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Why Is Tinder Trying So Hard to Kill Its Own Boner?

It's still desperately trying to tell us it's not a hook-up app.

by Lucy Hancock
14 August 2015, 5:00am

(Image via)

"I want to cum on ur prety face"

It's 8AM. I haven't even had a cup of tea yet and already I am covered in virtual ejaculate. The overnight matches have been rolling in, and they're making me feel pretty weird about my morning banana. Lots of "baby", lots of "are u free 2nyt" and a whole lot of copy and paste. Ladies and gents, this is Tinder now.

It was in a similarly ejaculatory fashion that Tinder itself appeared to lose its mind the other night in a 30-strong tweet "tantrum" in which it essentially accused Vanity Fair writer Nancy Jo Sales of being a stuck-up bitch because she wrote something vaguely mean. In her article, "Tinder and the Dawn of the Dating Apocalypse", Sales suggested the app has pissed like a racehorse onto our generation's romance parade, effectively ruining love in the process.

It has now been suggested that the outburst was a planned response to Sales' article – that it was in fact one big cynical PR stunt. Let's try not to get sidetracked by the depressing thought we might live in a world where a bunch of corporate eroticists sit round planning a series of fake human emotions, because we're here to talk about something more pressing – Tinder's big fat image problem.

In the rant (it really was very un-thrilling for a "tirade") the "rogue" tweeter manning the Tinder account defended the app as a happy place, reminding us that Tinder has done tons of good stuff: "Talk to the many Tinder couples – gay and straight – that have gotten married after meeting on Tinder" it said. "Tinder creates experiences. We create connections that otherwise never would have been made. 8 billion of them to date, in fact".

Fake outburst or not, it's clear the folk at Tinder want it known they're all about sharing a cardigan and skimming stones on the beach rather than fucking people in car parks, which feels like a pretty weird move when 99 percent of people just use it to get laid. As Sales' article reminds us, Tinder has become world-famous for its pioneering work in the world of casual sex. It's a fact that co-founder Justin Mateen has been strenuously denying more or less since day one. Which is pretty odd, considering this is the same company that last year launched a huge ad campaign with Calvin Klein themed around sexting, which MD Melisa Goldie helpfully described as "highlighting the truth about dating – the meetup, the hookup and the freedom that you have through the digital dating landscape and how instantaneous it is".

Even without ol' big gob Goldie spilling the beans on Tinder's brand positioning, there are plenty of unofficial apps that give the hook-up game away, such as Bonfire, one that amasses pictures of girls so you can rattle through them like a helplessly ironic game of solitaire.

The Vanity Fair piece raised some other interesting points about the commoditisation of our love lives and the predatory, gamified environment Tinder has created (even if Sales' chief sample group was actually just a bunch of highly paid misogynists). However, perhaps the more salient moral of her story would simply be "don't go on dates with Wall Street pricks". I can't help but think it's not Tinder's fault these wanker bankers are awful, because they're just as awful IRL. It's no great secret that the app is chock-a with cum-thumbed creeps who ultimately just want you to sit on their faces.

The predatory aspect of the app might be something Tinder has so far failed to address publicly, but co-founder Whitney Wolfe clearly saw a demand for a less creepy app (and class of colleague, actually) when she quit after suing them for sexual harassment (IKR?) and started Bumble, a rival app where women have to make the first move. Wolfe says the platform "sets the stage for the woman to make the first move, and in turn, show some moxie, which creates a more assured connection on both ends". Rather than worry too much about female moxie, instead last year Tinder just sort of built it into their business model by launching Tinder Plus – one of the features of which limits the amount of times non-paying users can swipe right. But for the right money you can have as many swipes as you like. Makes you feel all warm and fuzzy, doesn't it?

That said, it's a bit steep to suggest that all of us gals are in search of a five-door hatchback kinda relationship. Tinder might not be able to trade on it, but for its users there really is nothing wrong with a little bump 'n' grind. Sales could perhaps do with calming down a bit about the moral implications of "pussy affluenza". She intimates that we're all hapless victims of misogyny, but there are in fact plenty of babes I know stalking for a porking for whom Tinder works just fine. If indeed all you are solely interested in is sitting on someone's beautiful face that you'll never have to see again.

Part of Tinder's initial success was the anonymity it afforded users. It appealed to shameful singles cringed out by the idea of seeking their lobster on desperate dating apps – the same ones they've since embraced. But now it feels like the relative anonymity is a negative. Tinder is operating 1.6 billion profiles and makes more than 26 million matches per day, suggesting the sea is teeming with extremely fast-swimming fish. The problem now is no one is sure which ones are worth catching.

Perhaps the real PR problem with Tinder as a portal to eternal happiness is that it just got too big and too lucrative for its boots. These days using it to find love is a bit like walking into the biggest, weirdest club in the world at 3AM and shouting "Is anyone up for it?" down a megaphone. It's just too vast and too fast to be about anything meaningful.

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Addictive as it may be, dead-eyed swiping through oily abs and sedated tigers doesn't make anyone feel good. And nobody wants to hand over their love lives to a brand that makes them feel numb on the inside. Despite Tinder's attempts to warm the cockles of our hearts with love stories on Twitter most of us don't want to answer the question "How did you meet" by saying "Actually, I was doing a particularly difficult poo at work, had some time on my hands, and after dismissing around 300 others, I swiped on a picture of your daughter's face. I was so enamoured by her smile, I had to stalk her to check she wasn't fat."

If you've ever been to a party with a free bar you'll know that if you give someone enough of what they want they'll eventually be sick down themselves. We've had our fun at this big swipey party, now we just want to go home and cuddle. Nobody is denying "the Tinder Generation is real", we've all just started to question whether we want to be part of it any more.

Time will tell. But as the pioneers of an instantaneous hook-up app, Tinder may end up dying by their own porky sword.

@lucyhancock

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