Scientists who surveyed more than 1,300 undergraduates found that some Tinder users might feel depersonalized and disposable in social settings.
The extremely popular matchmaking app has garnered a lot of criticism, with many saying the framework objectifies people and relationships. If you’re unfamiliar with Tinder, the idea is very simple. Users upload photos and brief descriptions of their interests. What sets it apart from other matchmaking websites or apps is its so-called ‘swipe feature’. Once you’re logged in, you’re presented with someone else’s profile. At this point, you can “swipe right” if you like the person or “swipe left” for an unceremonious pass. If both users choose to “swipe right” the app puts them in contact via instant messaging.
This novel way of matchmaking has made the app very popular, boasting 50 million active users and growing daily. Though I personally don’t use it, I have many contacts that do. It’s often hilarious for me when I see them swiping through literally 20 profiles in under a minute. This seems to be common practice, and some people don’t mind it at all. It’s really high-speed fishing, yet some people who use the app might become depressed if they get rejected.
We’ve seen this happen with Facebook where power users report depression, low self-esteem, and jealousy — the products of an environment where getting “more likes” becomes a life goal and interactions become superficial because users choose to present themselves only at their best. On Tinder, this can become even more damaging to one’s self-esteem because the focus on physical appearance is a lot more pronounced. It’s the central theme actually — everything else is secondary.
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To find out just how affected Tinder users become, researchers at the University of North Texas surveyed 1,044 women and 272 men about their Tinder usage, but also asked them to self-report body image, sociocultural factors, perceived objectification, and psychological well-being. Of these participants, ten percent were Tinder users.
Both men and women who used Tinder reported less satisfaction with their bodies and appearance than non-users. Only men, however, reported lower self-esteem.
“We found that being actively involved with Tinder, regardless of the user’s gender, was associated with body dissatisfaction, body shame, body monitoring, internalization of societal expectations of beauty, comparing oneself physically to others, and reliance on media for information on appearance and attractiveness,” Jessica Strübel, Ph.D., study co-author at the University of North Texas
“Although current body image interventions primarily have been directed toward women, our findings suggest that men are equally and negatively affected by their involvement in social media,” she added.
The researchers are quick to note that although their paper highlights a relationship between Tinder and lower self-esteem, that doesn’t make the app the cause. It’s possible Tinder users who felt less satisfied with their appearance were just as unconfident and vulnerable before they started using it. They suggest more research should be made to assess the long-term psychological effects of Tinder and other apps and services like it.