It’s 10 p.m. on a Saturday. One Baker student lies in bed trying to make plans to go out. Left swipe. Right swipe. Left, again. Blythe Smith, a transgender and gender neutral student at Baker University, is not trying to make plans with an acquaintance. Smith is looking for a new connection, through Tinder.
The continual swiping lasts for several minutes before Smith comes upon a young woman’s profile that strikes up an interest. After reading her biography and scrolling through her photos, Smith comes to a decision. “She seems likes a cool person.” Smith swipes right. It’s a match.
Smith has something in common with more than 50 million different people from across the world. Smith uses Tinder, an app used to make connections with people in your surrounding area. The user is presented a profile containing a few photos and a short biography created by other users. The user can choose to swipe left, denying the other person’s profile, or swipe right, accepting the other person’s profile. When two users both “swipe right” on the app, it’s called a match, and they are then able to message each other.
The app was launched in 2012 and now claims to have more than 20 billion matches worldwide. Tinder has replaced typical dating sites for many college students. While Tinder is a good way to meet new people in the surrounding areas, it can pose risks.
“My initial understanding about Tinder is that it is a hook-up site, but it has evolved into something more than that,” said Tim Hodges, director of the Health and Counseling Center at Baker University. “The upside to the app is you get to interact with people that you have never met, but the downside is you get to interact with people that you have never met.”
Hodges believes that there is a danger posed by using the internet to meet someone new. He said that “catfishing” remains a threat when relationships start online.
“Many people can misrepresent themselves on a dating profile, and that’s a danger,” he said.
Catfishing is addressed on Tinder’s website as well. The app tells users to “never give out personal information” and “always report suspicious activity” to avoid the possibility of being catfished.
A study done by GlobalWebIndex found that 42 percent of Tinder users are not single and most of the fabricators are men. These men aren’t necessarily outright lying about themselves, but they aren’t being clear on their intentions.
A University of Kansas student recently fell victim to a Tinder date with negative intentions.
Last spring, according to USA Today College, a KU sorority woman met Shane Steven Allen, whom she first met on Tinder, in person. The meeting turned dangerous quickly. Allen kidnapped the woman and held her for nearly a week. According to USA Today College, an arrest affidavit alleged that Allen repeatedly beat her after becoming jealous due to her flirting with other men. Six days later, she returned to KU with bruises all over her body. Allen eventually pleaded no contest to two felony counts of aggravated battery, according to the Lawrence Journal-World.
An informal survey of 100 Baker students shows that 60 percent have or have had a Tinder account. Of those surveyed, women were more likely than men to have an account, and the largest age group on Tinder was between the ages of 18 to 20. 48 percent of the students surveyed indicated that they were using Tinder to find a significant other, and only 17 percent were using it to find a hook-up.
“Students may not be using Tinder for the hook-up aspect because of Baker’s religious affiliation,” Assistant Professor of Communication Kimberly Schaefer said, “or because they don’t find the app as useful as it could be.”
This may also be the reason that 50 percent of the surveyed Baker students have not met anyone in person whom they have matched with on Tinder.
The data found in this survey conflicts with the national data acquired by GlobalWebIndex, which conducted a survey with nearly 170,000 internet users. Their study shows that 62 percent of Tinder users are male and the largest age group on Tinder is between the ages of 25 to 34.
As a whole, most Baker students don’t care to use Tinder as a way to meet other people. 37 percent of the students surveyed said they would never recommend Tinder to other people, and another 37 percent said they would maybe recommend Tinder to a friend. Only 14 percent of students surveyed said that they would recommend the app to a friend.
This may be because of the stigma that Tinder carries, which is that most people look at Tinder as a way to find a hook-up.
“Baker is a small community,” Schaefer said. “People may not want to talk about the app because word would travel fast.”
Hodges shared a related warning.
“With my limited experience with people I have counseled, things like this don’t end up working out,” Hodges said. “Ultimately, someone ends up feeling that they have been used or taken advantage of, and it can cause a lot of emotional damage. And generally, we like to feel valued and safe and not taken for granted.”
Hodges stressed the importance of self-judgment. He wants users only to pursue what they are comfortable pursuing and never feel that they are obligated to do anything with someone they have met on the app.
Both Schaefer and Hodges agreed, many people may be using Tinder as a self-confidence booster.
“When someone matches with you, you may feel a little better about yourself,” Schaefer said.
Hodges added, “People could get a boost from a match, but it isn’t the healthiest way to feel better about yourself.”
Scientists around the world agree. Hungarian researchers have developed a scale to measure the correlation between Tinder use and low self-esteem. The researchers named this scale the PTUS or Problematic Tinder Use Scale. The researchers found, the more time that people spend on Tinder, the more likely they are to have body confidence issues. The less time that people spend on Tinder, the more likely they are to have higher self-confidence.
Sophomore Payton Johnson believes that Tinder is a waste of time.
“I used to use Tinder to pass my time,” Johnson said. “It was a game to me. My friends and I would sit around and try to match with as many people that we could. It got pretty boring after a while so I deleted it.”
Johnson deleted the app a few months ago, after meeting her current boyfriend through a mutual friend.
“It isn’t a great way to meet people,” Johnson said. “Let me put it this way, I didn’t meet my boyfriend on Tinder and I don’t plan on ever using it again. Most people I know think Tinder is a joke and so do I.”
Junior Kate Taylor-Doran had a similar attitude about the Tinder app.
“Tinder is not a very good way to find a relationship or anything really,” Taylor-Doran said. “I guess, it is an all right way to find a hookup, but Tinder usually just causes a lot of unnecessary drama. I have had a few friends that have had nothing but heartbreak come from it.”
She believes that Baker is too small for the app to have the intended effect on student users.
“The whole point of the thing [Tinder] is for you to meet new people, but Baker is just too small for you to meet anyone new because everyone already knows everyone,” she said.
Like many people from Baker’s campus, Smith did not end up meeting a match from Tinder.
“I don’t think I will ever find the person of my dreams on Tinder,” Smith said. “I might match with someone I like, and if I think they may be the one for me, I will try to message them, but meeting someone new can be scary. I will probably have to meet someone the old-fashioned way, through a mutual friend or at a party or something.”