Tinder: Four women share the truth about swiping right

Not just the go-to app for those in their 20s, a quarter of Tinder’s user base is over 35 – and it’s a number that’s expected to grow.

Today’s dating landscape is radically different to 20, or even 10, years ago and technology has played an enormous role in this change. While our grandparents might have met at dance halls, and following generations met in bars, through friends or sports teams, now we don’t even have to leave our houses to strike up a potential liaison. Welcome to the age of Tinder.

In the four short years it’s been around, Tinder has changed much about the way we meet potential mates. Pani Farvid, a senior lecturer in psychology at Auckland University of Technology, is looking into the way dating technology has changed as part of a wider project on mobile dating app use in New Zealand.

“Online dating came to be in the mid-90s and it always had quite a bit of stigma attached to it so it’s taken a long time for it to become normalised,” she says. “Whereas Tinder was introduced in 2012 and within two years it was a household name and had exploded in use.”

A new way to date

Farvid and her team’s initial findings show this rapid rise in Tinder use could be because of the way the app functions.

“The thing with Tinder is the notion it’s linked into your Facebook profile, so there’s more authenticity. To lie, people have to set up a fake Facebook profile, which takes much more effort. It’s also based on a double opt-in process. With older online dating sites, you can just peruse profiles, whereas with Tinder you get a virtual deck of cards of people, swiping right for yes and left for no. Only if you both swipe right on each other does it unlock the ability to communicate with each other. This creates a buffer between you and unwanted attention.”

Participants in Farvid’s study used Tinder as a multi-purpose tool: to ease boredom, get over exes, fill a relationship lull, have casual sex or to find a relationship.

“That flexibility and fluidity is really interesting. It slots into people’s lives easily. It’s easy to set up and it’s geo-located,” says Farvid.

Not just for the cool kids

This flexibility, plus the lack of stigma and ease of the app, seems to make meeting potential partners a lot less fraught for women as they get older. Farvid says 25 per cent of users are over 35, and this number could well increase over the next few years.

A part of Tinder’s appeal is that it removes the element of chance. Rather than hanging out in bars, users can see who’s around, single and in their age group from the comfort of their couch, in their PJs if they like! The app then brings you hundreds of matches in seconds.

There’s anecdotal evidence to say it’s leaving dating sites behind in popularity too. Sarah*, 47, an office manager in Auckland, has used one of NZ’s most popular dating websites on and off for five years. She’s even had two significant relationships through it.

“I’ve always been a big fan of online dating,” Sarah says. “I’ve met some gorgeous, kind, intelligent men. I’ve had a couple of long-term partnerships, some shorter lived and have made some lifelong friends.”

But Sarah has recently made the switch to Tinder.

“In all honesty I would much have preferred to stay with online dating. I love the fact you get so much more information about potential dates and I was really comfortable with it as a platform. But I’ve had to jump ship as I’ve found dating websites becoming more stagnant; I find so many more potential matches on Tinder than the dating site I used to use.”

At first Sarah was nervous about changing platforms. As an older woman, she wondered whether it would be full of middle-aged men just looking for sex.

“While I do love a passionate fling, I’m at the stage of life where I’m really in the market for a life partner. I don’t go in looking for wedding bells and a big white dress but I also won’t go on dates with guys who are just looking for fun. That’s not where I’m at.”

Her strategy is pretty simple. Swipe right if she is interested, chat online for a bit, meet up sooner rather than later, and see what happens.

“I make it pretty clear I’m not interested in going home with them after date one and so far I’ve had some pretty lovely evenings out. Sometimes there’s a spark, sometimes they’re just good company, sometimes they are dead boring but most of the time I have some great conversations.

“I’ve only been doing it for six months but I’ve met quite a few guys who’ve been definite relationship potential. Nothing has gone past four or five dates yet but it’s always been because of some logistical or practical complication – they’ve all been really lovely men.”

Open for all

While Sarah has no kids, and therefore much more freedom to meet men when and where she wants, that doesn’t mean Tinder excludes single mothers – far from it. Rachel* has two kids aged nine and six and enjoys a very full and fun Tinder existence.

“I got separated two years ago and sat and felt sorry for myself for a long time. But when I saw my ex-husband moving on, and in fact moving his girlfriend in, I thought ‘What am I waiting for?’

“I initially tried dating websites but found they were actually not that great for my self-esteem. I found I could be sending out lots of messages and often not getting that much back. Worse still, you can see your messages have been read, but the guy has chosen not to reply. With Tinder you have already validated the connection and you know they’ve already swiped right on you too. That’s much less intimidating.”

Rachel says she’s found Tinder a lot of fun.

“I’ve had lovers, I’ve made friends and I’ve had a few potential relationships. I’m pretty sure it’s made being 40 and divorced a much easier place to be than had we separated pre-Tinder. I wouldn’t have had any romance after my separation if it meant hanging out in bars, because I don’t go to bars!”

She also prefers it to online dating because it feels a bit lighter and a bit closer to what it would be like if they’d met first in person.

“The men I’ve met have been sparky and fun and willing to flirt and have fun conversations electronically. Then we meet up and see if there’s chemistry before working out anything else. Either that develops into something or it doesn’t – there’s no intense pressure. 

“Sometimes you both just want a fling; sometimes you can see the potential for more. Most of the time it’s pretty clear from their profile if they only want sex, but most men I’ve met are pretty open to just meeting up and seeing how we feel about each other – like any other first date.”

The other side

Of course, like with everything there’s a downside, and Rachel has experienced all facets of Tinder.

“I’ve been stood up, had my heart broken. I’ve even had to call 111. I went out with this builder and he seemed really drunk on our second date, but I soon realised he was a diabetic having a hypo-glycaemic attack. I took him outside the restaurant and he ended up collapsing on me – and he was a big unit! I must have looked hilarious trapped underneath him yelling help, with arms flailing. Poor guy looked so horrified when he came to in the ambulance and saw me on one side and the paramedic on the other. Wasn’t quite how he’d planned it panning out.”

She’s also had the unfortunate experience of unknowingly dating someone who was married.

“It was a long distance thing and I really liked him. I had no idea he was texting me while his kids were running around him on a Sunday morning. Needless to say I shut it down as soon as I found out.”

Despite all of this, Rachel is still a Tinder devotee and has made some great friends. If she’s had enough of it for a while, she just takes the app off her phone temporarily. She loves the fact she’s meeting men on her own terms and says it’s very empowering for a woman of a certain age.

Finding long-term love

While it might have a reputation as a ‘hook-up app’, many people have found long-term relationships through Tinder. Liza*, 43, is celebrating two years with John.

“All my friends were doing it so I thought I’d give it a go. I met a few dorks and was going to take a break when I saw John’s profile. He seemed witty, polite, fun – and he had all his full stops in the right places!” says Liza.

Liza and John had a number of email and phone exchanges and met up after a couple of weeks.

“He was way more handsome than in his pic, which was a bonus! I was very nervous as I quite liked him but we hit it off straight away.”

But it took around three months for the couple to talk about whether they were in a serious relation-ship or not. “I’m very glad we were both on the same page. I never expected to find my forever guy on Tinder when I signed up, but apparently it does happen!”

Alison*, 39, also met her long-term partner on Tinder, but says her experience improved drastically after she stopped being too serious about it all.

“I was always so determinedly looking for Mr Right and getting frustrated when I didn’t meet him, but I found I had more success when I took that pressure off myself and decided to meet up with guys and just let it evolve rather than sizing them all up as potential baby daddies. The less expectations you have and the more you just relax and have fun, the better your chances are.

“Once you can see it as a fun way to get out and meet new people you are far more attractive. After changing my mindset I had a much better time and met Charles within a couple of months. We have been together two years now and have recently got engaged!”

Staying safe

Of course the concern with Tinder is that women could be putting themselves in risky situations. Farvid says, “In the interviews we’ve done we have unfortunately heard about dodgy situations for women. I don’t think Tinder creates danger but it falls within a cultural climate where heterosexual women unfortunately are at risk from violence from men when dating.”

She says when you’ve been chatting with someone online for a while, there can be an acceleration of intimacy where you feel you know them better than you actually do. When you meet for the first time, you might feel more comfortable going back to their house, or doing things you might not do otherwise.

“Of course if anything goes wrong it’s still the perpetrator’s fault for doing it, but unfortunately you have to be careful and many of the women we talked to made sure they took safety precautions. Just being aware is important. It’s a really unfortunate reality, one – unfairly – that men never have to worry about.”

Farvid says it’s not the internet or Tinder that create the risk.

“They might facilitate already existing risks in our culture, but what we’re really talking about is a broader societal problem of violence against women. Women shouldn’t be put off because they think it’s more dangerous than other situations but they should still take precautions to stay safe.”

*Names have been changed for privacy reasons.

Tindering tips

The overall consensus seems to be that Tinder is a great tool for widening your social circles, getting romantic attention and finding potential mates, as long as you’re sensible. This is the collective advice of the women we interviewed:

Don’t take it too seriously, have fun and let it evolve naturally

Liza says one of the things her now-partner says he loved about her in comparison to other Tinder dates was she was relaxed and not too serious. He says he just felt he was out meeting someone new and interesting rather than being sized up as boyfriend material.

If you’re going to go home with someone, text your friends the address

Since Rachel has kids she has never brought a man back to her house, nor does she give them her address. And she always texts her friends her date’s address if she’s decided she’s going to their house.

Meet somewhere public for the first date

Sarah says afternoon coffee in a busy café is perfect. That way you can say you have evening plans if it’s not going well, or progress on to dinner if you feel inclined.

If you’re starting to develop deep feelings for someone, check in with how they’re feeling, and whether they are still communicating with anyone else they’ve been on dates with.

Rachel says she fell hard for a guy and they had a great connection, but suddenly something changed and he wouldn’t commit to dates.

“He eventually told me he’d been seeing someone else and wanted to pursue it further with her. That was hard because I hadn’t contemplated at any point he might be seeing someone else. I have learned a lot from that and make sure I have that conversation if I’m starting to get serious about someone.”

Words: Alexia Santamaria

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