How Tinder and Co. are changing our dating behavior forever

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In order to sweeten the holidays and the time between the years with entertaining and informative content, we have hand-picked GameStar tech articles that we particularly remember in 2023 and which we highly recommend reading.

This article is one of them. The editorial team wishes you happy holidays!

More than 75 billion matches in around 190 countries and over 40 different languages: Tinder is everywhere today. Since its release in 2012, the app has become synonymous with online dating. Tindern even made it into the Duden as a verb in 2017.

There is no question that Tinder and Co. have an influence on us and our dating behavior. But how do the apps affect our everyday life and our love life?

We have that Prof. Dr. Wera Aretz asked. She teaches psychology as dean of studies at the Cologne University of Applied Sciences Fresenius. As an expert in the field of online dating, she is convinced that apps like Tinder have brought about far-reaching changes in our behavior – especially in the process of getting to know each other.

Getting to know each other: Quick, non-binding, superficial?

According to Prof. Aretz, when online dating we think very carefully about what we reveal about ourselves and what we don’t. In order to present our best side, we pay close attention to suitable images and texts in our profiles. They are always a form of self-dramatization in order to make the desired impression right from the start.

There are definitely differences to analogue dating in clubs or bars. Because while we get a complex impression of our counterpart there, online we pay particular attention to the visual. Prof. Aretz says that both our representation and our perception channel reduced are.

She cites the dating leader Tinder as an example of this way of getting to know each other that is reduced to optics: Younger people in particular don’t actually take any time at all to date, but instead decide in a split second between ‘good profile’ or ‘bad profile’ due to the mass of profiles and potential partners. If you want to be successful on Tinder, you have to create a positive impression from the first moment.

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But apps like Tinder differ from analog dating not only in the quicker classification of profiles. There is also a difference due to the almost infinite number of potential partners. While the amount of people in a bar is limited, there is a seemingly endless pool of dates on dating apps. This creates additional excitement and good opportunities, but also brings problems.

One of these problems is the so-called “choice overload effect”. We are overwhelmed by the number of options and find it difficult to decide between the many choices. At the same time, the phenomenon also means that we are more dissatisfied with the decisions we have made – not a good basis for the possible start of a new relationship.

According to Aretz, how strongly we are affected by these effects, like our dating experience in general, depends heavily on factors such as age, gender or attractiveness: A 20- to 30-year-old, attractive woman will receive a lot of inquiries when online dating. It’s not that easy to handle the many requests, especially if you want to treat the other person in a friendly and respectful manner. And these many inquiries often lead to superficial behavior creeping in. For example, not reporting back or, so to speak, ‘processing’ a lot of people in a shorter period of time.

At the same time, online dating also has many advantages. With apps like Tinder we are no longer tied to time and place. Instead, we can meet new people anytime, anywhere: Time is a limited resource in this day and age. And it’s very nice to be able to shoot Cupid’s arrow at the same time. On the other hand, online dating is significantly faster and less binding due to the specific Internet context.

Image source: Statista, 2020

Image source: Statista, 2020

Ghosting and other phenomena

But even after we get to know each other, Tinder and Co. leave their mark on our dating behavior. It is now standard practice to keep in touch with several people at the same time via a dating app. Because we don’t want to commit ourselves to the first match. But keeping in touch in parallel is not limited to virtual space. What used to be unusual is now comparatively normal: meeting two, three or even four different people in one day who you previously met on one platform.

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The fact that meeting several people is so normal today doesn’t just have to do with our fear of committing ourselves too early. Money also plays a role. According to Prof. Aretz, those who pay for online dating ultimately want to get the most out of it: I also experience this with many users who spend money for a limited period of time and then want to put their foot down for this period. The investment should be worth it. And the sums that are made are often not that small.

With Tinder the costs are still comparatively low. Depending on age and subscription model, we pay between 4.58 euros and 16.49 euros per month. However, if you take out a Parship Premium subscription for six months, you will end up with around 480 euros (around 80 euros per month).

Image source: Statista, 2019

Image source: Statista, 2019

But if you really put your foot down when it comes to online dating, you can also get really frustrated. Because there, direct social controls, as we know them from analogue life, are often missing. Anyone who behaves like an ax in the forest offline has to expect consequences from the environment. In the digital world, however, it is usually only the direct counterpart who notices how we behave.

One phenomenon made possible by this lack of controls is this Ghosting. It describes the complete cessation of contact and communication without prior warning. Anyone who previously wrote to us for days suddenly stopped responding or even blocked us. And where we previously found an interpersonal relationship, suddenly there is only an eternally frozen chat history waiting.

Such negative experiences can cause some to completely lose interest in online dating and opt for a period of abstinence, […] to recover from it and develop new fun in dating. It’s called dating fatigue or dating burnout.

According to Prof. Aretz, this is one of the reasons why the reputation of online dating has suffered in recent years. But the reporting of Tinder as an app for flings also contributed: In addition, for a long time it was repeatedly stated in the media that Tinder is a cheating app where you can have short, non-binding sex or fun.

A picture that cannot be proven by studies. As Prof. Aretz reveals, most online dating users say they are looking for the love of their life – even if they are often not averse to short-term joy on the way there.

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