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article imageTinder’s top yenta wants to connect the world Special

By Les Horvitz     Oct 28, 2016 in Lifestyle
New York - Swipe left or swipe right. Reject or accept a date with someone you’ve never met. Whatever you choose, Tinder’s CEO Sean Rad still wins. Rolling Stone magazine calls Rad the biggest yenta in the world, promoting free love across the globe.
The dating app Tinder – more technically described as a photo, geo-locater site — has dramatically transformed the dating scene since it debuted in 2012. Speaking at The New Yorker Magazine’s TechFest in early October, Rad says that the idea for the app was inspired by his own experience being raised in a large, interconnected Persian-Jewish family in Bel Air. With a pool of forty-one cousins, marriages were usually arranged by the family. But once out in the larger world, he found that life became immensely more complicated. Before you could ask someone out on a date you first had to introduce yourself. “Even friends who act like Casanova still have problems with introducing themselves.” Was there any way to take the anxiety out of the process? That became Tinder’s mission – and the key to its enormous success. The app registers nearly one and a half billion swipes daily. That translates to about 13 million matches a day, resulting in a million dates a week in some 196 countries. Its users hookup and fall in love in 30 languages. More men than women use the app – 60 percent vs 40 percent. That might be because women are more discriminating, swiping left (reject) 84 percent of the time. With men it’s only 54 percent.
Tinder is easy to use. People rely on photos to make their decisions. They either like what they see or they don’t. If there’s mutual interest Tinder will make the connection. In the real world, Rad says, there are bad actors, but Tinder allows you to have more control over who you meet while simultaneously sparing you the sting of rejection — you don’t know who sees your profile and swipes left. Rad has basically brought the LA dating scene to the world. As Rolling Stone put it: “In L.A., where looks reign supreme, there's an endless smorgasbord of single people, and anything can happen on any night. The same goes for Tinder. It's a casting session and you're in the director's chair.”
“At the end of the day, it's just one big party, and you're just sitting there saying, ‘Yes, no, yes, no,' " Rad told the magazine.
“Music is another way we meet,” Rad says, which is why Tinder recently added a “personal song or anthem” to profiles. Users can even embellish their ‘anthem’ by providing a link to their favorite top ten songs on their Spotify playlists. The company has promised more features in the future although they may only be available in a premium version which will require a paid subscription.
Since Tinder doesn’t recognize borders, only proximity, people seeking matches with someone compatible may end up accidentally stumbling into political minefields. Israelis and Palestinians have been known to arrange matches over Tinder, only to discover the size of the chasm they’d have to bridge by actually going out on a date. There’s reason why they say love is blind. Tinder is also proving a disruptive social force in India, allowing young people to find mates on their own rather than settle for the marital partners chosen for them by their families. Tinder, Rad says, is especially popular with Millennials. He characterizes the demographic as both “less conformist and more confident about who they are as individuals,” which means that they’re also more demanding about the partner they’re looking for. Tinder and similar dating apps are giving them opportunities they never had in the past. Social media isn’t isolating, Rad argues. Instead, it’s connecting more people than ever before.
But what are they looking for? Eighty percent of Tinder users say that they’re hoping for long-term relationships, others just want a hookup while a number of users say that they’ll figure it out. Surprisingly, 15 percent of Tinder users say that they’re using it for reasons other than dating – to find friends or jobs or meet new people. The company recently introduced Tinder Social which allows up to three people to swipe and meet each other. “People are hacking Tinder in ways that we’d never imagine,” Rad says. There are even people swiping on behalf of friends because they believe they can put forward a more favorable presentation. They’re doing what Cyrano de Bergerac would do to woo a woman on behalf of a friend if he had modern technology at his disposal.
Rad denies that Tinder leads to more superficial relationships, citing recent studies that indicate that Millennials are actually having less sex, not more, and that they’re more interested in finding meaningful relationships than their parents’ generation. Says Rad: “We don’t judge our users. You get to be who you are.”
Like Amazon, Facebook and Netflix, Tinder collects a trove of real-time data on users’ behavior and preferences. The company even has sociologists on its staff to analyze all this data. (Rad says that he got the idea to recruit sociologists after dating one that he met through…Tinder.) The analysis they’ve conducted shows that of the professions of men that appeal to women, pilots come first, followed by entrepreneurs, firefighters, doctors, media personalities and teachers. Male users searching for matches with women, on the other hand, prefer physical therapists, interior decorators, entrepreneurs, publicists, teachers and lawyers in that order. Somewhat surprisingly, models rank far down on both lists. Another study sponsored by the company reveals that the photos generating the most favorable responses are those that show people behaving naturally; a smile helps, too. You should try to be yourself, Rad advises, don’t try to pretend to be a model.
Here’s how one Tinder user named Emily Read describes her experience: “When I’m bored at work or lying on my bed or waiting in line for the bathroom at a bar, I tap a red flame icon in my iPhone and swipe through men aged 27 to 35 within four miles of my location.”
She has certain rules – “no DJs, no flip flops, no babies, no film quotations, no recent arrivals, no guns, no mentions of whiskey, coffee, adventure, or exploration.” She goes on: “The term ‘online dating’ itself feels like an outdated descriptor, given that an app like Tinder untethers the user from even a computer chair, and requires little to no ‘dating’ at all. On the surface, being a woman and interacting with a dating app inverts the choreography of a debutante ball, in which female participants become content through spectacle while the observing parties act as users, empowered by choice.” She adds that Tinder (or more precisely, its algorithm) “treats me like any other person in Brooklyn who is looking for fun, free drinks, kink, affection, etc.”
For Rad, success didn’t come easily. Tinder was his first big job and he admits that he wasn’t up to the task of running a company. When he was 27, the company’s board unceremoniously demoted him. “I learned more about being a CEO when I was no longer one.” As a CEO, he felt that he was supposed to have a solution for every problem the board or an employee brought to him. Once he was forced to descend a few rungs down the ladder he realized that it wasn’t necessary to have an answer for every problem. He learned that it was much more productive to work as part of a team to find a solution. In other words, before he could take back the helm of the company again he first needed to acquire collaborative skills and learn how to become a good quarterback. "When you lose the title (of CEO) you sort of have to ask yourself what's important," Rad said in an interview for Recode.net. "What mattered was that I get to wake up every day and work on something that I love."
Given how many users that it’s attracted, Tinder is no longer only trying to put people together; it wants to find out what they think about the hot button issues of the day. During the primary season it introduced “Swipe the Vote” to poll users about their presidential preferences. Perhaps not surprisingly given the demographics of its users, Bernie Sanders came in first. Hillary Clinton came in second, and Ted Cruz came in third. Donald Trump was last. Tinder expects to conduct another poll just before the U.S. election on Nov. 8.
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