February 27, 2014

FORBATH: Tinder in Ithaca: Does the “Silicon Slipper” Fit?

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Valentine’s Day is a holiday where a single girl’s morale goes to die. Faced with Instagram’ed pictures of floral arrangements, fancy chocolates, and Veuve Clicquot bottles, it’s hard not to feel a little blue. So, last week on February 14th, I followed the wise words of Beyoncé: “All the single ladies, Now turn your phones on!” Okay, those aren’t the exact lyrics to Queen Bey’s classic song, but I’m confident they would have been if the Tinder app were around when “Single Ladies” was released. What can be a better ego boost than chatting with people who made a conscious decision to connect with you based on your looks? Guess it validates Beyoncé’s assertion that “I’m flawless.”

Tinder has taken the 20-something crowd by storm since its release last year. Unlike dating services that require essentially divulging your entire life story, Tinder works on a simple premise: swipe right on a person’s picture if you “like” them and swipe left if you don’t. If, after connecting to Facebook, two people in close geographical proximity “like” one another, then they’re a “match” and can chat with one another via the app’s messaging system.

Initially launched at the University of Southern California, Tinder in a college town yields a much different experience than using the app in a big city. Here are the pros and cons of “tinding” in Ithaca:

Pro #1: You have something in common with everyone. Once two people are connected, Tinder provides playful prompts to spark matches’ conversations. Given the high percentage of students in Ithaca, chances are your matches around your age go to Cornell, IC, or TC3. Complaining about the weather, sharing your favorite CTB order, and climbing up steep hills are universal to all of us. You can follow Tinder’s prompt to “Tell them about a crazy experience you had” by sharing how CTB used the wrong sauce on your sandwich but it turned out better than your original order (hey, it’s worked before).

Pro #2: You can crosscheck everyone. If the world is separated by six degrees, then everyone in Ithaca is separated by, like, 1.5. Since Tinder connects with Facebook, you’re able to see a potential match’s mutual friends. Ask a real-life friend about a person you met on Tinder and you will find out his hometown, whom he’s dated, where he lived freshman year, and whether he ate at RPCC or Appel.

Con #1: You know (or know of) everyone. And if you don’t, chances are they know (or know of) you. The guy who bombed the final in the class I TA’ed? Swipe left. My friend’s ex-boyfriend? Swipe left again. Myself – wait, what? Turns out I’m front and center in the picture my friend chose to feature on his Tinder profile. Then there are the people who you don’t know but who know you – and the few bold enough to admit it. One of my matches struck up a conversation by telling me he knew my name from emails from a campus club. It led to a discussion about changing our supposedly inconvenient meeting times (#romantic).

Con #2: You may will likely have an unsolicited real-life encounter with a match. Last week, I was waiting at Gannett when I recognized a guy with whom I’d been messaging on Tinder. I did what any rational person wanting to avoid an awkward encounter in the 21st century would do: stare aimlessly at my phone. Luckily, the nurse called my legal name instead of my nickname used on Tinder, so I may have left unscathed. (Side note: as I was writing this blog in the library, I caught the gaze of one of my matches. There really is no escape.)

The Tinder site declares “It’s like real life, but better.” While I wouldn’t go that far, I’d argue that using Tinder in Ithaca is more akin to real life encounters than using the app in a bustling metropolis. Despite the potential uncomfortable run ins, knowing that you’re connected to nearly everyone is comforting when meeting people online is often stigmatized and can be unsafe. While the “glass slipper” hasn’t fit me yet, it seems like the “silicon slipper” fits Tinder in Ithaca pretty well.