  

Claire Simons*, a fifth-year kinesiology and psychology student at Western University, found helself bombarded with hook-up culture on Tinder.  

“There was a lot of ‘Oh hey, I think you’re cute, what’s your Snapchat?’ or ‘What’s your number?’ Or sometimes just very forward and rude things, like ‘Oh you wanna f***?’ with no introduction,” the 23-year-old sayid. “There are definitely a lot of guys who are just cut to the chase, very blunt, very direct, and they will just try to weed out who’s not ‘down’ if that’s what they’re looking for.”

Quan-Haase says this shift toward short-term, romantic desire is due to new societal trends about marriage.

“Years ago, people would marry young,” she said. “Let’s say by 20 or 25, you would be married and starting a family. Well, that has really shifted, and now young Canadians are getting married much later. So, that creates a much longer period of time where you are not committed in a monogamous, long-term relationship like marriage.” 

Dating apps like Tinder help people to facilitate first-time interactions with strangers. For many, it can be intimidating to approach someone at the bar and ask them if they’re interested in a sexual relationship.

For university students who often lack free time, these interactions via Tinder appear especially attractive and convenient. 

Quan-Haase says a lot of people who want to participate in hook-up culture aren’t looking for long-term relationships because of the work and energy it entails. A relationship can be stressful when added on top of a course load, job and other extra-curricular commitments. 

A one-night stand doesn’t come with any of that pressure. The Western professor even thinks it can be healthy—but with certain conditions. 

“I think that if it’s clear somebody is looking for a short-term relationship, and both parties are clear on that, then they are adults and they are agreeing on the same conditions,” she said. “I think the problem is when they use their profiles and they are pretending to look for something committed, and that’s not really what they are looking for.”

Many use this strategy to increase their chances, marketing themselves as wanting a long-term commitment when all their looking for is a one-night stand. 

And the problems with Tinder don’t stop there. 

It can be hard to take the app seriously when users have insincere intentions, whether for a hook-up or for other motives.  

“A majority of people look at Tinder as something that isn’t to be taken seriously,” Simons said. “I do think, as much as it sucks, a lot of the times people will have a certain perception of the other person they are talking to if they meet on Tinder: that it isn’t serious.” 

A Mississauga, Ont. native, Simons, admits to participating in this trend. She said before she met her boyfriend, she would download Tinder to pass time as a study break from exams. She said she had no intention of meeting up with anyone—it was just something to do. 

Like Simons, many young people go on Tinder for entertainment. They’re not actually looking to meet anybody; it’s all just for fun. 

In fact, statistics show that more than 50 per cent of Tinder users participate strictly for amusement.

The mentality is: if it ends in a hook-up, great; if it doesn’t, there are plenty of other faces to swipe through. It’s a free time-waster.

“They are swiping, they are having fun, they are showing it to their friends and it’s not taken as that serious,” said Quan-Haase.

So, Tinder may not be a direct route to finding true love, but many users are just fine with the minutes wasted here and the occasional rendezvous. 

“None of the Ashleys are that hot. I’m not going to super-like any of them,” Relay said while swiping past more photos of girls. “But how about this one? Her name is Vanilla.” 

“I’ll swipe right,” he said. 

*names have been changed.

This article was originally published on February 29, 2020 in Mastermind

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