Internet dating has transformed the love lives of millions of people. It appears to some today as the true sexual revolution. 10 years since the start.
If you told someone 20 years ago, let alone a long time ago, that one day almost everyone would have a small device in their pocket that can be used to spontaneously track down nearby sex partners – who would have believed it? Today, this seems to be everyday life for millions with GPS-based dating apps. Of course, dating apps aren’t always just about sex. A German sociologist and expert emphasizes that online dating is far more complex and demanding than many people think.
Swipe for a match
In any case, ten years ago, on September 12, the Tinder app was launched, whose brand name has become a deonymic verb, like “googling” or “kärchern”: i.e. the active word “tinder”.
Tinder (German: Zunder) is the app that made the so-called swiping a mass phenomenon. Users see profiles with photos and information in their area: If you like someone, swipe to the right, if you don’t like someone, swipe to the left. If both people like each other, a so-called match is created – and chatting becomes possible. Of course, this basic idea has long since been expanded to include other paid functions – but that doesn’t matter at this point.
Tinder in numbers
“Tinder is the world’s most popular app for meeting new people,” is how the software describes itself. According to its own information, Tinder is available in 190 countries and more than 40 languages. “Tinder has been downloaded more than 530 million times and generated more than 75 billion matches.” The app leads to 1.5 million dates per week. However, when it comes to more precise figures for the German or German-speaking market, the company is covered.
According to the market research company Data.ai, the singles exchange will also be at the top of the download charts for dating apps in Germany in 2022. Tinder ranks first in terms of consumer spending and number of active users. The biggest Tinder competition is the Bumble app, which differs mainly in that only women can start a conversation there after a match. In addition, Lovoo is quite strong. There is the Icebreaker function, which allows you to contact people despite left swipes in order to break the ice.
Before Tinder, casual meeting via geospatial app was kind of a prerogative of the queer community. In 2009, shortly after Apple introduced the iPhone, Joel Simkhai, who came to the United States from Tel Aviv as a child, invented Grindr, the first dating app based on GPS data. The gay app Grindr – a portmanteau of “guy” and “finder” (i.e. guy finder) and based on the verb “grind” (rub, grind) – no longer sorted possible partners according to common interests, as single and partner exchanges often do , but based on who is nearby with their cell phone.
In 2011, Simkhai tried to design such an app for straight people with Blendr, but failed. Only from 2012 with Tinder and the idea of swiping did online dating also become a non-queer – or to put it another way – a mass phenomenon in society as a whole.
“The Sexual Revolution of Perpetual Availability”
“In terms of ‘openness’, Tinder has certainly done a lot for straight people,” says the “Ladylike” podcaster Nicole von Wagner. Many were looking for uncomplicated sex dates, one-night stands or so-called friendship plus. “Tinder started the sexual revolution of always being available. All you have to do is swipe right on your phone and start dating.” Almost everyone there has “several irons in the fire” and only wants to meet the supposedly best.
With the huge selection, Tinder also makes many people superficial, says book author Nicole von Wagner (“Anyone can come”). “We rate a person within seconds after a photo and swipe left if we don’t like the nose.” On her erotic podcast, women often wrote to her that they were ashamed of dating online and not landing a guy in real life. “They often feel devalued by those around them. As if flirting at the supermarket checkout was worth more than one online.”
“Considered partner search instead of catalog or meat counter”
Sociologist Thorsten Peetz from the University of Bamberg takes a more differentiated view of online dating. “The cliché that it is a more superficial form of getting to know each other and an economization of intimate life does not do justice to the phenomenon.” He emphasizes that it is a thoroughly considered form of partner search. “Many tell whole stories with pictures and texts, announcing exactly what they want and don’t want.”
Peetz, who among other things published the article “Digitalized intimate evaluation – possibilities of social observation on Tinder”, contradicts the image of a kind of department store where a woman or man simply gets someone.
“Although there are a number of studies in which people describe how they perceive Tinder as a catalog to leaf through or even as a meat counter where you look and choose, this usually has little to do with reality,” says Professor Peetz. “You can’t just want one person and that works. It’s more of a game where everyone tries to show their own intimate worth.”
People at Tinder and other apps presented an acceptable version of themselves, Peetz says. Everyone does that in normal everyday life with clothing, hairstyle and their way of moving.
Dating apps have sophisticated challenges around identity and interpretation, as the sociologist puts it. “The task at hand is to assess what kind of person is the person on the other side of the screen? How does it fit into the game I want to play here? What kind of person am I able to do there expect when I meet analog one day?” In short: Tinder and Co. are highly complex, instead of just quick sex.