Are dating apps making it difficult to choose one partner?

If you follow my Instagram stories, you know that I recently conducted a small research project about people’s experiences dating on Tinder. I created polls, you answered –ย you guys are great ๐Ÿ™‚ And some of you even let me interview you! Here’s what I found.

Why did I research this?

Many clients of mine are in their 20s and mention dates they’ve set up or people they’ve met through dating apps. This always really intrigues me. See, Pete and I were already in a relationship when dating apps became popular, so I never got to download one! Ah, the confines of monogamy!!ย 

Seeing how the use of dating apps has boomed in the past 6 years – along with the different types of apps: Grindr, Tinder, Happn, Thrinder, Bumble, Coffee & Bagle… – I imagine that their use must be shifting the way we interact romantically, and perhaps otherwise.

As part of my Masters degree, I needed to conduct a research project, so I figured, what better opportunity to explore my curiosity than this?

Forget the others, let’s focus on Tinder.

With so many dating apps to choose from, for a small research project, I decided to focus just on one app. I chose the one I assumed was most popular, based on the one I’d heard about most frequently – Tinder.

Since launching in 2012, Tinder has over 10 million daily active users. When I learned about the existence of Tinder, I understood that it was a โ€œhookup appโ€ – for those of you not down with the lingo, that means the app is used to pursue casual sexual encounters with good-looking individuals in your vicinity. It’s a geosocial app – how cool is that? It zones in on your location, and gives you the possibility to link up with anyone near by – no matter where you are!

Thing is, a study conducted byย LeFebvre (2017) found that out of 395 adults between the ages of 18 and 34, only 5% were on the app to hookup, whereas 48.3% were on it because of its popularity. If youโ€™re the only one not on Tinder, you can feel like youโ€™re missing out, –ย  sort of like Facebook – right?

However, when the same adults were asked what the purpose of Tinder was, 51.5% said they believed Tinder was designed for hooking up, while 33.5% said dating, and 15% said meeting people. So, it seems like most people think the purpose of using Tinder is to hook up – but not everyone seems to be there for that reason!ย 

What I found

โ€œI felt like a kid in a candy shop.โ€

We all know that feeling when thereโ€™s too many potentially wonderful options out there; it becomes very difficult to settle on just one and to feel satisfied with our decision. Sometimes, the vastness of choice hinders us from deciding at all.

My participants expressed this in many ways: app users tend to speak to several potential mates at the same time, and to go out on several first dates that never develop into second dates. It also was clear that it’s quite common to cancel dates at the last minute or to not show up at all, perhaps in favour of meeting someone else, or just not feeling up to it.ย 

I also found out that on Tinder itโ€™s possible to hide your account or to label it as being inactive. This gives the user the ability to continue their presence on Tinder, even though they might be in a committed relationship. This way, if the relationship falls through, having an account labelled as โ€œinactiveโ€ means they havenโ€™t missed out on making matches in the meantime. Having a hidden account, means they still have access to profiles theyโ€™ve made matches with in the past and can resume swiping as they did previous to their relationship.

โ€œIโ€™m not sure if I would delete it like 100%…it depends where I would be in the relationship.โ€

On excitement & disappointment

I wasnโ€™t surprised to come across the experience of being sort of “spoiled for choice” in my interviews with participants. The app gives you access to anyone, even people you wouldnโ€™t typically meet if you remained within your usual social circles. This aspect alone is exciting, so I can understand that with so many possible people you could meet through Tinder, it can be difficult to stop searching.

When I get in touch with this searching-process on the app, I feel a sense of being on the hunt, and that’s super exciting! But, I also imagine that this process can be somewhat frustrating and disappointing for people who may be looking for longer, more meaningful relationships. There seems to be a lot of energy put into searching, with very little energy attributed to the actual building of relationships – staying through the awkwardness, putting up with people’s differences and finding a way to compromise. Why compromise when I could potentially find someone better suited to me than my current partner??

When we’re in a constant state of searching, this can tires us out. In fact, I’ve actually heard of people experiencing dating-app burn-out. There’s an experience of, “What’s the point?” after talking to so many different people at the same time with little shared understanding of what we’re getting out of this. It can end up being a confusing experience for some people.

What about relationship satisfaction?

I imagine that knowing it’s so easy to access so many other people may impact relationship satisfaction negatively once an active user of Tinder does decide to be in a relationship with one person. But, I also feel this depends on the individuals in the relationship and how aware they are of how just having options often makes us feel like the grass might be greener on the other side. With this awareness, people can choose to stay with what they have or to explore the potential that different might be better.

Let me know if you want to read more about what I found in my Tinder research by liking this blog post or leave a comment below. If you’d like to take part in my research polls and be a part of the conversation, follow my Instagram Stories.

Thanks to all who participated!

With love,

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Read more about dating and relationships.

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Published by

Emma Hogg, Founder of A Life I Choose

Hi! As it says above, I'm Emma. Iโ€™m a psychotherapist who lives, breathes and eats the science of joyfulness, wellness and achievement. All the work I do is fuelled by my deep wish to belong to a world where people actively choose their lives! A person without choice is an unhappy individual. A person who passionately and resiliently lives their purpose experiences joy and fulfilment daily. If youโ€™re like me and you see that the more people are consciously engaging in life, the happier our world will be, then we need you to be a beacon of this message by living it! My blog is one of my ways of creating dialogue with you, so that together, we can have a greater impact on our world. x

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