Apps are designed to benefit us in some shape or form. Whether it be communicating with friends and family anywhere across the globe, providing an endless stream of entertainment or assisting us in our day-to-day activities, apps prove to be helpful in all facets of life. But what happens when an app does more harm than good? In the cases of apps like Tinder, Twitter and Facebook, harm has become more prominent as a product of their service.
Built by Sean Rad and Joe Munoz, Tinder was launched in 2012 as an online dating app. Tinder came as a shake-up in the traditional online dating world, as its defining feature, the “swipe” feature, turned online matchmaking into a highly interactive and streamlined experience. It definitively changed the game in the online dating world.
When Tinder introduced the feature, it quickly became a revolutionary feature amongst dating apps. The swipe feature was designed after the action of flipping through a deck of cards, making a game of (gamifying) the action of going through potential romantic partners online. Other dating apps were quick to implement swipe features, replicating Tinder’s signature feature in an effort to also replicate their success. Intended to be an efficient and speedy way of getting the best possible match, Tinder couldn’t have foreseen its consequences on Western dating culture.
In 2015, a Vanity Fair article titled “Tinder and the ‘Dawn of the Dating Apocalypse’”, revealed that Tinder was a major factor in rapidly developing “hookup culture”. Nancy Jo Sales, the writer of the article, interviewed numerous young adults who used Tinder and other similar dating apps, and revealed a concerning trend. Interviews with the young adults, all reporting to be around the ages of 18-25, revealed stories of manipulative flirtation tactics, offensive pick up lines and debaucherous motives in an effort to engage in as much casual sex as possible. Tinder’s design to create matches between potential partners as quickly as possible had inadvertently created a hookup culture in the dating app scene. Through Tinder or other similar apps, one can swipe through a massive sample size of potential partners in rapid succession and find an unlimited supply of people to have one night stands with. One interviewee even claimed to have had sex with 100 different people in one year, according to the article.
After the article was released, Tinder imploded on itself on Twitter, frantically posting to defend itself from unsavory claims, but the damage had already been done.
Developed by Jack Doresy, Noah Glass, Biz Stone, and Evan Williams and released in 2006, Twitter was initially designed as a short messaging service (SMS) for groups. When the service became public, it exploded as a platform for instantly displaying messages and information to a wide audience of people. Twitter’s function as a way to get information to as many people as fast as possible was so efficient, it had proven itself as a tool in democratizing societies. According to CNBC, “Twitter became an essential social media tool used during the Arab Spring, the wave of antigovernmental protests throughout Egypt, Libya and Tunisia. Protesters used the site to post reports and to organize.”
Twitter’s function as a useful and effective tool in protecting and spreading democracy has been hailed as a gleaming point in a description of its history. Now, the phrase “Twitter is not real life” is commonly repeated as a sort of reassuring but harshly critical statement when referring to the text-based social media app. A Washington Post op-ed explains that the phrase is meant to be a “criticism of the platform, and those who use it, as overly liberal and activist and not representative of everyday Americans.” Yet, there is a hint of truth in that explanation, despite its partisan appearance on the surface.
It’s understood that the platform hosts an active user base of political activists and journalists, both right and left, as Twitter is designed to encourage discussion and expression. However, in recent years, political interaction on Twitter has taken a turn for the worse. On both sides of the political spectrum, users have become increasingly polarized and hyperpartisan. From the leftist side, the oppressive social media phenomena “cancel culture” arised, a product of toxic social activism. For those on the right, a biased algorithm system and hyperpolarization, easily entrenching into their views when encountering counterpartisan content.
Before, Twitter maintained its status as a valuable tool for democracy. Now, Twitter has become a dangerous place for bias, hyperpolarization and hyperpartisan expression.
Facebook became the pioneer of modern social media after it went up in 2004. Created by Mark Zuckerberg and some college friends of his, Facebook was initially set up as a social networking site for Harvard students. Its popularity amongst the Harvard student body led it to be implemented into the communities of other ivy league colleges, such as Yale and Stanford. Then, Facebook expanded past the universities, becoming one of the biggest social media networks on the internet.
However, in recent times Facebook has garnered more stains than achievements, with one of its biggest being its reputation for enabling the spread of damaging misinformation. During the 2020 U.S. Presidential election misinformation on Facebook spread faster than facts. A 2014 article pointed out that Facebook enabled a conspiracy theory to spread that suggested the U.S. created ISIS, and in 2018, an open letter was signed by parents and loved ones of the victims of the Sandy Hook massacre to Facebook asking them to stop allowing conspiracy theories about the shooting to spread. Facebook, amidst its other controversies and problems, has a troubling trend of allowing harmful and dangerous misinformation to threaten us.
While these apps were not created to cause harm, their designs were undeniably a key factor in their destructiveness. Perhaps there is a way for these apps to repair what damage they’ve caused. If not, the option to delete them is always there.
Share This Post On
Leave a comment
You need to login to leave a comment. Log-in