Tinder as an Anthropological Tool

I’ve been single since February last year in Budapest, and it’s been fantastic.
I can honestly say that I was really excited to be single, for the first time in four years (give or take), and part of the reason was Tinder. Since I’d been in a committed relationship, dating and hookup apps became super popular and to an observer on the outside, they looked like so much fun. I would go on my friends’ apps in Canada, or when I was still living in Istanbul and very much still serious with my Turkish boyfriend, and wish I was as single and unattached as my friends were. Don’t get me wrong, I was happy to be in a relationship, and I definitely look back on that relationship with nothing but fondness… but being in a serious relationship can get a bit monotonous, especially after years together. Maybe that’s just me, and if so, congrats to all of you people who are perfectly content and have no interest in going on dates with handsome strangers, but personally, I was ready for some handsome strangers when I finally got out of my relationship.

Within a week of the breakup, I hopped on the Tinder wagon, and made myself a profile. It was exciting, making the profile; telling people that I’m fun and spontaneous, looking forward to meeting new people and things, and putting up pictures that made me look way more put together than I actually am. Of course I was also excited to go out partying too, and met lots of people that way, but Tinder was new to me and it was really fun and easy to swipe through the endless possibilities. I had so many great dates in Budapest; and although many of the people I met were just visiting, they were a lot of fun to meet up with, and share travel stories with over a beer.

I feel like swiping through Tinder can tell you a lot about a city and it’s people. I didn’t realize this until I had used the app in various places. In Budapest, there were all sorts of people, from many different countries, but there were definitely some discernable ‘types.’ There were the English guys on stag parties looking for a good time, the backpackers from Australia or America looking for a local guide, the Hungarians, often named Attila, László or Zsolt and often not interested in speaking English. There were the guys who take gym selfies, the ones to are trying to impress you with their photos in front of iconic site seeing destinations, the ones that want to show off they they’ve got a uniform, and many, many men who want to make it very obvious that they drink. A lot. This is to be expected in central Europe; after all, how will people know you’re up for a good time if you don‘t have a multitude of photos of yourself drunk, getting drunk, or with drunk people?

However, since I’ve had the chance to Tinder in other countries, I have noticed the different regional types. For instance, in Langley, Canada, there are very different types. Here are a few;

  • The guys holding fish on a boat in a lake, because ladies love fish
  • The many, many guys who like to wear plaid and have big bushy beards that remind of a less groomed version of my dad
  • The hunters (who also wear plaid and have beards) and want to show off the deer they killed
  • The truck guys (this also applies to the dirt bike guys) who probably think their truck is impressive, but they don’t know that they are one in a row of 13 swipes with the same raised truck
  • The handsome business looking guys who live in Vancouver and drink craft beers and call themselves ‘foodies’
  • The yoga practicing vegans or vegetarians, who also live in Vancouver
  • The looking for a good time Australians that look too tanned for winter (although they seem to be everywhere)
  • The guys that look like they live at the gym and spend the summers in Kelowna partying in a boat on the lake

These are just a few of the most obvious types that Langley has to offer. Of course these are over generalizations, and I’m sorry if you happen to fall into one of these categories and just realized you’re not as original as you thought with the plaid shirt and beard, or the big truck and lake fishing photos.

However, jokes aside, these classic Langley Tinder profiles tell you something about city of Langley. They tell you that it’s close enough to Vancouver to have the vegans, overpriced craft beer house photos and guys in fancy business suits, but still outback enough for the beards, plaid and fishing. They tell you that it’s not a very touristy place, because there aren’t so many European travelers, and the Australians on in the area are usually long term visitors or residents. Even though there might still be lots of white guys with beards, there are still a lot of different cultures and nationalities represented on Tinder here, so clearly Langley is a place that has a diverse population (you may not think it does if you live there, but trust me, most places close to a big city in Canada are pretty diverse compared to the rest of the world – be thankful). The lack of international travel photos in many profiles tells me that many guys from that area don’t get out of Canada much, and if they do, it’s to Vegas, LA, New York or a resort in Mexico. I’m sure if I were to sit down and think longer on it, I could come up with lots more random observations.

At the very least it tells us that these are the photos that they think tell the opposite sex what they need to know about their character. These profiles tell us what this area of Canadian men think that local women value, and conversely, what they want those women to know about them. That’s what we do when we make a profile online; we’re trying to show what we think people will find attractive, while also trying to demonstrate what we’re looking for. If I’m a Canadian guy holding a fish in a boat on a lake, I’m on the one hand trying to show off that I’m outdoorsy, which is such a big part of my character (or I want it to be anyway), and because that’s what the sort of women that I like will value.

I haven’t been on a man’s Tinder, looking for women, or been looking through gay and lesbian profiles on Tinder, so I can’t speak to those, but having seen a small cross section of profiles, I can make some very basic and broad observations… If we’re going by these most obvious types of profiles, I could assume that many women in this part of Canada are looking for an outdoorsy guy who is manly enough to grow a beard and drink beer, who likes to get out and go do activities like fishing, or dirt biking. If you’re closer to Vancouver, the amount of business suited, yoga doing, vegans or vegetarians will tell you that men think that women like a responsible guy who has a good job, wants to help the environment, but still likes to kick back and relax with an overpriced beer in downtown Vancouver. Do women in this area really like these things? Who knows, but that’s what the men seem to think. They value these traits in themselves, and think that’s what women on Tinder want.

Through this Tinder adventure, I have had many dates, none terrible so far, and many amazing. I’ve met lots of different types of people and had lots of fun, but more than that, I feel like it has in some strange way been a tool for assessing a place. Of course, meeting the people in a place will give you insight, but through the app itself, the profiles people put out there, you can learn some things about the what that place and it’s people value in themselves and each other. So what started out as a fun way to get back into the dating game has turned into a sometimes hilarious, but also genuinely interesting, way of observing the society I live in. So this may not be a real anthropological study now, but hey, maybe it should be?

Which brings me to my upcoming post; Tinder in Taipei.

Side note; many men in both Budapest and Langley would apparently like women to know that they like dogs, because only psychopaths don’t like dogs. This isn’t really a Langley thing, this might actually be the only universal Tinder rule; people like people that like dogs.