A pair of social media artists lured about 1000 men with a fake tinder date (see youtube video). Instead the men participated in a real-life selection process that included mostly surface-level criteria and physical feats. The female artist was attractive, and represented the nexus of power in early-stage relationships. The “victims” were men, indiscriminately. The stunt was supposed to show how online dating reduced people to shallow and irrelevant criteria. It tried to highlight the vices of online dating by giving it a tangible dimension. The response has mostly been negative, using examples like a victim who had PTSD to illustrate the gravity of the situation.

The motivation for the art is reasonable and relevant. The artists highlighted some of the uninspiring aspects of modern love, like how it feels more like formulaic optimization than ever before. The art is topical; the Economist came out with a briefing just a week earlier.

The artists will certainly take criticism as they showed the problems of society by further elevating those with power, and marginalizing those without it. This is contrary to most politically or socially motivated art . For example, in satire, those with power are ridiculed. In communist art, the weak are glorified. Tinder Trap is therefore an unconventional artistic endeavor. Pundits and the media have been unsure how to frame it.

Art is allowed to offend, inconvenience and even humiliate people. The artist then needs to suffer the consequences. Giving ample artistic latitude to the artist, I still come away with reservations about the effectiveness of the work. What the performance mostly showed is how powerless men are in the early stage. The intended goal of showing how formulaic Tinder has become might be barely noticed. At Union square, men were made to run around and do push-ups. They were disqualified based on height, etc. To a casual observer, the antics were only odd in the setting it was in (in a public sphere, with head-to-head competition, which Tinder actually helps to avoid). An observer might note this kind of selection to be fairly consistent with behavior in most social settings.

In some ways the performance exemplified some of the benefits of online dating, where embarrassment is reduced, and less time is wasted. Two people only meet if they both want to, and a meeting, if agreed upon, is at least assured (as long as neither party is trying to make a video).