When you open the Tinder app, the first thing you see is a series of red halos surrounding a little fireball at the center of the screen. You are then greeted with a person’s set of photos, their self-written description, their distance from you and what school they might go to — for users on the Hill, a small purple banner lays across the bottom of their profile announcing “Kenyon College.” You are faced with a decision: Do you swipe left or right?
Swiping left means you’re not interested, swiping right means you are; it’s an experience akin to shopping. However, the pressing question seems to be: should you swipe right—and, if you match, what could that mean to somebody who you regularly see? At Kenyon, where you see the same students on a regular basis, go to classes with them, see them at parties and may even be friends with the people that you match with, the experience of using a dating app is altogether different — and potentially even more dubious — than it is in a big city or a state school.
Ideally, Tinder would act as a lubricant in the social scene at Kenyon: If you swipe right on somebody else, and they swipe right on you, then you are “matched” together. “Matching” establishes a mutual interest between the two parties that could make it easier for students to find each other. Ruby Schiff ’21, who met her ex-boyfriend at Kenyon through Tinder, says that matching with somebody gives users a confidence boost to be more communicative and open with each other. When they matched, he invited Schiff out to a coffee date, and he was immediately clear about his feelings for her.
“I think because he knew I was interested that gave him the confidence to be more upfront and communicative — which is a pro, in my opinion.”
Katrina Peterson ’20 has used Tinder at Kenyon, at home in New Jersey and also while abroad in Paris, says that apps like Tinder can also be the fertilizer for an already sprouting relationship.
“I’ve never explicitly gone on a Tinder date here,” she admitted, “but I’ve definitely matched with people I’ve known and then talked to them in the real world, and sometimes that develops into something.”
Using Tinder at Kenyon can also be a great way to meet people outside your immediate social circle.
“Since I’m more of a ‘New Side’ girl,” Schiff said, “I think it was a good way to explore other social circles, so it actually ended up working really well. I think, especially at Kenyon, it’s easy to stick around with the same people … I would never go up to a sports team, and be like ‘hey, I’m Ruby.’”
While these benefits to Tinder do exist — a catalyst between two students who are interested in each other, meeting students you wouldn’t otherwise meet — there are also some consequences and murkier undersides to these types of apps. Giulia Cancro ’22 says that Tinder can often be a place for miscommunication and mixed messages.
“[Tinder] is literally a game,” she said. “Like, it’s fun! You get to swipe people. But that makes it really easy for it to feel like it’s not a big deal. Like ‘it’s just fun, it doesn’t really matter’ … at times it can be something that people use as a cop-out of emotional responsibility.”
Swiping right on somebody might not necessarily mean that you are interested in them. Peterson admitted that sometimes she swipes right to seek validation, a sentiment common among other users.
“Sometimes I find myself swiping right on people not because I find them attractive, but because they would be described as generally attractive and it feels nice for a generally attractive person to swipe right on you.”
An app intended to foster easier and more effective romantic communication can also bring about a whole new set of problems.
There are times when two students match and they have a different understanding of what that match might actually entail. “Just because it can be a game, doesn’t mean you’re not accountable for your actions,” Cancro said.
Other problems arise when you stumble upon a friend on Tinder — and deciding to like them can sometimes be interpreted as more than just a friendly swipe.
“There is a weird balance you have to play between, are you close enough friends for this to be a joke? Or is there some other motive?” said Schiff. “I usually swipe right on anybody I would call a friend, just because I think it’s kind of funny.”
While the Tinder scene can be complicated at Kenyon, sometimes the answer to the question, “should I swipe right?” is simple.
“Sometimes I swipe right on people that I barely know,” Peterson said. “But it ultimately depends on whether they’re cute.”