Online dating used to be frowned upon and the stigma of meeting a partner online resulted in the industry’s slow growth. It has come a long way amassing a total of $3 billion in revenue as of 2017, proof that the attitude towards getting a date online has become positive.
Tinder is one of the most popular dating apps and has approximately 50 million users globally, 10 million of which are active daily users and 3.8 million are paying subscribers.
Just in case you didn’t know, here’s how it works. Tinder lets users choose their gender preferences, a specified age range and a certain distance from their location before letting them set up their profiles. Once your profile is ready the app shows you your potential matches, swipe right (if you like them) or swipe left (if you don’t). If both individuals swipe right on each other, they are a “match.”
According to Tinder, there are 1.6 billion swipes within the app in just one day! Fun fact: “Swipe Right” has come to mean “your acceptance of something” according to Urban Dictionary.
Once you start, it may be hard to stop. One in six users admits that s/he actually feels addicted to the process of looking for a date through apps. According to a survey, men are 97% more likely to feel addicted to dating than women and 68% of Tinder users in the United States are men.
What makes Tinder and other dating apps so satisfying? The culprit is Gamification i.e. the process of adding games or gamelike elements to non-gaming contexts. This method is effective because it takes advantage of the reward areas in our brains, similar to slot machines. Matching with someone on Tinder or other dating apps will usually result in bright colors and upbeat noises, like winning the jackpot. Matching with someone on Tinder or other dating apps will make you feel like you won something. When you think about it, is Tinder like a game disguised as a dating app.
Natasha Dow Schüll, cultural anthropologist at NYU and author of “Addiction by Design,” explores how gamified dating apps can trap their users in an addictive system of rewards. “You build up this anticipation,” she says, “that anticipation grows and there is a kind of release of sorts when you get a reward: a jackpot, a ding-ding-ding, a match.” Tinder also makes use of the variable-ratio reward schedule, a schedule of reinforcement where you are rewarded after an unpredictable number of responses.
Most Tinder users use the app out of boredom rather than to find a relationship. According to research done by Elisabeth Timmermans, Ph.D., finding love is only the fourth most common reason why people use dating apps, the first being amusement followed by curiosity, then socialization.
Using Tinder is pretty straight-forward. You either like someone or you don’t. You swipe right or swipe left based on the user’s profile picture (which may or may not be photoshopped, but that’s another can of worms). This means people have a 50 percent chance of someone liking them or rejecting them. Since the app depends heavily on physical appearance, failing to get a match might make someone feel unattractive or uninteresting.
A study by researchers from the University of North Texas revealed that Tinder users have lower self-esteem than to those who don’t use the app.
“We found that being actively involved with Tinder, regardless of the user’s gender, was associated with body dissatisfaction, body shame, body monitoring, internalization of societal expectations of beauty, comparing oneself physically to others, and reliance on media for information on appearance and attractiveness,” said Jessica Strubel, PhD, co-author of the study.
Having a lot of choices isn’t always a good thing.
The “jam experiment” has found out that grocery shoppers were more likely to make a purchase when presented with six jam options, rather than 24 or 30. According to Helen Fisher, a biological anthropologist and chief scientific advisor for the dating site Match (the corporation that owns Tinder), the same concept applies to dating apps. “You meet so many people that you can’t decide and make no decision at all,” Fisher says. She suggests that instead of swiping endlessly, you have to limit your potential dates between five or nine. If you go above those numbers, your brain goes into cognitive overload and you end up choosing no one.
Tinder is undoubtedly a fun app. If it wasn’t then there wouldn’t be millions of users around the world. However, if you do decide to dabble with it, use the app wisely and you might actually find a keeper. After all, 13% of people got engaged or married through Tinder and other dating apps. But be warned that they can be addicting so proceed with caution.