off-label Tinder use: Beyond the dating game: people use Tinder for self-promotion, political campaigning

TORONTO: Although Tinder is a platform for casual dating, some of the app’s approximately 50 million users worldwide use it for multi-level marketing, political campaigning and promoting local concerts, according to a new study.

The study, published in the journal ‘The Information Society’, found that off-label use of Tinder – a term borrowed from pharmacology describing when people use a product for something other than what the package says – s appropriates its infrastructure and socio-cultural meanings.

“When people discover a new technology, whether it’s a hammer or a computer, they use it in a way that suits their needs and their way of life,” said Stefanie Duguay , co-author of the study, from Concordia University.

“However, once you buy a hammer, it doesn’t undergo regular updates or develop new features – apps do. They come with their own marketing, usage vision and feature sets, that they update regularly and often change in response to user activity,” Duguay explained.

In the study, Duguay assessed news articles about people using Tinder for purposes other than social, romantic, or sexual encounters.

She also conducted in-depth interviews with four off-label users.

One of the users was using the app to conduct an anti-smoking campaign, the study notes.

Another, Duguay said, ran a campaign against sex trafficking on Tinder.

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Some of the app’s approximately 50 million users worldwide use it for multi-level marketing.

A third user, she said, was using the app to market health products, and the last was supporting U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders’ Democratic presidential nomination race in 2016.

“I have also observed individual users adapt their Tinder profiles to self-promote, market local groups, participate in business networks, and conduct private sales,” the researcher wrote in the study.

When Duguay compared and contrasted these different approaches to off-label usage, she found that most of the time, Tinder’s expected function informed or complemented their campaigns.

“There would be an element of flirtation or they would rely on users’ perception of Tinder as a digital context for intimate exchanges,” she said.

According to Duguay, many Tinder users who were on the app for its intended uses were upset when they discovered the actual purposes of these profiles.

“It shows that off-label use can be somewhat disruptive on the platform. Although it depends on how closely people view the purpose of this app,” she noted.

“Platforms like this are more like an ecosystem, and when users adopt different purposes than what they’re designed for, platforms can change their guidelines or functionality in ways that greatly affect their users,” added Duguay.

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