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In just fifteen months, it seems to have cracked the code and caught fire. He knew the downsides—the perfidy of the deceptive head shot, the seductress with the intellect of a fence post—but he played anyway.
Here's how Tinder won the sex-app arms race That fall, his relationship of two and a half years finally ended, and Eli found himself single again. He joined every free dating service demographically available to him.
He was 27 years old, losing the vestigial greenness of his youth. Around the same time, somewhere across town, a woman named Katherine**1 ** shut down her Ok Cupid account.
He wanted to have sex with some women, and he wanted some stories to tell. She had approached Internet dating assertively, had checked the box that read Short-term dating and the one that read Casual sex.
Katherine was 37, newly single, with family obligations and a full-time job. Tinder does not give out statistics about the number of its users, but the app has grown from being the plaything of a few hundred Los Angeles party kids to a multinational phenomenon in less than a year. I swiped through people I knew from college, people I might’ve recognized from the train.
Unlike the robot yentas of yore (Match.com, Ok Cupid, e Harmony), which out-competed one another with claims of compatibility algorithms and secret love formulas, the only promise Tinder makes is to show you the other users in your immediate vicinity. It had taught him that women find me more attractive than I think. It therefore read as mock bravado when Eli wrote, But you ever just want to fuck please please holler at me cool??? I saw it had gone global when a friend in England posted a Tinder-inspired poem on her Facebook page (and here are we, He and Me, our flat-screen selves rendered 3D). The more I used it, the more I considered how much it would have helped me at other times in my life—to make friends in grad school, to meet people after moving to a new city.
When those advances or friendings or followings are unwanted, they say, the overtures can seem a little creepy.
Other memorable appearances on my feed in Los Angeles included a guy holding a koala bear, a guy and his Yorkshire terrier, in matching sweaters, and a pipe-smoking dandy with a Rasputin beard, horn-rimmed glasses, and a gold ring the exact shape and size of a cicada. They both grew up in Beverly Hills, although they attended different private schools. The key to solving the problem that interested Tinder: I noticed that no matter who you are, you feel more comfortable approaching somebody if you know they want you to approach them, says Sean.Then a casual encounter had turned menacing, and Katherine decided she no longer wanted to pursue sex with total strangers. Katherine wrote: You can’t be psycho or I will tell [name of mutual friend]. I first signed up for Tinder in May but found it skewed too young.But she had a problem: She liked the adventure, she had the usual human need for other humans, and she needed the convenience of meeting people online. When Katherine and Eli downloaded Tinder in October 2013, they joined millions of Americans interested in trying the fastest-growing mobile dating service in the country. He did not, like one guy, start the conversation with Don’t you want to touch my abs? (I’m 32.) When I looked again in mid-October, everything had changed.Getting a match seems to activate some primal-gratification center in her mind. I’m definitely not the type of woman who walks around thinking that everyone thinks I’m hot, Nicole tells me. (Tinder gets a slight uptick in use on Sundays, that day of hangovers, boredom, and planning.) Sending screenshots of the most ridiculous photos that come up has become a source of merriment for her and her friends.She does not feel like the people who want to date her are abundant and everywhere, so when a lot of matching happens, it comes as a real boost. There seems to be a preponderance of men posing with tigers, she says.