What can a photo show? Appearance, of course. Attractiveness. Perhaps naughty turkish chat room personality. But other aspects emerged in the process of discussing match selection, for example, more obvious traits such as age or race, and also less evident aspects such as perceived education disparities. These aspects became apparent when interviewees were asked to specify which matches they rejected.
There were few exceptions, from those who at least considered expanding their dating horizons
As in past research, interviewees used a process known as filtering when choosing a match. However, here, filtering is examined in the pre-interpersonal communication phase, via profile assessment.
Photos reveal more obvious traits such as race and age. Colin was asked about who he swiped left on, and replied: ‘Well, the non-Caucasian, and someone older than 30, that would be goodbye.’ Colin and others also mentioned their Facebook likes helped signal the intelligence or general interests of a potential match. Christina revealed the following:
… For the most part I’m just attracted to white men, and they have to be fit … I like very intellectual, nerdy guys, and when it’s all like these pictures of them just partying with their friends, on the boat, at these techno parties, at the festival, it’s like the same shit over and over.
I had more than one interviewee tell me that duck-face selfies signal low education. Erwin prefaced his growing pessimism for Tinder with the following: ‘I consider eighty percent of the country to be of lesser intelligence. ‘ When asked for an example, he said: ‘There are so many spelling mistakes. If I see one I’m gone. It’s as simple as that.’
Attraction is subjective and laden with factors other than sex appeal. These results suggest a mirroring of self-presentation with one’s potential matches, as users overwhelmingly reported searching for people like them. Optimists might say that Tinder could be the great leveler of matchmaking. Because Tinder users have to swipe through every potential match presented to them, filtered only by geographical proximity, age, and sex, people could perhaps discover they are attracted to those previously pre-filtered out. Interviewees here have revealed that other factors are just as important as looks, and the tendency for humans to seek out comparable others still emerges. Wildon said: ‘Sometimes I am curious about women who are not my type. But I don’t think it would work in the long term.’
Thus, the process of choosing matches on Tinder is driven by physical attraction, but perceived similarity is also essential when selecting matches. Of course, this process may change when the need to connect outweighs the need to find a similar match. Reinout, 27, stated: ‘There are days when I’m out of dates … then I like more people on Tinder.’
Conclusion and discussion
In this paper, I have examined Tinder users’ pre-match impression management, looking at their motivations for using the app, the process they go through in choosing their profile photos and text, and how they swipe for potential matches. From entertainment to ego-boost to relationship seeking, users vary in their motivations for using the dating app, sometimes changing them over time. The still-present stigma of technologically mediated dating (Wildermuth, 2004 ) may impact users’ willingness to view it as a tool for serious dating or relationship seeking: Using Tinder ‘just for fun’ is more acceptable. Yet, recent survey research on Tinder users found no differences in the motivations of Tinder users and dating website users, but did observe a slight difference in the sexual permissiveness of the groups (Gatter Hodkinson, 2016 ). More research is needed to clarify this aspect of dating app use.