Holden Caulfield would feel sorry as hell for all the girls whose pictures popped up on his phone every time he clicked on his Tinder app.
The way those girls subject themselves to the mercy of a left or right swipe of his thumb would be a goddam travesty. A desperate cry of vanity proving they can only appreciate a compliment for about as long as it takes to come out of someone’s mouth.
Then again, Holden Caulfield would have a Tinder account. He’d set up his account with mumblings of disapproval towards the creators and the people that use it. The photos he would use on his profile would look forced and awkward. He would purposefully look distant and uninterested and he would never admit how much a part of him hoped that such a look would be sexy to certain girls.
I had a Tinder account for two weeks before I decided I still preferred meeting women in person. Now I swipe left or right in my head and it’s not a permanent decision. When I would get bored with the app I would extend my radius to 50 miles allowing me to peruse through a nearly endless array of potentially awkward conversations. At one point I thought about the idea of using Tinder in a place as ample in population and condense in size as New York City. A radius of 30 miles in NYC would allow me to judge practically the entire female population of the city.
Oddly enough, this would cause me to think about Holden Caulfield. Eventually I came to the conclusion that Holden basically spent about four days in New York swiping left.
And if Holden did have a Tinder account?
Can you imagine Old Stradlater and all the girls he’d find on Tinder? That bastard. He’d bring some redhead back to the dorms and Holden would admit right off the bat that she was pretty and had a shape to her that made him jealous of Stradlater’s hair for just a few seconds. With locks like that of course any girl would swipe right, only being able to judge him on three pictures; course they wouldn’t be able to tell what a goddam moron he is. Turns out she’d be just as full of hot air so they’d be a perfect match.
The Catcher in the Rye is about a lot of things to a lot of different people depending on when in life they read it. But one thing it’s certainly about is an unfinished product in Holden Caulfield judging a bunch of other unfinished products. Interestingly, Holden might be the most unfinished of all the products. He doesn’t really know what or who he is and we don’t what he will become. But he knows who he isn’t because he stares at and socializes with who he isn’t every day. He resents them. He doesn’t really feel sorry as hell for them but he says he does.
That isn’t a far cry from what Tinder is: a bunch of incomplete pieces judging the incomplete pieces within a 50-mile radius of them; a few pictures that equate to one or two pieces in the giant puzzle that defines you—not even corner pieces at that; just your profile picture that garnered the most likes, from people who actually know and have met you.
It woulda made him puke thinking about it. You’d have to be a real sorry sonufabitch to plaster your face on that thing and try to describe yourself in one sentence.
Of course, Holden had his moments of sorry sonufabitch-ness. Quietly swiping through Tinder would allow for a little more preserved dignity than drunk dialing Sally Hayes up in the middle of the night and telling her he’s going to come over on Christmas Eve and trim her goddam tree.
But he needed to talk to someone and that’s why Holden would have Tinder. God knows he’d probably chat up some girl and convince her to meet him at a cheap motel before deciding he just wanted to talk once they’re both sitting on the same bed.
Tinder, above all, is an outlet for judgment. Our hopes to hook up are outweighed by an appeal to our own vanity and the power of being able to judge others.
We crave validation in its most superficial form. Tinder, in its simplistic process, simultaneously allows us the ultimate authority to judge while also forcing us to put our insecurities and ourselves on the line by empowering the judgment of others. The app, even in its crudeness, accomplishes a sort of meta balance.
It’s not a peaceful balance, though. It isn’t a recommended one. It’s like taking a few uppers to balance out a few downers; the balance you reach will be far more chaotic than if you took neither in the first place.
Tinder puts judgment on a conveyer belt. It allows an ever-developing consciousness an outlet to meet irrational desires to judge and be judged. Holden Caulfield’s angst, judgment and resentment towards other people—towards anyone lacking complete innocence—were sad, but they were natural.
He fed it through living and experiencing the world. Thankfully he didn’t have Tinder. He wasn’t staring down at his phone— he looked up in the subway and the park and museum and judged people he could watch move and behave. Empathy is rarely a first instinct. It develops when you live your life around people simultaneously trying to live theirs.
Holden’s journey completed itself and readied him for another. He was by no means a finished product at the end of it, but he did exactly what all young people eventually do: become angry at the world and the people who make it so difficult to live in, flounder in his own limitations and confusion, acknowledge someone or something that makes him happy and makes everything else alright, and then, probably, repeat.
Holden’s journey was more complex than Tinder, but if Tinder had existed then it might have restricted his journey to the simplicity of left or right. I’d a felt sorry as hell for him.