Tinder is rolling out a puzzling new feature to better help users who encounter aggressive, offensive, or annoying users on its platform. With “reactions,” users can send animated responses like applause, an eye-roll, or a thrown drink.
In the dating world, online messages can be a way for people to communicate their discomfort or disgust clearly, without fear of the physical danger that women in particular face around strangers. Dating apps can be an easier way to weed out potential bad first dates. Still, those apps are well-documented avenues for obnoxious messages or outright harassment. Tinder requires both people to consent to conversation through mutual swipes, but that doesn’t mean interactions will be even moderately civil.
The reactions feature is Tinder’s way of calling out this bad behavior. “It’s simple. It’s sassy. It’s satisfying,” the site’s blog declares. The update will also be accompanied by “messaging standards to all users to set the tone and promote best practices,” though the company did not provide clarification to The Verge before publication.
The reactions feature seems perfectly suited to flirting on Tinder. I have no doubt that sending a little heart, or a ball for a not so subtle “ball’s in your court,” will be a useful tool for some people. But offering it as a potential solution for dealing with harassment is tone-deaf. A cute animation isn’t a dynamic way to respond to a gross message; tossing a cartoon martini onto someone’s screen after they ask for nudes or call me a conceited bitch doesn’t sound empowering. At best, it turns people’s inability to treat women as actual humans into a joke. At worst, it infantilizes Tinder’s self-proclaimed douchebag problem.
Tinder reactions could have the potential to shame bad users, and the implementation of such a feature suggests that even Tinder knows it’s important. It’s clear this feature, despite being usable by everyone, is for the women. But the kind of men who respond to “Hello” by demanding anal sex have already proved that they don’t have any respect for the social contract or personal boundaries. They aren’t going to be dissuaded or shamed away from future infractions by an emoji eye-roll.
Unless the stronger reactions, like a strike three or the martini throw, are accompanied by an auto-block, they still suggest women are open to talking after a grossly offensive message. That’s a condescending, milquetoast way to convey violated boundaries. Why settle for the Fisher-Price write-off when you can communicate your feelings clearly with two simple words? “Fuck off” is the only reaction any douchebag deserves.