City Desk

Dating App Tinder Burning Up D.C. College Students

He is in your ZIP code and thinks you’re hot—what else do you need? It’s not the most serious dating criteria, but then again, Tinder is not the most serious dating app.

Tinder allows users to find matches based solely on geographic proximity and appearance. It's not the first for straight-people clone of gay hook-up app Grindr, but it may be the most popular on D.C.'s college campuses.

“It's a narcissist’s dream,” said Alyssa, a 20-year-old student at Georgetown University. “You just sit there waiting for someone else to think you’re hot.”

The app links to Facebook and generates a list of potential mates, which the user either accepts or "regrets," rejecting them. If both users choose each other, it’s considered a match, and they can send each other messages. On college campuses like Georgetown, George Washington, and University of Maryland, students can use the app to either find someone they may already know through school or to find total strangers in a different parts of D.C. It's a way to meet other college students outside of one's social circle, or meet the elusive "young professional" urban college co-eds dream about.

For most, Tinder is still just a game, another electronic distraction to stave away boredom or waste time. The “it's not for real” mindset negates the shame or stigma of being a college student on a dating site. Being on Match.com or eHarmony before you can legally drink? No way. Tinder, though—why not?

Users flip through prospects together at parties or in the dining hall, communally deciding who’s hot and who’s not. Those with boyfriends or girlfriends use an account to tease their partners with. Tinder has even inspired Tumblr accounts that poke fun at the worst of the app.

The app can be exciting, even hilarious—for example, stumbling across your quiet chemistry partner, or worse, your sibling—but it can also be misleading, disguising flaws. “It’s a short man’s paradise,” said Allison, 21.

Sometimes the match actually translates into more than just a game. Sarah, a 19-year-old student at Georgetown, used Tinder to meet up with a George Washington graduate who lived nearby. They had a mutual Facebook friend, but no other connection. She brought a friend with her to his apartment to hang out with him and his friends. Things went well, and they met up later at a club to hook up.

Sarah had a positive experience, but cautioned that open-mindedness is crucial for success. “He was so cool, so sexy, so nice." she said. "The only thing was, he was slightly shorter than I expected.”

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