Tinder Lost Its Shit Over That 'Vanity Fair' Story
UPDATE: Rumors are circulating that this whole thing might have been a PR stunt. We've reached out to Vanity Fair, Nancy Jo Sales, and Tinder for confirmation either way. Until we hear back from them… we're not sold. What's the angle? Tinder looks petty and defensive, Sales compromises herself by covertly playing nice with a brand, and Vanity Fair gets more traffic on an already-viral story? Something doesn't add up.
Yesterday, as millions of its users swiped left and right 'round the world, the mobile match-making monolith Tinder took to its Twitter account. This is not, itself, bad news; #brands use Twitter to #engage all the time. But what burst forth from the dating app's verified Twitter handle was hardly garden-variety, on-message micro-content. No, no. What burst forth was 30 consecutive tweets responding to a piece in the September issue of Vanity Fair called "Tinder and The Dawn of The Dating Apocalypse."
Oh. Oh, no. Let's investigate this digital dumpster fire together, shall we? (We shall! We shall!)
"A Serious Case of Pussy Influenza"
Written by Nancy Jo Sales' -- she of Pussy Posse and Bling Ring fame -- the story is a pretty grim read on The State of Love Today, and Tinder is right in the middle of it. (Disclosure: Sales and I have exchanged emails professionally, and I tweeted my support for her during the chaos last night.)
- “They’ll tell you, ‘Come over and sit on my face,’ ” says her friend, Ashley, 19.
- “It’s like ordering Seamless,” says Dan, the investment banker [...] “But you’re ordering a person.”
- "It’s not uncommon for [women's Tinder] hookups to lose their erections."
- "The men in this town have a serious case of pussy affluenza."
Now, before I go on, I'd like to stop here for a moment and point out that "pussy affluenza" is an instant and unforgettably classic phrase. I encourage you all to join me in emailing the Oxford English Dictionary with the suggestion that it be included in their next batch o' books, because it is fucking perfect. (Pun: intended.) This is the second glorious term including the word "pussy" Sales has given the world, and we need to start acknowledging that sort of accomplishment in print, dammit.
But I digress. Where were we? Oh, right: i-bankers ordering up female flesh like it's pad Thai, then going softer than the latter while coitusing the former.
BOOM! Viral Sex!
Vanity Fair published Sales' piece digitally at some point during the week of August 3rd, and it went viral. How could it not? It had sex. It had banking assholes being... well, themselves. And of course, it had Tinder, a dating conduit so many people use and talk about, you can literally represent yourself on the platform as a cupcake, and people -- a lot of people! -- will read a story about it.
It's fair to hypothesize that "Dating Apocalypse" went viral in part because Tinder was in the headline, but In her piece, Sales didn't only write about the app. She didn't even take undue shots at it. Sure, she probably could've talked to someone from the silent majority of non-banker-douchebags who use dating apps, but overall, the piece reads as a thoughtful indictment of the mobile dating landscape, and a good one.
So, how did the brand react to being namechecked as allegory for the perils of mobile dating? They're the biggest player in the game. Comes with the territory, right?
Tinder Took It... Uh, Kinda Hard
This is where the story probably should have ended, but as a wise man named Aubrey once said: "trigger fingers turn to Twitter fingers."
In other words, when you're angry, you tweet things you probably shouldn't. When #brands are angry, they tweet things they definitely shouldn't. And so, around 4pm yesterday, @Tinder's timeline lit up.
The tweets started snarky and defensive.
Then, @Tinder got passive-aggressive.
It stated some widely known facts about the platform.
The brand tweeted about North Korea at one point, which frankly, was dope.
Naturally, Twitter had a field day.
Sales, to her credit, stayed mostly silent, but she had some fun with it too.
@Tinder stopped tweeting around 7:44pm EST, and seems to have resumed its normally scheduled programming today. Just like that, it was over.
Say Hello To The Streisand Effect
Vanity Fair is a big magazine, but there were plenty of people who hadn't read Sales' piece. That changed once @Tinder began tweeting about it. The app's account on Twitter only has 51,000 followers, but the pick-up on the developing skirmish -- "Tinder vs. Nancy Jo Sales!" -- catapulted the original story into the fore, where an untold number of new readers discovered it.
This is called the Streisand Effect, and it is not ideal for the folks at Tinder.
So, What The Hell Happened?
Social media shitshows aren't uncommon, especially for brands, whose finely tuned messaging makes deviations in tone and content that much more obvious. But unlike other companies who've stepped in it on Twitter, @Tinder hasn't deleted any of its tweets -- the first step in the content-crisis playbook. So is Tinder, The Brand standing behind @Tinder, the Twitter Handle? Sort of.
When reached for comment this morning, a Tinder spokesperson told Thrillist the following (emphasis mine):
"[W]e were saddened to see that the article didn’t touch upon the positive experiences that the majority of our users encounter daily. Our intention was to highlight the many statistics and amazing stories that are sometimes left unpublished, and, in doing so, we overreacted."
Well. Yeah. I've asked a follow-up question ("Can you offer any additional statistics on Tinder's users in China or North Korea?") and will update this story if they respond.
How Do Vanity Fair And Sales Feel?
I reached out to the author for a comment, and she referred me to the magazine's publicist, who has not responded. If and when the publicist gets back to me, I'll update the story.
What Have We Learned?
There's a saying on the internet. The saying is "never tweet." I don't agree with this saying, because I love Twitter and everything it stands for. But I am just a person. I don't have target revenues, or investors, or employees. I am not a #brand, in the traditional sense, so I have different responsibilities online than a company like Tinder might.
Should @Tinder "never tweet"? No. They have a message just like I do (#brands are people, you guys), and they deserve an opportunity to speak it just like I do. But they should probably stick to tweeting that message, instead of getting into spats with journalists and drawing laughs from the whole wide internet world in the process.