When used as intended, Tinder, the mobile dating application, can provide many things: actual dating, long-term relationships, casual sex, new friends, mindless entertainment or validation that at least the occasional stranger finds you minimally attractive.
Presidential campaigning is typically low on the list of priorities when opening the smartphone app, which allows people to exchange messages after they have mutually agreed to a match, based often on little more than physical appearance.
But Robyn Gedrich, 23, of Brick, N.J., had other ideas. Over the past two weeks, she matched with as many men as she could, not bothering to check their profiles before swiping right (an action to signal interest, the digital-era equivalent of knowing eye contact across the room).
Her goal was not dating or anything more salacious; she merely wanted men to sign up for mobile updates from Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign.
Gedrich, who is a retail sales manager, said in an interview Friday that she would send more than 50 men a day the same text: “Do you feel the bern? Please text WORK to 82623 for me. Thanks!”
Some men flirted in response, others engaged in political discussions, and yet others ignored her.
Whether she converted many New Jersey voters to Sanders, who is vying with Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination, is unknown. But without the ability to participate in more traditional campaign activities, Gedrich said, she thought she would use whatever tool was in front of her.
“Working full time and trying to get back into school, there’s not that much time I can volunteer to get out places,” she said. “I just tried to do what I could with what I had.”
Gedrich’s campaign experiment was short-lived. Tinder suspended her account Thursday; it did not explain why, but she suspects that some of the men reported her entreaty as spam.
“We wholeheartedly support people sharing their political views on Tinder, but we don’t allow spamming,” Rosette Pambakian, a Tinder spokeswoman, said in an email. “So feel free to spread the Bern, just don’t spam.”
Indeed, several of the men were not pleased with her approach, Gedrich said. She presented herself just as many other women on Tinder would: with photos of herself, one in which she was dressed up as a zombie, and a link to her Instagram page.
Some of the men, predictably, were crude. Her response? “I would correct their grammar, and tell them this is why Bernie Sanders should be president,” she said.
Tinder’s ban of Gedrich was first reported by BuzzFeed.
Of course, politics, like religion and money, is not always a welcome topic early in courtships. Jillian Chase, 27, a Tinder user in New York, said the election would occasionally come up with her matches, but only in a lighthearted manner.
“I generally adhere to the social mores of refraining from in-depth political conversations with relative strangers,” she said.
Gedrich said she hoped to get her account back, and then would continue to spread her political message — but with, perhaps, a more tactful approach.
“I guess I will slow down and say hi first,” she said.