When Alyssa Murphy met William Johnson in their young single adult ward, she was quickly attracted to his testimony and ambition. Johnson found himself drawn to Murphy’s bubbly personality. She was unlike any other girl he’d ever met. Neither of them had the courage to say a word about it.
“Apparently both of us had crushes on each other but were too nervous to do anything about it,” Murphy said. “But then we matched.”
Murphy recounted that when she was dating, she would occasionally use Tinder, a popular dating app where users can see profiles of nearby singles and either swipe their photo left if uninterested or right if interested. If both parties swipe right, it’s a match and the two can then communicate through the app. When Murphy was on Tinder, she’d frequently run into Johnson’s profile. She never swiped right on it and would immediately close the app when she saw it, too nervous to find out if they’d match.
At the same time Murphy was using the app, Johnson was, too. “A lot of my friends had Tinder, mostly as a joke, so I thought I’d try it,” he said.
He was the first to swipe right on Murphy’s photo, and Murphy soon followed.
“He messaged me something silly about it being a small world,” Murphy recalled. “He was nervous and so the message didn’t make much sense, and I sent something like, ‘Haha. Yeah.’ And that was it for the messaging on Tinder. A couple of days later, he called me and asked me on a date.” Johnson and Murphy went on their first date in July of 2015 and were married in the Logan temple January 2nd, 2016. They have Tinder to thank for getting the ball rolling.
Created in 2013, Tinder has since become a staple on the smartphones of single adults worldwide.With an estimated 50 million users, 79% of which are millennials, the odds of finding a match are high and, in a society with an increasing focus on social apps, they’re climbing higher. Tinder’s popularity has given rise to similar dating apps like Bumble, where women get to reach out to their matches first, and Hinge, which connects users with the friends of their Facebook friends. Many LDS singles have joined these apps in the hope of finding an eternal companion, and certainly, some have been more successful than others.
Take, for example, Natalie Canfield. Soon after returning home from serving an LDS mission in Guatemala, Canfield realized that her social life was not as fulfilling as it had been in college. “I wasn’t meeting anybody. My ward was very established,” Canfield said. “It wasn’t very transitory like a lot of student wards are, because people weren’t changing every semester, and my job that I had was just not a great place to meet people.”
Canfield had the desire to date, so with some embarrassment she admits, she created a Tinder profile. She found herself making lots of connections, and Tinder became her success.
Canfield would try to find young men who were LDS and reach out 25% of the time. From that point forward she’d try to make the date happen as soon as possible so she could have real conversations with them. She’d suggest public meeting places for a quick lunch or dinner and, she said, “stalk” her dates by asking mutual friends what they knew about them and learning more about them through social media.
“I probably put more work into it than some people do. I guess I was more motivated,” she said. “I knew I was ready for the next phase in my life.”
Tinder was sort of thrust upon Ryan Atherton. A friend met the love of his life on the app and told Ryan he just had to try it. He set up Atherton’s profile, and there, Atherton met and fell in love with Canfield. The rest, as they say, is history.
Not all singles have had the same success stories with the dating app. For young adults like Anthony Shelton, Tinder is not only ineffective, but it’s a source of unwanted and often frustrating dating experiences.
“I haven’t really had a single positive experience from Tinder,” Shelton said. “It’s like I only match with girls with wildly divergent standards or those cam girl robots.” He refers to fake Tinder profiles that run largely unchecked on the app and, when swiped right on, generate messages linking users to adult webcam sites. Such spambot profiles are designed to look like real accounts and primarily target male users, impeding their efforts to find matches with similar standards. Shelton added that dating beyond the app also has its shortcomings. “In the rare instance where I do match with a nice girl, there’s usually one date and it fizzles out,” he said.
Most critics of the app dislike its focus on photographs and appearances, citing its tendency to reduce dating to shallow interactions and overemphasize physical attractiveness. Isaac Frisbie, a young adult who considers himself a bit more old school when it comes to dating, said, “I think it’s really easy to make an initial judgment based on someone’s profile, but it seems too quick and impersonal. I’ve made friends through social media before and it takes time to get to know someone. Tinder only compounds some of the negative problems that the Internet brings: quick judgment.”
Even Canfield admits that she was really apprehensive to get the app at first. “I think a lot of people are, because it has a bad rap.”
Dating apps like Tinder are a cautionary tale for members in YSA leadership positions, one that often leads to heartbreak and sexual immorality for singles who fall into the ‘hookup culture’ the app frequently facilitates. Tinder was notably mentioned by name in Elder M. Russell Ballard’s April 2015 general conference address for the potential risk it poses to spiritual/mental cleanliness. Many YSA stake/ward leaders are reluctant to recommend it as a dating tool, noting that too many young adults with little self-control get themselves into serious trouble through the app.
Still, LDS singles are drawn to dating apps, albeit with some reluctance. The stigma surrounding them is not lost on young adults looking to find lasting relationships. For those who have met success through dating apps, however, that is no large obstacle to overcome.
Elise Egbert, a blogger who met her husband Matt through Tinder, said, “I quickly found out that if I was embarrassed to say ‘We met on Tinder,’ people would react embarrassed too. But when I confidently said, “Oh, yeah! We met on Tinder!” people responded with excitement and thought it was cool. It’s really just perspective.”
Matt Egbert’s advice? “Do what makes you feel the most comfortable. Online dating can be a useful thing. We live in a modern age of technology and you’re able to meet a lot more people outside of your daily and weekly routines.”
The Egberts, Murphy, and Canfield agree that dating apps should be treated as close to real life as possible and that LDS singles should apply the same standards they have in real life there, being selective about who they like and focusing more on interacting in person beyond the app.
Young single adults who are reluctant to try dating via app currently have another option that is gaining lots of traction in the LDS world. It’s an app called Mutual, and its target audience is LDS singles who don’t like the hookup culture found on other apps. Users aren’t limited by distance or by social circles, and they can specify whether they’re looking for something serious or just casual dates. Perhaps the biggest draw is that users can meet people with the same standards without fear of inappropriate behavior or advances — the app prohibits it.
Mutual is currently only available on iOS, but the creators have started a Kickstarter campaign to make the app available for Android users as well.
The question still stands: are online dating apps ultimately worth trying? For many LDS singles, the answer is a resounding yes — they can (and do) work, but only with the right motives and approach.
“I’ve definitely learned that if you’re finding exactly who you’re looking for it doesn’t matter where you find them,” Egbert said, “especially if the Lord is guiding you. Trust Him to lead you to what you desire, even if it’s through Tinder.”