It was just another boring Sunday night. I was still recovering from a long week of classes, so I decided to while away my time on the monotonous swipe-fest that is Tinder. To my surprise, I wasn’t greeted with the usual red and white user interface that presented all the boys I will never match with. Instead, I found a sleek black and green screen telling me to go on an adventure called Swipe Night.
I was obviously intrigued, so I started the game that Tinder describes as “a first-person, apocalyptic adventure.” Swipe Night’s basic structure involves watching an interactive video and swiping either left or right to make a choice. It follows a choose-your-own-adventure model, where every choice affects not just the storyline, but also the users you will match with afterwards. What follows is an enthralling experience that actually engages users and changes how they use the app.
For the most part, college students have an established relationship with dating apps. They swipe, match, message, and repeat. Most of my friends and I swipe through Tinder because it is a habit; the app no longer engages us in a significant way. Tinder probably realizes this; they also realize that to have a meaningful conversation their users need to find common ground. As Tinder explains it, Swipe Night offers people the shared experience that they previously lacked. According to Tinder’s Chief Marketing Officer, it’s similar to being at a music concert—it gives individuals a common experience to talk about.
A few Sundays ago, the story began with the user walking into a comet-watching party and a friend greeting them. The user could then swipe right to compliment their friend’s outfit or swipe left to make fun of it. After a while, the partygoers were informed that the comet had changed course and was headed straight for Earth, with only a few hours left until impact. The video continues in this high-stakes context, with each user’s choices leading to different plot points. Afterwards, everyone who played got a Swipe Night banner on their profile and other users could see the choices that they made.
“I feel like some of [the profiles] I spend more time on are because we made the same choices,” said sophomore Matthew Zimmon. “One choice I look for is if they saved the dog or the person, because I am very scared of dogs!” He remarked that after playing Swipe Night, he swipes right on more people, whereas he is usually pickier. “This last Swipe Night was the first time I used up all my likes!” he said. While it may seem gimmicky at first, Swipe Night has genuinely changed people’s experiences using Tinder.
Other Tufts students have also felt that Swipe Night has changed their way of using Tinder. A female-identifying junior said that even though Swipe Night looks “kitschy,” she could see herself using it when she’s bored. Tinder’s strategy of getting people more involved with their platform may be working, but users are also aware that Tinder is using Swipe Night as a tool to boost engagement. “For me personally, the fact that apps will do things specifically to increase engagement is unsurprising and almost inevitable,” said Zimmon.
Tinder is aware that the ritual of swiping and not engaging with matches quickly becomes tiring for many users. “I mostly match with people and we never really have a good conversation,” said Sanaa Khan, a sophomore who recently got back on the app. Students feel isolated as a result of unsatisfying connections on dating apps. But this isolation might also be due to differences in what students perceive as “romantic.”
Tinder is often referred to as an app for casual sex. One swipe, one match, and maybe one coffee later, you could be having an extremely intimate experience with an almost-stranger. Does the anonymity of this intimacy make it less satisfying? According to sophomore Paloma Teresa, “[Hookups make me feel] emptier after than before. Sometimes I think I don’t want anything emotional, but I’m also not always satisfied by the extreme alternative of hooking up [with someone] without even knowing their last name. I’m still trying to find a balance that’s optimal.” Clearly, the lack of familiarity with their matches is affecting Tinder’s users.
While using dating apps, it is very possible to meet people with whom you have no common ground and finding a connection in that situation can be hard. Tinder’s Swipe Night might not be as much of a shared experience for users as is growing up in the same place or belonging to the same community, but it surely is one that leads to other similarities. “For me, if I see [that] someone made similar choices as me… it tells me a little about the person,” said Zimmon.
While Swipe Night exists to create a common experience for all of its users, it is also meant to appeal specifically to GenZ. Tinder’s fascination with making content for GenZ is certainly not surprising. GenZ makes up half of Tinder’s user base, so keeping them engaged with the app is vital to its success. In fact, Tinder has a whole team called “Z Team” that focuses on keeping GenZ interested in the app. Swipe Night is a cultural phenomenon that comes straight from the Z team; it creates a shared experience on a large digital scale.
While GenZ seems to “hype” up everything in seconds, it gets bored just as fast. Tinder’s Swipe Night could become just another tedious routine if repeated too often. However, if Tinder is able to make Swipe Night more than just a gimmick, it might be able to achieve something that not only brings us together, but also gives people even more of a reason to use and stay on the app.