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The app's creators have cleverly designed Tinder to make rating both faster and, in a subtle way, more literal.

Tinder, a dating app for the i Phone, has become so wildly popular in the six months since its launch that it’s already spawned its own malady: Tinderitis, or the sensation of having a sore thumb from swiping to approve or reject the faces of people offered up as potential date material.Tinder has lured people in by unabashedly offering a place to do all the things we love doing online, but won’t admit to: act shallow, make snap-judgments based on looks, obsess over what people think of us and boost our egos.It’s turned passing judgment into a pastime, and people are thrilled to take part.“People don’t think of [Tinder] as online dating, they think of it as a game,” said Rachel Ellicott, a sophomore at Cornell University who downloaded the app earlier this winter after hearing about it from friends at other schools.“I think of it as a beauty contest plus messaging.” Tinder, which first launched at a University of Southern California party and expanded to other college campuses from there, is part Hot Or -- a site that lets people rate strangers’ appearance -- and part “f*ck, chuck, marry” -- the high-school sleepover game that makes players pick which they’d do to three people.

After signing in with Facebook, Tinder users are shown singles nearby, then asked to “like” or say “nope” to a potential match based on a few postage stamp-sized photos and some scant details about mutual interests and friends.

Only if two people both “like” each other are they allowed to message, reducing the barrage of messages women often receive on other online dating services.

Though Tinder co-founder Justin Mateen declined to specify how many active users the app has attracted, he said the i Phone app is currently being downloaded 10,000 to 20,000 times a day.

Sixty percent of users check it daily, with many consulting the app five to six times a day, Mateen added.

The secret to Tinder’s success is a small circle that appears below each photo: The “X” button.

In a social media world rampant with “likes,” “hearts,” “favorites” and “thumbs ups” designed to ensure everyone gets along, Tinder actually encourages people to pass judgment in a superficial way.