The Perils Of The Tinderization Of Love

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Our generation’s biggest plague is its collective impatience. Once a virtue, patience is becoming as rare as handwritten letters. We are used to instant gratification. We want everything and we want it now. If our generation had a voice it would be Veruca Salt from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory chanting ,“I want it NOW!” What we fail to understand is that good things take time, as they should. We shouldn’t expect good things to happen overnight. Actually, getting something too easily or too soon can cheapen the outcome — and because of the phenomenon well call the “Tinderization of love”, getting a potential partner to hook up or date has become easy, fast, and cheap.  Dating apps like Tinder and OkCupid are cashing in on our need for instant gratification. And in this day and age where time is of utmost value and where everyone is in a hurry, they have made dating as accessible and easy for the common man as getting a Big Mac. No longer does one need to spend hours grooming oneself, douse oneself in Armani, wear the best Calvin Klein underwear and  pay cab fare, only to come back home terribly disappointed from an unfruitful night of rejection. Today most people would rather save their time, money, effort and self-esteem and just swipe right or left. It’s as easy as playing Candy Crush. 

Furthermore, dating apps have taken the element of uncertainty out of the picture. An app like Tinder isn’t as ambiguous as Facebook, where some people are looking to socialize and others are looking to hook up. When you find  a match on Tinder and begin talking to that person, you’ve got a giant sign on your head that says “I like you” (or given the app’s reputation, ‘I’d like to f**k you”.)  And this convenience comes at a price.  Since finding a fellow human being to date/hook up with has become as easy as ordering something from Amazon, we easily discard one person and move on to the next. The minute we find our relationship to be an impediment to our convenience, we discard it. And since this technology makes it possible for you to easily date strangers outside your friend circle, it also makes it easier to detach yourself from the other person with a click of button — unlike in the past where mutual friends were involved and an abysmal personality, vouched for by your string of exes, could cost you your love life until you moved to a different city.

While the principles of rationalization like efficiency and convenience are great when applied to fast food chains like McDonalds and Dominoes — where you step in, satiate your hunger quickly and cheaply and step out — the same principles when applied to the world of dating and romance can prove to be hazardous, rendering these very words devoid of their essence. If there is one thing in this world which isn’t supposed to be rational, easy, and convenient, it’s love. We fail to understand the fact that we are not dealing with a takeaway meal solely meant for the purpose of satiating our biological cravings, but instead with a human being who has a heart and a soul.

Another major problem with this immensely popular phenomenon of Tinderization is the commodification of human beings. As Erich Fromm, the famous psychologist aptly put it, “Our whole culture is based on the appetite for buying, on the idea of a mutually favourable exchange. Modern man’s happiness consists in the thrill of looking at shop windows and buying all that he can afford to buy, either for cash or in instalments. He /she looks at people in a similar way. For a man, an attractive girl and for a woman an attractive man is the prize they are after. Attractive usually means a nice package of qualities which are sought after and popular in the personality market.  Falling in love occurs when human commodities are within each other’s reach or within one’s possibilities for exchange. Two persons fall in love when they feel they have found the best object available on the market. In a culture in which such a marketing orientation prevails and in which material success is of outstanding value, there is little reason to be surprised that human love relations follow the same patterns of exchange which govern commodities in the labour market.”

Dating apps like Tinder manage to disguise shallowness under the façade of simplicity.  Human beings are sold to each other based on superficial aspects like an attractive picture and a witty one liner. The last time I checked, that is how you advertised a new Starbucks Chestnut Praline Latte, not a human being.  There are many downsides to this dehumanizing side of Tinder. I’m sure there will be staunch critics’ of my point of view, who would argue that it is possible to find love on Tinder and be able to supplement it with an example or two. To them, I would just like to say that  I have my doubts about a relationship which is based on the very fact that both parties found each other ostensibly bangable.

Also, this commodification of love has rendered the process inherently impersonal. The fact that someone swiped left, basically means that you aren’t a product that they would waste their time on. Even if that product was free. Unfortunately this is the sad reality of Tinder: while a minority of those who have hit the genetic jackpot cash in on these so called benefits of Tinder, a vast majority of the not-so-attractive people end up spending their time swiping furiously and rarely ever matching with anyone. These people may have hearts of gold, a beautiful soul, and an extraordinary sense of humour, but this harsh world of dating apps has no time for such profound qualities. Sure, you can write it in your 50 word bio but if you aren’t physically striking, most people would have swiped left even before reading it.  At least in the good old fashioned world there was always the possibility that someone you were introduced to could fall for your charm, humour and wit.  How does one manage that in the shallow realm of Tinder?

If you are experiencing Tinder for the first time, the app makes you feel powerful.  You are inundated with attractive pictures of people and you hold the power to choose them or reject them. It makes you feel like a debauch Sheikh in a strip club. However this unlimited buffet of choice is only an illusion.  It makes us feel comfortable towards the idea of losing people, because we know that we can always swipe our way into the arms of another. This illusion of choice is the reason why most relationships these days have the shelf life of a few months. It’s become easier to find a partner, easier to let go when the relationship becomes disrupted by a minor setback or fails to provide the kind of euphoria that it did initially and easier to find someone else.  What we fail to understand as we hopscotch from one partner to another is that there is a difference between falling in love and staying in love. This fast fading initial euphoria has been explained succinctly by Fromm in regards to modern relationships:

“If two people who have been strangers, as all of us are, suddenly let the wall between them break down, and feel close, feel one, this moment of oneness is one of the most exhilarating, most exciting experiences in life.  It is all the more wonderful and miraculous for people who have been shut off, isolated, without life. This miracle of sudden intimacy is often facilitated if it is combined with or initiated by, sexual attraction and consummation.  However this type of love by its very nature is not lasting. The two persons become well acquainted; their intimacy loses more and more its miraculous character, until their antagonism, their disappointments and their mutual boredom kill whatever is left of the initial excitement.  Yet, in the beginning they do not know all of this: in fact, they take the intensity of the infatuation, this being “crazy” about each other, for proof of the intensity of their love, while it may only prove the degree of their preceding loneliness.” TC mark

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