In the ever-shifting trends of online dating, one new merchant, app service Tinder, has caused a fissure in the online dating world by straying away from traditional quality-assessing Q&As, choosing instead to revert to the idea that what might ultimately be the best deciding factor is looks.
In a measure of how popular the app has become since first launching a year ago, users have swipe-rated each other 13 billion times — 3 billion times in August alone — and 2 million matches happen each day. It’s said to be the fastest-growing free dating app in the U.S.
So how does Tinder actually work?
The phone app asks users to swipe through photos of potential mates and message the ones they like; each profile is linked to the user’s Facebook profile, ensuring legitimacy.
Interestingly, researchers note that like real life, most mates end up meeting with someone who is as equally goo- looking as they are, which might be why Tinder has become a runaway success.
“The way Tinder works is the way people tell us they see the world,” tells Chief Executive Officer Sean Rad. “They walk around, they see girls, and they say in their heads, ‘Yes, no, yes, no.’”
Researchers note that part of the allure of an app like Tinder is the notion that strangers can accurately predict qualities like extraversion, emotional stability and self-esteem based on photos.
But before you all rush to join Tinder, researchers have found that the approach might also be limited, as one’s appearances and our attraction toward certain looks doesn’t necessarily inform the viewer about a prospective date’s personality. In other words, it might be advisable to tell prospective dates that you’re into volunteer work in your Tinder tagline, or better still, choose a photo of yourself showing off your quirky, free-spirited nature, a picture that an equally free-spirited individual would be drawn to. The way one markets his looks on Tinder is crucial for success.
One entrepreneur who also believes that success in relationships is dependent on finding partners who are equally good-looking is Christina Bloom, who launched FaceMate in 2011.
According to The Atlantic, “The site matches the photos of its users based on their faces’ bone structure using face-scanning techniques and a computer algorithm. The service is free, for now, and currently has 100,000 users…. ‘It all starts with the face,’ she said. ‘People say, “From the first time I met him, I knew.” There’s a sense of recognition. That’s what they’re seeing, is their own image. That’s what we call chemistry.’”
Yet not everyone is sold that looks alone will guide one to happy relationships. Leslie Zebrowitz, a psychology professor at Brandeis University and an expert on face perception, says, “People are not romantically attracted to people who look like them…. That has to do with the disadvantages of mating with your brother, for example.”
The Atlantic also notes that Lisa DeBruine, a psychologist at the University of Glasgow in the U.K., has found that people find self-resembling, opposite-sex faces to be trustworthy but not sexy, and they can even be repulsive for a short-term relationship.
To further help you decide whether or not to set up a Tinder profile, other researchers have found that morphing photos to make the subjects look more like each other led some prospective partners to find suitors’ photos more attractive. However, the magic number was no more than 22 %; beyond that suitors were said to be grossed out.
Not surprisingly, detractors of Tinder opine that selecting prospective love interests based on looks is clearly superficial. Rad argued against this in an interview with Business Insider yesterday:
“People are smart when they look at pictures…. If a girl sees a guy who looks like an Abercrombie model, there’s a good chance she’ll swipe left (‘no’) because he looks full of himself.”
It’s not all about looks on Tinder, Rad argues. It’s about finding people you feel you could connect with; appearance is just one of a few ways Tinder users sort through profiles.
Yet how we mate online and in real life may have more to do with what researchers term the “joint evaluation model,” which causes users to focus on certain qualities they think are important in a potential partner, perhaps to the neglect of qualities that actually are important, such as rapport, sense of humor and sexual compatibility.
This might explain why we can assess the potential of a prospective partner in 10 minutes in real life, by spending actual face-to-face time and judging the rapport, as opposed to countless hours spent rifling through profiles. So maybe it’s just common sense: spending actual time with a potential new romantic partner might be the best way to go in the end, not that Tinder isn’t willing to help you get closer.
Interestingly, according to Tinder, over 100 million matches have been made since its launch, including 50 marriage proposals.
So maybe you should try Tinder, if you’re not already on there.