Jessie Riley calls herself a Tinder terrorist, but shes not dangerous and she swears shes just having fun.
Riley is single, 32, and the owner of Maven Made Entertainment, a music and events business in Austin, Texas. She tried online dating services such as OkCupid before she got turned on to Tinder, a free iPhone and Android app that makes connecting to and potentially meeting people for dates a much quicker process.
My girlfriend and I were at Halcyon one night having drinks. We got on Tinder and just starting having a lot of fun with it. We were messaging guys in only Jerry Maguire quotes. Or only in hashtags, Riley said.
When she got bronchitis shortly after, she spent a week and a half in bed, trading sarcastic text messages with men. She posted the funnier exchanges on her Facebook page, and they caught fire among her friends, who begged for more. Riley has a big personality, and she uses the dating app as a way of weeding out boring men with no sense of humor. I use it as a vetting process, Riley said. Im pretty ridiculous. You get a taste of me before we meet and gauge if you can handle it.
Of the dozens or perhaps hundreds of men shes viewed in the app and approved or rejected (in Tinder, its a swipe to the right to indicate interest, a swipe to the left to say, No thanks), shes only met seven or eight people in real life. Only one of them turned into anything more romantic than a coffee.
But shes having a ball, or at least more fun than she did using traditional online dating services.
I did Match.com. I got drunk one night and filled out an entire eHarmony profile. Do you know how long it takes to do that? Riley asked. It was so boring. I just kept getting bad matches, not what I was looking for.
It seems counterintuitive, but a spate of quick-hit mobile apps geared toward instant-gratification meeting and hooking up seem to be doing what most online dating sites promise: They create opportunities to match up with someone. But theyre doing it with a minimum of personal information and commitment.
An app called Grindr, launched in 2009, became a huge hit in the gay and bisexual community, offering connections to quick hookups based on location. Tinder, which launched in 2012, is a toned-down version of the same concept. It uses information from someones Facebook profile to show matches based on location, mutual interests and mutual friends. A dater can set an age range for matches and distance, but the rest is pretty much a matter of skimming through photos with a varying amount of text accompanying them and saying yes or no.
If a yes is voted on in both directions, the app creates a match and allows the nascent couple to communicate via texting.
The company behind Tinder, which launched in Southern California, doesnt disclose how many people use the app, but a spokeswoman said that the app is seeing 800 million profile ratings (those yes or no swipes) and creating 10 million matches per day. Its name is becoming shorthand for smartphone-powered dating without frills or fees.
Patrick, an Austin high school teacher in his late 20s who asked that his last name not be used because of his job, was a skeptic. He thought Tinder sounded shallow compared to other dating services he tried when he moved to Austin last summer.
But he was won over. It seems to be the most casual and easiest to navigate, he said. It doesnt have the association of the desperate or more aggressive.
He deleted Tinder from his phone in the winter when he began exclusively dating a woman he met on the app, but a few months later, after the relationship ended, he put it back on his phone. He averages a match a day but has only met in person with five or six women since he started using the app.
Patrick might swipe right on a gorgeous woman he thinks is out of his league on the off chance he might be her type. The swiping and swiping can feel like a game. Thats a big part of it, Patrick said, youre swiping, you get a hit, it has that jackpot effect like a slot machine. Its addictive.
When he goes out with friends who arent single, they ask him to pull out his phone and browse through Tinder profiles. They dont want to install it, but they want to know what it is, he said.
Riley, who also manages the Austin band Sour Bridges and works with Utopiafest, has become so adept at using Tinder that she can sometimes Facebook stalk musicians and others she wants to meet by looking them up based on mutual friends who appear in the app.
When shes not just joking around and really wants to meet someone, shes direct. The first message I send when Im serious is, You, me, coffee, say yes.
She cant stand boring conversation. Dont open with, Hows your day? If thats the best you can do, dont ever speak to me again.
Riley says shes surprised by how many men use Tinder but are shy about meeting in person. Thats the point of the app, she figures. These online tools are to meet people, she said. I dont need a new pen pal and Im not looking for a new best friend.