© 2023 WYPR
WYPR 88.1 FM Baltimore WYPF 88.1 FM Frederick WYPO 106.9 FM Ocean City
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

In Twitter Rant, Tinder Blasts 'Vanity Fair' Article On New York Dating Culture


The dating app Tinder replaced its CEO last night, saying Chris Payne was just not the right fit. The shakeup came just 24 hours after the company's formal Twitter account went on a tweeting spree against a writer for Vanity Fair magazine. That Twitter spree in turn sparked an online backlash against Tinder.

Nancy Jo Sales' article devoted 5,000 words to the modern dating culture spawned by Tinder and other similar apps. It wasn't a pretty picture. NPR's David Folkenflik joins us now to talk about all this. And David, the Vanity Fair story is titled "Tinder And The Dawn Of The Dating Apocalypse." What apocalypse are they talking about?

DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: Well, the apocalypse is what Nancy Jo Sales, the writer for Vanity Fair, calls the unprecedented phenomenon taking place in the realm of sex. She compares it to the melting of the polar ice caps in some ways. She says - and this is a direct quote from her piece - "hook-up culture, which has been percolating for about a hundred years, has collided with dating apps, which have acted like a wayward meteor on the now dinosaur-like rituals of courtship."

And in talking to dozens of young men and women, she clearly finds a culture in which physical interactions and sexual contact is almost entirely disentangled from romantic attachment. And she talks about it both in terms of the app culture in which you can just swipe away from somebody's profile or picture that doesn't appeal to you and also a culture steeped in pornography. She feels that we're in a time of emotional alienation and that the apps like Tinder - but not only Tinder - really contributed to that.

BLOCK: And that did not sit well with Tinder, that apocalyptic view.

FOLKENFLIK: Not so much. They went on tweet after tweet after tweet in which they essentially accused her of journalistic impropriety. And they talked about how important Tinder is, not just as a way for people to meet each other, not just as a liberating thing in a time of sexual empowerment, but as almost a calling. They talk about this as a generation Tinder - that people who hook up become married couples. People are able to get together in - under repressive regimes. They even say that people who are banned to figure out ways to meet through Facebook in countries like China and North Korea - why, Tinder is the liberalizing conduit through which they can meet and find fulfillment.

BLOCK: Well, you mentioned journalistic impropriety that Tinder is alleging on the part of the reporter, Nancy Jo Sales. What are their accusations about her ethics?

FOLKENFLIK: Well, they're saying, look, you know, you should really have contacted us before doing a story about Tinder. Now, let me just say this. I had a long and extended conversation with the Vanity Fair author Nancy Jo Sales yesterday. It was off the record. I ultimately did not succeed in getting her to come on the record.

But clearly, through what she said through her Twitter account and elsewhere, she feels Tinder has absolutely no standing to criticize her journalistic ethics. This is an app, after all, run by a company that was sued for sexual harassment by a former top executive there. And furthermore, her article, you know, as she has said publicly through her account, was really about the culture. It's not about the company's intentions. It's about the way in which people are experiencing these dating apps - not simply Tinder, but OkCupid and others as well.

BLOCK: And just to be clear, the author, Nancy Jo Sales, did not reach out to Tinder for any comment on her story.

FOLKENFLIK: As she has conveyed, she didn't feel that that was necessary because she felt this story wasn't about Tinder. It's not a corporate profile. It really is an attempt to capture a sense of a cultural milieu. I still think it would've been worthwhile for her to reach out and just see what they had to say and decide the degree to which it was worthwhile to incorporate that into her narrative. But that wasn't what she wanted to do.

BLOCK: Well, once Tinder started its tweeting spree expressing its concern about this story, we mentioned a backlash that followed that. What was the backlash like?

FOLKENFLIK: Well, it's the worst possible thing that can happen for a company that engages on this on Twitter, which is to be made fun of. And a lot of people made fun of Tinder for this, for its seeming earnestness, when, in fact, what they're doing is promoting a kind of hook-up culture, at least in Vanity Fair's presentation.

And so one of the most compelling comebacks - and I saw it repeated in a number of tweets - was, wow, it's just like on Tinder when you reject somebody and the guy doesn't get it. In this case, Tinder doesn't get it.

BLOCK: That's NPR's media correspondent David Folkenflik. David, thanks.

FOLKENFLIK: You bet. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.