Love Me Tinder

The very best thing about Christmas holidays is having my university-aged cubs back in the family den. The next very best thing about Christmas holidays is having my cubs’ friends around, many whom I’ve known since they were in diapers. They are now all sporting permanent dents from my mama bear hugs.

Admittedly, I’ve been a bit lonely in my bear cave. My husband has also been away a lot so it’s often my dog and me holding down the fort. While my canine companion is an exceptional listener, she isn’t much of a conversationalist. Our topics of discussion have been somewhat limited. I’ve been starved for stimulating dinner talk.

We had a full house for dinner–my kids, their friends, and my hubby. In our house no topic is off-limits, and the chatter is always animated. Last night we got onto the topic of Tinder–the matchmaking mobile app. I know very little about Tinder. Given my relationship research interests, I once debated signing up as a social experiment but my husband said he didn’t fancy his consciously monogamous wife being on a hook up site even if it is for “research” purposes.

Neither of my sons is on Tinder but one of their friends invited me to look at his profile to help me grasp what this app is all about. Right away I could see the appeal. Tinder is a very efficient way to meet people in close geographic proximity, and the rules of engagement are pretty clear–a casual encounter without any strings attached. Both young men and women have control over whom they want to meet, which has got to be a whole lot better than being hit on at a bar, for instance.

My sons and their friends maintain Tinder is used more for “affirmation” than for actual hook-ups. They suspect Tinder usage peaks after the bars close on Saturday night and young people who did not “score” turn to the Internet for validation. Having people swipe right on their profile makes them feel better about themselves. Racking up “matches” reassures them that they are in fact cute, pretty or handsome.

Where does this need for affirmation come from? Why is my sons’ generation so hungry for external validation that they would turn to random strangers for approval? Did parents in my peer group somehow mess up our kids by constantly praising them during their formative years and showering them with too much attention? Have we created needy young adults through our misguided efforts to protect their self-esteem when they were young?

I worry Tinder can too easily become a crutch. Of course it makes us feel good when other people find us attractive, but is this kind of superficial scorecard the answer to our insecurities? Should young adults be racking up “matches” via a virtual security blanket, or learning how to deal with rejection while maintaining their sense of self-worth?

Is Tinder denying young adults the ability to deal with the hard knocks of life?

Sue Nador hashes out expectations in the messy world of love. Follow her on Twitter: @Sue_Nador and her weekly blog The Relationship Deal.

Image(s): iStock