Real Life

Lessons In Online Dating From Tinder’s In-House Sociologist

Not only do we use our smartphones to order taxis, pizzas and sometimes Topshop hauls, dating also takes place in our pocket. Launched in 2012, Tinder was one of the first mobile apps to kickstart this online dating revolution, and now it’s the world’s leading social app for meeting new people.

Whether you love it or hate it, there is no denying Tinder's huge success. Now available in 196 countries worldwide, 26 million matches are made each day on the app with more than 20 billion matches made to date.

We sat down with Jessica Carbino, Tinder’s very own sociologist (yes, that’s an actual job!), to chat about how the app has changed dating, the secret behind how it works, and her top tips for crafting the perfect Tinder profile.

What does being a sociologist at Tinder involve? I am responsible for understanding the experience of people who use Tinder. I conduct focus groups with our users, interviews, surveys and analysis of photographs. I sit down with our users and we talk about their experiences in order to improve the experience for others.

How has Tinder changed dating? When it comes to online dating, before Tinder, people were acting blindly. Without the double opt in that Tinder offers, individuals didn’t have the capacity to know whether someone was interested. Tinder has revolutionised the process by allowing people to have more control over messaging and matching.

Has Tinder stopped us dating offline? 80% of our users are seeking relationships that are serious in nature, and individuals who use Tinder tend to be dating online and offline. We saw our technology come in at a very crucial time. In Europe and the US, institutions that used to be conducive to connecting people - for example schools and families - are no longer relevant. People aren't necessarily looking for partners at a point in time when families and schools are there to create that introduction, and Tinder and technology now helps to connect people instead.

Does Tinder makes people more superficial? Tinder mirrors real life. When you are walking down the street you are looking at somebody and evaluating whether or not you are attracted to them or not. Tinder’s interface is simply the application of the real world to the online world.

Tinder's sociologist, Dr Jessica Carbino

How do men and women engage differently with Tinder? We do see some interesting differences, for example, women are 11% more likely to smile in a photo than men. Also, men are much more likely to have a group photo than women. I think men are trying to signal through having more group photos that they are social in nature which goes against what we expect as a society.

Are men more likely to start conversations than women? We find that Tinder tends to reflects offline norms, and while men are more likely to initiate conversations using the app, women are very likely too as well. On apps like Tinder which have the double opt-in, women are much more likely to reach out than apps where they don’t have that info the double opt-in gives you.

How does the Tinder algorithm work? When you are swiping you see everyone that meets the preferences you’ve set, that’s age, gender and location. It doesn't specifically show you people you have liked or people you know, but it is really clever and learns about your swiping behaviour and shows you people based on that. This means it presents you with people you are likely to swipe right for.

What do you think people are looking for when they are swiping? When we are analysing a photograph, we are picking up on small pieces of information - it’s a process called thin slicing. This happens both offline and online in the same way. When you analyse an individual, you pick up on various characteristics quickly and with a high degree of accuracy. We are able to analyse and assess who this person is, whether or not we are attracted to them and whether we believe we are compatible. What’s most interesting is that we have this sense of intuition and this sense of compatibility, both on our level and the level or the person we’re matching with.

Tinder has put into place a number of systems to help our users be able to represent themselves in the best possible light. Recently Tinder introduced Smart Photos whereby other users determine which of your photographs is most appealing for you. Tinder then selects this photo to be your primary pic.

Tinder recently created 37 new gender options. How did you go about creating these new options? We knew that the experience of our transgender users was not necessarily the most positive experience. There was no way for them to present themselves at their authentic selves. We sat down with LGBTQ organisation, GLAAD in the US to help understand the unique concerns of the transgender community. I then conducted focus groups with transgender users to understand their experiences as well as walk them through the product and the language being used. We went through multiple iterations before reaching the final product.

How are Tinder trying to make it a safer space as possible for all users? We are really proud to be implementing new features to control bad behaviour. We believe bad behaviour has no place online or offline. We want to help curtail bad behaviour and we make it very easy within the app to report individuals who are behaving inappropriate. We have a great deal of a safety tips available to our user both within the app and on our website.

Jessica’s top tips for Tinder Success

Smile If you’re smiling in your photo you’re 14% more likely to be swiped right in comparison to individuals who are not smiling. The key to success on Tinder is keeping your pool as wide as possible, and with different pose you are closing the pool.

Face forward People who face forward in photos are 20% more likely to be swiped right on. Seeing someone straight on allows you to assess their facial symmetry as well as characteristics, such as trustworthiness, from seeing someone’s eyes.

Avoid the ‘duck face’ Doing alternative poses like the duck face in your pic is not encouraged. Research from our users suggests a duck face might make you appear vain.

Don’t make your primary picture a group shot For your primary photo it is best to focus on yourself. If things go well the person will meet your group of friends but for now you want people to get to know you, and your story.

Show investment Use your match’s bio or photo to start the question. Those messages are more likely to be successful because it suggests a strong degree of interest in getting to know that person. It says I am interested in getting to know you better, you seem special to me and I am worthy of your time.

Use Tinder’s Spotify integration The Spotify collaboration allows you to give your profile an ‘anthem’ as well as share your Spotify profile. This gives you a great conversation starter.

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