An investigation into Tinder

March 14, 2016

Tinder is an app marketed for “online dating” often used by high school students to meet and talk to new people. Different age and location ranges can be set, so that the Tinder user can adjust how close and around what age they would like their potential matches to be. When two Tinder users’ profiles come up on the other’s profile, and both of them “swipe right,” meaning they “like,” each other, they will receive a notification that they have matched and can send messages.

As part of my ongoing investigation regarding online dating (mainly Tinder) in high school, I decided to get an account of my own. Because Tinder is linked to Facebook, Tinder knows my birthday and can figure out my age, so it put myself in the 13-17 age group.

Tinder #1 hookup
From under 18 Tinder

Unsurprisingly, the majority of people I swiped through were around 16-17 years old. However, then I began to come across the occasional 14-year-old. For those who can’t quite visualize that, that’s the average age of an eighth or ninth grader. Yes, eighth graders were on Tinder looking for relationships and hookups. More shocking, however, was the fact that 17-year-olds, even those potentially only a month or so from turning 18, could match with a 13-year-old.

Once I got past that snag, I was bombarded with matches and messages from all the people I had randomly swiped yes to as for the intent and purpose of this experiment, I did not swipe-discriminate.

Tinder #2 pickup line
From under 18 Tinder

As a nice introduction to Tinder, my very first message from a match was, “Anal?” Not only was I creeped out, but I was pretty worried this was representative of the entire male population on Tinder. I was right to be worried. The next few messages I received inquired upon my availability to send nudes, and a few asked where I lived and if I wanted to meet up.

When I finally received a message that sounded relatively normal and started off with a “Hey” like most conversations do, within a few messages he brought up his liking for beer. He was 17.

A few conversations started off creatively, like the guy who used a math pickup line, and others eventually sent normal messages claiming they were on Tinder “just for some conversation,” though one would think there are far better venues for a conversation besides a hook-up app. But for every normal-sounding guy, there were at least a few odd ones out there.

My fake profile picture on 18+ Tinder.
My fake profile picture on 18+ Tinder.

For this experiment, I also decided to make a Tinder profile that would allow me to access the Tinder for ages 18 and up. The process of creating fake email for Facebook, then a fake Facebook profile using a fake picture from the Internet for Tinder took me less than 20 minutes. With my fake birthday on Facebook set to one year earlier than my actual birthday, Tinder placed me in the older age group.

So, within 20 minutes, I was an adult on Tinder. Imagine how easy it would be to reverse the process and create an account for the under 18 side of Tinder as an adult. Additionally, all the guys who swiped and messaged me thinking I was an 18-year-old who looked like my profile were horribly wrong, but they had no way of knowing my profile wasn’t real. Only one person out of all the people who messaged me realized that perhaps my profile was not real, and sent me a message saying “lol wish you were real.”

Surprisingly, the initial messages on 18+ Tinder were far less “sketchy” compared to those I received on the under 18 Tinder, as I wasn’t asked for any nudes or pictures of any sort at all, and most conversations started off with a Gif saying “hello,” a rather polite message, or a pickup line.

Two different methods of talking to people in 18+ Tinder
Two different methods of talking to people in 18+ Tinder

However, when I set my age range from 18-30 years old, meaning that I would only see profiles of people in that age range, I matched with multiple people around 28-29 years old, towards the higher end of my age bracket. Though not illegal, meeting up with people 10 years older either romantically or less innocently generally isn’t socially acceptable or safe, and the number of people who indirectly said they would be okay with that was shown just through the number of matches I received from people that age.

Even worse, when I set the age range from 18-40, I received matches with 40-year-old men. That means, 40-year-olds actually “liked” me on Tinder and wanted to talk. When profiles come up on Tinder, the person’s age is prominently displayed under his or her picture. It would have been impossible to miss that my age was 20 years younger than theirs.

42-year old man who contact me on 18+ Tinder.
42-year-old man who contacted me on 18+ Tinder.

Was I flattered that I had received so many matches and messages in such a short period of time? If the profile picture had actually been mine, then maybe slightly. However, many of the messages were more creepy and explicit than flattering, especially when coupled with the fact many of the men in both Tinder age groups were probably sending the exact same message to every single one of the rest of their Tinder matches.

My over 18 Tinder male account.
My over 18 Tinder male account.

Though my stint on both under and over 18 Tinder as a female was brief, I have had enough pickup lines and creepy remarks thrown at me to last me quite a while. I feel like my time on Tinder would have been drastically different had I been male and had a male profile, as it seems like it is mostly males who initiate conversation.

So of course, I had to get a male profile to see the difference. I followed

My seven whole Tinder matches
My seven whole Tinder matches

the same process I did with “Eliza” when looking for matches on the 18+ Tinder. However, compared to the 120+ matches I received in two days as a female, in the same amount of time, I received only two matches. After about five days of constantly swiping right, I matched with seven people. Instead of people constantly initiating conversations, my Tinder account was silent.

In a way, that made the behavior of the guys on Tinder understandable, though not excusable. They have to be pushy and initiative because not many girls will start a conversation. In order to stand out against other guys’ messages, they seem to resort to questionable methods to do it.

Overall, my experiences as a male and a female on Tinder were uncomfortable above all, and I learned that Tinder just isn’t for me., anyone?

Read about my opinion on Tinder and online dating in high school here.

Read a news story about the dangers of online dating here.

Read some student opinions on online dating in high school here.

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