Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Dating apps introduce new behaviors, challenges to college relationships

As efficacy of dating daps is legally challenged, researchers weigh pros, cons
Bennett Waara

On Valentine’s Day of this year, a lawsuit was filed against Match Group, which owns Tinder and Hinge — some of the most popular apps among online daters — according to the AP News.

The lawsuit filed in federal court in a northern district in California claims Match Group intentionally designs its apps to seem game-like, prioritizing profit over helping people find relationships.

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Tinder seems to be the popular choice with Wisco Chicks, a popular Instagram account affiliated with Badger Barstool, having an entire Instagram post series around Tinder messages. In the weekly series, “Tinder Tuesday,” girls can anonymously send in the messages they received on the app.


According to data from the Pew Research Center, 79% of online dating users aged 18 to 29 have used Tinder.

Before matching with potential partners on Tinder, users create their profile with pictures and information like location, job, age, height, relationship preferences, interests and information about their lifestyle behaviors like physical activity and drinking habits. Users also add their gender, sexual orientation and age preferences.

But are these profiles authentic? Not necessarily, according to Catalina Toma, a professor in the Department of Communication Arts at the University of Wisconsin, who studies social and psychological processes that happen on new communication technologies like social media and online dating.

“When we construct profiles of ourselves, we get to edit them and we get to think about them for as long as we want, which is a luxury that we don’t have if we’re on a date in person for the first time,” Toma said. “We also can focus all of our attention and mental resources into creating our profiles and even the privacy of our personal space.”

What researchers have seen is not flat-out lies on dating profiles, but rather a small amount of deception, known as selective self-presentation.

Selective self-presentation can manifest in small embellishments to a profile like a different height or weight. These small lies are things daters believe will make them stand out to potential matches.

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“We don’t lie just because we can, we lie in strategic ways,” Toma said. “At the end of the day, the goal of online dating is to establish a relationship in person — and nobody wants to date a liar, right? This lying a lot is actually self-sabotaging in this context. So we found that people took advantage of the opportunity to give themselves a boost.”

Toma also points to the difference between being accurate and being authentic. Authenticity is a lot more complex than being accurate, which simply means telling the truth. Being authentic means conveying your characteristics in a way that allows a stranger looking at your profile to understand parts of who you are, Toma said.

But this is not an easy process. Many online daters resort to friends and family for help creating an authentic profile. Research showed the most deceptive element of a person’s profile was their photos.

People tend to choose older photos of themselves to capture a younger and presumably more attractive version of themselves, Toma said. For men, photos were on average six months old, while for women photos were about 14 months old.

Interestingly, the people whose profiles researchers were studying thought their older photos were accurate representations of themselves. To test this, researchers brought in neutral observers to look for the difference. Daters were asked to pose in a similar way to their profile photo to take a new photo.

After having observers look at the photos side by side they noted there were a lot of inaccuracies, especially in the women’s photographs.

There could be a lot of reasons for this discrepancy. One is that we are delusional about how attractive we are, thinking we look the same as our best photograph. Another could be that a dater does not show up to the lab the same way they would on a date.

“The third possibility is that there was quite a bit of deception in profile photographs,” Toma said. “So people really do put their best face forward in that space.”

After creating the profile, daters are faced with the stress of swiping and looking at different profiles. On Tinder, users scroll through people in their area, anywhere from one to 100 miles away.

Mutual interests, similar photos and whether or not someone likes you are all factors that contribute to the swiping algorithm, according to the Tinder website.

But if you’ve found yourself scrolling on Tinder on your college campus, you may have experienced the familiar, overwhelming sense of too many choices. With that feeling of bountiful choices comes the thought there doesn’t need to be as much consideration given to the people on the other side of the screen.

“We call it the grass is always greener phenomenon,” Toma said. “We’ve heard this from a lot of daters, where if you have a lot of choices, you feel the need to explore them. So you’re not going to give those choices as much attention or importance as you would if you had fewer choices.”

In a study done with college students, researchers looked at how the amount of choices changed the satisfaction of the participants. Researchers created a fake dating app, giving a group of participants six choices and another group those same six choices plus 18 more.

The participants with 24 choices were less satisfied and less willing to go out with the person they had chosen than the participants who only had six choices.

The ongoing challenge of choice can be a stressful part of online dating compared to traditional, in-person dating, but the stressors don’t end there. Other anxiety-inducing challenges that can come from online dating are fatigue, the inability to gauge chemistry and “ghosting.”

Ghosting is defined as abruptly ending a relationship by not responding, but also it can refer to being ignored after sending the first messages to a match.

“This happens for men a lot, you send a lot of messages to try to initiate conversations and nobody responds,” Toma said.. “It’s an unpleasant experience.”

With so many unique challenges of dating in a contemporary world, you may be asking yourself: If I met my partner online, should I be worried that I am destined to be more dissatisfied than if I had met them in person?”

While there has not been much in-depth research, as longitudinal studies take place over many years, current results are equally positive for both forms of dating.

“My general takeaway from these studies is that there’s not really a difference between people who met their partners online versus people who met their partners in more traditional ways,” Toma said. “Some studies even find a small benefit of meeting online, just a little bit more of relationship satisfaction.”

The way a couple meets is not as important. So whether you choose to meet on- or offline, what’s more important is the connection you build.

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