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The Carletonian

Tinderella: the rise of the modern love story

<ir="ltr">Growing up as a member of the millennial generation has afforded me the opportunity to witness an evolution in dating which, even up until a few years ago, seemed damn near impossible. Nowadays, people nationally, and perhaps more surprisingly, regionally, regularly turn to online dating services with the intention of finding a romantic or sexual partner. The rise of web-based services such as Tinder, and what I would term the “right-swipe vs. left swipe mentality,” begs a couple of interwoven questions: A.) Has our search for love gradually devolved into the search for a good f***? Or B.) Is the vision of ideal, romantic love less possible in an age where Internet culture simultaneously makes instant gratification increasingly possible while presenting us with an unprecedented amount of choice regarding who we interact with?

The rise of the modern love story, what I would term Tinderella, traces its roots to the 1960s, where online dating first became a possibility with the emergence of the first computer dating services. Aziz Ansari, comedian and noted sociologist, in his aptly titled book Modern Romance, contends that “these services claimed that they could leverage the power of computers to help the luckless in love find their soulmate in a manner that was both rational and efficient.” Rationality and efficiency: those sound like two important ingredients in the recipe for the life of a successful young adult in the 21st century to me.

According to Ansari, these services, “which asked clients to fill out questionnaires, the answers to which they would enter into computers the size of living rooms,” hung around until the 1980s, but never really caught on. Rather, they failed for a few good reasons. One was fairly simple: back then not many people had access to personal computers at home, or even at work, so the idea that some strange machine was going to identify the perfect partner seemed a little strange. It’s kind of easy to imagine, how after thousands of years of dating and mating without electronic assistance, most people were a little hesitant to consult “a bulky IBM” in hopes of finding an answer to the question of true love.  

If we flash forward to the 1990s, however, we can begin to see where people’s relationships with computers and online culture began to change dramatically. At the dawn of the modern information age, more and more people became comfortable with the idea of regularly using computers in their day to day lives.  According to Ansari, over time, “e-mail, chat rooms, and ultimately social media would require people to develop online personas” — Internet identities if you will. With the emergence of these Internet identities, all of a sudden, the idea of using a computer to find dates began to seem completely acceptable.

Flash forward again to the year 2016. It’s a Tuesday night and, for the moment, I have nothing to do. I’m sitting in my dorm room, in utter boredom, half asleep, my brain feeling like scrambled eggs after a long day of classes, studying, and extracurriculars. After a moment of thought, I make a conscious decision to spend the last ten minutes of my day perusing the profiles of strangers on Tinder. I swipe right, and I swipe left. Sometimes I read a girl’s bio, other times I think her first picture is enough to merit an immediate left swipe. If that sounds incredibly shallow, it’s because it absolutely is. Tinder is more of a game for me than anything. So, rather than lying to you all in the hopes of claiming to some moral high ground, which quite frankly, never existed in the first place, I’m going to be sincere about what I believe. I believe that the advent of online dating has absolutely transformed the way we begin romantic relationships. Indeed, Aaron Smith, associate research director of the Pew Research Center, stated that although “Young adults, ages 18 to 24, traditionally haven’t been big online daters [because] they [historically] haven’t had much of a need as they are typically surrounded by other young, single people, whether at work or school.” Tinder and rivals such as Hinge and Bumble are changing the dynamics of the online dating game. In fact, the most recent Pew Study reports that the share of 18- to 24-year-olds who use online dating has roughly tripled from 10% in 2013 to 27% today.

Without a doubt, young adults are using online dating in greater numbers than any other age group today. But, the question once again arises, how exactly have these online dating services affected the way that we see and search for love? I think that we can only truly answer that question for ourselves by looking at ourselves and analyzing the way that we each approach online dating. I, for one, acknowledge that I’m probably not going to find my future wife through a mobile application like Tinder, and that’s OK, because that’s not what I use Tinder for. I treat Tinder the way I treat walking into a crowded party on a Saturday night; there are lots of people I don’t know, I’m probably not going to meet most of them, but maybe, if I’m lucky, I’ll end up dancing with someone cool. Maybe we’ll end up having a conversation and grabbing dinner or a drink some time afterwards, or maybe we won’t, but I think the hope of something happening, coupled with the low-stakes atmosphere of the party, in which being rejected somehow feels OK, ends up making the whole experience worthwhile.

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