Tinder has revolutionised the modern dating world. For many before, meeting a partner only happened in real life.
It is most likely that you remember Match.com and eHarmony.com, reminiscent of the early days of online dating. They depend on algorithms to match people based on common interests (Kao, 2016). This web essay explores the internet transformation of the mobile dating app Tinder, which has revolutionised the way of dating by displaying matches within your geographic location. Pre-determined algorithms are no longer relied on to find potential matches (Kao, 2016).
This means that users can find a potential match close by, only a swipe to the “right” away!
A humble beginning
Tinder was founded by Sean Rad and Justin Mateen. They shared common interests in innovation, technology and girls, in particular Justin’s girlfriend, as they met when they were teenagers when they were both chasing after her (Gray, 2016).
Each of them had side businesses, but later consolidated their efforts for efficiency during university. They later developed Tinder in 2012, and motivated millions of dates and successful relationships (Gray, 2016).
Why are people switching to swiping?
Tinder is an innovative transformation from traditional dating sites. As simplified by Schrock (2015), this can be recognised through the four key affordances of mobile media (Lutz & Ranzini, 2017).
Portability: As mobile phones and tablets are portable, Tinder can be used anywhere, from public, to private spaces (Lutz & Ranzini, 2017).
Availability: As it is simple to use, the spontaneity is enhanced and therefore increases the appeal and usage of the app (Lutz & Ranzini, 2017).
Locatability: This means that within physical proximity, users are able to match and meet easily. This is a significant aspect of Tinder differentiating from traditional desk top dating sites (Lutz & Ranzini, 2017).
Multimediality: As stated by Marcus (2016), Tinder doesn’t only rely on itself, it also relies on photo sharing and texting. When there is a match, users can connect through other media platforms such as Instagram, Snapchat or text (Lutz & Ranzini, 2017).
Social Ecology of Tinder
Who owns Tinder?
Tinder is owned by Match Group, which is home to a wide range of dating start-ups including OkCupid and Match.com (Reader, 2015). It is a subsidiary of IAC/InterActive Corp.
Match Group’s dating products are distributed in more than 190 countries, with the majority in North America (Reader, 2015). Tinder dominates the dating market, making $1.2 billion in 2019 from people who are paying for more swipes. Match Group made $2.1 billion in 2019, meaning that Tinder is representative of half its income (Carman, 2020).
Tinder’s Business model
Tinder has the Freemium business model, which is a blend of free and premium. This is by providing the service for free, gaining customers through word of mouth, organic search marketing and referral networks (Wilson, 2006). Then, added services are available, a “premium” version, where customers would have to pay for (Wilson, 2006).
The business model is not about creating relationships, it is about increasing the quantity of users on the database and interactions within the app (Kruger & Spilde, 2019). As stated by Kenney & Zysman (2016), this commercial practice instigates the owners to invest in retaining numerous active users, as this drives further development translating into economic value (Courtois & Timmermans, 2018).
As there are advertisements in between the swipes, it is evident that social networking sites like Tinder use techniques of data mining (John, 2018). Website real estate is sold to advertisers based on the assurance of targeted marketing (John, 2018).
Each user shares their information causing consumer traffic. Their demographic information is sold to advertisers, frequently in real time (Jarett, 2014). This economic model reconstructs the activity of users into demographic and interest identifying data, formulating it into a commodity (Jarett, 2014).
Algorithms and profitability
The owners of the platform set out a preferred outcome, for example increased user activity (Courtois & Timmermans, 2018). Next, they outline the parameters for the algorithm that is learning to analyse patterns within the (meta)data, to seek out a correct formula to maximise the desired result. This leads to profitability of the platform (Courtois & Timmermans, 2018).
Tinder on top – but wait, there is competition
The success of Tinder has inspired the introduction of numerous other apps which are similar with location-based dating, however they are differentiating themselves by catering to specific niches (Gray, 2016).
The most popular dating apps topping the “5 Dating Apps that are better than Tinder in 2020” site includes Bumble, CoffeeMeetsBagel, Hinge, The League and Happn (“5 Dating Apps better than Tinder”, 2020).
Tinder’s Regulators and Partnerships
To protect users and to remove offensive or illegal content, as well as displaying their best to the public, platforms must moderate (Gillespie, 2018) the content and behaviours of users.
An example of how Tinder protects users is through the use of Artificial Intelligence enabled facial recognition, to prevent cat-fishing. A catfish is someone who sets a fake persona online to scam, which often leads to predatory behaviours (Vaas, 2020).
Tinder users share their location, and Match Group recognised this risk. They invested and created a partnership with Noonlight. This company’s technologies quickly allow users to get help by contacting emergency services in a subtle way, without needing to call an emergency number (Vaas, 2020).
This use of protection is necessary as often people believe the crimes that they encounter doesn’t surpass their ‘threshold of seriousness’ and think that they can deal with it by themselves (Campbell et al., 2018).
Match Group has stated that out of all dating companies, Tinder is the first to invest in an emergency service system enabling users to get direct help (Vaas, 2020). This demonstrates how Tinder is an innovative platform, investing in cutting-edge technologies for the protection of users.
Tinder is also in a partnership with Facebook, as users are required to link their Facebook profiles to their account. This connection is a further identification source (Lutz & Ranzini, 2017), which can contribute to prevent cat-fishing.
As shown in the graphs below, it is evident that the in the US in 2020, the majority of Tinder users are Generation Z, and male (Blair, 2015).
Tinder continues to grow its popularity through innovative ideas targeting Gen Z, such as introducing features like interactive Swipe Night, which matches users based on the choices they make while engaging with various interactive content (Carman, 2020).
The Ecosystem of Tinder
The impact of Tinder and its criticisms
The dating “game”
The portability affordance of Tinder allows the opportunity for it to be used in public places. It can even be shared with friends as a social activity. As Sales (2015) states, it heightens the entertainment of swiping and browsing through people’s profiles (Lutz & Ranzini, 2017).
The availability affordance adds to the entertainment, as messages are sent in a spontaneous, short amount of time. The quick decisions on how to present themselves, as well as how to reply to the other person is spontaneous, (Lutz & Ranzini, 2017), which adds a thrilling game-like aspect of dating.
This “fun” aspect of entertainment however can be seen as a digital disruption, by “gameifying” people and relationships. This is also seen through the design of the app with game-like features such as rewards and the action of swiping (Abolfathi & Santamaria, 2020).
Additionally, as stated by Marcus (2016), the combination of spontaneity and limited given information on profiles can lead to issues like information overload, and feelings of competition against thousands of other users, as photos are heavily relied on (Lutz & Ranzini, 2017).
The fun video below by Jubilee demonstrates in real life the actions of what users are doing on dating apps like Tinder. It shows how they choose their partner in the selection stage through their appearance first, and how game-like this process looks. Check it out!
“30 vs 1: Dating App in Real Life | Versus 1,” by Jubilee, all rights reserved
Tinder and gender politics
It is evident that within the design of Tinder, the use of photos are heavily relied on for users to make their swiping decisions (Thompson, 2018).
The users online are hyperaware of their appearance and how it is used as competition against others (Thompson, 2018). This relates to the sexual “marketplace” metaphor, a framework describing contemporary online dating relations (Thompson, 2018).
This is from the challenged view of where female sex is measured as an exchange for the social resources of men (e.g. status, wealth). The factors that affect the female’s “currency” and “worth” is physical attractiveness in this sexual marketplace (Thompson, 2018).
The Ted talk below is given by Violet Lim, founder and CEO of LunchActually, a match making service for singles looking for a match offline (indirect competitor of Tinder). She talks about topics like the presentation of self, being judged on her appearance, and critiques online dating apps, where users’ decisions are based on superficial qualities.
“Use technology for what it has to offer, but do not leave your love life to algorithms alone”
“Dating that stays online, stays superficial” – Violet Lim
“What Dating Apps and Algorithms Don’t Tell You,” by TEDx Talks, all rights reserved
Additionally, as Tinder has reshaped the way we date, it has resulted in a shift to short term dating. There are countless potential partners available to the average male. This allows him to take his time and go through several short-term and long-term dating strategies (Gray, 2016).
This challenges the advantage females had where they could be selective, and with males trying to win them through displaying commitment (Gray, 2016). However today, with the apps like Tinder readily available with countless choices, women are seen as more replaceable now (Gray, 2016).
Privacy concerns on Tinder
Every time something is shared online, traced of data are created (John, 2018). With many internet platforms collecting this data, some of this includes private information, such as location, health, financial information and personal preferences (Lutz & Ranzini, 2017).
Marwick & Boyd (2014) state that in this digital age, privacy is contextual and complex, with the risk of “context collapse” (Lutz & Ranzini, 2017). This differs from the traditional models that Marwick & Boyd (2014) raised, where privacy is an individual right, but is measured by the level of impact of the individual (Lutz & Ranzini, 2017).
Although institutional privacy issues on Tinder are a concern, social privacy issues are more distinct and directly harmful. Recent literature on systems security by Qin, Patsakis & Bouroche (2014) revealed that attackers are able to easily outwit the location complication on the dating app and reveal the exact location of the victim (Lutz & Ranzini, 2017).
As a free application holding an overwhelming number of potential dates within your geographical location, Tinder is an incredible example of an internet transformation impacting the way we date.
Tinder exhibits its transformative features through the key affordances demonstrating its innovative design, freemium business model, regulators and partnerships to protect users, as well as the entertainment “fun” dimension to it. However, such an influential app doesn’t come with criticism and challenges. These included how genders are viewed, superficial qualities and privacy issues.
All in all, Tinder has had a widespread impact to life with the swipe, and has revolutionised the modern dating world.
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