Twenty-year-old YouTuber Summer Mckeen is facing ethical concerns over a recent sponsored video with Tinder in which she films herself on two idealistic double dates with total strangers while traveling — and then saying she "recommends" doing this.
"It's a good way" to travel and meet strangers, she and her sister, who accompanied her on the trip and date, concluded in the recent video, which has been viewed more than 354,000 times.
Many are worried that the sponcon — published to her more than 2.4 million followers mostly comprising young women — is promoting a habit that could be potentially dangerous. Some also suspect that the video was scripted and doesn't represent an authentic experience with using the app.
A representative for Tinder directed BuzzFeed News to a statement Mckeen made and then pinned to the top of her video claiming the video was "controlled" and therefore "safe" — and that the Tinder matches in the video were not hired actors.
On Friday, Mckeen shared the video that's titled similarly to her other popular vlogs: "my sister and I went on Tinder dates while traveling...here's how it went." In it, Mckeen says she and her sister Brie were venturing to "just to meet people and be shown around to new places" by matching and connecting with men on Tinder in Portland and Seattle.
"Our plan is to go on Tinder and find people to show us around as a local," she says on the vlog.
She and Brie then document using Tinder after they land in the cities, swiping, messaging, and coordinating casual double-dates with men and a friend they (conveniently) bring along.
On two occasions, Mckeen and her sister meet two sets of strangers in Seattle, then Portland, who take them on seamless dates. They engage in casual conversations, hug, then the pairs split off.
"This whole adventure of finding people on Tinder and matching in Seattle and Portland has been so much fun," Mckeen says at the end of her video. "We recommend doing this, honestly."
While some of her millions of followers found the video "literally the coolest thing," and gave "props to Summer for going a little out of her comfort zone," fans also raised questions about her endorsing this kind of stunt.
Some also suspected that the video was scripted, and doesn't represent an authentic experience with using the app. They're asking the YouTuber be more mindful of the impressionable young audience she's cultivated, and messages she's sending them in the name of a business opportunity.
"Tbh hanging out with strangers is dangerous," one viewer wrote over the weekend.
"Not really a good thing to promote to young girls — not everyone you meet on tinder will be as nice and trustworthy as the guys they met," another added.
Their luck apparently meeting seemingly "nice and trustworthy" guys depicted in the video was perhaps because they were carefully selected by Tinder, people suspected.
"The boys were definitely actors," one person commented. "Those four are probably tinder ambassadors as well and this was all staged and planned," another said.
Tinder did not respond when asked whether the matches were paid talent or selected specifically for the video. They instead pointed to a statement Mckeen pinned in the comment section on Saturday addressing these concerns.
"I just wanted to say that this was a really fun little project that I was lucky enough to do with Tinder’s production team. It was controlled (with real tinder matches, not actors) so that it was as safe as possible for my sister and I," she wrote. "If you want to do this for yourself, i do agree it can be dangerous, so I recommend being with friends and really getting to know your match before meeting up."
Mckeen then said she accepted the offer to work with Tinder on the sponsored vlog because she's "been wanting to branch out more."
"I hope you guys can keep that in mind and not take anything too seriously," she told her fans.
Her fans are now responding to the PR response asking that she be more thoughtful about the actual, real influence she has on her followers — and that this disclaimer be included in her video.
"You should’ve mentioned this in the video because this is pretty dangerous for those who decide to replicate this without the luxury of it being controlled," one wrote back.
"I would suggest making a seperate video about this, warning people of the dangers," another said.
Mckeen nor her team have responded to requests for comment from BuzzFeed News.