For every single 20 something in NYC (and around the country), including myself- it felt like 2013 was the year of Tinder. The addictive mobile dating application took a specific segment of the population by storm. It is not uncommon to be sitting in Madison Square Park, or in a coffee shop, and discover at least one person swiping left and right with their eyes locked on the screen. The Tinder trance is everywhere! A simple app, that has you register by connecting to Facebook, then offers up a stream of other users in your area. You can specify the age range for people who you would like to see, along with setting a location radius. You are able to see any common interests based on your Facebook profiles, along with any mutual friends. Swiping to the right means you like someone, swiping to the left indicates that you are not interested. If you swipe right on an individual, and she also swipes right when she sees your profile…IT’S A MATCH! Once a match is made, you both have the ability to chat with one another within the app. Tinder even has clever messages encouraging users to start the conversation, such as “Google how not to be boring.”

I am normally the first of my friends to start using new apps, but I was late to the party on Tinder. I was shocked to see how many of my friends were very active Tinder users. People also didn’t seem to attach the stigmas often tied to online dating to Tinder. It made me curious to figure out why people had a different perception of something that on the surface was not very different from OkCupid, Match, etc. There are a few factors that make Tinder special in my opinion:

1) Mobile only. If you are bored waiting in line, sitting on the bus, eating lunch- you can pull out your phone, go through 50 potential matches in a matter of minutes, or message one of your previous matches, just like you would text a friend. Matches are also always reachable, meaning people can Tinder anytime/any place.

2) People’s intentions are ambiguous. If someone signs up for an online dating site, takes the time to fill out a profile, and often even pay a monthly fee- they are sending a clear signal that they are looking for a relationship, or at the very least have some expectations for spending time on the site. Tinder on the other hand requires no effort beyond downloading a free app, and connecting it to your FB account. People could be on it for a relationship, to meet new friends (doubtful, but possible), casual dating, hooking up, or just curious to see what all of their friends are talking about. Since there is such a low barrier to entry, people’s reason for being on the service are unclear.

3) No profiles to fill out. Tinder has a short About Me section that someone can fill out. Most people put a quote, their Instagram handle, or a few words on what kind of people they are hoping to meet on Tinder. Many people have a very difficult time filling out online dating profiles. They find it intimidating to present themselves in the funny, interesting, creative light that they all hope to be seen in. Tinder removes all the friction from signing up.

I have been on a few Tinder dates, so have most of my other friends who use the app. For many of us, Tinder has been our first foray into the online dating world. I have my eyes peeled for the first “we met on Tinder” wedding announcement…it’s inevitable.