Playing with Fire: Tinder’s dating app survival guide

Janne Karaste

Image by Janne Karaste.

It’s the remix to ignition, literally. With the stigma of online dating virtually gone, new ways to spark romance are surfacing – convenient, mobile ways.

Tinder, a smartphone app that debuted last year, uses a combination of GPS and Facebook to create a profile and find matches. Swipe right if they’re hot and left if they’re not – only once mutual sexiness is agreed upon can you message one another.

With the current realm of dating in a constant state of flux, it’s hard to stay in touch with reality.

Here are seven ground rules that will allow you to navigate through the emotionally prickly world of Tinder and come out relatively unscathed.



© Nevit Dilmen.

Generally, expectations are the root of all heartbreak, and this is especially true when it comes to Tinder. Toronto psychotherapist Rob Peach says, “I hear of people using apps with the hope that something beautiful is going to grow. People think it will happen instantly and that just simply isn’t true.”

Romanticizing is dangerous.

People use Tinder for a variety of different reasons, which can result in confusion between matches. Toronto-based registered sex therapist Adrienne Bairstow says, “problems arise when people have different expectations of what they’re getting into.”

Jay, a 28-year-old paramedic student has the right idea. “On the surface it looks like a hookup app,” he says, “but I had no expectations.” He met a girl just three days after installing the app and has been on a couple of dates so far. His overall experience with the app until now? Satisfied.



Image by istolethetv via Wiki Commons.

Dear (heterosexual) guys of Tinder, just because you click yes to a nice pair of breasts doesn’t mean girls will drop their pants for your faceless body. Laura, a 21-year-old student says, “some guys just put up a picture of their abs, it’s so obnoxious, please don’t put that as your picture.”

Photos of couples are confusing. Anne, a 28-year-old from Toronto says she’s seen pictures of married couples on Tinder pretending they don’t know what the app is for. Playing dumb on Tinder isn’t going to get you a third wheel – save it for Craigslist.

Lastly, a tip for boys about the infamous crotch shot. If you send a picture of your penis to a girl you met on Tinder, there is a 100 per cent chance she will show her friends and hilarity will ensue. You will gain nothing.


MIDDLE FINGERIn an interview with Fast Company, Tinder founder Sean Rad says, “We now live in an environment in our digital world where you can shield yourself against rejection.” Tinder takes pride in being part of this magical world, where life is full of rainbows and unicorns and nobody gets hurt. With the app, you only see who likes you and never find how many people quickly swiped you to the left after seeing your picture – ignorance is bliss right?

Peach agrees that dating through a mobile app is emotionally safer, but warns, “sometimes this veil of anonymity causes people to feel like they have a license to say whatever they want.” Basically, due to such a depersonalized connection, people think they can mess around with other users – real tough.

“Liking” someone just to insult them could destroy their potentially already damaged self-esteem. Please, don’t be an asshole.


question mark Over-analysis plagues us all. Tinder is designed to enable accessing the hearts and pants of a lot of people very easily, naturally causing you to question: am I the only one? Due to the ease of mingling it’s safe to assume that your matches are not strapping on a chastity belt on your behalf.

Women are hard to interpret as it is, so trying to read them through a dating app is pretty much impossible. Jay understands this plight after he developed feelings for a girl he met on Tinder. “Girls don’t make any sense so to understand what she’s thinking is tough,” he says, “I really don’t know what she wants from me.”

In practice, Bairstow has dealt with couples that have fallen victim to this uncertainty. “One partner may assume they are in a monogamous relationship, but then find out the other was using the technology to talk to different people,” she says.

In order to enjoy the Tinder-verse you must welcome the notion that “the people you’re talking to are talking to other people, you have to let that go and accept it – you have to assume everybody is dating around,” says Anne.


Image by April Killingsworth

Image by April Killingsworth.

 If you’re sitting on the fence between cheating and faithfulness, do not use Tinder.

We live in a culture of sex in a time where regulations on mainstream media are looser than ever (pun intended). Toronto-based relationship coach Lesley Edwards says this creates an “agreement reality” where increasing pressure puts us in the “well, everyone is doing it” mind frame.

Tinder doesn’t make you cheat – it just makes it easier for people who already had the idea. “The bottom line,” says Peach, “is that if someone wants to engage in any kind of behavior they’re going to do it regardless of whether there is an app that makes it available.”

 In the wise words of Jay, “Tinder won’t change a person, it just allows what is on the inside to come out.”


Yumi Kimura

Image by Yumi Kimura.

It’s fine to expand your horizons, but remember Tinder does not perform background checks. Their website states, “You agree to take reasonable precautions in all interactions with other users of the service, particularly if you decide to meet offline.”

Laura has slept with two guys she’s met off Tinder, but she has mutual friends of both on Facebook. “I only message people I have mutual friends with so it’s not scary,” she says.

The mutual friends feature is definitely praise-worthy. It adds a level of comfort that other mobile dating apps don’t have. Anne appreciates the Facebook element as well – “the feature is nice because it helps you figure out your network,” she says.

With that being said, you can never be too careful. Meet in a public space to begin with and stay out of stranger danger.


dice “In the beginning it’s like a new toy, and it’s pictures of boys, everyone wants to look at pictures of boys,” says Laura. The start seems to be most exciting for people regardless of what gender they’re ogling. After having it for a month and a half, Anne says, “I don’t take it seriously anymore and I could care less about it now.”

Tinder will turn into something you play with when you’re bored in class instead of Candy Crush – completely detached from love and sex, meandering into the land of lighthearted entertainment.

 Consider yourselves reality checked. Happy swiping!