You should probably just go to sleep. It’s been a long night. But a few beers have eroded your self-control, and the only barrier standing between you and instant gratification is the tap of a smartphone app. Your thumb hovers over the icon. Didn’t you tell yourself last time that you deserve better? But it’s just too easy. You’ll be stronger tomorrow. That’s how you end up on another Tinder date. It’s also how you end up with a 2 a.m. junk-food delivery via Postmates.
Before Postmates’ on-demand delivery app, if you were wasted and wanted Taco Bell, you had to walk to the fast-food spot. Now? "You can just hit six buttons and someone shows up and is like, ‘Here. Put this in your fucking gullet,’ " says Jon Gabrus, an actor, comedian, and podcaster based in Los Angeles. Gabrus and his two brothers recently ordered three Taco Bell Quesalupas, six Cheesy Gordita Crunch tacos, two burritos, and a Nachos BellGrande via Postmates—three hours after finishing a $640 sushi dinner. He isn’t proud, but he isn’t sorry either. I can hear his brothers in the background. "Maybe [we have to order] twice," one of them says. "We can’t do it, we just can’t," Gabrus says of a second Taco Bell run via Postmates. "But that doesn’t mean we won’t."
Tinder users can relate. "[The popularity of Tinder] just says a lot about the convenience and abundance—and to some degree the laziness—that we have now in terms of connecting with each other," says comedian Lane Moore, who admits she’s addicted to the app. Last April, at her Brooklyn-based show Tinder Live, which takes the swiping left and right on potential dates that happens on the privacy of your phone and puts it on stage, Moore stated it more bluntly: "Tinder is where sadness goes to fuck."
We love Tinder. We love Postmates. They’re key players in the booming, smartphone-inspired impulse business. About 9.6 million people use Tinder, and Postmates claims 1 million deliveries a month. Together, these services pit Americans’ puritanical work ethic (I don’t deserve this) against our belief in our own exceptionalism (of course I deserve this).
Pop culture reflects this discomfort. On Broad City this season, Abbi, one of the show’s twentysomething protagonists, downloads Tinder to distract herself after kissing a coworker. "I need to make out with someone!" she tells her friends. Sure, we’re using Tinder, but it’s not something we’d do under normal circumstances. In a recent episode of The Mindy Project, it is Postmates, not Tinder, that scores Mindy a blind date. "So I’ve never been set up by my Postmate before," Mindy says when she meets him. "But it makes sense, because I see Carlos F. every night."
Postmates plays the role of "convenience I feel guilty about but will never quit" a touch better than Tinder. It gives monogamists as well as singles the opportunity to log their darkest, weakest moments into an app. And while Tinder rolls out new features, such as group dates, that diffuse its strength in a bid for a wider audience, Postmates has launched a $9.99 monthly subscription service for unlimited delivery, making addiction easier than ever. "It’s sort of like when you have a drug problem, and you switch to needles," says Jason Stewart, host of The Stew food podcast. " ‘Oh, this is serious now.’ "
A version of this article appeared in the July/August issue of Fast Company magazine.