24th November 2016
Does Malta Have a Tinder Culture?
Tinder is both the blessing and the bane of single people all over the world. A location-based dating app that lets you swipe right if you like what you see, and swipe left to move on to the next potential squeeze, it has been hailed as either a more digital-friendly version of hitting on someone at the bar, or the end of human courtship as we know it. An infamous article in Vanity Fair describing the Tinder scene in New York called it rather dramatically ‘the dawn of the dating apocalypse’.
All very well in New York, home to 8.4 million people and host to countless others in town for work or leisure. But what about Malta, a tiny island where around 425,000 people live cheek by jowl? Is it possible to use Tinder without feeling as if you’re scrolling through your Facebook feed? (‘Oh, I know him! We used to be at school together!’). And do people in Malta use Tinder simply for casual hook-ups or is it possible to make more meaningful connections through the app?
Charlotte and Emily* are Tinder users in their mid-twenties. “What’s fun about Tinder is that you get to talk to different people who you might not have spoken to 'in the real world',” says Charlotte. “And it’s good for wasting time,” she adds laughing. “What I like about it is that you can meet and come across people from all over the world who you wouldn't just meet on the street. I've met some guys over Tinder but before I meet them, I ask them for their Facebook to make sure I’m not being catfished,” says Emily.
In a country where high school never really ends and where it’s common for the same friendship groups to last decades, Tinder certainly can help widen your social circle. But are any of these connections lasting? “Out of 24 sex pests, you’ll find maybe one decent person to talk to,” shrugs Charlotte. “Sometimes,” says Emily, who says she prefers not to date Maltese men. “I’ve often met up with Tinder guys and never saw them after the first encounter just because we wouldn't click in person. But there are others whom I went on several dates with and we remained in contact even when they went back home. I met a foreign man over Tinder because he was on holiday here and it ended up turning into a short relationship. It didn’t pan out just because of the long distance.”
Foreigners seem to be the lifeblood of Maltese Tinder – Andrew and Thomas*, two Tinder users in their late twenties also said they used the app mostly to scope non-locals. Andrew is the more prolific user out of the two of them, using the app strictly for casual outings. Meeting up with girls who don’t actually live here presents him with an easy alternative to awkward goodbyes and the inevitability of bumping into someone you’ve shared bodily fluids with on the street. “I use Tinder a lot, but I’m only looking for fun. Girls always seem to want more than what I’m looking for.” He turns to Thomas, grinning. “Polish girls, man. That’s where it’s at.”
Sex and relationship therapist Matthew Bartolo says that apps like Tinder, Grindr (aimed at gay men) and Badoo (popular with older singletons) are turning dating into “a more active hunting experience,” where you don’t have to wait to make the first move. However, the fact that they protect people from dealing with rejection (on Tinder, you won’t know how many people have swiped your photo left, and you’ll only match with people who liked you too) can hinder personal growth.
“Dealing with rejection and learning to evaluate how we can improve ourselves are important aspects of dating. When one does not allow themselves to be rejected they are depriving themselves from reflecting, becoming more aware and improving upon their weaknesses.”
He also warns married people or those in long-term relationships to steer clear of such apps. “Some might argue that they did it out of curiosity, to check if they’ve still got it, or to check on other people. These reasons scarcely reassure their partner who will question why it was done secretly. Anything can cause tension between a couple which lacks positive and frequent communication – it doesn’t necessarily have to be a Tinder profile.”
*Names have been changed