Tinder likes us lonely

The millions of men on dating apps may never be able to make you feel less lonely. Photo courtesy of Claire Mechlinsky.


Cuffing season has fallen on Butler University, and it’s easy to pick out the lonely people. From the horn dogs on Yik Yak hoping all the hot shawties will “hit their line,” to your friends who moan about how they feel they’re extra single on National Boyfriend Day, many are desperate for touch and affection, maybe even someone to love.

This phenomenon is rather normal, especially across college campuses. Ironically enough, living with thousands of peers can feel dramatically isolating. It’s as if everyone can find someone that wants to be around them all the time, or at least for an hour around 1 a.m.

Lonely people, meet Tinder. 

For those happily in love, Tinder is a swipe-based dating app which will flash a person’s most Photoshopped picture, and a few basic details about themself, plus a God awful pick up line.

We’ve all seen it before:

Tim. 21. Likes dogs, swimming, and ice cream. Gemini. 6’6” (two separate measurements ;)). 

From there, you either swipe right, if you’re interested in them, or left, if you’re not. Once two people swipe right on each other, they match, and are allowed to text on the app.

Tinder is only one of the vices that college students use to cope with loneliness, but it’s one of the most addicting vices because it promises that you will never be alone. Or at least, never bored.

Millions of people at your fingertips — chances are, one of them wants to talk to you.

Within minutes, matches and chats pop up, and loneliness fades away, replaced with validation. They like you. Or your dog. Or your *ss. Does it matter? Either way, you’ve definitely got something going for you.

Although the validation felt in that moment may lead to a casual one night stand, is that what you really want? Sexual connections may sound pleasing, but all too often people confuse those moments with wanting more meaningful, more intimate ones. This can then perpetuate the empty loneliness, and often leave us wanting something more; and being fools, we think there’s going to be more connection in the next hookup we pursue. Yet, we always end up being dissatisfied. And no, it’s not just the d*ck.

But from the moment lonely users realize that hot people want to interact with them, Tinder has got them in a chokehold. 

The app is set up to hand out intermittent reinforcement, the delivery of “rewards” at irregular intervals, or times. Think of it as a psychological lottery game; people never quite know when they’re going to match or receive a text from someone. So, users who rely on Tinder to meet with other people swipe whenever they get a chance; in terminal cases, Tinder becomes a knee-jerk reaction to cure boredom. 

Junior English major Lauren Varhol uses Tinder and agrees that its overuse can be problematic

“I think swiping is definitely addicting,” Varhol said. “You’re judging mostly attractive people, which is what we love to do even if you don’t want to admit it. We love to judge.”

However, this isn’t the case for all Tinder users. Ellie Howe, a sophomore international business and entrepreneurship major at Butler, downloaded the app for fun, and she was not as attached as Varhol.

I wouldn’t say I’m addicted at all.” Howe said. “I would say, I could see how it would be addicting because of the swiping back and forth. But I know I’m not addicted to it.”

Howe’s attitude towards Tinder shows her as less reliant on the app than Varhol. However, like doing the daily Wordle, Howe would still use it to cure her boredom. 

“I’d have down time, like five minutes between a class and [be] like, ‘Oh, let’s see who’s on it today,’ and just kind of swipe through.” 

Jackson Holtz, a junior double majoring in marketing and journalism, also did not feel addicted to Tinder. However, he still feels better off without it.

“I think my mental health is better now that I’m off Tinder,” Holtz said.

Studies show that without witnessing other people’s success, one might still self-consciously compare oneself with other people. On top of the personal lowering of self esteem, Tinder also acts as a placebo to addicted users to give the illusion that the app is helping their lives. Rather than actually experiencing more joy, compulsive Tinder users want to believe or convince themselves that Tinder brings them more happiness, which then they say to justify their compulsive use.

Now there’s a very distinct difference in behavior between two types of Tinder users. Those who are lonely users, and those who are not.

Studies have found that lonely people struggle with the willpower to self-regulate unhealthy habits. When combined with the display of close proximity in relation to potential partners, and the availability of the app at your command, lonely people have a higher reliance on dating apps, as well as the tendency to engage with more constant usage compared to an average person.  

Varhol was feeling “heartbroken and lonely” when she downloaded Tinder, and was more than willing to meet people on the app.

“I was, and still am, kinda shy,” Varhol said. “I felt as if the only way to break out of my shell and meet guys was through dating apps.”

And was she satisfied with her connections made through the app?

Definitely not,” Varhol said. “All the guys I had a ‘casual thing’ with wanted sex. That was my experience over and over without fail.”

Howe’s experience was more bland. 

“Honestly, it just was really dry,” Howe said. “I feel like I matched with the person, and then I would say something, or they would say something, or not say anything. And [the match would] just kind of sit there, and people would unmatch after a while.” 

The insincere nature of the app leads to shallow interactions with strangers, most of whom look for nothing but casual sex.

Varhol thought that Tinder had a disproportionate amount of people looking for hookups. 

“Most guys that I’ve met through Tinder wanted one thing: sex,” Varhol said. “And if they didn’t get it, they’d ghost you. It really did feel like I was completely alone when I was on Tinder.”

Howe feels a similar sentiment. 

“I will say that until the day I die: it is strictly a hookup app.” Howe said. “I don’t think anyone goes on there to find love.”

Now, let’s be frank. As Howe and Varhol expressed earlier, there are many people on Tinder who use it to find sexual partners in the surrounding area. While the desire for hookups can tie into loneliness, it is not mutually exclusive. Horniness is definitely a driving factor, especially on a college campus. But is Tinder even successful when it comes to hookups? The answer’s debatable, as a 2020 study found that only “51% of Tinder users had sex with someone they met on Tinder, with an average of 1.57 partners.” With a 50% success rate and not even two bodies, it’s time to either find a new wingman, or charge up that vibrator.

Tinder has been shown to be a source of entertainment for friends, and a way to be shamelessly horny for an unknown audience, but not a place to find love matches. The app is built as a way for people to shallowly judge other people based on appearance to receive shallow remarks from strangers. Unfortunately for lonely people, it does nothing to cure their feelings of solitude.

The world’s population believes that to be lonely is a bad thing. That there’s something wrong with you. But it’s not, and it doesn’t mean there is. Loneliness is a perfectly normal feeling that we have all felt to some degree within our lives. But when you’re looking to feel less lonely, lean on the ones who care about you — your friends, your family, your cat.

Don’t lean on Tinder.


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