So, You Wanna Hookup on an App?
Thinking about joining the ranks of online daters who’re traversing the dating apps and the Tindersphere in search of a little connection, a little spark, and a little something wonderful to occupy your time? According to Pew Research, attitudes in regards to online dating are changing rapidly, with a lot more people becoming open to the idea of meeting that special someone through tech. While there is still a ways to go, human sexuality has gone online.
While still only about 12% of daters have found a special someone through dating apps, but sometimes dating is just about sex, isn’t it? In February of 2016, only 15% of people had reported using a dating app; contrast that to today, that number has grown radically to 30%. LGBT people are about twice as likely to use a dating app (at 55%) than their heterosexual counterparts (at 28%). Three-in-ten US adults say they’ve used a dating app or dating site at one point. And with a pandemic in full force, one that doesn’t look like it’ll be easy for us to shake, there couldn’t be a better time to learn how these apps work and what they can do for you. Ready to make that internet connection your quarantined self has been so craving?
I’m assuming that if you clicked this, you’ve decided you want to take the plunge and join the growing number of people who are finding love and satisfying their lust online. Either that or you’re just entirely curious of how the algorithm works and how tech companies shape the world around us. Either explanation is as good as the other, or perhaps you’re drunk at 4 a.m. and looking for interesting conversation starters, who knows, but either way, I’m glad you’re here and hope you enjoy this investigation as deep as we can peer into Tinder’s tech.
A quick footnote on how powerful these algorithms can be, there’s been an uptick in interracial marriages since the popularization of online dating that’s been proven to be accreditable to these dating platforms, including and especially Tinder, which is a wonderful thing for our society. Even in the face of racial turmoil elsewhere online, dating apps are proving a solid way to bring people together in a way that cuts out judgmental parties and isn’t there strictly to sell you something by dicing you up into identity-categories. All of this is very good.
Understanding the Basics: ELO Scores
Virtually all social tech companies use algorithms to determine what gets seen, what doesn’t, and who crops up in the feeds of whom. Some companies prioritize clicks, likes, and reactions, other companies prioritize swipes, other companies prioritize likeness to other things previously responded to, the possibilities are endless. For those not in the know yet, Tinder provides users a series of photos from a possible match and allows the users to swipe right on their photo if they like that user and would like to talk to them, left if they’re not interested.
Tinder originally worked differently from both social media and other dating apps by providing a small bio and mostly relying on photos to see if there is any initial chemistry before users can proceed and converse with one another. It started with a ranking system called an ELO score which is really just a borrowed term from chess that has traditionally designated the level of skill someone has at playing chess, only for Tinder, it was a sort of user rating system.
The more people who swiped, “Yes! I like!” on your profile, rather than, “Nay, I’ll pass,” boosted your score. The app then took the corresponding ELO scores and paired them up to try to get people in the same league to match, for lack of a better term. A lot of people likened this to an “attractiveness score” though Tinder pushed back on the idea.
While Tinder obviously never published the full data on how this score is figured out, one thing to note is that the higher the score of the swipe right you received from someone, the more it affected your score. So, if someone with a high score swiped right on you, it boosted your score, but if they swiped left on you, it reduced your score. Fortunately, a lot has apparently changed since the days of the ELO scores, which Tinder seems to have reduced in favor of a new approach.
A More Complex System
In 2019, Tinder announced an update to the algorithm, that it was incorporating what others use, like the Gale-Shapely algorithm, albeit much less precise than, say, OkCupid or Match. This algorithm is sort of future predictive, so rather than being just a one-on-one comparison of up-until-now scores, like comparing two credit scores to determine who to show you and, conversely, who to show your profile to, this system sets up a matrix of who likes whom and predicts who you will like from there. Let’s say you swipe right on Matt and Tom who are both muscle-bound men living in Irvine, California; Jessica, a person unbeknownst to you, also liked Matt and Tom and swiped right on them, and she also swiped right on Javier and Kevin, the algorithm will likely show you Javier and Kevin at some point in the future.
The recent 2019 update also boosts profiles who are online (of course, the more that users are online more often, the better for Tinder) and proximity. Tinder’s blog says:
“Based on those profile ratings you received, there was a “score” — in the sense that it was represented with a numeric value in our systems so that it could factor into the other facets in our algorithm.
Today, we don’t rely on Elo — though it is still important for us to consider both parties who Like profiles to form a match. Our current system adjusts the potential matches you see each and every time your profile is Liked or Noped, and any changes to the order of your potential matches are reflected within 24 hours or so. There you have it.”
Rules of Thumb for Users
So, what are you supposed to do with all this technical jargon? Fortunately, plenty of users (like worst-online-dater) have consolidated a lot of scientific data into digestible pieces for everyone and I’ve read them all to give you some bullet points on how to approach utilizing the Tinder algorithms for success. Did you know that Tinder doesn’t even have to show your profile to anyone? What happens if you get designated as disruptive for doing something you read on Reddit? Some stories worth checking out will be featured at the bottom of this story.
- Be selective. It’s been theorized that seeing as Tinder doesn’t reveal all of the goodies in its secret sauce, there’s much to be discovered through exploration. Pretty much since Tinder’s inception, many men have sought to subvert the algorithm by just swiping right on literally everyone in order to end up with a totality of matches at the end of the day and weed them out from there. It’s highly likely that Tinder has compensated for this by “deplatforming” such users and not showing them in feeds. The rule of thumb here is trying to stick to an 80/20 ratio. Swipe right on 20% of the people you see and think you’ll match best with, and you’ll likely do well.
- Use Tinder Daily. Certainly, the frequency in which you use the app and the amount you swipe will factor into your score, the running hypotheses go. Nobody wants to wait days and days or weeks (or months) to hear back from a match. Nobody. Try to hop on the app every single day, even if it’s only for five minutes and keep swiping. Like most algorithms, consistency is key. Whether it’s Twitter or Tinder, a lot of people have high expectations and think they’ll hope on and find success (viral, tons of matches, etc.) in just a few days, but that’s unfortunately not the reality.
- Be authentic. Elo score might not matter as much but it still matters. Being a decent, genuine, kind human being with real pictures of yourself is the bare minimum. It’s also important to put your best foot forward and not use old bathroom mirror selfie pics from high school. You’re trying to impress people, here, treat it a bit more like a resume and a bit less like you’re just playing around and you’ll likely achieve a higher score.
- Always be bettering yourself. Update your profile often. Be fun, witty, and please, for the love of God — stay and be healthy. Try to follow the latest fashion trends, clean yourself up, don’t be afraid to try a new and cutting-edge haircut, etc. At the end of the day, complex algorithms aren’t always better and there’s just no substitute for good ole fashion chemistry. It’s vital that we don’t give up on ourselves and forge ourselves into the best version of ourselves we can be, growing as we date, through the successes and failures until we’re someone we can both love and live with — not to mention confidently share with someone else.
Thank you for reading. As promised, here are some articles that might be of interest to you if you’re curious about the ins-and-outs of the Tinderverse (or is it Tindersphere?).