Psychology Behind Tinder

Online dating has become more popular among young adults in recent years. For one, the Pew Research center states that online dating has lost the stigma it was associated with (see chart below). That means that dating apps and websites are more normal than ever. Also, online dating users between 18 and 24 have increased from 10% in 2013 to 27% today (5 Facts about Online Dating). In addition, dating websites and chat rooms allow people to connect without ever having to meet in person. One-third of adults claim to never have gone on a date with someone they “met” on an online dating site (5 Facts about Online Dating). As a result, online dating may take the pressure off “the first date” because people can skip that initial stage.

Although dating sites and apps make it convenient to communicate with others, they can produce psychological effects. Tinder is a dating app with recent popularity, but it is no ordinary dating app. In fact, according to Hannah Schacter from Psychology in Action, she says that Tinder has been classified in a league of its’ own as a “hook-up” app (Psychology in Action: Tinder). This hook-up app may confuse users who have different expectations of the app itself. For example, a woman/man may want to look for a woman/man who is not looking for sex, however; he or she may be looking for it. This can cause emotional psychological effects.

To explain more about the app, there are different features about it that make it easy, almost effortless. One unique feature about Tinder is the ability to swipe right to indicate a “Like” and swipe left to indicate a “Pass” (Swiping Right For Self-Esteem). The swiping function in itself causes psychological effects for the users, such as operant conditioning, which will be discussed later in the article. Another feature that makes it easy to use and more efficient is the necessary act of linking your Facebook profile to Tinder. Therefore, any user might get the impression that the person is “real.”

In terms of psychology, Tinder has changed the dating universe with its’ way of addicting people. Besides self-esteem and self-worth issues that people may have by using Tinder, B.F. Skinner’s operant conditioning is one psychological effect that Tinder can have on its’ users. Operant conditioning can be described as learning a behavior using reinforcements (Operant Conditioning) People become “conditioned” to a behavior because of the rewards they may gain. These reinforcements, in terms of Tinder, are the Matches made using the Swipe feature. The simplicity of swiping left and right on Tinder is one way it is addictive. The anticipation of matching with “liked” users also makes it addicting.

Besides the addictive qualities of Tinder, one research study has been conducted to see the effects of Tinder on its’ users. A research study done by the American Psychological Association measures the psychological effects of users and non-users of Tinder. The study involved 1,044 women and 273 men, and only 10% of the participants reported using Tinder. Still, some results can be found to compare the users and non-users of Tinder. This study was primarily aimed towards women, however; the study showed that the men involved in the study were just as effected as women (APA Study on Tinder).

According to the APA, the study found that “people who are on Tinder after a while may begin to feel depersonalized and disposable in their social interactions, develop heightened awareness (and criticism) of their looks and bodies and believe that there is always something better around the corner, or rather with the next swipe of their screen.” The amount of Tinder users who felt these effects was over half, and these effects may continue to grow and grow among a wider variety of people. Research studies aimed towards users of Facebook also display results of self-esteem issues. Whatever dating app or website that people use, it’s important to think about the damage that can be done from these sites.

Now that you have read this article, here are some tips on how to use Tinder or other dating apps to decrease the risk of psychological effects.

How to Use Tinder Effectively:

1. Take what people say with a grain of salt. Remember that these people on Tinder are strangers, and they don’t know you. Don’t let anyone belittle you with a message. For example, if a potential date tries to force you to meet up, take that as a warning sign.

2. Meet in a public location. Always meet someone in a safe location to avoid the pressure of doing something you don’t want to do. If he or she wants to meet you at their apartment, don’t agree to it. Your safety is important. A good place to meet is always your local coffee shop. The environment is casual yet intimate enough for a date.

3. Know your expectations. Set boundaries with your date before the date happens. For instance, if your date decides he wants a “hook-up,” make sure you two are on the same page so no one gets hurt.

4. Limit your time using the app. Don’t make it the center of your life because there is more to life than what’s your smartphone or computer. If you spend more than a couple hours a day on Tinder, it’s time to take a break from it.

5. Make sure that the person you swiped right, has mutual Facebook friends with you. If you have any doubts about the person, you could ask one of his or her friends about the person you matched with.