As people and technology have become increasingly mobile, so have their efforts to find love and sex.
According to app analytics website AppAnnie, the dating application Tinder is one of the most popular tools to pursue modern romance and has been ranked as the most downloaded lifestyle app in America for nearly two years.
As a social psychologist, I’ve focused my research on exploring why Tinder – as one of my interview participants put it – is so “evilly satisfying.” While completing my dissertation exploring sexual conflict on Tinder, I’ve analyzed hundreds of surveys, interviews and internet posts from Tinder users describing their experiences with the app. My preliminary results suggest Tinder users do, in fact, have different outcomes than those who either use online dating websites or don’t use any dating technologies at all.
Specifically, Tinder may be causing what researchers call “a feedback loop,” in which men use less strict criteria for finding a mate by serially swiping, and women use more discerning criteria in response to the deluge of matches. But we shouldn’t sound the alarms just yet, as swiping may reflect more about our cognitive shortcuts than our more nuanced romantic desires.
Like a game
While most online dating websites such as Match or eHarmony attempt to connect similar users based on carefully constructed algorithms, Tinder does nothing of the sort. Using geo-location, Tinder generates a stream of photos from potential mates who are in or around the user’s location. Users then “swipe right” on profiles that they like or “swipe left” on those they don’t. If two individuals both “swipe right” after viewing the other’s profile, they will be alerted that a “match” has been made, and they’ll be allowed to message one another. According to Tinder, the app boasts 1.4 billion “swipes” a day and is available in over 196 countries, from France to Burundi.
Tinder’s approach to romance is straightforward, yet brutally effective. Matches are made using sparse criteria: Looks, availability and location. Because people can gauge someone’s attractiveness after just a one-second glance, Tinder users often churn through profiles at astounding speeds.