The Brief: An HBO documentary, Swiped: Hooking Up in the Digital Age, delves into the world of dating apps and the implications they have for sex and romance in contemporary culture, particularly for young people.


Swiped: Hooking Up in the Digital Age, directed and written by Nancy Jo Sales, is a documentary about how hookup culture and digital culture influence each other. It is named after the “swipe” function of dating apps like Tinder, BumbleGrindr, and Her. Other popular dating apps like Coffee Meets BagelHinge, Match, and OKCupid are more geared towards people looking for serious relationships.

The documentary has been eye-opening to those who aren’t familiar with online dating and relatable for those who are. It includes interviews with some of the 40 million Americans who use online dating apps, as well as executives at Tinder, Bumble, and Hinge. Experts on dating and culture from the Kinsey Institute and the University of Texas at Austin share their knowledge and research about dating, a social construct that shifts along with society, technology, and culture. The film addresses important issues including gender dynamics, sexism, racial bias, harassment, and rape culture. Swiped explores how dating apps and unhealthy elements of dating culture are inherently linked.

Slang in the Film:

The game-like swiping features of dating apps can make them mesmerizing and even addictive. A UK study found that millennials who use dating apps spend an average of ten hours a week on them. These styles of evaluation based largely on appearance are similar to”hot or not” ranking systems. The documentary shows how they can encourage superficial interactions and can foster self-consciousness. One young man interviewed in Swiped remarks that “it’s all a numbers game,” noting how swipe-based dating apps can reduce people to statistics.

Focusing mostly on heterosexual dating and hookups, interviews investigate how interactions online and off are deeply gendered, and how dating apps can both reinforce these dynamics and try to break them. In interviews with queer people, they share their experiences using dating apps, pointing out how they can be valuable resources for LGBTQ+ individuals who are typically working with smaller dating pools and may prefer the discretion dating apps allow for.

Although one couple in a serious relationship that started on Tinder date is interviewed, the film focuses on how the hookup culture surrounding dating apps correlates with infidelity, consensual polyamory, casual sex, and traditional sex roles for men and women.

The film touches on the prevalence of pornography and how it can foster toxic expectations for IRL sex. It looks at how expectations for sexting are influenced by pornography, and the role that coercion too often plays in these exchanges. As sexting becomes more widespread, extortion and cyberbullying occur and can have significant consequences.

Many of the young people interviewed admit that they started using dating apps when they were in high school, and note that sexting is common among minors. Although dating apps almost always have age restrictions to prevent underage use, it is not difficult for teenagers to create profiles simply by lying about their age. This can create dangerous and illegal situations in which minors engage in sexual activities with adults, both online and off.

Behaviors connected to dating apps can have ethical implications. Catfishing, extortion, harassment, sexual assault, are serious consequences related to a cyberculture of casual, impersonal sex. Even though dating apps did not create these problems, they are often a tool used to perpetuate them.

Swiped illustrates some of what it can be like to try to date or hookup in a world where dating apps are becoming the main method of doing so. The film suggests that there are significant issues with the modern culture around sex, and that going forward, technology will continue to be closely tied to the evolution of dating.

*Note: another film titled Swiped is a comedy starring Noah Centineo set to be released in 2018.