Ah, dating apps. Some people love them. Some people hate them. Some people have no idea whether to love them or hate them. Of course, there are many apps out there, including an app for many of the already-popular online dating sites like Match.com, JDate, and OKCupid, but the most talked about app these days is Tinder, which caters to the younger, phone-savvy generation. Keep in mind that most, if not all, of the apps are free, so people will have many different intentions. Some are just looking for a hook-up and some may want to start a real, meaningful relationship. The problem? We don't know.
How Tinder works: You download the app on your phone (duh), and then you give permission to connect through Facebook to create your (very minimal) profile. You can upload up to six profile photos and then specify your desired age range and distance from your location. Then, you scroll through potential matches and click on the heart (or swipe right) if you're interested and the "X" (or swipe left) if you're not. If you and your "heart" person both choose each other, you'll be notified when this happens, and then you can start in-app texting.
Pros: Easy to use, really fast app, free, seemingly unlimited choices at any time, only first name shown so somewhat anonymous, mutual friends shown, can find people when traveling because it's always based on your current location
Cons: Solely based on picture and optional profile (more superficial than an already superficial market!), people's intentions vary and some just play like a game to pass time, many matches do not initiate contact or respond (both men and women), may match with someone who is only visiting the area
If you're looking for something a bit more serious, then a paying online dating site is still your better bet because you at least know that the people on the site have some skin in the game, in the form of $20 or so a month. Also, on the traditional online dating sites, you learn a bit more about each person from his/her profile, and thereby his/her ability to string together a complete sentence. (I don't know about you, but this "skill" is kind of important to me.)
The major benefit I see to the apps is that they create efficiency. (I feel this way about speed dating, too.) Technically, you could match with someone at noon and be on a date by 1 PM. (Heck – you could be on a date at 12:05 if you live that close.) From prior articles, you know that I always encourage people to meet in person sooner rather than later because chemistry (the "wild card") can never truly be determined until you meet in the flesh. But if you're looking for that one "true love," then I'd recommend instead fishing in the traditional online dating pond, where many people make very clear their intentions (as in, the "marriage and children" option on JDate versus the "casual sex" option on OKCupid).
In the end, regardless of what you're looking for and how you meet, it's nice that we have so many options today, certainly more than our parents or grandparents did. Though, I think my mom was onto something in her day… she used to find dates over the ham radio! The precursor to Tinder perhaps? Go Mom! (That's not how she met my dad, though. They were next-door neighbors!)