On Monday I was asked to write another blog post about Tinder. Here goes:

Tinder is great for easily connecting with people you might be interested in. In a developed world growing more lonely by the year, Tinder does us a tremendous service.

In case you missed it, “growing more lonely by the year,” was the key idea in the last paragraph, not Tinder. The number of Americans reporting no close friends has tripled since 1985. I’m no expert, but it’s probably not a coincidence that loneliness rates increased in tandem with the arrival of the internet and iPhone.

Tinder is simply a reaction to the loneliness our phones perpetuated in the first place.

Rather than focusing on Tinder, it would be helpful to have a system of discernment for which technologies serve our purposes–even what our purposes are in the first place. I’m fascinated by the way the Amish do it, which Kevin Kelly described in a recent On Being episode:

“(Americans are) individualistic, so we decide individually what we’re going to do or not going to do. We’re gonna use email, but we’re not gonna use Facebook. But the Amish are different in this way, in that they decide collectively.

And here’s the criteria that the Amish use to decide whether they’re going to adopt a technology. The criteria are basically two things. One is, will this technology strengthen my family? And then the second one is very similar: does it strengthen the community? How much time does it bring them and keep them in the community? So the reason why they have horses instead of cars is because the horse can only go 15 miles away, so they have to go shopping, go to church, go to visit, all within 15 miles. That forces them to pay attention, to support their local neighborhood, their community. And so when they’re looking at new technology — like LEDs or whatever — does it help them do that, or does it not? So they’re not rejecting technology. They’re saying: We want technology that serves our purposes.

And the way that they do this is also interesting. They have Amish early adopters, and these are guys who are eager to try new things. And they have to get permission from the bishop. And so the bishop will say, “OK, Ivan, yeah, you can have a cellphone in your truck for work.” And so, for the next year, they watch — his community watches Ivan to see how that affects his family, his community, his work, and if they don’t think that it’s a positive, then he has to give it up. So it’s a community decision.”

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