What Tinder Tells You About Yourself

What Tinder Tells You About Yourself

I’m not a luddite. Hell, I was the first guy to make a career as an online dating coach. But advances in technology have led us down the inexorable path of instant gratification. Online dating, we’ve deemed, is too slow, too inefficient. Profiles? Blech. Emailing back and forth? Waste of time. Let’s just cut to the chase and meet as quickly as possible to see if there’s chemistry. Enter Tinder.

Now, I’ve already written my thoughts about this ubiquitous app, and since then, I may have softened. Not in terms of my disdain for dating this way – it’s still horribly impersonal, sped up, and based on little more than attraction – but in terms of my acceptance of it. The genie isn’t going back in the bottle. Better learn how to talk to the genie.

Advances in technology have led us down the inexorable path of instant gratification. Let’s just cut to the chase and meet as quickly as possible to see if there’s chemistry.

Well, Anne-Helen Petersen did a masterful dissection of Tinder – not only its broad appeal (like a free bar where you don’t have to actually talk to people), but how it reveals something about our subconscious preferences. Online dating does the same thing, but not as instantaneously as Tinder, where really all you have to judge someone is a photo. And judge we do. According to Petersen, “Essentially, we’re constantly inventing narratives about the people who surround us – where he works, what he loves, whether our family would like him. And more than other dating services, which offer up comprehensive match dossiers, Tinder appears to encourage these narratives and crystallize the extrapolation process and package it into a five-second, low-stakes decision.

Tindering thus mimics the relationship of checking someone out on the street, in the classroom, or on the subway, but with the added tactile pleasure of physically swiping the rejects out of your field of vision (and your life). That’s the real difference between Tinder and sites like OkCupid, Match, eHarmony, and J-Date: The end game on those sites is an actual date (and a lot of times marriage!); the end game on Tinder is the web version of a low-stakes bar conversation, which may or may not lead to a date or relationship.”

Petersen goes on to use a friend as an example of how quickly and easily we judge, and the faulty assumptions we’re all prone to making. “A 5-foot-7 male was “too short.” A 39-year-old guy was decidedly “too old” for Katie’s 33 years. Another is bald; she decides him “too” much so. But other swipes relied upon more a more vague, albeit immediate, calculus. To be “too douchey” is to have a bad goatee, a shiny shirt, an unfortunate facial expression, or a certain type of sunglasses. “Too ew” could be any blend of traits that, to white, straight, middle-class Katie, read as repugnant.

But some judgments are too secret – and shameful – to say out loud, or even admit to ourselves. Katie never said “too not-white,” “too poor,” or “too uneducated.” We cloak those judgments in language that generally circles the issue: “Nothing in common,” “he wouldn’t like me,” “I can’t see us together.” Those statements aren’t necessarily lies, but they’re also not always full truths either – and often rely on overarching assumptions about what differences in race, class, education, and religion dictate not only in a relationship, but any interaction, romantic or otherwise.”

The genie isn’t going back in the bottle. Better learn how to talk to the genie.

I went through this with Lori Gottlieb when she was writing “Marry Him”. A man in the suburban San Fernando Valley must be “boring.” A guy who likes Grateful Dead music must be a pot-smoking slacker. And so on. None of these are inherently true; they are just convenient assumptions we make to quickly disqualify people.

Anyway, the author makes a very compelling case that the subconscious thing that allows us to reject some people and swipe right on others is none other than class, moreso than race. Says Petersen, “Tinder is by no means the cause of this decline. It simply encourages and quietly normalizes the assumptions that undergird it. The Tinderspeak of “we’d have nothing in common,” taken to its natural extension, bolsters and reifies the idea of “two Americas” with distinct values and worldviews, two discrete factions with little impetus to support that which doesn’t necessarily personally affect us or our class…Ultimately, this admittedly un-randomized sample seems to suggest that the raw idea of attraction – that knee-jerk “thinking from the genitals” decision – has less to do with our unmentionable parts and much more to do with a combination of our deepest subconscious biases and with our most overt and uncharitable personal politics. And if that’s the case, it’s no doubt the reason why Tinder is so popular, addictive, and ultimately insidious.”

Click here to read the whole piece and please, share your thoughts on Tinder (and subconscious classism) below:

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  1. 1

    I wouldn’t touch Tinder with a 10 foot pole.

    1. 1.1

      Well, that would sure make it hard to swipe!

      1. 1.1.1
        Jarod Oner

        Great response! Literally laughed out loud.  


  2. 2

    While I’ve heard about Tinder, I’ve no desire to be on it so I never understood the concept.

    Evan, I agree with you.   We tend to judge too quickly and especially we judge based on our sometimes narrow perceptions that come from out  own internal prejudices.

    I will venture to say though that online  dating in the most traditional way (Match,  Jdate, etc.) does have the same foundation to it. Yes, there is a profile. But, I don’t think many people get past the photos in the first place.   It’s just  so easy (and tempting) to swipe and I think most people tend to only stop when they are drawn in physically (at least primarily).   Shucks, I am certainly guilty of that (well, kinda sorta).   I will only ‘stop’ swiping if the man appeals to me. But, I will look through his profile and decide if he might be  worth the effort.   If I am on the fence, I will still do so as well. But, it all starts with the picture.   Now, I have no idea if this is fortunate or unfortunate?

  3. 3

    Tinder is even moreso a “people menu” than Facebook has become. You want a blonde? Keep swiping, you’ll find one. A brunette…same thing. Muscles? Swipe away, he’ll turn up.  If facebook hasn’t become bad enough in the way people use it, nw they’ve made it even easier to find a quick hookup with Tinder. It’s no dating app, in my book. People flip through it to pass the time, because it’s so easy to do. Scroll through a few pictures, pick one or two that tickle your fancy, let them know you’re in if they are- boom, you could have a new, erm, friend, by the end of the day. And by friend, I mean someone who is more than likely expecting some form of sex from/with you, and soon. And hey, why not? They’re only 2mi away, and I mean, they’re cute and dont look like a murderous creep… Amiright?

    From someone who is, I’m sure, the prime demographic (22y/o female) for this app and others like it- I think it’s horrendous. Go to school, go to  a bar, go to a concert, the gym,  get a hobby- meet people the normal and natural way (speaking to others in the demo for this, which I assume to be 18-34y/o,  of course. I understand once you’re past a certain point in life, or hell, have kids,  you have other priorities, like, you know, the aforementioned  kids and stuff :P). And you know what, if you truly are in what I’m considering the Tinder demo, and you just can’t get out and meet people, or none of that seems to be working…fine. Get  online. Do your thing. But how about on a reputable site where the expectation isn’t “let’s meet up NOW”, “I dont need to know anything about you other than what you look like”, and, frankly, sex. Online dating has proven to be a good thing in today’s society, but focusing on the NOW NOW NOW aspect of dating, sex, anything really, is getting to be very annoying, very fast.

  4. 4

    I love Tinder. I’ve got so much more better dates with quality guys from Tinder than from any other dating web site… Go figure… Of course, I don’t judge just by the looks, gotta read profiles, too. And if profile is empty, usually it’s better to swipe left. But I would definitely recommend it.

    1. 4.1


      Do they look like bros holding beers in every pic and making a fool out of themselves? LEFT.

      Are they surrounded by scantily clad females in every picture and only list their height in their profile? LEFT

      Empty profile, only pictures of groups of dudes? LEFT  

      Golf pictures and only lists his salary? LEFT  

      Explicitly lists NCR as his ask? LEFT

      Lol it’s fairly easy to discern the jerks from the nots in this app. And you get a huge advantage — you get to say NO before they try to strike conversation.   

        I swiped right for profiles the peaked my interest, guys that seemed attractive, and could keep a conversation over messages.  

      I was unusually lucky and have actually been dating the same guy that I would NEVER have met without this app (literally not one friend in common, live in different parts of the city, have somewhat different interests where it would be hard for us to meet somewhere else, and he has quiet a bit of a hectic schedule!) for 3-4 months and he is absolutely wonderful. I can’t think of a guy (if I met them through apps, friends, bars, or what not…. and I’ve gone on my fair share of dates!) who has swept me off my feet as much as he has in the past year.  

      What did a get from other apps like OKCupid and Hinge? Boring conversations, dudes that were posting pictures with their ex-girlfriends, over 500 (not kidding) messages from creepy guys, and decent looking guys that never materialized into actual dates – they were too slow.  

      I wanted something where guys wanted to meet. Within days or maybe a week. If there’s chemistry and interest GREAT – second date. If not, NEXT. On to the next one. It’s fun, exciting, saves time and a ton of effort and you’re smart about it you can actually meet some great people.  

      My vote’s on tinder.   

      1. 4.1.1

        I met my live-in love on Tinder 16 months ago. I am now enjoying the happiest, healthiest relationship of my life (best sex too)!! We would NEVER have crossed paths without that silly app, and he has become my best friend and, quite possibly, the love of my life… Thanks Tinder!

  5. 5

    Never heard of it until now (older and proud of it).   Not everything needs to be at our fingertips.   Rather meet someone through common interests/social environments or good ole online dating site.

  6. 6

    Times are really changing if we are actually seeing online dating as a slower evolution to some other proprietary software.lol   Even online dating is still a little bit fast for me/microwaveish and I am now getting used to it. Tinder would make my head spin.

  7. 7

    This article completely fascinated me. The photo of the four golfers, starring the mysterious “Dave”,   got my biggest reaction. These guys remind me of my brother, one of the nicest, most generous, least religious, least finance bro, least racist guys I know. He just likes to go golfing with his friends sometimes! In fact one of his golf buddies is African American. It shows how one photo can really give others a false impression.
    Also, in regards to the photos of Yasmin and Lindsey, one difference was not mentioned, though is obvious, Lindsey looks heavier than Yasmin. Weight is a HUGE issue when it comes to biases, but this was not mentioned by the author.

  8. 8

    I read the article but I couldn’t believe how old looking most of these 20 something year olds looked that were selected from the article. I’m 35 and I look way younger then them. I should go on Tinder! Lots of these youngins’ had too much bags/wrinkles under their eyes. Don’t they get their proper sleep?

  9. 9

    Out of all the choices, OKCupid, Match, POF, CoffeeMeetsBagel… I’ll take Tinder every time.   For exactly the reasons listed above – it’s more like what you experience in the real world when out and about.   You see someone, you think they’re cute and maybe you talk to them.   The premise that people on OKC and the rest are more serious about looking for a date or relationship is a load of crap.   At least in San Francisco.   

  10. 10

    I tried Tinder out of boredom.   I had been on JDate, eHarmony, Match and OKCupid and was taking a break from dating.   I had no expectations and even a negative view of Tinder as many characterized it as hook-up app.

    I wrote nothing about myself and had Tinder only import my pics from Facebook and my likes.   I began to have fun with it – no expectations whatsoever.   It was freeing actually.   I only responded to guys that contacted me first.   We chatted and if they sounded “normal”, liked their pics and they asked me out, I would meet up with them.

    I ended up meeting 5 guys F2F in a period of 3 weeks.   One of them is now my boyfriend.   If I had seen a detailed profile of him with his stats (divorced, 3 kids, short) I may not have given him a chance.   But, as it happens to be, we had a great time talking and there was enough of a spark to continue.   He kept asking me out and I kept saying yes.   He has treated me better than most of the guys I’ve dated in the last 4 years and I’m falling for him and he is for me.

    I look at Tinder as just another way to meet people – I think what really matters is how you are while dating and letting go of the fantasy of the guy being a certain height, a certain profession, a certain religion.   I’m 43 and have come to this conclusion the hard way – but at least I’m here now!

  11. 11
    Karl S

    Tinder gets even more depressing when you read this article – http://www.buzzfeed.com/s4a04b9190/yes-men-always-swipe-right-the-game-theory-of-ti-rv5q

    Funnily enough, I tried speed dating and the hosts encouraged all the guys to just tick “date” across the board as well in order to work out all the women who picked the same thing (if they picked “friend” and you picked” date”, your match would be demoted to friend status). It’s Game Theory all over again.

    Tinder is full of fake profiles anyway. As a guy, I’d say around 1 in 40 “matches” is a real woman who isn’t immediately going to link me to a cam website or some nonsense. It’s become a real problem regarding that app.

    I’ve had far better luck with OkCupid.

  12. 12

    Evan I know you’ve established that it’s fine to compromise on age, income, height, education, and common interests but do you think being more rigid about class is wrong?
    You touched on this subject once when you wrote back to one lady (I think a business woman) who was hit on by a laundry machine operator and said that her not being interested in him is normal but you marry a person not a list.
    That advice is help but I’ve noticed that from my own experience and the experience of others that class is a huge factor in determining a successful outcome.
    This is a touchy subject but I think we have to discuss it. All of my more successful relationships were with guys who you could say were “in the same class” as me.
    I know that you said you and your wife are very different on paper but have an amazing relationship. But you also wrote she is from a military family and you are from a suburban jewish background. Couldn’t you say that you’re both from about the same class?
    Looking forward to your reply.

    1. 12.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      Class matters only as much as it causes friction. If she can accept him for being blue collar, and he doesn’t feel insecure that she’s more educated, there’s no problem. But, of course, most white collar people look down on blue collar people. Thus, the problem isn’t class itself (because it doesn’t reveal character), but rather people’s reactions and prejudices. My wife is more middle class. I grew up more upper middle class. But she’s not intimidated by me and I don’t look down on her, so we don’t have a problem.

      1. 12.1.1

        People from higher classes, especially women, fear being taken advantage and used by men who just want them for their money.   A lot of women, no matter what income just don’t want the pressure of being the sole breadwinner.   Maybe its disney, but many women expect their future husbands to earn at least an equal salary while she can take maternity leave for months or years.   Working moms also face more pressure in cooking and cleaning for the family.   Lori Gottlieb lives in some weird perfectionist fantasyland.   She might have been too focused on religion which narrows her options.   But Evan mentioned that he never made over 30K until 30 yrs old, and most women want to marry a man working above the poverty level.   Another popular trick in online dating for men is to post photos of him traveling the world in exotic places, it places less focus on the guy’s looks and more on his personality. Women love the excitement and fantasy of travel.

      2. 12.1.2

        Hey Evan, I know I’m not the norm, but I met my boyfriend of a year on Tinder. He’s the most amazing, kind, man I’ve ever met, and we are still going strong. I used your 2-2-2 rule, and I landed my best friend who just so happens to be my boyfriend. This rule is a failsafe if applied correctly, no matter the site (in my opinion). Thanks Evan!

  13. 13
    Mary H.

    You know, I’ve actually been pleasantly surprised by Tinder. I recently met a guy this way who genuinely seemed like a good dude – a little nerdy with a dorky sense of humor that’s a lot like mine, similar taste In literature, and what seems like real interest in who I am. We didn’t meet up right away – we met up about a week after talking on the app, in the same way online dating works. I’m just saying, good people exist in all sorts of mediums, and I wouldn’t rule out the medium for that reason.

    Evan, I also know how much respect you have for Susan Walsh at Hooking Up Smart, and I’d be curious to see what you think of her two posts on Tinder dating:  http://www.hookingupsmart.com/2014/09/04/hookinguprealities/dating-on-tinder-a-case-study/



  14. 14

    Mixed feelings and mixed thoughts on this…  

    First- isn’t this how “strong, independent” women already think? Strong, independent women already are at least self-supporting if now outrightly successful in that most can live in whatever city they want, in what neighborhood they want, travel a lot, etc. Thus, they don’t need a man but they want a man- their dream men- and anyone short of that (pun intended) will be ignored. Thus, when strong, independent women appraise a man, they generally operate on a rejection-first principle, first looking for a reason to say “no,” scouring him for red flags or deal breakers. It’s not like Tinder has changed this, it just makes their rejection-first decision-making process more instantaneously superficial than it already is.
    Second- this might be for the better because the more a woman knows about a man, the more she can compare him to her dream man criteria list, as we all know, is usually unreasonably long and critical. Thus, the more information a profile displays about a man, the more reasons a woman can find to reject him- income level, occupation, height, previous marital status, whether he has children,   etc. If anything, when Tinder gives a woman less information about a man, it gives a man a fighting chance to get himself in front of a woman, talk to her and show her his personality which is something an online dating profile can never fully convey. This is especially so because on “serious” dating sites like OKCupid, women generally want to have a lengthy email exchange with a man before they take what their hyper-tentative female minds consider the “risk” of “wasting time” meeting him (I’m obliquely referring to the online chorus of women lamenting how they when they meet a guy they don’t click with that it was such a waste of invested time.)

    1. 14.1

      If your reasoning is correct, the gist of this article would indicate that your Tinder photos are even more important to correctly indicate your qualities.

  15. 15

    Nope. Tinder brings chemistry back to the forefront which is where it should be when dating and yes chemistry at its core is physical attraction which you can figure out from a few photos.    Many men on other sites have lists of “wife qualities” they want, never mind the fact none of it matters if I don’t want to make-out with you in the car after our drink.    Women fail to appreciate having the hots for a guy and of course that’s paramount to a guy’s connection.    The lists and deal breakers mean nothing without the spark first. In my opinion the most important thing to a healthy long term relationship is your hots for each other which keeps the romance alive.   Without the sparks you are just roommates and if you look at most failed marriages…they let the sparks fade out. You can’t force chemistry on either side…you could be the most loving, caring, intelligent guy but if I can’t wait to get in on…ain’t going to happen and there’s no sense in sending messages for days to figure that out.

    1. 15.1

      I hate to say that I agree with this, but I actually do.
      I know that attraction isn’t the ONLY thing that will keep a relationship going, but withOUT it, the relationship will fizzle, if it even starts.
      I think it’s rather a cruel trick Mother Nature plays on us.   We know almost immediately if we are attracted, but it can take YEARS to figure out compatibility.   Meanwhile, if the attraction is overwhelming, one can blindly be led to believe that you are “compatible” with someone, when really, it’s nothing more than the hots.
      The one thing that sets a romantic relationship apart from all others is physical intimacy.   If you like to play back gammon but your spouse doesn’t, no problem you can play back gammon with someone else.   Same for all other activities and hobbies.   But if you and your spouse aren’t sexually compatible, well, in all but a few so-called “open” marriages, you are just SOL, because most spouses don’t want to share their spouse sexually.
      Women are getting preached to give men a chance, and that we CAN become attracted over time, whereas men can’t, so we should relent in this situation.
      And you know, sometimes I DO think I could become attracted over time, if given ENOUGH time.   However, we are supposed to honor men’s slower time lines for wanting commitment, marriage, etc. (and I actually agree with that), but many men have a 3 date rule, and if a woman doesn’t “sex up” by date 3, (or at least give some serious foreplay), it’s over.
      So we are supposed to wait 2 months to be called girlfriend, 2 years to be a fiance and 3 years to be a wife, but we are supposed to put on date 3, with no clue as to weather or not this will lead to a relationship, let alone a marriage.   And apparently it’s not even OK to be wondering in your mind if this is the beginning of a relationship or the beginning of the end.       3 months is seen as an unreasonable time to wait for sex in the eyes of most men.   I wonder if some women COULD become attracted to a man if given months to do so and not just a handful of dates.   That could be the real reason why so many won’t “give guys a chance”.   It’s pretty icky to have sex with a guy you are not attracted to, just in the hopes that you MIGHT become attracted down the road.  
      Best case scenario in my view, is moderate amount of attraction from the beginning.   Enough to know that it’s enough for a relationship, but not so much that you will be blinded to bad behavior or serious compatibility issues.     If I ever find that sweet spot, I think I’ll go buy a lottery ticket.
      The only real cases I have heard from women who became attracted over time is when they worked or went to school together and got to know someone slowly over time, without sexual pressure early on.

      1. 15.1.1

        As usual, I agree with you.

    2. 15.2

      I don’t completely agree with this. I have known men that I was hugely attracted to in the very beginning, but after getting to know them, I became repulsed by them. At the same time, I have known men that I was not initially attracted to, but also not repulsed by their looks, but over time, their looks grew on me, or they lost weight during that time, or I helped them refine their sense of style, and because they had good character and a nice personality, they grew on me. Tinder does not allow for that to happen. Look at a few photos, and decide if there is attraction. Sorry but photos don’t tell the whole story. I think the best thing that could happen to this world is to have all technology fail. Let us get back to a slower, pace of life, where we take time to get to know people on the inside.

      You would be amazed how many guys out there can be far more attrative if they have a woman help them redo their wardrobe, and ditch the goofy hairstyle they are wearing that the think makes them look edgy or unique. The truth is, most straight men have little sense of style. They need women to help them out. Maybe we should do a weekly project. Select one guy we know who is making huge style mistakes and help him up his game. We would be helping each other out by doing this. kekeke

    3. 15.3

      I’m not a fan of online dating, but after trying all the major sites, I found Tinder to be the best choice.   I think there’s 2 types of women – those for whom attraction is instantaneous, and doesn’t grow, and those for whom attraction can grow.   For those for whom attraction is on from the get go, and doesn’t grow over time, Tinder is likely a decent fit.   I too am so very tired of being told to give men I’m not attracted to a chance — the attraction never grows, it wastes his time and energy and mine.   I think it’s high time we accept and promote that physical attraction/sexual compatibility is the glue that keeps a relationship going for the long haul and that for many women, physical attraction is just as important as for men.   Do we tell men to give a chance to women they’re not attracted to?   No, we don’t, because for men we accept that the physical attraction is either on or it’s off.   It’s high time we gave that same respect to women and stop making them feel bad for not giving men they’re not attracted to a chance.   Date men you’re excited about!

  16. 16

    What Tinder told me about me is that Tinder is not for me ;). 90% of profiles were absolute no go – over weight, lots of tats, links to IG accounts, hardcore alt types. I also got tons of out-of-area matches, which after pestering Tinder tech support, they admitted it could be a problem. I gave it a couple of weeks and bailed (of note I’ve had a lot of success with “traditional” online dating). Then again it takes only one good connection to be a success I guess…

  17. 17

    At least with Tinder there has to be a mutual attraction – not so with match.com  – anyone can contact you so it becomes more of a chore to delete messages.           Has anyone heard of Weave?       Its an app like Tinder except its for business networking.           I read an article about it in which they were validating the “Seattle Freeze” theory – where people in Seattle are not friendly (and they really aren’t in my experience).          Users of the app in  San Francisco were far more likely to swipe yes than no – same sample of people for the study.     Rather interesting ….

  18. 18

    Then some women wonder why guys don’t know how to court anymore…

  19. 19
    Johnny Boy

    Anything online makes us more judgmental. unfortunately it’s natural as well. You are correct about Tinder and what you say. Here’s another great article about “profiling Tinder profiles” : http://blogs.davelozinski.com/general/profiling-tinder-profiles

    There’s absolutely a lot you can tell about people from the way they present themselves on Tinder. It’s amazing.

  20. 20
    No Name To Give

    Not sure how old this post is, but there are two America’s. Maybe three.

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