In the years since its release, the dating app Tinder has changed the way we perceive and use online dating platforms. Now, with about 50 million users a month, the app’s popularity has led to much more than simply a new form of meeting other people. Unfortunately, Tinder’s widespread use has put harassment and abuse in the limelight as well.
The Guardian reports that crimes related to Tinder and similar apps have grown by 382 percent in the last five years. Though women can also be abusive, men are often the biggest committers of sexual harassment on such apps. They make aggressive sexual comments or demands, repeatedly through messages or text, or even impersonate real women on the app – known as doxing, which often involves giving out personal information and promising dates with strangers under someone else’s profile.
Actual meetings off Tinder have infamously spawned a crop of violent horror stories, including that of Angela Jay, who was repeatedly stabbed and covered in gasoline by a twisted Tinder date earlier this year. These stories are not the norm, nor a result of Tinder itself, but they do shine a light on the prevalence of harassment and violence against women in today’s world, which perhaps has been facilitated by the accessibility of the Internet.
Although dating is not restricted to gender roles or heterosexual relationships, Tinder has now started a new strategy to help female users against male harassers on the app. Tinder’s new “Menprovement” initiative was jokingly advertised as a way to make “calling out douchebags… easy and fun.” With Tinder Reactions, female users exclusively have a way to roll their eyes, throw a martini, or give “strikes,” among other animated responses, in conversations with male users. There are positive Reactions as well, but the company largely advertises the new feature as a way to improve the community and speak up against “douchebags” on the app.
Will these Reactions actually make a difference? Many argue that it is not enough, and that women need more than clever animations to put an end to the bad behavior among their harassers. Louise Troen, the international brand director of dating app competitor Bumble, has criticized the new Reactions feature for pushing the opposite of progress: “As soon as you create a response to harassment through things like emojis or gifs, you almost end up lessening the severity of it,” she said.
Others have noted that encouraging women to continue engaging with disrespectful or abusive men with Reactions, instead of merely “unmatching” or reporting a harasser, is demeaning to women and pushes the idea that abuse is acceptable or even a normal aspect of flirting.
Tinder’s new Reactions feature is well-intentioned, but it certainly is not the best way to put an end to harassment and abuse.
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