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How online dating culture has shifted in the past decade since Tinder launched

A Tinder user signs in to the app. (Aamir Qureshi/AFP via Getty Images)
A Tinder user signs in to the app. (Aamir Qureshi/AFP via Getty Images)

Tinder celebrates its 10th birthday this month. The well-known dating app launched in 2012 and since its inception, much of the online dating landscape has changed.

From new apps popping up — think Bumble, Her and countless others — to altered societal attitudes about meeting a partner online, Tinder has been at the center of the online dating world for a full decade now.

For some, the emergence of dating apps made real-world dates more accessible and comfortable. The apps are free, meaning there’s no financial barrier to use them.

“I think it was really game-changing by democratizing online dating,” says Jess Carbino, a sociologist who’s worked for both Tinder and Bumble.

Carbino, who met her husband on Tinder, says the mutual match system inspires confidence in users. When they message someone they’ve matched with, they already have the assurance that person is interested in them, too.

Two main demographics saw profound success upon Tinder’s launch: Users between the ages of 18 and 24 and users over the age of 55.

“Tinder did an immense job of opening up online dating not only demographically from a racial or socioeconomic perspective, but also from an age perspective,” Carbino says, “which is really remarkable by helping to erode that stigma.”

While the stigma has waned, it hasn’t completely disappeared. When dating apps first entered the market, people scoffed at them — how could you form a meaningful romantic relationship based on a profile that included a few photos and a snappy bio?

Individual success and word of mouth helped tremendously in undoing that belief, Carbino says. Those who went on good dates or met a serious partner online told their friends, families, coworkers and anyone else in their social circle. As online dating became normalized, its popularity grew. A Pew Research study found that now, one in every three relationships begins online.

Even with the online dating stigma declining, some users aren’t sold on its effectiveness. Dating app users report feeling overwhelmed by options when swiping through sometimes hundreds of profiles in the area. They cite burnout from talking to and meeting up with multiple people from apps.

Carbino compares dating app use to someone building a stock portfolio: They’re not just on one app. They’re using, on average, two to four different apps to maximize their visibility and match likeness.

Some apps attempt to mitigate this burnout or surplus of options: Hinge shows users the “most compatible” and standout profiles based on how they’ve swiped in the past. Tinder allows only a certain number of likes per day (unless you upgrade to a paid plan). When messaging a new match, most of the apps offer suggested opening lines.

“I frankly believe that the fatigue associated with online dating is just the fatigue people have with dating generally or finding a romantic partner,” Carbino says. “People are beginning to stop using the apps and become fatigued just around the points when they would theoretically become successful because they’re engaging in a lot of dates.”

Looking ahead, Carbino doesn’t see the online dating scene slowing down. She expects upcoming apps to utilize emerging technologies that may redefine the existing framework of online dating.

“I think dating in the next decade will be very much informed by processes that are far broader than simply the dating app mechanism itself,” she says. “The next app that exists is going to have to be really game-changing in terms of its technological platforms.”


Hafsa Quraishi produced and edited this interview for broadcast with Tinku Ray and Gabe Bullard. Grace Griffin adapted it for the web.

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.