In their article, Maria B. Garda and Veli-Matti Karhulahti take a look at Tinder as more of a game than just a dating app. They do this by analyzing its usage through different frames. Some may be looking for a partner for life in the app, but some might be there just for their own entertainment or just to have a chat with a stranger.
Garda and Karhulahti first break down the gameplay of Tinder. They state that the gameplay on Tinder has a lot of the same aspects as slot machine gambling. The repetitive, semi-random gameplay hooks the user to swipe repeatedly, and with the limited information provided about the profile and only having two choices, to swipe left or right, it encourages the user to make decisions quickly. When two people like each other, they match. Matches act as a currency that allow the two matched profiles to start direct messaging.
Tinder is essentially a communication platform, where you need to unlock the ability to start talking to the other person by matching with them. Garda and Karhulahti distinguish two virtual locations within the app: profile space and one-to-one text chat. For a user to get likes that lead to matches, they need to make their profile, which consists of pictures and description, appealing to the other users swiping. Garda and Karhulahti call this “an explicit system of expression and interpretation where details gain meaning as codes and cues”. People might list their hobbies as emojis in their description or dress a certain way in their pictures that gives clues to the users reviewing that profile and help them decide if they like them or not.
Lastly, Garda and Karhulahti look at Tinder play from a frame-analytical point of view. Tinder doesn’t limit the reasons or goals of its users; a match doesn’t have to end in a relationship. This allows people to have self-determined goals as to why they’re using the app. Some might be looking for a relationship while some are looking for friends or just swiping everyone to the right to collect as many matches as possible. Because of this it might be hard to interpret what exactly the other user is looking for. Garda and Karhulahti state that the “magic circle” found in play and games is present in Tinder also. Swiping on Tinder is seen as fun play that everyone engages in, whatever the user’s motivation for using Tinder might be. A notion is made in the article that as soon as the user browses Tinder as a game rather than a serious dating app, it becomes fun. The fact that the user doesn’t have to share a lot of information about themselves if they don’t want to, makes browsing Tinder a non-serious activity with no pressure on romantic goals.
Cover photo is from Pixabay: https://pixabay.com/photos/social-networks-vkontakte-facebook-5025657/
Garda, M. B., & Karhulahti, V.-M. (2021). Let’s Play Tinder! Aesthetics of a Dating App. Games and Culture, 16(2), 248–261. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1555412019891328