Is it Love at First Swipe?

Online dating sites are battling against each other to provide individuals with access to millions of potential dates everyday. In his book “The Paradox of Choice”, Schwartz questioned the assumption that more choice means better options and greater satisfaction. The more choices we have, the less likely we are to narrow down and stick to one option. If this was the case, dating apps would leave their customers unsatisfied, and yet, there has been a surge in the number of individuals who are turning to the internet to find love. So what is it about these apps that are leaving their customers wanting more?

            Tinder is the latest big addition to the online dating world. It is an app that identifies available heterosexual, gay, bisexual, or “curious” partners in the vicinity, and requires users to judge the pictures of fellow Tinderers by swiping right (like the profile) or left (do not like the profile). With an estimated 450 million profiles rated everyday and membership growing by 15% each week, the app has witnessed a 400% increase in downloads in India over the past year. Further, in a country where women are seen as shy and reserved, it was surprising that they were found to be more active in using the application than men. This conceptualizes the perception of Tinder usage in India, and of the online dating world in general, where individuals consider these sites/apps as safe places to have harmless conversation.

            Tinder is a fun way to waste time with people you’d never want to date in real life”. In our technosexual era, the process of dating has been gamified by technology, where the real pleasure is derived from the process of using Tinder. B.F. Skinner studied operant conditioning in order to determine how different kinds of positive reinforcements in our environment affect our future behavior. He found that when some form of positive reinforcement followed a behavior, we were likely to repeat this behavior in the future. Applying Skinner’s classical theory to the very Modern Tinder, one could say that the positive reinforcement of a match between two strangers on tinder increases the chances of swiping right. Clinical psychologist Dr. Wendy Walsh concluded that the whole concept of the matching game and texting each other had become so much fun that the relationship never moved into the real world.

            Tinder simply pulls out photos and basic data from Facebook; allowing users to judge others based on their appearance alone. This is exactly the sort of scenario that most women say they want to stay away from, and yet, the app is particularly popular among women in India. In a way, we see the manifestation of our cultural obsession with appearance and attention deficits” through a process that mimics the arranged marriage system in our country. So whether it is in person, on Tinder, or through the arranged marriage system, the same principle seemed to be followed: seeking what we want and avoiding what we don’t.

            Rising education, urbanization, and the use of matrimonial sites has created a platform where “arranged marriages have morphed into a culturally appropriate alternative to online dating”.   The development of apps like Tinder provides a platform for women (and men, for that matter) to express their choice in an atmosphere that otherwise imposes severe restrictions. Further, it provides a safe place for young women to exercise their desire of looking for something casual that does not have to materialize into a long-term relationship. Therefore, even though an array of choices can lead to indecisiveness, the option of having a choice is a novelty to many in our country.

Nikita Wadhwa