Researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) have found that individuals who use mobile dating apps like Tinder do not have more short-term sex partners compared to non-users who are also open to casual sex.
“Apps have become the new public arena for dating. But to a large extent, the people using them are the same ones you find dating other ways,” explained study co-author Leif Edward Ottesen Kennair.
“Sociosexual orientation” is a measure of an individual’s willingness to engage in sexual activity outside of a committed relationship. Those who are the most sociosexually unrestricted tend to use picture-based mobile dating apps often.
“But dating app users don’t have more casual sexual partners than others with the same short-term preference,” said co-author Professor Mons Bendixen.
According to the researchers, the dating apps simply provide a new way to meet up. People who use the apps likely meet new people in person as well, and the end result is essentially the same.
Trond Viggo Grøntvedt is a researcher in NTNU’s Department of Public Health and Nursing. He explained that “nothing suggests that people use dating apps more because they are more or less attractive as a sexual partner than most people.”
The researchers found that men and women use the dating apps somewhat differently. Women spend more time browsing, which may be because they take more time to consider each candidate.
Men were found to be more efficient while using mobile dating apps. The experts noted that men pursue more candidates in less time, and make much faster selections about which users they would like to pursue. Men are also more likely to initiate contact compared to women.
“Men more often start conversations and contact matches, and they’re more willing to meet partners through dating apps in private settings,” said Professor Bendixen.
Tinder provides pictures and information about potential partners, and the user simply swipes right if interested in more contact, or swipes left if not interested.
“Women are more discerning. Men are more eager,” said Professor Kennair. “This has clear evolutionary reasons. Women have more to lose by engaging with low-quality sexual partners than men do. That’s why men swipe right more often than women do.”
The research team also investigated why people use Tinder and similar picture-based dating apps.
For both women and men, the most common reason for using Tinder was purely as a diversion when they were bored or had nothing else to do. Beyond this, however, men and women had different reasons for using mobile dating platforms.
“Men tend to report a desire for casual sex and short-term relationships as a reason for using dating apps,” said study first Ernst Olav Botnen. “But it should be noted that the myth that men on dating apps are only looking for casual sex isn’t accurate. Men who use these apps also seek long-term partners, but to a lesser extent than short-term partners.”
Women who use Tinder are often looking for validation that they are attractive. “Women use dating apps to feel better about themselves more than men do,” said Professor Bendixen.
The researchers said that their findings do not suggest that Tinder is often used as a tool for infidelity, and that a very small minority of study participants were in a relationship while using dating apps.
The study authors said that the apps are primarily used for casual sex, and that the technology is not necessary leading to changes in how people behave sexually.
The study is published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences.