The smartphone app Tinder usually attracts young adults looking for random hookups, but some political advocates think it’s a great way to feel the Bern.
Graduate student Jessica Garafola first started using the app in October to support Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders. She documented her unique form of advocacy on a Tumblr blog, and since then, Tinder advocacy has become a bit of a trend, picking up headlines in Buzzfeed and the International Business Times.
“I thought it would be a cute little Tinder idea but I didn’t expect it to takeoff the way it did,” Garafola told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “Its been pretty phenomenal seeing people getting involved in politics.”
Tinder cancelled her first account within a few days. She received a notification stating another user had reported her.
“I got a notice that said my account was reported,” Garafola recalled. “Because of that I created a new account with a different email.”
Then that second account got cancelled. Garafola decided not to try a third time, but by that point her idea was already spreading. She didn’t see the blocked accounts as a personal attack but rather app developers being taken by surprise.
“I just don’t think Tinder was prepared,” Garafola went onto say. “I think their instinct was to cut off anyone who was undermining the app.”
Tinder works by scanning users within a given area and connecting people that show mutual interest in meeting. She pitched a range of people, from politically active folks to trolls who attacked her for dismissing sexual advances. She even had fruitful conversations with folks on the other side of the aisle.
“I definitely got some Republicans to reconsider their position,” Garafola continued. “They don’t trust the leadership within their own party.”
Republican voters have expressed discontent with party leadership in recent years. The disappointment in party leadership has fueled a push for outsider candidates. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has also used the anti-establishment void to gain support.
“Bernie can appeal to everyone because his message is about inclusion,” Garafola said. “Its a populous campaign.”
Sanders has said on numerous occasions that income inequality is one of the biggest issues facing the country. He has advocated for increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour among a few other ideas, like free, public college education.
“We can have a country that works for everybody and not just the select few,” Garafola stated. “Its not economically sounds to have the income inequality we do.”
His economic plan has been criticized by experts on every political stripe. Several former economic advisers to President Barack Obama, including Alan Krueger, wrote an open letter Wednesday to Sanders out of concern his plan will cause economic harm. Nevertheless Garafola sees her experience using Tinder as providing a small glimpse in to what the future of campaigns might hold. Using social media and app based technology may even be necessary as millennials become the main voters in the country.
“They are much more informed with their ability to access Facebook and social media,” Garafola noted. “Its a clear market strategy that’s more accessible than phone banking and walking door to door.”
She said its not just a step forward but also a step back to a time when candidates had to make personal connections with voters. She doubts Tinder will be the main app because of explicit sexual reputation but using app based technology to campaign could be more commonly used in the future.
Garafola notes she is unaware of people using the app for political advocacy before her but wouldn’t be surprised if some were. Nevertheless the idea didn’t takeoff until she began documenting her experience online.
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