Tinder Dating Among Teens: When Swipe-Right Culture Goes to High School – Part 2

Terry downloaded Tinder when she was 17 and it was legal to be on the platform. She was looking to have “random, meaningless sex” after a bad breakup. Like the others, Terry, who is now 22, says that all of her friends were on the app. Unlike them, she listed her real age and ultimately regretted it. Before she abandoned the apps, she had run-ins with men who lied about their age or who wanted to pick her up and take her to an undisclosed location.

“I had horrible experiences,” she says. “I had a lot of guys that wanted to like, pick me up, and meet me in a place that was secluded, and didn’t understand why that was weird or just expected sex right off the bat.”

Terry’s most concerning experiences involved older guys who said they were 25 or 26 and listed a different age in their bio. “Like, why don’t you just put your real age?” she says. “It’s really weird. There are some creeps on there.”

Although there’s no public statistic on fake Tinder profiles, avoiding Tinder scams and spotting fake people on the app is fundamental to the experience of using itAdults know this. Teens don’t. Many see a fun app for meeting people or hooking up. And it’s easy to feel concerned about these minors posing as legal adults to get on a platform that makes it so easy to create a profile — real or fake.

Amanda Rose, a 38-year-old mom and professional matchmaker from New York, has two teenage boys, 15 and 17, and concerns about the way that social media and tech has changed dating. To her knowledge, her kids haven’t dated anyone they met online and they don’t use Tinder (she has the passwords to all of her kids’ phones and social media accounts.) But she’s also had many talks with them about the problem with tech and her concerns.

“We’ve had the talk that the person they are talking to might be posting pictures that are not really them,” she says. “It could be someone fake. You have to be really careful and mindful about who you interact with online.”

Amanda’s also concerned about how much teenagers — and the adult clients with whom she works — resort to the digital in order to repair their relationships or remain connected to the world.

“I’ve noticed, even with my clients, that people go to texting. They don’t pick up the phone and call someone. I talk to my kids about that: about how important it is to actually, pick up the phone and not hide behind a phone or a computer screen,” she says. “Because that’s where you build relationships.”

If you just stay behind text messages, Amanda says, you’re not going to build stronger relationships. Even when her oldest son talks about issues with his girlfriend, she tells him: “Don’t text her. You need to step outside if you don’t want anyone to hear the conversation and pick up the phone and call her.”

Still, certain teenagers who ventured onto Tinder have positive stories. Katie, who asked to be referred to by her first name only for privacy, went to an all-girls Catholic school and had a conservative family. She used the app as a way to figure out her sexual identity and credits it for helping her navigate a new and burgeoning sense of self in a way that didn’t leave her open to hostile teenagers, school staff, or disapproving family members.

“I was not out. I was very, very in the closet,” she says. “It was one of my first ever moments of letting myself kind of even acknowledge that I was bisexual. It felt very safe and private.”

On Tinder, Katie says she saw women from her high school looking for other women. Seeing this helped her feel less alone.

“I was 16 and had no idea that they felt that way,” she says. “They didn’t know I felt that way.”

Katie downloaded Tinder at a volleyball tournament. She was with a bunch of friends. They were all women and all straight.

“I was dealing with having queer feelings and not having anyone to talk to about it. I didn’t feel like I could actually talk to anybody, even my close friends about it at that point. So, I kind of used it more to just figure out what being gay is like, I guess.”

Her experience was freeing. “It didn’t feel threatening to flirt with women, and just figure myself out in a way that involved different people without having to feel like I exposed myself to people who would be unfriendly toward me,” she says.

Katie’s story is both unique and not unique. The trend of queer people using dating apps to enter relationships is well-known. Twice as many LGBTQ+ singles use dating apps than heterosexual people. About half of LGBTQ+ singles have dated someone they met online; 70 percent of queer relationships have begun online. That Katie got on the app when she was 16 is maybe not typical, but she found her first girlfriend on the app, and within a few years, came out to her family. Being able to safely explore her bisexuality in an otherwise hostile environment without coming out publicly until she was ready, Katie says, was “lifesaving.”

To find love and acceptance, one must put themselves out there. For teenagers, those whose lives are basically based around understanding and seeking acceptance, this can be an especially daunting prospect — especially so in an age when digital communication is the norm. So why not jump on Tinder, which requires one-minute of setup to help them sit on the edge of  — or dive directly into — the dating pool?

“There’s that whole thing about not looking like you’re trying, right? Tinder is the lowest effort dating platform, in my opinion. Which also makes it harder to meet people,” says Jenna. “But it doesn’t look like you’re trying hard. All of the other ones don’t seem like that.”

Still, while stories like Jenna’s and Katie’s highlight how the app can provide a useful outlet of self-acceptance, neither young woman used the platform as intended. As Tinder seems to suggest by it’s tagline, “Single is a terrible thing to waste,” the app is for those looking for sex. Fostering connections may be more bug than feature. It’s not reassuring that the best stories about teens using the platform tend to emerge from edge-case scenarios, not from the typical function of the app, which is designed as a sexual outlet, but may also condition its user to accepting certain types of sexual experiences.

“You don’t want industry to be the decider of teen sexuality,” says Dines. “Why would you leave it to a profit-based industry?”

That’s a profound question and not one teens are likely to dwell on. Teens will continue to experiment because, well, that’s what teens do. And if they don’t receive guidance from adults in their lives, their early experiences on platforms like Tinder will shape their approach to adult relationships going forward. More than anything, that may be the hazard teens face on Tinder: the morphing of their own expectations.

“You don’t want to leave it to the [profiteers],” says Dines. “We want more for our kids than that, no matter their sexuality.”

 

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Sabrina – Surprise Visit – Part 1

Sabrina texts me out of nowhere and wants to cash in her free spray tan.  She lives out-of-town but works down at Penn’s Landing at a marketing company. She loves her job and is doing great. I’m happy she’s doing well and has been sober for over 9 months.

She sees her kids every Saturday and is trying to get on better terms with her sort of ex husband. (They’re still legally married but have been split for over a year. But she refers to him as her Ex) According to her their marriage was toxic and she can’t be with him anymore. She lives in the house they own together but he pays the mortgage and I’m assuming some sort of support.

This is a woman I met at the salon with Jill. (See Jill – 2016 to Present – Client) Jill is an ex stripper/escort that can’t stop drinking. Sabrina met her in a halfway house and they have remained friends. Jill is a full-blown alcoholic and Sabrina is a drug addict. Jill told me Sabrina’s drug of choice was heroin but she’s done an amazing job rising from the ashes of her own destruction to live anew as a sober person.

Sabrina once told me that if she even took a sip of beer she’d be right back into it again. That’s addiction. But I know a few addicts that come in the salon that have been sober for decades and they are incredibly great people who have risen above and sustained their lives. Many are professional people like doctors and lawyers. Addiction doesn’t care who you are. It just tries to steal who you are and sledgehammer your life.

Jill is the one that told me that Sabrina wasn’t an alcoholic. She was heroin addict. But like I said, addiction is an insidious force that doesn’t choose between nationality, race, or social status. It just takes some of them.

I can drink wine every day and not lose my shit. It loosens my mind to write, kills my anxiety and depression, helps me sleep and is a social lubricant. But some people’s wiring just can’t take any foreign substances.

I could drink with someone who is an alcoholic and drink the same thing pound for pound all night long. I will maintain my buzz and go home and go to bed after a fun night.

They will in turn change in mood and personality. Lose their sense of time, sense, verbal ability, motor skills, and eventually black out and do bad things and never remember them. They will not destroy themselves. They’ll destroy everything and everyone around them. That’s addiction.

We’re all different. We all have the same chemical make up that makes us human, but all of our chemicals react differently to introduced to outside forces. Sometimes stimulation… sometimes absolute destruction. Booze is probably the worst because it’s legal and beloved by so many. Nobody high on marijuana ever aggressively hit a cop. A drunk guy who’s losing his shit with his wife would. The worst thing that happens when I’m around people who smoke pot is a boring endless story and I want a drink to get through listening to them.

Here’s the difference between weed and booze. I was friends with a great sensitive drummer named Rich back in the 80’s. He loved weed. I like booze. Here is the conversation when we’re banged up on our substances of choice walking down the street:

Rich: (Stoned) “Hey man… what if the color blue to me isn’t the same color blue to you?”

Me: (Whiskey) “I don’t fucking know. Check the crayon box, asshole.”

See the difference?

 

Anyway, my girl Sabrina wants to come in and get a spray tan. She’s middle eastern and is as brown as a penny and hot as hell, but her legs need color. I tell her we can help her. We can help anybody!

I’ll make all of you girls beautiful and tan. Leave it to me!

She says her legs are always covered and she wants to even out her look. I tell her the best way to do that is to go in a UV sunbed. Cover up the parts you don’t want tan and bake up your legs to match the rest of your delicious self.

Long term that would work for her. Her legs could catch up with the rest of her pretty brown skin.

But Sabrina wants to do a spray tan to just to even herself out and look good. I tell her it’s a temporary fix, but she’ll look great.

She comes in and we have a lovely chat. I tell her about my recent date with Bailey on Christmas Eve and how I’m seeing her again tonight  for some wine and Gelato when I close the salon. Sabrina is surprised and delighted that I’m going on a second date with Bailey. (See: Bailey – From Texting to Connection) 

She doesn’t know about Cherie so I tell her I adore her. “I can’t wait forever for you, Sabrina.” (Only half joking because I would totally love to date Sabrina and haven’t completely ruled out accomplishing that goal in the near future.)

“You’ll have to text me how it went! Have you kissed Bailey yet?”

“No. I hope to this evening.”

“You’ll have to text me if you do!”

She looks amazing and gorgeous. I wish she lived closer to the city so I could spend more time with her. I tell her how great she looks and how amazing her luxurious hair looks. She thanks me and attributes it to being sober.

I love that.

She tells me that Jill is about to be kicked out of her current residence because she’s drinking oceans of vodka and sleeping around. Jill is out of control. Sabrina tells me that Jill wants to come live with her.

I tell Sabrina the following: “You’ve been sober for 9 months. You see your kids. You have a great job now. You’re doing well. You can not bring Jill, the broken drunk into your house. EVER. You have to cut her off.”

Sabrina tells me that she can’t bring that shit into her house after finally getting clean and moving forward with her life. She’s going to have to have the “Talk” with Jill.

It’s sad because in Sabrina’s phone, Jill is still listed as “Roomie” from when they were in a halfway house. Sabrina has been an elegant Phoenix that has risen from the ashes of her own destruction, whereas Jill started drinking and whoring once she got out of rehab and the halfway house.

Jill is being kicked out of her present living situation because she can’t stop drinking and whoring.  Jill plows vodka and jumps from guy to guy. Screwing them and staying at their cribs until they kick her out. I’m sure she cares for her son but her behavior screams she doesn’t give a shit about him because she’s always loaded and riding cock somewhere, blackout drunk.

“The best place for her is to go back to the halfway house.”

Sweet Sabrina’s words ring like lovely bells on New Years day. The words from a mother that is struggling everyday to make her way in this life.

 

I’ll continue this story tomorrow…

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day.

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