Tinder is an algorithm-based mobile dating application designed to match users based on the notion of first impressions. Drawing on key concepts from Smith and Watson’s “Virtually Me”, some of the behaviors of Tinder users can be examined.
Tinder’s audience consists of singles that use mobile phones and Facebook (the two requirements for making an account). The app invites both a culture of self-gratification through social validation, as well as users legitimately looking to meet people for IRL purposes.
Automediality entails the “re-orientation of bodies in virtual space” (78); Tinder users are required to translate the essence of their selves to a uniformly structured card. This card, emphasizing brevity and embodying the notion of the ‘first impression’, contains only a user’s Avatar, their first name, age, and their relation to their potential match within their social network. While users are able to further construct their identity on their profile page, the parameter is equally as rigid as with the card. With each profile structured identically, a user’s Tinder identity is a combination of photos, text, and elements of Facebook; the user must cultivate these components in order to construct an identity that appeals to their desired match.
The act of swiping either Like or Nope constitutes an act within a set protocol of online confession. The anonymity of the user’s swipe is an integral component of Tinder’s appeal; the premise of anonymity in this context invites the user to perform a candid decision. Anonymity is only broken if two users swipe Like for each other – this is the ideal outcome for the intended user. If a user’s Like is unrequited, then the user remains anonymous and protected from embarrassment. In this way, Tinder appeals to a fear of romantic rejection.
Underlining the notion that the online self exists as an entity within a network (70-71), Tinder is necessarily connected to Facebook. This invokes a general sense of authenticity; users must commit their Facebook self to their Tinder identity implying a greater social investment. Authenticity is then an integral concern for Tinder users as they use their constructed identity to sell their personal brand; within their profile, a user must package him/herself as an appealing product. The crux of this package must be an innate sense of authenticity – however, authenticity, as noted by Smith and Watson, is notoriously slippery (75). Reflecting this, there are websites and articles devoted to helping Tinder users take the most effective photos.
Smith, Sidonie, and Julia Watson. “Virtually Me: A Toolbox about Online Self-Presentation.” Identity Technologies: Constructing the Self Online. Ed. Anna Poletti and Julie Rak. Madison: U of Wisconsin, 2014. 70-95. Web.
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