I scroll, you swipe

The digital revolution has the unexpected effect of making our dictionaries bigger. For several years, at the rate of technological developments, the new vintages of the editions of the Larousse and Little Robert integrate the way our everyday language evolves. So it is with “Blockchain”, “NFT” ( “Non Fongible Token” or “JNF”, “Token Non Fongible” in French), “crypto art” or even “wokism”. These last three words also make their official entry into the 2023 edition of the Larousse.

Little boost

If the intransitive verb “scroller” already appears in Little Robert (Anglicism / Scroll through content on a computer screen), still nothing for the other anglicism, “swiper” (“to drag”), that is to say the action of using one’s fingers, often one’s thumb, to send an image to the right or left of the ‘screen. All political considerations aside – swipe on the right is a “crush”usually followed by a ” match “a sort of mutual acquaintance, whereas on the left, let’s face it, it’s the “loose”, at best a wind…

Moving your finger (literally, we live in a “digital” world) on a touch screen to provoke an action is now part of our daily life as Homo Numericus. For about fifteen years, date of the marketing of the first iPhone, we have integrated the fact that our fingers, and particularly the thumbs (let us dive back into the mischievous little work of the philosopher Michel Serres, “Little thumb »), have become natural extensions, sorts of peripherals, for interacting with machines.

Fingertip zapping

It was the dating site Grindr which, in 2009, developed this innovative interface: touch the screen in one direction or another to give your opinion when a photo appears. Farewell representation of the simple raised thumb, like a circus game to signify the grace of the warrior, now make way for the active thumb which acts and stops its choices by giving, in an expeditious way, its definitive opinion thanks to this little slip of the finger. Feeling of omnipotence made possible by these new technologies which give everyone the ability to feel invested with a quasi demiurgic power.

By scrolling and then “swiping”, everything becomes consumable and relative material because in the era of permanent evaluative comparison, new technologies and particularly artificial intelligence, promote these new behaviors. It is the same with job offers, cooked meals as individuals: the machines constantly offer us Manichaean choices that we must make by zapping with our fingertips. In his latest book, the economist Daniel Cohen, does not say anything else:

The digital revolution goes much further in this area than previous industrial revolutions: it directly transforms the relationship between man and man. Teleshopping, teleworking, telemedicine… Everything is done to reduce human interactions to a strict minimum.»

Generalized scanning

This quasi-generalized swipe was popularized by the other dating application: Tinder. It all started with the bathroom of Jonathan Badeen, one of its co-founders, who in 2012 wiped his foggy mirror after getting out of his shower.. Even simpler than a click, swiping a screen is the minimum gesture to be made to make your choice known with immediate effect. Every day, billions of “swipes” are now recorded.

These small harmless and childish gestures to perform are not without risk. Because they are precisely very simple and they require no effort, not even that of reflecting or taking a step back from what one is about to do, come under, from a cognitive point of view, the circuit of the reward.

This highly addictive “swipe” game is like a shoot of dopamine, this happiness hormone that designers of major social networks know how to tame to encourage people to spend time on their services. Here, this swiping of the screen is similar to a quick game to trigger well-known mechanisms specific to the pathologies of addiction. Helped in this by the algorithm which knows what is most likely to please a particular profile, the “swipe” favors this “match” society where everything is done and decided not in a snap of the fingers but in a caress on a screen.

Tomorrow, the eye instead of the finger

The popular phrase ” put the finger in the eye has never been so relevant because our future applications will work with our gaze. Especially with immersive headsets designed to immerse us in virtual universes, our eyes will act as pilots. The simple fact of winking or stopping one’s gaze on such and such an object will instruct the machine that the user is issuing a will. Our eyes will then be our fingers. It is up to the machine to interpret the intentions of humans who have blinked or rolled their eyes. This may result in new forms of “matches” between people. Let’s hope that these future innovations won’t make us turn a blind eye…





3 How a Tinder founder came up with swiping and changed dating forever (cnbc.com)