Written by Carolin Strunz
It has never been so easy to meet a new partner on Online Dating websites. And yet it seems harder than ever to find love. Is this due to the limitless possibilities or up to us?
Formerly rather concealed and frowned, Online Dating has now become increasingly popular (Valkenburg & Peter, 2007) and a vital part in regards to partner search. Online Dating websites are a growing industry and almost all of us know at least one person, who uses Online Dating to find a new partner (Smith & Duggan, 2013). What has strengthened this development is that the attitudes nowadays within our society towards Online Dating has become much more positive (Smith & Duggan, 2013).
Thereby, Online Dating changes less our society than the changes within our society favour the partner search on the Internet and its success: Today, we marry and bind ourselves significantly later than 30 years ago. Otherwise, the relationship fluctuation is notably higher and the marriage is no longer a guarantee for a lifelong attachment. Also, the probability of becoming single again at the age of 40, 50 or 60 is higher than it was three decades ago. Thus, we nowadays find a variety of Online Dating websites satisfying different needs for all age groups.
In general, human beings have never had so many romantic options as we do now (Ansari, 2015). But when it comes to us, young professionals, with our busy lifestyles in this career- focused culture, we hardly have time to go out looking for a new partner and many of us turn to Online Dating to get help with our love lives (Euromonitor International, 2011). Since the launch of Tinder in 2012, we must ask ourselves if Online Dating really facilitates or improves our partner search.
Congratulations, it’s a match!
The expansion of the Internet has an impact on how we build and maintain interpersonal relationships with others (Seidman, Fischer & Meeks, 2006). “The Web has become the fourth most popular strategy in finding a date or a romantic partner” (Valkenburg & Peter, 2007, p. 849). For most of the singles among us, it is now common to search for a potential partner in a digital way. Some of us find them on Facebook, others use Online Dating portals or special Apps (like Tinder) – sometimes all of them together.
In contrast to partner searches in the non-media context, Online Dating platforms are characterized as follows:
- Independence of space and time: Online Dating works around the clock and everywhere where we have Internet access.
- Heterogeneity of user population: On Online Dating websites, we can easily get in contact with people from different sociodemographic and sociocultural backgrounds
- Larger number of potential partners: In comparison to the numerical limitation of contact possibilities in our everyday life, an overwhelming number of users can be accessed at Online Dating platforms
- Anonymity of the situation and the actors: We can decide which details we want to reveal about ourselves and how we want to be presented in our Online Dating profile (Valkenburg & Peter, 2007). Our true identity remains protected.
Despite these benefits, Online Dating platforms with its extensive personal profiles become obsolete. Thus, the number of Mobile Dating Apps with location-detecting functions are rising and showing high dissemination rates (Euromonitor International, 2011). Tinder, as the most popular Dating App (Ayers, 2014; Gatter & Hodkinson, 2016; Sumter, Vandenbosch & Ligtenberg, 2016) has fundamentally changed the way how we meet other people and is the game changer in Online Dating.
The functioning of Tinder corresponds to the simplicity of the “Hot or Not” – principle:
We get to see various profile pictures which we must rate by swiping it either to the right (“I like”) or to the left (“I dislike”). In case, someone likes our picture too, there is a match (“It’s a Match”) and it is possible to communicate with each other (see figure 1).
So, in the evolution of dating, Tinder takes it up to the next level and makes the flirtation even more efficient – for now we do not have to go out every day anymore, we can also sit on our couch with unwashed hair in jogging pants and text guys or girls.
Only one swipe away
And we do not even have to be at home for using tinder. It is a Mobile App, which we can use on our way to work, while we are queuing in the supermarket or even while we are meeting others, simply because “swiping can be fun, even addictive” (Ansari & Klinenberg, 2015).
In addition to the benefits of Online Dating, Tinder offers us specific features which makes it even more appealing:
Simplicity and speed of registration: Tinder is a low-threshold medium and works within seconds after registration. We must neither answer a lot of questions to ourselves, nor have to complete a psychological test as for the Online Dating websites
Minimalistic user interface: Tinder is easily structured and we intuitively understand how it works
Harmlessness of the setting: The swiping of photos is very fast and has a playful character. All the swipes are anonymous and we do not know who and how many users dislike our picture
Mutual attractiveness expression: This is a prerequisite for further communication on Tinder. It gives us a certain degree of assurance and can be associated with positive feelings. On Tinder, we merely receive positive feedback which results in a high degree of confirmation
Infinite swiping: While Online Dating platforms show the potential candidates all at once, the photos on Tinder are displayed in a seemingly endless loop. This unpredictability of the presented photos creates tension and curiosity, as there is uncertainty about who and how many candidates in total are shown next to us.
Moreover, Tinder uses the location-based function of our mobile phones, which makes it easier for us to find people in our immediate vicinity. So basically, our next potential partner is not only a swipe but also geographically not far away. With the location service, Tinder plays the advantage of smartphones against computers, notably Online Dating websites. Not least, Tinder has invoked the reputation of a sex App.
Fast sex or great love?
Four years after the launch of Tinder, the Dating App with approximately 26m Matches per day (see figure 2; Tinder Press, n.d.) is more popular than ever before, but also polarizes just as strongly. The partner search on Online Dating websites has been established for a few years now, but when we think of Tinder, it is still directly associated with sex. The prevailing opinion that we must face is all about hooking up instead of seducing (Claire, 2016); fast sex instead of great love.
Yet, an exploratory analysis found out that besides the Casual Sex motivation, five other motivations like
- Ease of Communication Self-Worth Validation
- Thrill of Excitement
are also profoundly related to the usage of Tinder (Sumter, Vandenbosch & Ligtenberg, 2016). However, the significance of these motifs differs both in relation to gender and age. Whereas the main motivation of Tinder for both genders is Thrill of Excitement, the male users’ motivation of Casual Sex is higher than of the female users (Gatter & Hodkinson, 2016), closely followed by Love (Sumter, Vandenbosch & Ligtenberg, 2016) (see figure 3).
Women though feel confirmed by the number of matches and dates, and thus benefit more from emotional confirmation. Men seem to be confirmed more by the number of sexual contacts. So today, more than in other epochs, we love in a more narcissistic way which expresses our insatiable hunger for confirmation and our general tendency to casual sex.
I saw you on Tinder
It is all wrong to us, but still we all use Tinder. The way in which Tinder performs, fairly conflicts with our education and perhaps even our social decency. Tinder works by judging at first glance or even worse condemning which is frowned upon in our society. But nevertheless, Tinder works because in principle it is nothing more than what we also do in public at any time. Tinder fulfils the same principles only digitally with the exception that we can stay at home which makes this type of “getting in touch” more convenient. So, reality is not different from Tinder.
However, theory and practice in real life are not always as close together as we want. In theory, Tinder is the overture to our love life. We have a match. We write. And ideally, we meet and fall in love. But what is striking is, that expectation and results are often far apart, which can be attributed to the discrepancy between different motivations. Nevertheless, some of us just see it as fun; swiping and getting matches like collecting points in a game. “Playing” alone or with friends, Tinder has an entertaining character (Oaklander, 2016) by looking through the pictures.
Next one, please!
Using the infinite swipe function, Tinder suggests us that there is an “endless supply of people who are single (...) looking to date” (Carr, 2016). So, we get the feeling that if we swipe long enough, our Mr. or Mrs. Right will eventually appear. Even so, per one study, 32% of respondents think that Online Dating prevents us from tying up because there are numerous alternatives to meet other people (Smith & Duggan, 2013). With Mobile Dating apps like Tinder, no one is good enough because there are too many other options. Apparently, the opportunity to get to know more and more people can at the same time increase the feeling of dissatisfaction, because deciding means renouncing!
In our generation, where everything is so fast-moving, we establish intimate relationships much faster and take the next one immediately, as Tinder offers us so many possibilities. Notably the next, even better match is eventually just a swipe away. We are constantly looking for new partners on Online Dating sites because we want to be noncommittal having relationships with no strings attached and the desire to keep all options open especially in love. Replaceability and lack of genuine emotional depth are thereby the indicators that change the way we love evoked by the Internet.
Call me, maybe?
Online Dating Mobile Apps such as Tinder bring partner search a step further into the digital world. The Internet has dramatically changed many areas of our lives, and love is no exception. For many of us today, it is self-evident not just to rely on the traditional way meeting someone in the pub or at a party. “Online dating is (...) a signifier of the time-poor society we live in because it allows [us] to “shop” for a lover at any time that is convenient for [us].” (Quesnel, 2010) Just as we buy on Amazon, we also use the Internet to find a partner.
Tinder is fun and if we fancy adventure, then this is the place to be. It gives us a lot of these “I am hot” – moments. And, although the Tinder makers never promised a partner search but a platform for “friendship and everything else”, it has become one. Tinder gives us the opportunity to meet people easily and to find potential partners with the same motivation. In the end, Dating is what we make of it and the further course of things cannot be influenced anyway – no matter whether we have met by chance in the supermarket or found each other on Tinder. However, Online Dating can help us to find what we are looking for. So, in the end it is up to us to take fate in our own hands, call the person we like and eventually meet.
Yet, we must doubt that Online Dating with its scientifically based algorithms really improves our love life. But one thing is certain: Online Dating makes the search more efficient and simplifies the first contact. So, what will come after Tinder in the future?
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http://www.theaustralian.com.au/life/weekend-australian-magazine/tinder-the-app-thats- setting-the-dating-scene-on-fire/story-e6frg8h6-1226933263450 [Accessed 22 November 2016]
Claire, M. (2016). Tinder: The online dating app everyone’s STILL talking about, Available Online: http://www.marieclaire.co.uk/life/sex-and-relationships/tinder-the-online-dating-app- that-everyone-s-talking-about-112522 [Accessed 29 November 2016]
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Carolin Strunz BUSN38 Online Marketing 29/11/2016
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Figure 1: Krause, K. (2014). Top 10 Android dating apps and the people you’ll meet using them, Available Online: http://phandroid.com/2014/07/15/best-android-dating-apps/ [Accessed 29 November 2016]
Figure 2: Mander, J. (2015). Why Tinder Has a Lot of Positives to Shout About, web blog post Available at: http://www.globalwebindex.net/blog/why-tinder-has-a-lot-of-positives-to-shout- about [Accessed 27 November 2016]
Tinder Press (n.d.). About Tinder, Available Online: https://www.gotinder.com/press [Accessed 27 November 2016]
Figure 3: Sumter, S.R., Vandenbosch, L. & Ligtenberg, L. (2016). Love me Tinder: Untangling emerging adults’ motivations for using the dating application Tinder, Telematics and Informatics, vol.34, no.1, pp. 67-78