[WATCH] A digital Valentine: are you swiping for a date today?

Dating apps have made swiping the act of looking for love, but maybe this is becoming a faster way to get people out of their comfort zones and strike up potential matches

University students succumb to the curiosity of dating app • Video by Ray Attard

The dating game has changed over the years, but never has it been more clinical in the way it approaches potential hook-ups: our busy, slightly antisocial lifestyles have been granted an easier way of dating with Tinder, the mobile phone app that is largely dominating European markets but also conversations by the water-cooler.

For the uninitiated, Tinder allows users to swipe across profiles of aspiring dates geographically located in their close vicinity. Profiles include selected photos and some basic information, namely age, nationality and occupation. You either swipe right if you like someone, or left if not interested in the person’s profile. But if users have swiped right on each other’s profile – and only then – a window pops up to allow users to communicate with each other. It’s this informal, game-like system that makes Tinder successful, and somewhat addictive… there’s no pressure – after all rejection isn’t so bad when it’s not in person right?

For even while judging people solely on their looks might be the hallmark of shallowness, don’t people already ‘swipe left and right’ when they meet others in person anyway? At an estimated 50 million users worldwide, and eight billion matches made daily since its launch in 2012, something must be working right?

Quite a few Maltese people also use the app. Many at the University of Malta that this MaltaToday journalist polled admitted having succumbed to the curiosity of the app, while others admitted some deep connection could be made in the act of swiping. But by and large, scepticism at finding love on Tinder is pretty much the main emotion.

“I installed Tinder out of curiosity, but I think most use it for fun. I doubt anyone takes it seriously,” Lara Zerafa said, her friends Christine and Claudia Casha adding that it was ultimately a game of chance.

“I’m not really sure it can ever lead to significant relationships, but you can never really generalize. It may happen to a lucky few,” Nehemie Bikin-Kita said.

“I think it has different meanings for different people, and it ultimately depends on the person using the app,” Kevin Micallef said.  “Some people use the app because they feel like casually dating others, but a lot of people I know use it just to give it a try.”

If my friends’ advice is anything to go by, a sure-fire tactic is to swipe right every single profile until a match hooks up… and then un-match the ones they don’t like! Lazy dating, but effective perhaps.

“I know a couple that is still going strong,” Kevin Micallef added. Similarly, Michela Cremona said she knew of a couple that had “unexpectedly” met on the app and pursued a relationship later.

Nathaniel Falzon and Charles Mercieca however suggest that the trend is already subsiding, with most people of their generation no longer using it. “It’s a useful way to meet new people, but Malta being such a small country, and social circles running into each other the way they do, means that the chances of meeting someone completely new are pretty slim,” Charles said.

It is a given that, in a community where local complaints are national news, Tinder users can run into each other on the street. How you deal with the ensuing awkwardness and cringing may be the mark of success: if you have matched then the app has served its function by clearing the air, but if you don’t and you both know you’re on Tinder…  then there is some embarrassment to negotiate.

Dating apps have made swiping the act of looking for love, but maybe this is becoming a faster way to get people out of their comfort zones and strike up potential matches. Has not that always been what the game is really about?

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