PublicDomainPictures courtesy pixabay CC0 license Since its launch in , the dating app, Tinder, has received quite a bit of publicity. For the uninitiated, Tinder is a mobile dating app that allows users to locate other singles in their geographic area. Users fill out a brief bio and upload photos. They can then start viewing photos of other users who match their age, gender , and location criteria.
They are then notified of any matches, where both people swiped right on each other's profiles. In the popular media , Tinder very much has the reputation of being a "hookup" app, designed to facilitate fleeting sexual encounters. So, why do people use Tinder? Two recent studies shed some light on all of the hype. A recently published study by Leah LeFebvre surveyed young adults ages 18 to 34 who said they had used Tinder.
The researchers then coded participants' responses into categories. So what was the most commonly cited reason for using Tinder? This data is summarized in the table below. While this open-ended data is valuable, it doesn't provide the whole story on why people use Tinder.
Participants in LeFebvre's study were asked what their main reason was for using the app, but people often have multiple motivations for their behaviors. So someone might primarily have joined Tinder because it seemed like the cool thing to do, but they might also have a desire to meet a potential romantic partner or hookup.
In another recent study, by Sindy Sumter and colleagues, a sample of Dutch Tinder users rated the extent to which various motives described their reasons for using Tinder. The categories, and the average ratings of the participants for each category, are summarized in the table below. Another common motive that wasn't cited in the LeFebvre study was self-worth validation.
Naturally, finding a romantic partner was also a relatively common reason for using Tinder. As can be seen in the table, using the app for casual sex and hookups was actually less common than these other motives.
These studies show that using Tinder meets a variety of psychological needs, beyond the obvious ones relating to dating and sex. Tinder can also be used to fulfill more general social needs. It can also help to fulfill our needs for self-worth.
Receiving matches on Tinder can be an ego boost. On the other hand, not receiving matches could damage self-worth, and in fact, LeFebvre found that lack of success on Tinder, including not receiving matches, was one of the main reasons users quit the app. What about those infamous hookups? Well, these participants did do plenty of hooking up. Of those who met a Tinder match in person, only In addition, the average number of hookups reported by the participants was just above 3.
Participants in the Dutch study seemed to be less successful on Tinder. Slightly fewer than half of the participants This rate is much lower, but other data from this study indicates that these participants were overall less active on the app than the participants in LeFebvre's study.
LeFebvre's qualitative data couldn't really address this question, but Sumter and colleagues were able to examine the association between Tinder use motives and participants' likelihood of going on a Tinder date or having a Tinder hookup.
Not surprisingly, the more that participants indicated casual sex as a motive for using Tinder, the more likely they were to have a one-night stand with a Tinder match. Those who used Tinder as way to boost their feelings of self-worth were less likely to have a one night stand. Interestingly, those who used Tinder because it seemed like an easier way to meet people were actually less likely to go on dates with Tinder matches. Perhaps these individuals were especially likely to be shy and thus ultimately didn't follow through with their Tinder matches.
So what do we really know about Tinder? Returning to the question that began this post, is Tinder really a hookup app? Tinder-initiated hookups are quite common, but the notion that Tinder is primarily about hookups is overstated. Tinder users are more likely to be seeking relationships than casual sex. Moreover, dating and sex are not the main reasons that many people are using Tinder.
These two studies give us a window into the motives of Tinder users, but ultimately it's hard to generalize the findings. As I pointed out, the actual dating and hookup experiences of the two samples of participants differed considerably. So which experience is closer to that of the typical Tinder user?
Nonetheless, both studies suggest that much of Tinder's popularity is, ironically, due to its popularity. This may not be the best news for those who really do use Tinder to look for love or sex, as they may find that their matches don't take the app very seriously and aren't as interested in following through. We also know very little about the long-term prospects of Tinder-initiated relationships. Traditional online dating websites, like match.
What does the future hold for Tinder and its users? Only time — and more research — will tell. Swiping me off my feet: Explicating relationship initiation on Tinder. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships. Published online before print.
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