For those of you that have never heard of Tinder, it is a free app that is meant to introduce people interested in a “relationship.” I used quotation marks for that because the term has many meanings on Tinder. There’s a reason why it’s known as the “hook-up” app.
Curious, I created an account on the app recently. I’ll start by saying that I’m going to take what I found on the site at face value as being truthful for the most part. Usually, I’m a bit cynical when it comes to things like this, but most of these people have nothing to hide. In fact, many of the profiles were very blunt about what they wanted from the app. A few were rather explicit and even admitted to breaking the law, mostly involving the use of marijuana.
That said, what most people said that they wanted to get from Tinder was a serious relationship. After all, meeting someone via an app is no worse off than meeting someone in a club or bar. Of course, it all depends on what happens after you connect in person and where/how you meet them in person. My wife and I met as the result of online activity (before apps like this even existed) and I know many couples that met through online personal ads or from local singles groups that would meet at various local bars, sporting events, etc.
Here’s how the App Works:
You start by downloading the app from Google Play or the Apple Store. Then you create your online profile. This is usually done by connecting with your Facebook account. This is an important thing to consider, which I’ll explain later. You get up to 500 characters/emojis to tell people about yourself. Emojis are extremely popular and I saw quite a few people who only used emojis on their profile; not using text at all. You can also add several pictures or none at all if you don’t want to be recognized by anyone.
What Kids Can Find on Tinder
The app indicates that it’s for mature audiences and should only be used by people at least 17 years of age. Of course, there is nothing actually stopping anyone younger than 17 from downloading the app. In fact, I saw one profile of a young girl who admitted on her profile that she was only 16 years old and mentioned how Tinder’s age requirement was a joke.
Next, you decide what kind of people you want to connect with based on things like age, sex and distance from where you are at any given time. That last part is very important for people looking for quick hook-ups, no matter where they happen to be at the time. Users are presented with the profile information of people that meet their criteria. You can then indicate if you’re interested in connecting with them by either swiping the screen to the left or down (not interested), to the right (interested) or really interested (up). Users can also press an “X” button to indicate that they are not interested. Once you indicate that you are not interested in someone, you cannot see that person’s profile again unless you pay Tinder to upgrade your account.
From what I saw on my time using the app, several people indicated that swiping up, known as a “Super Like”, was not going to get them anywhere and would probably get them dismissed as being a little creepy or needy. Others, however, encouraged people to Super Like them to prove that they read the person’s profile and weren’t just reacting to the picture.
If a user gets a Like or Super Like, they have the option to accept or reject the connection request. If they accept it, then and only then can the users send private messages to each other. If at any point, you get a bad vibe from someone or they do something you don’t like, you can block/report them to the app.
The Tinder/Facebook/Instagram Connection
Having Facebook as your login credentials is not so unheard of in the world of apps. Facebook and Twitter have become so popular that many apps and even websites use it to allow people with the ability to access and interact with them. Here’s the concern with the app using Facebook to verify that you are a “real” person:
Since the app gains access to your list of Facebook friends, when someone who has a mutual Facebook friend shows up as a potential connection, Tinder shows the relationship. While learning about the app, I noticed that someone who Tinder showed me was also friends on Facebook with someone I know through my daughter’s school. Presumably, she could have already seen my Tinder profile and noticed our joint friend. By looking at the list of Facebook friends that her friend has, she might be able to identify me by sight.
Maybe then she talks with our joint friend and mentions that she saw me on Tinder. Not realizing that I was doing research for this article, our joint friend now thinks that I’m two-timing on my wife, who knows that I had created a Tinder account and why. For all I know, the woman that I’m friends with on Facebook is now telling people that I’m a cheating husband.
Based on the sheer number of people using the app, I was not able to conduct any kind of scientific study on the people using the app, but here’s what I observed:
Most of the people seem to be legitimately looking for a long term relationship. By most, I mean barely over 50%. While the app is free to use at the most basic level, for a fee, people can have their profiles show up in locations where they are not currently residing, but will soon be visiting. I saw quite a few escorts and “free spirits” who indicated that they would be in my area soon and would like company. One such posting from a 19 year old woman named Angel who identified herself as a fetish princess and that it takes $100/hour to get her out of her house.
1 in 20 female Tinder users are looking for Sugar Daddy to spoil them. While that equates to only 5%, saying it as 1 in 20 makes it sound like more than that. Some of the women were extremely direct about what they were expecting from a man; others used code words, such as, “looking for a mutually beneficial relationship,” or, “if you take care of me like I deserve, I will take care of you.”
There were plenty of marijuana smokers on the site. Here, most were using either codes &/or emojis to indicate their opinion regarding marijuana. Most of the codes were pretty well known, such as toking, rolling blunts, etc. One that I had to look up was being, “420 friendly.” As you can probably tell, I’m not a user.
I saw quite a few transgender people on the app; far more as a percentage than what I expect in the entire population. Another common thing that I saw was women, usually in their early twenties, who said that they were only looking for someone to take to family events so that their families would stop asking them when they would find someone to settle down with.
For those that mentioned politics in their profile, it was almost always to the Left. There were lots of college educated people, models, actresses and good looking people.
How Other Social Media Apps Come into Play
In addition to the connection between Facebook and Instagram, many profiles included the information needed to find the women on other social media sites. Some of the women were not automatically showing the link to their Instagram profiles. This suggests that they used fake/throwaway Facebook accounts to sign onto Tinder without having to experience what I mentioned above about having mutual friends see them on the site.
Instead, they would type the name of their Instagram account into their Tinder profile so that people could find them there. I searched for several of these women and found that in almost every case, these women had racy images on their Instagram accounts, including naked pictures with strategically placed hands, short videos of seductive dancing, etc. Other social media sites were listed, usually Snapchat. I went to the app and followed a few of the people that posted their profile onto their Tinder account. Most of them came from younger users, under the age of 25. For the most part, the short videos and pictures that they shared on Snapchat were tame, which surprised me, since Snapchat has a reputation of containing very adult content.
I am not a prude and I have no problem with people sharing content that is racy or adult in nature. After using the app for about two weeks, I see that the app is a good way for consenting adults to meet. My problem is that there is nobody at the door checking IDs as there would be at a bar. The COPPA Act of 1998 was meant to protect children under the age of 13 from some of the negative consequences of using social media. As a cyber safety advocate and father of a 10 year old daughter, I find that the law is almost meaningless.
Children of all ages use social media every day. That includes children under the age of 13. Many of you reading this article may have children under the age of 13. If they use any of the popular social media sites, such as Facebook, Instagram, etc., they are violating the law. Do your children have a tablet or cellphone? If so, there is nothing stopping them from download Tinder. You can see some of the images that I found on the app. How would you feel if your teens or even pre-teen kids saw these images. And I promise you that these images were among the more tame profiles that I saw, even before I hid the worst of it.
I’m not just picking on Tinder. There are plenty of other apps out there that are too adult in nature for kids that they can access with the click of a mouse button. The best way to counter this is to get involved with your kids’ online activities and stay involved in them. Remember, kids are often more technically capable than their parents, but that doesn’t mean that they have the experience and wisdom to handle what can happen online.