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While online dating sites have been around since 90s, mobile dating apps are a more recent phenomenon, with tinder lead the charge in 2012. Tinder is extremely popular – it currently has 57 million users worldwide, logging 1.6 billion scans per day.
Researchers reacted quickly to this trend, exploring the motivations of people to use Tinder, the way people deal with it. impressions they do on other users, and how the unique features of Tinder meet the needs of daters. In one to study just appeared in the Journal of social and personal relationships, Kathryn Coduto and colleagues examined problematic and compulsive use of dating apps and determined whether socially anxious or lonely people are particularly prone to compulsive use.
What is special about Tinder?
For those of you new to mobile dating apps, here’s how Tinder works: Users download the app to their smartphones, fill out a short bio, and add photos. The app then matches them with local singles who are in their immediate geographic area using GPS technology on users’ phones. Users can view a variety of photos, swiping right if they like what they see and swiping left if they don’t. If both parties slide to the right, it is a match and they have the opportunity to initiate further contacts.
Online dating has a number of advantages, but also disadvantages. As I detailed in a previous post, online dating can introduce us to a wide range of people and remove some of the ambiguity from face-to-face situations because you know everyone on the site is single. and seek. Online dating can also be a more comfortable way to meet people for those who are shy or socially anxious. On the flip side, online dating can overwhelm people with too many options and create pressure for relationships to quickly become romantic. Online profiles also only provide organized and superficial information about people and put too much emphasis on physical appearance. They could also become a crutch that prevents singles from looking for dates offline. Tinder has many of these same costs and benefits, but it also has several differences.
Lik Sam Chan described how Tinder differs from traditional online dating sites in several ways that could lead to compulsive use of the app:
- Mobility: People take their phones with everyone, so they can access the app anytime, increasing the temptation to check it constantly.
- Proximity and immediacy: Tinder uses the current location (via the phone’s GPS) to find matches, and users know that anyone they match with is in close proximity and is swiping along with them. This closeness and immediacy can create an expectation that users should immediately engage in romantic encounters. This is why Tinder has the reputation of being a “connectUsers may feel that if they don’t use the app all the time, they are missing out on potential matches, which can lead to compulsive use.
- Visual domination: While all internet dating emphasizes photographs and can cause users to overemphasize looks, it’s more extreme with Tinder. On Tinder, the photo fills your entire phone screen, and viewing the entire profile is optional. Combined with the playful nature of swiping left or right in photos, it can cause people to compulsively swipe, in the hopes of getting as many matches as possible.
Who is most likely to compulsively use Tinder?
Coduto and his colleagues wanted to explore who is most at risk for compulsively using Tinder. Previous research has shown that people who socially anxious often feel safer and more comfortable interacting online, where they have more control over the interaction. Only individuals can also use online interactions to compensate for a lack of offline social connection. While this, in and of itself, is not necessarily a problem, these people might be particularly inclined to use online interaction. compulsively. When a person compulsively uses technology, it means that it is really interfering with their day-to-day functioning, such as at school, at work, or in social relationships. Those whose social anxiety or loneliness prompts them to turn to the relative safety of Tinder may be at greater risk of succumbing to its addictive qualities.
In their to research, Coduto and his colleagues surveyed 269 undergraduates who had previously used dating apps. Respondents completed questionnaires assessing social anxiety and loneliness. They also report on their use of these applications. Specifically, the researchers assessed three elements of using the app:
- Preference for online rather than face-to-face interaction: Participants reported the extent to which they were more confident in socializing on dating apps than offline, felt safer starting conversations on dating apps, and felt they were treated better on dating apps than when they were offline. in romantic offline situations.
- Compulsive use of dating apps: Participants indicated how they felt they had difficulty controlling their use of apps or described their own use as compulsive.
- Negative results resulting from using the dating app: Participants reported how often they missed work, school, or social events as a result of using the app, and how worthless they felt offline but felt like “somebody else.” ” in line.
Consistent with previous research on social anxiety and online interactions, participants with high social anxiety indicated that they had a greater preference for using dating apps. Those who are often uncomfortable in traditional face-to-face dating settings feel more comfortable interacting with potential dates behind their smartphone screen. However, socially anxious people were not significantly more likely to engage in compulsive use of dating apps.
The results for loneliness were more complicated. Loneliness was not necessarily associated with compulsive use of dating apps, but the combination of high levels of loneliness and a strong preference for interacting through dating apps predicted problematic use. Essentially, single people who also felt more comfortable on apps were especially prone to compulsive use.
Taken together, this research shows that Tinder has addictive qualities – but like anything with addictive qualities, some people are more enamored with them than others. And single people in particular, if they find it easier to interact through these apps, may be at the greatest risk of abusing them.