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Women's perspective on using Tinder: a user study of gender dynamics in a mobile device application

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Mobile applications expand possibilities for interaction and extend the boundaries of communication. Regarding online dating, Tinder is one of those applications that make it easier to connect people, and it brings out a new concept of relationship in which emotional bonds are established in a virtual space. However, it is relevant to investigate whether Tinder enables women's empowerment and how the user-mobile device interaction and the graphical user interface bear upon gender dynamics. Forty women were interviewed and the findings show that Tinder is not meeting women's expectations, rather it is stimulating the objectification of women. Considering that online dating is a growing trend and that it can be a revolutionary tool to connect people, we analysed the interface and pointed out some issues that should be considered to enhance women's experience.
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Women’s Perspective on Using Tinder
A User Study of Gender Dynamics in a Mobile Device Application
Milena Ribeiro Lopes
Trinity College Dublin
Dublin, Ireland
lopesm@tcd.ie
Carl Vogel
Trinity College Dublin
Dublin, Ireland
vogel@tcd.ie
ABSTRACT
Mobile applications expand possibilities for interaction and extend
the boundaries of communication. Regarding online dating, Tinder
is one of those applications that make it easier to connect people,
and it brings out a new concept of relationship in which emotional
bonds are established in a virtual space. However, it is relevant to
investigate whether Tinder enables women’s empowerment and how
the user-mobile device interaction and the graphical user interface
bear upon gender dynamics. Forty women were interviewed and
the findings show that Tinder is not meeting women’s expectations,
rather it is stimulating the objectification of women. Considering that
online dating is a growing trend and that it can be a revolutionary tool
to connect people, we analysed the interface and pointed out some
issues that should be considered to enhance women’s experience.
CCS CONCEPTS
Human-centered computing !User studies; Graphical user
interfaces; User interface design;
KEYWORDS
User-Mobile Device Interaction; Gender Dynamics; Online Dating
Application
ACM Reference format:
Milena Ribeiro Lopes and Carl Vogel. 2017. Women’s Perspective on Using
Tinder. In Proceedings of SIGDOC ’17, Halifax, NS, Canada, August 11–13,
2017, 10 pages.
DOI: 10.1145/3121113.3121220
1 INTRODUCTION
Cyberspace can be considered a safe environment in which to engage
and deepen intimacy, due to its support of virtual connections [
20
].
Despite this apparent safety, some concerns arise exactly from the
ease of interaction. Since Tinder encourages relationships, first in
a virtual space and later, potentially, with physical interaction, it is
relevant to understand the interaction in relation to gender issues and
sexist patterns already established by society.
This study aims to analyse Tinder as a social influence upon
gender dynamics and to understand how women feel during their
experience with the application. For that purpose, we describe our
analysis of interviews about Tinder with 40 women. The idea of
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SIGDOC ’17, Halifax, NS, Canada
©
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DOI: 10.1145/3121113.3121220
the experiment came after informal talks with female users, who
would frequently reveal contradictory feelings about the applica-
tion, as excitement and frustration. From this first impression, a
question emerged: “Is Tinder meeting women’s expectations and
needs?” Research in the field of user-mobile device interaction
brought awareness of social patterns as factors that should be rea-
soned and planned during the development of the interaction and the
Graphical User Interface (GUI).
Currently, many cultures are embracing the concept of multiple
genders in opposition to the traditional idea of gender binarism in
which people are simply defined as male or female. Although the
present research brings out some sexist concerns that often fall into
the male-female polarity, it is not at odds with a more complete
gender spectrum or with relationship diversity. To evaluate how
women feel in relation to the application, sexual preference was
not taken into account. However, we hypothesize that male-female
interaction comprises historical patterns of behavior that can be
reproduced in new technological developments and can negatively
affect women’s empowerment and gender equality. Further, we also
hypothesize that sexist behaviors can be incited by the user-mobile
device interaction, and due to this, interfaces should be carefully
planned and designed. This research focuses in the female point of
view of the interaction with Tinder. The investigation on how male
perceive the application could lead to different results. However,
this does not change how women currently feel about it, and it does
not change their experiences.
Since virtual communities reproduce social patterns and power
dynamics established in real environments [
20
], the structures of
a patriarchal society will be reproduced among its media channels
and through technological developments including mobile appli-
cations. Furthermore, sexism can be intensified within the virtual
realm since people feel more free to express their views through the
anonymity supplied by Internet. One example is the rise of the anti-
feminism movement in online communities such as "Men’s Rights
Movement" (MRE), "Men Going Their Own Way" (MGTOW), the
"Red Pill", among others, which oppose the ideal of gender equality
[
13
]. For this reason, it is necessary to check whether Tinder, as a
communication vector, is spreading gender equality or worsening
inequality.
“Harassment” is arguably an over-used term and is correspond-
ingly problematic as a conceptual notion. A recent study about
sexual harassment [
3
] tries to differentiate solicitation from dero-
gation and argues that sometimes what victims perceive as sexual
harassment is actually a solicitation act targeting short-term sexual
encounters. However, because the purpose in the present research is
to understand how women feel, their opinion about feeling offended
or not is defining the use of the term.
SIGDOC ’17, August 11–13, 2017, Halifax, NS, Canada Milena Ribeiro Lopes and Carl Vogel
On one hand we can say that women within western culture have
gained more independence and control within relationships due to
gains such as reproductive rights, family law, equal employment
rights, property rights and so on. On the other hand sexist behavior
and all sort of gender violence still pervade virtual and physical in-
teractions. According to Wajcman [
20
], technology is “an extension
of patriarchal and capitalist domination” and “has been shaped by
men to exclusion of women” [
20
, p. 29]. From her perspective, there
is a tendency to reinforce gender hierarchies within technological
developments. Considering this scenario where women feel free
to benefit from technological advances in a world still influenced
by gender hierarchies, how should an application provide healthy
and easy interactions and at the same time provide empowerment,
safety, self-confidence and respect to women? The first step is to
understand how they feel in relation to that kind of interaction, that
goes far beyond the virtual bonds and incite the interaction in its
deepest level of intimacy.
For that purpose, we established three research goals: to learn
whether the application meets women’s expectations, to investigate
whether there are sexist patterns of behavior during the Tinder expe-
rience and to verify which elements of the interface contribute to a
good or bad experience regarding gender dynamics. This research is
independent of Tinder – it is conducted without support from Tinder
nor any link or agreement with the company.
2 A BRIEF TINDER OVERVIEW
Tinder is an online dating application which is used worldwide. It
is increasingly popular, and it is changing the way people engage.
Based on Tinder’s last report [
1
], the application is being used in 196
countries and makes possible 26 million matches a day. According to
the company, the application is focused on bringing people together
and promoting connections that would not be possible outside the
virtual realm. Indeed, the online dating application is revolutionary
in terms of the connectivity it enables.
Tinder’s graphical user interface is quite simple and clear, and
that contributes to the popularity of the application. It shows one
person at a time and to see the next person the user must take a
decision: to like or dislike the person viewed. The communication
through Tinder has only two steps. The first step is choosing possible
partners/friends. The idea of the manipulation is to be as simple
as possible, and the interaction requires essentially three gestures
(see figure 1): the swipe left (dislike), the swipe right (like) and
the swipe upwards (super like). The “super like” feature is limited
in availability per day. When the user super likes someone it will
make the interest explicit, so the other part will know that the user is
interested before he/she takes an action (swiping right or left). That
is the main part of the interaction: choosing people. Once one likes
a person one needs to wait to see if that person reciprocates within
the next hours or days (it depends on how often the other user goes
online). Otherwise the other person will not know that one has liked
him/her, because feedback is provided when there is a mutual match
(except for super likes). Not matching can mean that the person does
not reciprocate, but not necessarily. It can happen that the person
did not see the profile because he/she is not online often or does not
spend much time swiping. The second and last step of the interaction
is chatting. People may maintain some active conversations with
their matches through the application’s chat system.
Figure 1: Tinder’s basic set of gestures to interact with the GUI.
Evident appeal of the system interface derives in part from the
reduction of personal risk in expressing unreciprocated attraction to
an image of another person. However, this comes with a privacy cost
since the interface gestures required may be visible in public, known
to those acquainted with the application, and therefore potentially
at odds with the deepest wishes of an application user who might
rather certain others not to know that they use the application. The
potential gain from consequent positive interactions enabled by the
application appears to outweigh the risks for many users.
3 RESEARCH METHOD
The research has a mixed methods approach characterized by the
incorporation of both qualitative and quantitative data [
8
]. The ap-
proach would be considered as qualitative regarding the subject and
purpose of the study; however, we decided to integrate the quanti-
tative approach to the analysis of the findings, which would help
to establish facts about the distribution of perspectives on sensitive
matters (female perception of an online dating application).
3.1 Data generation
The research method involves data generation [
4
] through the use
of a structured interview with open-ended questions, text analysis
of responses, the transformation of the interview information into
statistical data and the analysis of the results. Although an unstruc-
tured interview might be recommended due to the qualitative nature
of the research questions [
7
] we considered the structured interview
the best option to focus on the subject and goals. The open-ended
response approach enables to understand the different points of view
around each question [
16
]. The interview guide was composed of
fourteen items but some of them contain more than one question per
item. The interview was planned to be as neutral as possible. The
questions were organized following the natural stages of conversa-
tion in the way that the interviewees could find easier to remember
their experiences with the application and describe those experiences.
Women’s Perspective on Using Tinder SIGDOC ’17, August 11–13, 2017, Halifax, NS, Canada
The questions and the order were planned in a way to obtain infor-
mation about participants’ expectations, impressions and feelings
about gender dynamics.
The interview method and the structured interview guide were sub-
mitted to the Research Ethics Committee of the School of Computer
Science and Statistics of Trinity College Dublin, before any materi-
als were provided to interviewees, and the research was approved
by this research ethics committee. Participants initially received
an information sheet describing the study, and then a consent form.
Upon receipt of a completed consent form, participants were sent
the questions by email.
3.2 Participants and recruitment
The sample is qualified as a nonprobability convenience sample
composed of forty Brazilian women who have used Tinder at least
once to meet new people through the Internet. The recruitment was
conducted through Facebook. The first call for volunteering was
posted in a Facebook closed group of Brazilian females living in
Ireland. The group had 8,074 members at the time of recruitment
(April, 2016). The call was posted only one time in that group. The
invitation described the research topic and what would be involved
in participating. Women interested in participating in the survey
were asked to leave a comment or an inbox message with their email
address. 111 women expressed interest. Another call was posted to
friends in the personal Facebook page of one of the authors, eliciting
expressions of interest from 23 more women. In total 134 women
expressed interest in participating. The consent form approved by
the university ethics committee was sent to them. However, not
all responded with consent to the research terms and conditions,
and even fewer responded to the interview subsequent to providing
informed consent. From the 134 total women that gave their emails
only 40 were interviewed. This high drop-out rate could be attributed
partly to the length of the information sheet and consent form that is
necessary to make sure that all the ethics issues are covered. Attrition
may also be partly attributed to the lack of immediacy in conducting
interviews by email. Despite this, the interviewees are easily reached
by email and email participants have ample time to reflect and to
reply at their own convenience [
12
]. We believe that, in general, the
benefit of using the email to administer the interviews compensates
for the losses.
Although our findings cannot be extended to the whole population
of women who use Tinder, analysis reveals significant results that
give a picture of the gender dynamics on Tinder. Age and education
level were not taken into consideration in the selection of partici-
pants (we did not ask participants to provide such information about
themselves). However, for one comparison between questions we
had to consider their sexual preference in order to assess consistency
of response. From the 40 women interviewed only one claimed
to be looking for homosexual interaction (in the case, exclusively
for a relationship). Nationality is a variable that affect the research
and our idea is to have a sample with mixed nationalities in future
studies. However, due to the opportunity sampling (target population
available and willing to take part in it) we used the population of
Brazilian women.
3.3 Procedures
The interviews were self-reported by email and returned by the
interviewers within a month. We reminded participants about the
motivation of the research (to understand how women feel during
their experience on Tinder). We provided, in Brazilian Portuguese,
all the questions to each participant (see Appendix), as a way of
opening communication for further discussion. There were no word
count limits on their answers (open-ended) and they were also free
to skip questions and to respond with only what they felt comfort-
able. The interview was planned to be answered by email since we
believed women would feel more confident to talk about their experi-
ences through writing. We also believed they would have more time
to think and remember their experiences before answering, since
mediating interviews via email enables participants to respond at
their leisure, with all of the opportunity for reflection that they might
wish [
12
]. Conversely, the lack of a face-to-face communication also
entails reduced interactivity and correspondingly reduced chances
of richer answers from interviewees. However, as the answers could
be highly affected by a direct dialogue, it was finally decided that
for the purpose of this research the better option for obtaining a
neutral perspective about their experiences would be a structured
interview by email. A response deadline was not imposed; however,
only responses received before 11-May-2016 were analyzed.
3.4 Data analysis
The original fourteen questions were split into seventeen questions
(since some of them had more than one question inside each ques-
tion) for analysis purposes. Question 12 was not considered in the
quantitative analysis, and responses to it are not included in the
findings, as the question did not elicit quantifiable response. Data
analysis was divided into three steps. First, answers were carefully
analysed with manual close reading, and it was possible to categorize
the standard answers and to classify each answer according to those
standards. Secondly, descriptive statistics were generated with R.
Finally, the statistics were analysed to find correlations between the
answers and categories of answers that helped to bring to light an
overview on how the women feel about Tinder.
As the data was generated from the interview responses. For
many questions the interviewees gave more than one answer; this
was permitted as the intention was to let them express as much as they
wished. Thus, the tables below report for each question the number
and percentage of respondents who included the relevant answer
category within their answer; and because of multiple categories of
reply, in some answers the sum of options of answers is not 100%.
The relevance of the statistics bear on the proportion between the
answers. We want to find out how women feel, and for that reason
the value of the results of each question bear on the rates, frequency
and the comparison with other questions’ responses.
4 INTERVIEW FINDINGS
Question 1 of the interview was about the purpose for installing
the application (see table 1 below). 60% have pointed out that they
were looking for friends or meeting new people, among other in-
terests; 40% were looking for relationship among other interests;
7.5% were looking for casual sex among other interests. Only 22.5%
were exclusively interested in a relationship, and none of the 40
SIGDOC ’17, August 11–13, 2017, Halifax, NS, Canada Milena Ribeiro Lopes and Carl Vogel
women was exclusively interested in sex. Because many women
are living abroad (in Ireland), 22.5% reported using the application
for practising language (English). In order to analyse if the appli-
cation is meeting user expectations, it is helpful to understand their
motivations to adopt the application.
Motivation to use Tinder No. of Women %
Find friends 24 60%
Find a relationship 16 40%
Practice language 9 22.5%
Curiosity 4 10 %
Find casual sex partners 3 7.5%
Other reasons 1 2.5%
Table 1: Women’s motivations on Tinder: each woman could
have pointed out more than one motivation and the sum is not
100%. 40 women responded to this question; therefore none of
them was absent.
Question 2 is about reflections prior to installing the Tinder ap-
plication. The idea was to check whether there was any concern
or preconceived idea about the application. From the total respon-
dents, 64.1% did not report having internal debate before installing it.
Those who reflected at greater length mostly said this was due to one
of these reasons: they were afraid of being recognized and judged;
they did not like the sexual approach of this kind of application; they
did not like virtual approach and prefered to find people in real life;
they did not want to cause pain to ex-partners in the case they would
find out. The responses to this question (see table 2) shows that the
majority felt comfortable about using an online dating application.
Although some were still concerned about using it (35.9%) the bene-
fits of an online dating application surpassed the concerns. However,
it is possible to assume that some number of women gave up using
the application for the same reasons those interviewees have pointed
out in response to this question.
Any concern prior to installation? No. of Women %
No 25 64.10%
Yes 14 35.90%
Total respondents 39 100%
Table 2: About pondering before install Tinder: the respon-
dents gave only one answer, therefore the sum is 100%. 39
women responded to this question and one provided no re-
sponse.
Question 3 asked participants about their first impression using
the application. Considering only those who answered the question
(38), the most frequently expressed response (26.3% of respondents)
is that the system is superficial (see table 3). Considering all the
38 responses to this item and dividing it into positive and negative
feelings it is possible to say that 52.6% had a first bad impression
(since the unfiltered refers to the lack of filters and sexualized refers
to being too geared toward sex), while 47.4% had a good first impres-
sion. For this question, we have considered one response for each
interviewee – this was possible because they did not provide ambigu-
ous responses with respect to positive and negative categories (as,
for exemple, “confident” and “sexualized”); those who mentioned
more than one feeling for the first impression concentrated it into
the “negative” or “positive” feedback.
Category First impression No. of Women %
Negative Superficial 10 26.3%
Positive Exciting 9 23.7%
Negative Unfiltered 7 18.4%
Positive Fun 7 18.4%
Positive Easy 4 10.5%
Negative Unsafe 3 7.9%
Negative Sexualized 1 2.6%
Negative Invasive 1 2.6%
Table 3: Women’s first impression about Tinder. Respondents
could point out more than one impression, therefore the sum
is not 100%. 38 women responded to this question and two
provided no response.
First impression: positive or negative? No. of Women %
Total Negative 20 52.6%
Total Positive 18 47.4%
Total respondents 38 100%
Table 4: Overall impression based on the positive-negative po-
larity. None of them pointed out both negative and positive feel-
ings.
Question 3 also asked participants how they felt about their first
matches (see table 5). In relation to this, 84.4% of those who an-
swered the question expressed feeling confident, 15.6% had a neutral
reaction and no one expressed any negative feeling. Despite the re-
sults of last the question, where 52.6% reported a bad first impression
of the system, they would mostly feel good about matching someone,
and could have compensated for negative first impressions to some
extent, maintaining their participation in Tinder for longer.
Feeling after matching someone No. of Women %
Confident 27 84.4%
Neutral 5 15.6%
Total respondents 32 100%
Table 5: How women felt after their first matches. Each women
pointed out just one feeling. 32 women responded to this ques-
tion and eight provided no response.
Regarding the application interaction (question 4), the match
mechanism and the way it enhances the interaction, 18 women gave
positive feedback saying that it enhances privacy (since one only
learns of ratings of another if the ratings are of mutual interest) or
reciprocity (diminishing the risk of feeling rejected) or is assertive,
innovative or empowering. Eleven women gave negative feedback
and said that the experience was superficial. Four indicated that the
Women’s Perspective on Using Tinder SIGDOC ’17, August 11–13, 2017, Halifax, NS, Canada
system was superficial but also innovative, assertive or that enhances
privacy. Two said they had a neutral feeling about it. Thus, from
the 35 women who answered the question, 51.43% gave positive
feedback, 31.43%, negative and 17.14%, mixed or neutral feedback.
The result of all the feedbacks combined is in table 6. This question
reveals the potential and weaknesses of the application. From this
question it is possible to perceive that, on one hand, the match system
enhances confidence through privacy and reciprocity; however, on
the other hand, it increases the “disposability of people” through a
system based on binary classification and on appearances alone, as
they have fully explained in the interviews.
Category Match system No. of Women %
Negative Superficiality 15 42.9%
Positive Privacy 11 31.4%
Positive Reciprocity 5 14.3%
Positive Assertive 4 11.4%
Positive Innovative 3 8.6%
Neutral Neutral 2 5.7%
Positive Empowering 1 2.9%
Table 6: User’s impressions about the match system: They
could point out more than one impression, therefore the sum
is not 100%. 35 women responded to the question and five pro-
vided no response.
Match system: positive or negative? No. of Women %
Positive 18 51.4%
Negative 11 31.4 %
Neutral or Mixed 6 17.2%
Total respondents 35 100%
Table 7: Impression about Tinder’s match system according to
positive and negative polarity for each women. Mixed feelings
indicate that those women had both positive and negative im-
pressions of the match system.
Question 5 probed positive aspects of experiences with Tinder
(see table 8). 65% of those who answered met nice people and/or
made good friends (meeting with the expectation of the 60% who
have claimed to be interested in friendship in response to question 1).
Long or short-term relationships were found by 47.5%, even though
only 40% expressed interest in establishing relationships through the
system originally (see table 1). 17.5% indicate having experienced
no benefit from using the application. These findings demonstrate
the efficacy of the application both for meeting new people and for
finding partners, the most frequently expressed interests.
Question 6 probed negative aspects of the application (see ta-
ble 9). Unpleasant experiences of a direct sexual approach were
reported by 50%; 15% expressed being insulted by the users and
15% experienced a sexist behavior. A small but startling number
(two users) reported having been reprimanded by male friends who
saw their profiles on Tinder and felt free to say that it was not a place
for them and that they should not be using it. Both were living in
their hometowns when it happened. For the majority recently living
What did you gain? No. of Women %
I’ve found friends 26 66.7%
I’ve found partner(s) for a relationship 19 48.7%
I had no gain 7 17.9%
I’ve got turistic information 4 10.3%
I’ve improved a language 3 7.7%
I had fun 3 7.7%
I’ve improved my self-esteem 2 5.1%
I’ve felt empowered 1 2.6%
Table 8: Women’s gains with Tinder. They could point out more
than one gain, therefore the sum is more than 100%. 39 women
responded to the question and one provided no response.
abroad that kind of behavior is less likely since it is then harder to
see known people on the application. The direct sexual approach is
offensive in many ways. That is probably the worst aspect of the
application to emerge in this study, since the users seem to feel free
to drop the social norms of behavior of face-to-face conversations,
revealing the sexist thought that is hidden by societal rules.
1
In
total, 28 women related an offensive experience regarding gender
dynamics (see table 10). This represents 70% of all interviewees.
Negative side of the experience No. of Women %
I felt harassed by direct sexual approach 20 51.3%
I was insulted 6 15.4 %
I was a victim of sexist behavior 6 15.4%
The application provides low interaction 5 12.8
The application lacks filter 3 7.7%
There is no negative side 3 7.7%
The application is superficial 3 7.7%
Other 3 7.7%
I was a victim of racist behavior 2 5.1%
I was reprimanded for using Tinder 2 5.1%
The application is addictive 1 2.6%
Table 9: Negative side of the experience with Tinder: each
woman could have pointed out more than one motivation and
the sum is not 100%. 39 women responded to this question and
one provided no response.
Report of offensive behavior No. of Women %
Reported offensive behavior 28 71.8%
Did not reported offensive behavior 11 28.2%
Total respondents 39 100%
Table 10: Ratio of women who experienced at least one type of
offensive behavior regarding gender dynamics.
From the answers about feeling respected or not during their ex-
perience (question 7; see table 11), it was possible to find a spectrum
that would range from “not at all” to “Yes, completely” including
1
It is also a possibility that rather than revealing hidden thoughts, the norms of Tinder
actively encourage kinds of thought that would not normally be entertained during direct
interaction.
SIGDOC ’17, August 11–13, 2017, Halifax, NS, Canada Milena Ribeiro Lopes and Carl Vogel
the “yes and no” and the “mostly yes” or “mostly no” in the middle.
The results show that there is a very balanced amount of women
between positive and negative poles, but the majority falls in the mid-
dle where they would relate their experience as a mix of respectful
and disrespectful moments.
Did you feel respected? No. of Women %
Yes 9 22.5%
Mostly yes 5 12.5%
Yes and no 12 30.0%
Mostly no 3 7.5%
No 11 27.5%
Total respondents 40 100%
Table 11: Feeling of respect during the experience on Tinder.
Comparing the response pattern for question 7 with the results of
question 6, we found out that among those 28 women who reported
being offended, experiencing a direct sexual approach, encountering
sexist or racist behavior or reprimand from others for using Tinder,
five still expressed feeling fully respected (see table 12). This fact
may suggest that some women grew used to that kind of behavior
and, despite disliking it (since they have pointed it out as a negative
side of their experience) they do not feel disrespected, otherwise
they would not feel fully respected.
Table 12: Comparison by the feeling of respect during the ex-
perience on Tinder and the report of offensive behavior among
the 28 women who reported one or more types of offensive be-
havior.
The application’s engagement was measured by the period of
use (see table 13), and reason to uninstall (see table 14) (questions
8 and 9). The 48.65% of the 37 participants who answered the
question had used the application for less than six months; however
32.43% had used for more than a year. From the original sample,
35 women uninstalled the application. 42.86% pointed out a new
relationship as the reason to uninstall, another 42.36% pointed out
frustration, 14.3% lost their interest in the application and 5.7%
said they uninstalled it because they were reprimanded by known
people for using Tinder. From the 35 women, 20 have uninstalled the
application due to a negative experience (frustration, lack of interest
and repression), two due a mix of negative experience and the start
of a relationship and 13 have quit the application only because they
started a relationship. Hence, the rate of 57.1% that uninstalled it
exclusively for a negative experience represent the majority of the
interviewees.
For how long did you use Tinder? No. of Women %
up to 6 months 18 48.65%
up to 1 year 7 18.92%
more than 1 year 12 32.43%
Total respondents 37 100%
Table 13: Period of use of the application.
Why did you uninstall the app? No. of Women %
I’ve started a relationship 15 42.86%
I got frustrated 15 42.86%
I got bored 5 14.3%
I was reprimand by others 2 5.7%
Table 14: Reasons to uninstall the application. 35 women re-
sponded to this question and 5 provided no response. Women
could point out more than one reason, therefore the sum is not
100%
When women were asked whether Tinder was developed by a
man or a woman (question 10), 85.3% of the 34 who responded
suggested that developer was a man (see table 15).
Is the developer a Man or a Women? No. of Women %
Man 29 85.3%
Both 4 11.8%
Woman 1 2.9%
Total respondents 34 100%
Table 15: Developer’s gender according to the interviewees. 34
women responded to the question, four had no opinion and one
provided no response.
When asked if there is any perceived difference in men’s and
women’s motivations in using Tinder, 40% said there is no difference
and 60% that they generally have different interests. Among those
that think there is a difference, 95.83% said that men look for casual
sex, while 4.17% that men are open to many things (relationship,
casual sex, friendship). From the same 60% that think there is a
difference, 70.83% think that women in general look for relationship
while 29.17% believe women are open to many things.
In response to question 1, 60% of the sample expressed interest in
friendship (among other interests), 40% were interested in relation-
ship, but from this 40%, only half expressed exclusive interest in a
Women’s Perspective on Using Tinder SIGDOC ’17, August 11–13, 2017, Halifax, NS, Canada
relationship. That is, from the sample of 40 women only 22.5% were
using the app exclusively to find a partner. Conversely, from the
same 40 women, 42.5% indicated that women are, in general, look-
ing for relationship. Further, not a single women said that women
are in general looking for friends, when 60% said to be interested
in friendship and/or meeting “new people” in question 1, which
was the top-rated interest among them. From the original sample
of 40 women, 39 were looking for heterosexual interaction. Cross-
tabulation between responses to question 1 and question 11 (see
table 16) shows that from people looking for heterosexual relation-
ship and/or friends but not for casual sex (30 women), 20 women
believe that men are generally looking for casual sex. Thus, 2/3 of
the women who are only looking for relationship and/or friendship
believe that men are not, in general. They represent 50% of the total
sample. They’re are looking for relationship or friendship but rather
they feel that men are using the application for different purposes
than theirs.
Table 16: Comparison between women’s motivations on Tin-
der and women’s perception of difference between men’s and
women’s motivations.
Analysing the results of question 11 with the results for the bad
experiences (question 7) and the results for the developer’s gender
(question 10), we see the correlation between the 70% of women
who have experienced harassment, the 60% that think men and
women generally have different interests in the application and the
85.3% that think the developer is a man. This may be a sign that
the application is mostly developed to meet male’s expectations. On
the assumption that it is the case, the application may incite gender
imbalance and sexual harassment.
In response to question 13, the interviewees suggested improve-
ments that would provide them a better experience. The most rated
improvement is the addition of filters which is related to their previ-
ous answers about the first impression and the negative side of the
application. They have reported that a filter indicating the purpose
of use would save time, avoid asymmetry of interest, bring confi-
dence and increase the feeling of safety during the interaction. They
would also report concerns about some physical features like height
that they could not estimate through pictures and that seems crucial
for some of them. Some other filters like “visited places” would
help to find people with shared interests. One important fact that
emerges from responses to this question is that some women blame
themselves for their bad experience, for example when they say that
the experience would be better if they had fewer expectations, less
hesitation or more patience.
When asked about other applications that the respondents have
used for the same purpose, more than half of the sample who an-
swered (51.6%) have also used Happn and 35.5 % have used POF.
The results also show that 35.5% of the respondents would prefer to
use Tinder rather than other dating applications, and Tinder is rated
as a favorite among them. However, the sum of other applications
prefered by them shows that 48.4% would prefer other application
rather than Tinder and 16.1% did not express a preference but would
identify negative and positive aspects in all those used by them.
5 THE INTERACTION AND USER
INTERFACE ANALYSIS
Computer-mediated communication (CMC) relies on the design of
the interaction and on the GUI to communicate the purpose of an
interactive system. However, those systems contain, apart from
explicit meanings, implicit meanings which speaks through design
qualities [
14
]. The aesthetics of design comprises the complex
symbolic representations [
17
] that represents social structures and
beliefs.
Because our society has been developed to "afford" gender equal-
ity, users’ perceptions regarding the interaction reveals not only their
feelings but also the applications’ affordances [
9
], which encom-
passes the design qualities [
15
]. We understand that the gender
dynamic established on Tinder is encouraged by its graphical user
interface and interaction design.
In this study we analyse the Tinder interface to seek understanding
of the connection between users’ feedbacks and the application GUI.
However, we believe that to provide a more positive experience on
online dating applications it is necessary to design a entirely new
interaction from the beginning, involving users and professionals
to promote pleasant experience for both male and female users. A
redesign would help to mitigate some problems pointed here but it
would not provide a substantial social change in online dating realm.
Tinder provides simple and fast means to engage people through
mobile devices. Its innovation is underpinned by a simple interaction
basically composed of two steps. On one hand, it requires time to
view the profiles one by one, and this diminishes the effectiveness
(but not the efficiency) of the application since users could reach
more people (more effective, less time required) if they were all
displayed in a scrollable grid view or list view instead (see figure
2) as used by Happn, for example. On the other hand, it may
enable more matches since one does not know what comes next and
users might tend to consider more what they have in view. Further,
considering the concept of classical conditioning [
18
] where the
body learns through repetition how to be rewarded, the matches
would represent a positive reinforcer that would incite users to keep
SIGDOC ’17, August 11–13, 2017, Halifax, NS, Canada Milena Ribeiro Lopes and Carl Vogel
swiping to get more rewards. Tinder’s graphical user interface also
connotes a deck of cards, and that contributes to why it seems fun
and playful for some users. However, for others, it can exacerbate
the superficiality of the interface: choosing and discarding people.
Figure 2:
Scrollable grid and list view options for displaying infor-
mation on the screen.
Regarding the efficacy, Tinder has proven to be efficacious in
achieving users’ goals, especially in relation to making friends and
finding partners for long-term-relationships, which are the most in-
dicated interests. Concerning the experience on Tinder, the majority
(52.6%) expressed having a negative first impression of the appli-
cation. The application match system is considered superficial by
a relevant number of users in this research (37,5%), nonetheless it
enhances privacy and reciprocity. Privacy and reciprocity in turn
enhances confidence, as discussed in the opening sections of this
paper.
Probably the superficiality of the Tinder experience does not in-
here in the match system but in the whole interface which could
be deemed excessively simple and based on appearances only. The
“disposability of people” and the superficiality of a system based
on appearance bring to light the concept of liquid love proposed
by Bauman [
2
]. The liquidity of relationships refers to the ease of
connecting to and disconnecting from people that Internet makes
possible. There are so many contacts number in the list, it is so easy
to connect making a call or texting, that the fragility of those con-
nections is not a matter. The boundless network and the uncountable
possibilities built up a new crowd of self-propelled people who do
not fear losing connections [
2
]. With the abundant availability of
connections it is simple to bond with people and even simpler to
break up with them. The design of a new interaction focused on the
positive act of “choosing” instead of “picking or discarding” would
also reduce the superficiality and maintain the “positive rewards” for
the match system.
The lack of filters is one of the recurrent complaints related to
superficiality which could be easily solved with more filter options,
but especially with a filter of “interest” that would bring honesty and
clarity to the user’s purposes. The superficiality might be diminished
if users could set their purposes, common visited places, tastes,
and so on. For some people, even diet counts because it is for
them a matter of conscience. Many users will define it in their
profiles, but there is no way to filter by “vegan” or “vegetarian”, or
by places that users like to go. The female users also said that some
physical attributes as height is decisive and should be explicit in the
profiles and possibly used as a filter, however, besides worsening the
superficiality, it would be at odds with the promotion of diversity, it
would incite the excluding standards of beauty which is also one of
the aggravating factors of the objectification of women.
All these improvements of the profile and the possibility to filter
by interests would enhance users to make use of their “personal front”
which was first defined as the mix of appearance and manner that
people use to present themselves to others [
10
]. However, through
the virtual space the personal front would be mostly defined by
appearance and interests since Tinder still don’t have any audio or
video features to support the “presentation of the self”. Possibly new
features would come up with this opportunities in mind.
In relation to “concerns” prior to installation, the results show
that the majority feel free to use an online dating application and
were not worried about consequences. It is a good sign that women
are interested in technological approaches to relationships, and there
is a fertile field to explore regarding technological developments and
online dating. Some women are concerned about being recognized
or are skeptical about this kind of approach, however they will still
install it because they believe it is worth a try. It could be possible
to develop some kind of invisibility to a company, a college or a
neighbourhood, however it would reinforce the fear and the idea
of hiding sexuality as something to be ashamed of. Online dating
applications can be an extension of the sexual revolution, and this
positive use of internet is possible when there is a mutual respect
and when equalitarian rights are emphasized.
Apart from the “like-dislike” perspective, Tinder’s interaction
has some useful features to enhance self-esteem. The match system
enhances privacy and reciprocity because one obtains only positive
feedback from the application: Tinder will indicate when two people
reciprocally like each other. Furthermore, usually one will not
remember their “likes” because there is no record of the people one
has liked. Users can only keep track of the people they have matched.
That feature avoid the feeling of rejection and positively emphasizes
the successful numbers: the amount of matches. Additionally, the
super like feature is also a boost of self-esteem considering that
those who give it may not keep track of it but it will possibly make a
positive difference to those who receive it.
Analysing the application and interview results, it is possible to
make a link between the interface design and the sexist behavior
evidently experienced by participants in the study reported here.
70% of all the interviewees have reported offensive behavior regard-
ing gender dynamics and pointed it out as the worst side of their
experience. As social dynamics speaks through behavior as well
as through language [
5
], this number gives a brief idea of how the
sexist thought is still determining social relations and reinforcing
the gender patterns that threaten women’s empowerment and gender
equality within labor, family and community realms.
Many of the expectations projected over women in relation to
being “vulnerable” are set up during the childhood
2
when “little inno-
cent girls” may be “in danger” and should be protected from sexual
abuse [
21
]. However, how is the idea of “vulnerability” treated in
2See, for example, “Little Red Riding Hood”.
Women’s Perspective on Using Tinder SIGDOC ’17, August 11–13, 2017, Halifax, NS, Canada
their adult lives, when they are “unprotected” by their families? In
both moments women are taken as an object of an uncontrolled
male sexuality, which traces are still active behind the norms of
behavior, as shown by the results of this research. They are even
considered dangerous due to the potential sex crimes they could
incite [
21
]. This dynamic of predator-unsafety prey is exacerbated
in online dating applications due to the perception of internet as a
“free-zone” (virtual social context), where people feel more free to
say what they would not dare to say in other circumstances (and real
social contexts). That is the main concern about the application that
inspired this research. Considering contemporary gender dynamics,
it could be very harmful to women. It threatens their confidence,
blocks their empowerment process, reinforces the idea of women as
sexual objects and makes room for abusive/offensive behavior.
Some positive approaches to the interaction could make online
dating applications also a space to spread equality through the con-
cept of mutual respect. One possibility is that users would receive
a good rating and be more visible when they develop a respectful
behavior and that they would depend at least partly on the others’
feedback to gain visibility (and possibly also in part on automatic
classification of their within-system texts in relation to abusive or
respectful language [
11
]). In association with the “positive reward”
of increased visibility, users would be encouraged to develop good
manners during their interaction with Tinder. However, their good
manner would depend not only on the other user feedback, but also
on a common effort towards mutuality. That is, good ratings for
behavior would be possible if both users decide to help each other
and only when both are committed to the rating system. If the rating
could be visible only to the user rated it would provide feedback
about his/her behavior and an indication that his or her profile would
or not be boosted as a reward. As an alternative to ratings, it could
also be measured by the duration of the interaction or by the ex-
change of personal information (Facebook page, telephone number,
email), and so on. Apart from the positive outcome of the promotion
of good behavior and rewards within the virtual space it is very
likely that it would also enhance good behavior in the reality as a
consequence of the classical conditioning inherent in the suggestion.
As a result of the improvement of behavior, female users would
probably feel more respected during their experience, since the
majority we interviewed did not feel entirely respected, which should
be a fundamental goal of online dating application. The highly rated
reasons for uninstalling for frustration show that it is very likely
that the application does not meet women’s expectations and needs.
Motivations comes from a natural desire to feel pleasure and avoid
pain but to engage people in the activity is necessary to sustain the
pleasure [
6
]. Pleasure in a broad sense refers to the social, emotional,
physical or intellectual pleasure. Even if a relationship urge or a
sex drive are the initial motivators, it is necessary to improve users’
satisfaction in different levels to engage them to Tinder.
Furthermore, the answers regarding the developer’s gender show
that women may feel a male dominance in technological develop-
ment or that the application was developed to meet men’s interests
and expectations. However, even if they think that it was developed
by male only because there are more men developing applications
(due to gender imbalance in education), the predominance of male in
technological development will consequently imply a development
driven by male interests.
Regarding other online dating applications, Tinder was the best
rated among them, however the majority still prefer to use other
applications but Tinder for the purpose. Happn was the second
most rated and according to this research would be the most relevant
competitor of Tinder. However, it is the result of a small sample. The
main differences from Tinder are: the grid view already explained
above, the proximity by GPS (since the users can only access people
that they have crossed path with), and a counter for the number of
times the user crosses path with those people.
The results of this study reveal that Tinder is not meeting women’s
expectations and needs in relation to the application performance
and that it has been a space to the replication of sexist patterns and
the reinforcement of superficiality. Yet, it is a useful tool to connect
them to friends and partners. To make mobile environments also a
space for women’s empowerment it is necessary to involve women in
the development of the interaction and interface, as users, as thinkers,
and as developers.
6 CHALLENGES AND CONSTRAINTS
This first study based on interviews intended to provide an overview
of women’s experience of Tinder in relation to gender dynamics
in order to inform the design of a subsequent survey with a more
quantitative approach. From the categorization enabled by the quali-
tative interviews and the descriptive statistics generated, it will be
possible to develop a focused questionnaire to carry on quantitative
research. Structured user tests may also enable to go deeper into the
psychological aspects of the interaction and women’s expectations
to bring out ideas on how to empower women in a very sensitive
matter as establishing relationships through mobile applications is.
Because engagement today is still full of sexist patterns both in real
and virtual environment, it is urgent to bring solutions that transform
the virtual environment into a source of empowerment and equality.
Given this potentially gender-sensitive tentative conclusion, it
must be considered the extent to which this might generalize beyond
the sample involved as participants in the study, to all women. Some
standard potential critiques of the work must therefore be addressed
at this point, most importantly: that there might be sampling bias,
that the linguistic and cultural context may have influenced response,
that the conduct of the study might have induced demand character-
istics [
19
]. It must be acknowledged that the sample is limited, and
future work would gain by involving more participants in follow-up
studies. This, however, does not invalidate the conclusions reached
here, as while they clearly do not generalize to all women (none of
the responses were unanimous), if the conclusions are appropriate to
a group of N=40 women, then they nearly certainly are appropriate
to N+1 (and so on).
As interview analysis is the first step to a deeper study on gender
dynamics within mobile applications, the challenge here was to bring
out the expressions of gendered power relationship in the virtual
social interactions and to carefully transform the raw reports into
categorised data that could be statistically handled and analysed later.
The whole process required many reviews of the raw data and the
statistics. Only through repeated close readings we could reduce
bias during the process, since the intrinsic psychological analysis of
the interviews that enabled to transform the paragraphs of answers
into words is sensitive.
SIGDOC ’17, August 11–13, 2017, Halifax, NS, Canada Milena Ribeiro Lopes and Carl Vogel
7 CONCLUSIONS
The initial interpretation of results of the interviews presented here
suggests that Tinder has provided a space to reinforce gender inequal-
ity and that Tinder does not meet women’s needs and expectations
regarding online dating. On the other hand, Tinder has proved to be
highly effective in bringing people together and promoting interac-
tions.
Whilst we cannot reduce relationships to a binary gendering
perspective, the study of male-female dynamic is still very important
for the understanding of the hidden beliefs of gender hierarchy
which promotes a gender imbalance. That dynamic is not only seen
within heterosexual and homosexual interactions but also within
familiar structure, labor structures, circles of friends, among others.
The patterns of sexism impinge on all of society’s layers. Virtual
environments could offer a means to re-educate society in actual
environments.
To provide females a positive experience on Tinder a deep under-
standing of well-being must be considered. Well-being depends on
factors like self-awareness, self-esteem and empathy to promote joy
through different aspects of human-computer engagement (cognitive,
behavioral, emotional and agentic) [
6
]. A close look at how the gen-
der inequality is reflected on women’s experiences and well-being
will give clues to improve interaction design, and these may help to
mitigate misogyny and sexist behaviors.
Finally, but no less importantly, we do not ignore the urgency of
involving male users in future research and to promote the devel-
opment of equality in consonance with a broader sense of respect
which envolves all the users and their motivations, regardless of any
personal dissonance or evolutionary differences (where they exist).
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
The researchers have no conflicts of interest with Tinder nor any
comparable platform. The first author wishes to acknowledge the
Brazilian government’s CAPES program.
This research is supported by Science Foundation Ireland (SFI)
through the CNGL Programme (Grant 12/CE/I2267 and 13/RC/2106)
in the ADAPT Centre (www.adaptcentre.ie).
A STRUCTURED INTERVIEW QUESTIONS
1) Why did you install the application? What were you looking for
and what were your expectations?
2) Did you have to ponder before installing it? Why?
3) When you started using it, what was your first impression? How
did you feel about your first matches?
4) How did you feel about the application?s approach and the match-
based interaction?
5) Which are the positive aspects of your experience? Tell me about
the some remarkable situations.
6) Which are the negative aspects of your experience? Did anything
unpleasant happen? Tell me about some situations.
7) Did you feel respected as an individual and as a woman? Explain.
8) For how long have you been using/ have used the application?
9) If you have stop using the application, what is the reason?
10) Do you think the developer was a man or a woman?
11) Do you see any difference between what man and woman expect
from using the application? What are they looking for, in general?
12) Do you have female friends that are using / have used the appli-
cation? What did you heard from them?
13) How could your experience be more pleasant?
14) Apart from Tinder, have you used another relationship applica-
tion? Which one do you prefer?
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