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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

September 25, 2017   |   Ithaca, NY

Life & Culture

Tinder Is The Night: IC students find relationships through Tinder

Swipe left. Swipe left. Swipe right.

Though Tinder — the social media app that has users logging in an average of 11 times per day — is commonly used for the casual hook-up scene, Ithaca College junior Maureen Wietecha swiped right and  landed in a committed relationship a year and a half ago.

Users determine potential partners in their area by swiping right on photos of strong matches and swiping left for partners they don’t want to match with so they may move straight on to the next one. When two people swipe right on each other, the pair gets matched, allowing them to chat via Tinder’s messaging system.

Wietecha is part of a relatively small cohort for whom a flirtation with Tinder ended in a serious relationship. According to a survey conducted by Consumers’ Research in March of this year, only 13 percent of Tinder users admitted to remaining in a relationship with their match for over a month.

Wietecha said she didn’t expect to get involved in a long-term relationship with alumnus Will Erickson ’16 when she started swiping back in February 2015. She said her only intention was to tease those who thought the app genuinely worked.

“A bunch of my friends downloaded it, but no one was actually trying to get matches,” she said. “They were making fun of the ridiculous things people had on their [Tinder] profiles.”

Wietecha said her profile description on Tinder warned fellow swipers that she wasn’t serious about the app.

“I think my profile said something like, ‘I’m just here to make fun of people,’” she said.

Wietecha said Erickson took that as a challenge, and after four days of chatting on the app, he asked her out for coffee.

In May 2015, Business Insider reported the majority of Tinder users are between 25 and 34 years old, but the usage of the app by college-aged people is significant — 38 percent of users were between 16 and 24 years old.

“I think Tinder is so popular on campuses because most people are really just looking for a casual thing,” said senior Kourtney Varcoe, whose current year-and-a-half relationship with senior Ethan Johanns was sparked by Tinder. “I also think it’s popular for people like me, because I feel anxious talking to people I’m interested in — Tinder just makes it that much easier.”

Junior Hannah Agate, who has been in a committed relationship for one year and three months, said a committed relationship was the last thing she expected when she downloaded the app.

“I had just gotten out of a long-term relationship,” she said. “Everyone was talking about it, and I was curious. I was scoping out the playing field in Ithaca.”

Agate said she and her partner, who is now an alumnus, find it hilarious that they met through a dating app.

“It’s embarrassing,” she said. “No one wants to say they met via Tinder.”

But matching is a common occurrence, regardless of the outcome. In four years, Tinder has gained nearly 50 million users, producing 26 million matches per day, according to its website.

Since the application’s release in 2012, there have been over 10 billion matches, according to the app’s webpage. Tinder had an average swipe rate of 1 billion swipes per day in 2014, and it currently registers 1.4 billion swipes per day, according to the app’s website.

Devan Rosen, associate professor and emerging media program director at the college, said Tinder’s growth is one of the most surprising outcomes in emerging technology because the topic of the app is the most personal aspect of our lives — intimate relationships.

“In the last few years, there has been an increased visibility of these services due to the somewhat provocative nature of Tinder and that it’s appealing to an even younger demographic,” Rosen said.

Despite students’ luck with finding romance on the app, Tinder has been widely criticized for producing a physical barrier between its users — there’s no face-to-face interaction, and connections lack nonverbal cues.

Rosen said even though the app involves social media — users have to sign up through Facebook to use it — there are interactions that humans can’t obtain through Tinder.

“There still has to be that spark when people meet,” Rosen said. “Nothing can replace chemistry between people no app, no website.”

Though junior Will Truslow was able to find a long-term relationship more than once through Tinder, he said he believes Tinder is problematic because each person uses the app with different intentions.

“With an actual, dedicated online dating website like eHarmony, people are paying to find somebody,” he said. “Meanwhile, with Tinder, there’s a vague goal: to talk to people that are hot. But to what end? Do you want to just be friends with those people? Or do you want to actually start something meaningful with them?”

Varcoe said she isn’t shocked by the criticisms she and Johanns often receive.

“It always surprises people when they hear we met on Tinder,” she said. “They aren’t usually judgemental, but most people think we matched to hook up.”

Rebecca Plante, associate professor in the Department of Sociology, said people criticize the concept of a budding romance via dating apps due to their assumption that it will be easy.

“There’s a perception that apps and social media might mislead people into thinking that relationships would be or should be as ‘easy’ and ‘fun’ as the apps seem to be,” she said. “And these apps represent change — things are different now compared to even 20 years ago, let alone 50 years ago. We often resist change.”

Two-thirds of Tinder users are male, according to a study by GlobalWebIndex. The same study suggests that on all dating apps, men outnumber women. Sixty-two percent of all location-based dating app users are male, leaving 38 percent of users female or nongendered. In America, 13 percent of men use dating apps including Tinder, compared to only 9 percent of women.

Truslow said it’s impossible to truly know a person via online interaction.

“I feel like the problem with these dating apps is that it’s very easy to avoid the proper steps before you get into a relationship,” Truslow said. “Like with interpersonal communications, you determine if you’re interested in a person. …Through Tinder, that process is different.”

Rosen said there is a large portion of the population that feels content by their usage of dating applications, whether it’s from personal hurdles or life circumstances.

“It is important to tread lightly when discussing these apps and services,” he said. “We all have our own challenges, histories, strengths and needs, and if someone’s life is genuinely improved, then that’s the only important outcome.”

Wietecha said that despite stereotypes and stigmas, finding love through dating apps is always possible.

“If people are willing to be open to long-term relationships, I don’t see why it wouldn’t work,” she said.