By: Adriana Vicic

“Which Ashley should I super-like?” asked 22-year-old Scott Relay* as he swiped through photos of girls in bikinis.

“She’s kind of cute; I’m not sure about this one though.”

Relay is one of the 50 million people using the dating application, Tinder.

But, the St. Thomas, Ont. native doesn’t use it for dating. “It lets me try out my risky pickup lines and see if they fly,” he said.

Relay’s motivations for using Tinder fall in line with a recent trend among young people. It’s a lifestyle that’s been curated by laziness and desire.

It’s hook-up culture.

“It’s this idea that you’re looking for, maybe, a one-time sexual partner rather than looking for true love or a committed long-term relationship,” says Anabel Quan-Haase, professor of sociology and digital intimacy at Western University. “So, I would say that in terms of the culture element, it’s understood by a group of people that that’s actually what you’re looking for.”

Tinder is often perceived as perpetuating hook-up culture. Statistics show that almost 47 per cent of its customers use it for short-term sexual encounters.

Tinder users must be older than 18 and have a profile that includes a description and at least one photo. From there, they have two options. 

Swipe left. Swipe right. 

A right is a like and a left is a pass. Super-likes, which are limited to one per day without the premium version, show the other user that you’re really interested.

If two users both swipe right or super-like each other, it’s a match. But what does that really mean? 

Before, it might have meant someone to pursue a relationship with. 

Now, that’s uncommon.  

Claire Simons*, a fifth-year kinesiology and psychology student, found that she was bombarded with hook-up culture on Tinder.

“There was a lot of ‘Oh hey, I think you’re cute, what’s your Snapchat?’ or ‘What’s your number?’ Or sometimes just very forward and rude things, like ‘Oh you wanna f***?’ with no introduction,” said the 23-year-old. “There are definitely a lot of guys who are just cut to the chase, very blunt, very direct, and they will just try to weed out who’s not ‘down’ if that’s what they’re looking for.”

Quan-Haase thinks this shift in romantic desire is due to new societal trends about marriage.

“Years ago, people would marry young,” she said. “Let’s say by 20 or 25, you would be married and starting a family. Well, that has really shifted, and now young Canadians are getting married much later. So, that creates a much longer period of time where you are not committed in a monogamous, long-term relationship like marriage.” 

Apps like Tinder help people to facilitate first-time interactions with strangers. For many, it can be intimidating to approach someone at the bar and ask them if they’re interested in a sexual relationship.

For university students in particular, who often lack free time, these interactions via Tinder are especially common. 

Quan-Haase said that a lot of people who want to be a part of hook-up culture don’t want to be in a long-term relationship because of the work and energy it entails. On top of a course load, job and other extra-curricular commitments, a relationship can add stress. 

A one-night stand doesn’t come with any of that pressure. The Western professor even thinks that it can be healthy.

But only if certain conditions are met. 

“I think that if it’s clear somebody is looking for a short-term relationship, and both parties are clear on that, then they are adults and they are agreeing on the same conditions,” she said. “I think the problem is when they use their profiles and they are pretending to look for something committed, and that’s not really what they are looking for.”

This is common for those who are looking for a one-night stand but feel they might come off better if they market themselves as wanting a long-term commitment. 

The problems with Tinder don’t stop there. 

It can be hard to take the app seriously when users have insincere intentions, whether for a hook-up or for some other motive.  

“A majority of people look at Tinder as something that isn’t to be taken seriously,” said Simons. “I do think, as much as it sucks, a lot of the times people will have a certain perception of the other person they are talking to if they meet on Tinder: that it isn’t serious.”

The Mississauga, Ont. native admits to being part of this crowd. She said that before she met her boyfriend, she would download Tinder to pass time when she was studying for exams. She had no intention of meeting up with anyone–it was just something to do. 

Like Simons, many young people go to Tinder for entertainment. They’re not actually looking to meet anybody; they’re just signing on for fun. 

In fact, statistics show that more than 50 per cent of Tinder users participate strictly for amusement.

The mentality is, if it ends in a hook-up, great. If it doesn’t, there are plenty of other faces to swipe through. It’s a free time-waster.

“They are swiping, they are having fun, they are showing it to their friends and it’s not taken as that serious,” said Quan-Haase.

So, Tinder may not be a direct route to finding true love, but certain users don’t seem to have a problem with that. 

Meanwhile, Relay continues to swipe past different photos of girls on his phone. “None of the Ashleys are that hot. I’m not going to super-like any of them,” he said. “But how about this one? Her name is Vanilla.” 

For now, five minutes wasted here and the occasional rendezvous there will suffice. 

“I’ll swipe right,” he said. 

*names have been changed.

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