Graduates of the hookup culture

by Janie B. Cheaney

Posted on Monday, August 31, 2015, at 2:33 pm

“Tinder and the Dawn of the ‘Dating Apocalypse,’” recently published in Vanity Fair, is the most depressing thing I read all last week (also the most graphic—you’ve been warned). It describes attractive young urban professionals who hang out at trendy Manhattan bars after work, but instead of socializing over drinks—hoping to meet other attractive members of the opposite sex for, as they said in the old days, “possible romance”—they are swiping the screens of their smartphones. They’re using Tinder, or one of its imitators—“dating apps,” as they are euphemistically called. Tinder is actually closer to a meat market.

Tinder users may peruse photos of other users within a geographical area. If a particular photo doesn’t appeal, simply swipe left to view the next. If you like the looks of a girl or guy, swipe to the right. If that person did the same for your photo, you’ve established a match and can go on to text exchanges, “Tinder Moments” (more photos), and a possible meeting. One of the guys at Stout’s, an uptown sports bar, casually wears the title of “Tinder king” because he’s met five different women during the previous eight days and slept with all of them. His roommates remember their names more readily than he does.

Further along in the article, the ladies have their say. They talk like predators, but confess to dissatisfaction with most of their app-based sexual encounters. The writer wonders if their partners have little respect for them.

You think?

Tinder is a branch of InterActive Corporation, whose inventory includes OkCupid and Four men and one woman (who is currently suing the others for sexual harassment) developed the app. Introduced on college campuses in 2012, Tinder caught fire, so to speak—a natural accessory for the established practice of “hooking up” with peers for sex and little else. The app didn’t create that culture but it streamlined it. Within two years of its release, Tinder users numbered 50 million worldwide, registering a billion swipes per day. By mid-2015 the company was reporting 26 million matches per day. 

Tinder has extended its reach beyond college, even to users as young as 13 (13- to 17-year-olds can only contact people within their own age range, which somehow is not reassuring). And beyond college, when young adults should be focusing on their careers and possible lifetime partners, many are still obsessively swiping. 

What kind of marriages will they make—if they marry at all? What kind of parents will they be? Having learned to treat one of the most profound human relationships like yesterday’s newspaper, what’s their standard for any relationship? Sexual exploitation has been tragically common throughout human history, but never so tragically easy.

It may be that the sexual revolution is about to hit bottom and recognize its own “vanity of vanities.” In any case, these young socialites will grow old, tired, and heavy. Even now, they seem “harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36, ESV). Does Jesus see them that way? Do we?

Janie B. Cheaney

Janie lives in Missouri, is a columnist for WORLD, writes novels for young adults, and is the author of the Wordsmith creative writing series. She also reviews books at Follow Janie on Twitter @jbcheaney.

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