- Some people are using social platforms for purposes other than what they were intended for.
- This is due to the “blurred nature of the online world,” said sociology professor Jennifer Lundquist.
- People have “electronic confidence” to do things they would not feel comfortable doing offline, she added.
Josh Ong was thrilled when he matched with a girl on Tinder who claimed to share his love for board games and anime.
As they began chatting on the dating app, the 27-year-old was convinced that he had found a potential romantic connection. That is, until their first date at a Starbucks outlet in Singapore, where she whipped out a folder of pamphlets and started promoting life insurance policies.
“I was so disappointed. It turns out that she already has a boyfriend, and she was just using Tinder to get clients,” Ong told Insider. “I don’t think that’s right when there are people like me who’re looking for real dates.”
His experience is not uncommon. Scams aside, there are a number of reports online of similar instances where people have said that they used dating apps for purposes other than, well, dates.
Insider spoke to four Singaporeans who said they’ve matched with multiple people on dating apps who used the app to find prospective clients, selling them everything from investment plans to properties. None of these matches had any intention of forming a romantic relationship, they said.
“It’s happened to me so often that it’s putting me off of dating sites altogether,” human resources manager Low Jenn Yi, 33, told Insider. “I matched with a cute guy once, and he just tried to sell me a gym membership plan. Another told me that he needed more people to participate in a survey for work.”
According to Tinder’s community guidelines, promotion or solicitation is prohibited. “It’s fine to invite your matches to something that you’re doing, but if the purpose of your profile is to advertise your event or business, non-profit, political campaign, contest, or to conduct research, we may delete your account,” the rules read.
But it appears that there’s little regulation of the rule.
Dating app Hinge is also clear on demarcating boundaries. “Selling insurance policies is a violation of our terms of service,” a Hinge spokesperson told Insider. Dating app Bumble did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.
Lookin’ for love in all the LinkedIn places
Still, it’s unsurprising that some people are using dating apps for something other than their intended purpose, given the “blurred nature of the online world,” Jennifer Lundquist, a sociology professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, told Insider. “It has very porous boundaries compared to our face-to-face world.”
Part of that is due to ease of access, explained Lundquist, who also wrote “The Dating Divide: Race and Intimacy in the Era of Online Dating.”
“For example, I can contact my provost directly by email with a complaint via email or a post on his Facebook page, but there are gatekeeping mechanisms for me being able to access him in real life,” she said.
“If I march over to his office, his secretary will stop me and ask if I made an appointment. If I try to telephone him, his receptionist will decide whether to put me through or not.”
Social media network boundaries are murky also because the online world is a lot more “private” than in face-to-face settings, Lundquist noted. “People more easily break the boundaries online given that they have fewer concerns about others judging them.”
This is also why, on the flip side, some people have boldly turned to social media platforms outside of dating sites in their quest for love.
One example: LinkedIn. Despite it being designed to be a professional networking site, some have openly blogged about finding their significant other via the platform.
Colorado-based Katie Ortman Doble, who works in staffing, wrote about how she met her husband on LinkedIn. “I melted,” she described upon first seeing his profile picture before requesting to connect even though “it was a long shot we would actually do business together.” She did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.
Writer Sarah Miller shared in 2017 that LinkedIn “worked better than real dating sites.”
“If you’re into having some dirty fun with partnered professionals and are willing to play the long game, LinkedIn is your next great dating app,” she wrote on The Bold Italic.
Meanwhile, freelancer writer Katie Cunningham wrote about how a person reached out and said he’d decided to hit on her via LinkedIn “instead of waiting for you to not like me on Tinder.”
—Katie Cunningham (@katiecunning) April 29, 2019
Harnessing ‘electronic confidence’ to meet a match
Lundquist is not surprised that there are people making romantic advances on LinkedIn, even if she believes it’s “inappropriate,” especially “in the #MeToo era.”
“The social norms against asking someone out over the water cooler at work are much stronger than the social norms against doing so in private messaging on an online professional social networking site,” she said.
“To make a crude analogy, it’s a similar effect as ‘liquid confidence.’ People use alcohol as a social lubricant to do and say the things they often would not feel comfortable saying and doing in social situations. In the case of online, we can call it ‘electronic confidence.'”
In some ways, it’s also easier to vet a potential mate on LinkedIn than in a bar, or even on a dating site.
“I can see how some daters might find LinkedIn appealing because it tends to be safer in that the identity of the person is verified. It’s also more likely to be a more accurate profile, whereas we know that dating profiles can often be a bit exaggerated or even untrue,” Lundquist said.
“Professional networking sites provide pretty deep information on a person’s conventional ‘success’ metrics, such as career mobility, status, and income, more so than dating apps and other networking sites,” she continued.
A rep for LinkedIn said the platform shouldn’t be used for anything other than establishing work connections.
“As a professional network, our members rightly expect their experience on LinkedIn to be professional in nature, and any form of harassment or unwanted romantic advances are a violation of LinkedIn’s Professional Community Policies and not tolerated,” a company spokesperson told Insider.
But again, such policies are difficult to enforce.
“We don’t allow unwanted expressions of attraction, desire, requests for a romantic relationship, marriage proposals, sexual advances or innuendo, or lewd remarks. We also do not allow LinkedIn to be used to pursue romantic connections, ask for romantic dates, or provide sexual commentary on someone’s appearance.”
For now, Ms. Low, the woman who was sold the gym membership on Tinder, is moving away from dating apps.
“Maybe I’ll just have to do things the traditional way and try talking to people in real life. At least intentions are clear right from the start,” she said.