Tinder’s Impact on 21st Century Relationships

© Copyright 2018 Chantal Ouellette, Ryerson University.


The meaning of marriage has culturally changed over time, once being a “formal institution promoting family and economic stability” (Robles 430), to now being more focused on securing love and passion for one another as a “self-fulfillment” (430). Men and women in the 21st century have become much more focused on success at work, causing less time for and with family or partners (430). Finding a partner in the 21st century is commonly being done through social media or some sort of dating app. We are in the digital dating age because technology has attempted, over time, to make meeting like-minded people simpler. With men and women becoming increasingly more dedicated to becoming independently successful in their work life, it leaves them with less time for finding a significant other. By looking closely at Tinder’s dating app and comparing its interface and demographics to that of other website match-makers, it will give insight into how dating sites affect the relationships people choose to be in, in the 21st century.

Introduction to Online Dating and Tinder

Online dating has had a progressive impact on the way people meet for roughly 20-25 years as of 2018 (Finkel et al. 4). The purpose of online dating was introduced as a way to meet more people and in turn having greater odds of meeting your future partner, while also allowing the websites software to ‘mathematically’ match your profile to those that are similar (5). Dating sites were originally seen being used and made to match potential long-term partners. The Tinder app was released to the public in 2013 with a new way of introducing users to possible partners near them (Ranzini and Lutz 80). Tinder is seen as a new form of online dating due to its app mobility and connection through social media, specifically speaking with Facebook and Instagram, and once the users are matched they can converse through all other social media platforms they are interactive on (82). Tinder also presents itself as a dating app that is more focused on ‘liking’ and ‘disliking’ fellow users appearance. Of course the app, like all other dating sites, allows for a detailed profile bio, although the interface set up of Tinder is set up to judge a potential partner by their images posted.

Tinder Interface Tour

Once the Tinder app is downloaded onto users device, they will be asked to either sign-in with Facebook or by email. Tinder only asks for the users phone number, first name, birth date, to access their location, and to upload the best picture of them. Once all that information is entered in, the user can begin ‘swiping,’ with no bio at all. More specific information can be added to the profile in the edit option; otherwise, they are seemingly linked to other users in their area. Tinder is unlike any other dating app or website because of the lack of information needed, it matches people based upon whether or not one another ‘swipe right’ for each other. ‘Swiping right’ is a term used by Tinder app users meaning you ‘like’ the account being shown and hold interest in speaking with them. Tinder ‘matches’ you with someone you swipe right for only if they swipe right on your profile as well. Therefore, the app is not connecting people based on interests, personal goals, career, family interests, or any personality similarities. Tinder leaves it to the user to find out whether or not they truly are a ‘match’ by conversing, or whether they were just momentarily attracted to their profile pictures.

The interface, once logged in, is set up is quite simple. The main screen displays a profile of a user in the area near you, displaying there image, bottom corner their name, age, followed by the profile information chosen to be filled out (such as university they attended or career). User is able to get a view of their full bio and other images by clicking the information bottom on the opposite corner of their image. In the top left hand corner is a button for the user to access and edit their own profile, the Tinder logo (flame) is in the top center and is the main page when opening the app, where other profiles are displayed. The top right corner is where user can chat with fellow matches, bottom right corner is a purple lightning bolt that allows the user to upgrade their account (with a monthly fee) to be seen by more people for an extended period of time. Next to the bolt is a green heart, user can click to like instead of swiping right, followed by a blue star in the center. The blue star allows a person to ‘super like’ a profile, assumingly heightening their chances of being a match. One more button over is a red ‘x’ which user can click to dislike instead of swiping left and lastly in the bottom left hand corner is a yellow rewind symbol that user can click if they meant to like a profile but accidentally disliked. Tinder provides many paid options for users to upgrade their profile and get higher match chances and much more.

Looking Closely at Tinder Interface

The simple outline of Tinder’s interface makes it user-friendly and easily comprehensible for all ages. There are many videos and articles explaining how to install and use this simple app and how to use it in specific ways. Some people use Tinder just for ‘hooking up’ while others may be using it to find a serious partner. Using the video on YouTube created by LoveSystem, he explains how to use Tinder for complete beginners. In this video he describes the types of photos people should use as their profile picture, why it is best to connect with Facebook, how to talk to people you have been matched with and more. Interestingly enough, he promotes that people should to continuously swipe right until you get a match, implying that profile bios, age, actual photo is not even that important until you have been matched with someone. The saying ‘swipe right’ is even promoted on the Tinder webpage as seen in Figure 1. It has even been examined through a study done by Tyson et al. that “many male users like in a relatively non-selective way” (8). Displaying that it is more common for men to perhaps continuously like profiles so they can gain more matches.

Figure 1. Tinder website promoting users to ‘Swipe Right.’
Figure 1. Source: Tinder. 8.10.4, 2013. https://tinder.com/?utm_source=gotinder-nav-flame.


The question now is whether or not this was Tinder’s intention when designing the app? Perhaps the app is not meant to be viewed as a dating app but just as a way to talk to new people and have ‘hook-ups’ and or casual dating. In the study done by Tyson et al. they found that 49% of males reported using Tinder for one night stands, while only 15% of women claimed the same (7). Due to the fact that there is no clear reason on why people chose to use Tinder or what Tinder’s intentions are for users, there are a very small amount of users who actual meet up with matches (Tyson et al. 7). The study done by Tyson et al. makes it clear that women may take Tinder to a more serious level than men do and that may be what is causing all the user confusion and why very few people end up going on dates or ending up in a serious relationship from the use of this app (7). The way this app is used is definitely influenced by the interface set-up, making it a much more controversial dating app compared to other, more successful websites.

Comparison Between Tinder and Other Dating Sites

There are numerous dating sites, all claiming to have unique algorithms, reach of people, and knowledge on match making (Finkel et al. 5). There are even dating sites specific to people’s life styles, such as religious based, those who live a vegan lifestyle, and those who are parents. In Finkel et al.’s study on online dating sites they claim that all sites state that they provide “three broad classes of services: access, communication, and matching” (6). Access meaning that the site will be able to give users access to all other users that are potential matches, people they may not have met any other way. Communication meaning that some sort of message system will be set up for user and their potential matches to allow them to decide whether or not it truly is a match. Lastly, the sites claim they provide the service of matching, which “refers to a site’s use of a mathematical algorithm to identify potential partners” (6). Comparing these claims made by dating sites to the services Tinder provides, it is clear that is does contain all three services to a degree.

Tinder only provides access to users within area, although users can expand the area of reach with the option of paying for worldwide user access. Tinder provides a substantial communication system; it provides a message board on Tinder as well as a link to users matches social media profiles where they can continue conversations. The algorithm that Tinder has is much different than that of other dating websites though, most dating sites gather personal information, more than just name, age, and location. Through that personal information the website will match people with other profiles that are similar to their own. Tinder’s algorithm only matches people if they similarly like one another’s profile, yet over time it will match with other profiles similar to previously liked profiles. Although Tinder’s algorithm may not be as complex or as likely to provide accurate matches that end in long-lasting relationships.

Affect on Marriage Rates and Lasting Relationships

The final question is whether or not Tinder will have an affect on marital status and peoples overall view on relationships in the 21st century? There have been many economical changes that have affected family life within the 21st century. Looking back at the 20th century, work has been a major affecter, along side the demand for well-educated workers (Cherlin 39). “Cohabitation outside marriage became much more acceptable” (40), men and women were focusing on getting an education and well paid job, leaving marriage to be seen as not so important. Cohabitation is still commonly seen among the 21st century, leaving marriage and birth rates on the decline. Marriage is no longer as expected as it once was, “…it is one among many options available to adults choosing how to shape their personal lives” (41). Marriage and the meaning it holds has changed, it no longer means men have to take on the bread-winner role (main household income) or that women have to be the homemaker and most involved parent in their children’s lives. Although marriage is on the decline and optional in the 20th and 21st century, it does not mean it has lost its value. Rather than marrying young, people wait until they have become independently accomplished and have taken the time “to test their compatibility” (42).


Figure 2. Source:
“Swipe, F***, Leave.” Shameless, season 7, episode 2, written by John Wells and Sheila Callaghan, John Wells Production, 2016.

Tinder and other dating websites may be a newer form of how people meet and interact; it may change how many relationships, intimate or aloof, a person has before settling down. However, Tinder or no Tinder, the 21st century is a far more independent individuals, with success in their career being their first priority rather than marriage and family. As of 2016, Tyson et al. claim that only 38% of single American adults have explored the use of online dating (1). With simple, accessible apps like Tinder, that percentage may have raised since then, yet there is no clear indication it is directly affecting peoples decisions on the relationships they are looking for. Tinder may be supporting those who only want to experience hook-ups or one-night stands. Looking at the television series ‘Shameless’ they promoted Tinder to be used as a quick hook-up app, an app for easy sex. Near the end of the episode, viewers see the main character Fiona Gallagher being introduced to Tinder by a friend and is told, “don’t talk to them. Just swipe, fuck, and leave.” (45:29-45:40). In her bio, Fiona is only seen providing her name and age (see Figure 2), again promoting that a bio is not significant. Therefore, Tinder may not be directly affecting marriage decline, but unintentionally promoting unhealthy, quick, relationships among users. The promotion of quick relationships being affected by the simple interface and how media has portrayed it.









Works Cited

Cherlin, Andrew J. “American Marriage in the Early Twenty-First Century.” The Future of Children, 2005, vol. 15, no. 2, pp. 33-55.

Finkel, Eli J., et al. “Online Dating: A Critical Analysis From the Perspective of Psychological Science.” Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 2012, vol. 13, no. 1, pp. 3-66.

Ranzini, Giulia and Lutz, Christoph. “Love at First Swipe? Explaining Tinder Self-Presentation and Motives.” Mobile Media and Communication, 2017, vol. 5, no. 1, pp. 80-101.

Robles, Theodore F. “Marital Quality and Health: Implications for Marriage in the 21st Century.” Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 2014, vol. 23, no. 6, pp. 427-432.

Shepherd, Chris. “How to Use Tinder (For Complete Beginners).” YouTube, uploaded by LoveSystems, 8 February 2017, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wn1VHM5kv2o.

“Swipe, F***, Leave.” Shameless, season 7, episode 2, written by John Wells and Sheila Callaghan, John Wells Production, 2016.

Tinder. 8.10.4, 2013. https://tinder.com/?utm_source=gotinder-nav-flame. Accessed 2 March 2018.

Tyson, Gareth, et al. “A First Look at User Activity on Tinder.” Cornell University Library, 7 July 2016, https://arxiv.org/pdf/1607.01952.pdf.