Life Advice



Erika Ettin: Is Tinder a hookup site?

By Erika Ettin, Tribune News Service on

Published in Dating Advice

People ask me this all the time: Is Tinder a hookup site? (And if they're not asking, they're telling me, as if it's some conventional wisdom.)

My answer is always the same: Yes... if you both hook up. (Just for the record, I hate the term "hookup." I'm using it here only because it's become pretty much universal for a casual encounter of a sexual kind.)

Any dating site can be used for anything you want it to be used for. Do more people "hook up" on Tinder than on eHarmony? Yeah, probably. Do some people troll the "serious" dating sites looking for a one-night stand? Again, probably. And do some people find meaningful, lasting relationships from an app like Tinder? Of course they do. It's all in how you decide to use the site for you.

Every day, I help clients decide which dating apps and sites to join. And universally, people - at least those looking for a serious relationship - look down upon Tinder. They think of it like Hinge's seedy step-sister. If Hinge or Bumble or Coffee Meets Bagel or The League (or just about any other site) are the Ritz, then Tinder is the Motel 6. But is it really?

Here's what I have to wonder: Has this reputation of Tinder really just become a self-fulfilling prophesy over the years since it launched in 2012? If someone explicitly tells you that it's a hookup app, then you perpetuate the rumor by doing just that - hooking up with someone - does it thereby confirm it's just the type of app you thought it was? Seems plausible. If that same person instead tells you he met his amazing long-term partner on the same app, would you go in with different expectations? I'd venture to say yes.

In my own various stints on Tinder (partly for professional reasons and partly for personal), I can tell you that the people I've texted with and/or met have run the gamut, from the ones who straight-up asked "DTF?" (feel free to look it up on Urban Dictionary) to the ones who seem genuinely interested in at least getting to know me... outside of my pants. You know where else you can find this spectrum of people? On just about any other site and app. So is Tinder really any different? I'll let you decide for yourself.


Through it all, the only person who has the final say as to whether any of these apps are "hookup" apps is you. Then the question becomes whether you need to say upfront what you're looking for (relationship vs. casual vs. something in between) or just see how things pan out. I am of the belief, as I tell my clients, that before you decide how to proceed with someone, hooking up or otherwise, you have to see if there's even a connection, or rapport, to begin with. (I call it dating NATO - not attached to outcome.) Err on the side of going on the date and then deciding what to do. None of this is black and white - hookup or not, relationship or not, swipe left or right - so it's OK to live in the gray until you know what you want, and that may be different with different people, depending on how you vibe with each other.

So, are all of these apps hookup apps? Sure. Are they relationship apps? Yep. Are they apps that you can use to get over the hump (hopefully a shorter rather than longer one) of COVID? Definitely. And are they apps that you can use to simply get out there and decide on a case-by-case basis what's best for you? Yes, siree.


(Erika Ettin is the founder of A Little Nudge, where she helps others navigate the often intimidating world of online dating. Want to connect with Erika? Join her newsletter, for updates and tips.)

(c)2020 Erika Ettin, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.