Statistic tend to scare people, so when a statistic comes out that says that your odds of matching on Tinder and actually getting a message are extremely low, like less than one percent if you’re a straight guy, people tend to freak out. Guys, I promise you, it’s not as bleak as a lot of these studies often make it sound. I’m telling you from experience that dating online is worthwhile if you’re a straight guy. Trust me on this, I’ve probably been doing it a lot longer than you have.
Let’s be real here, straight men get a disproportionately smaller amount of matches and messages as straight women on pretty much every reputable dating app there is. It’s hard to really get an accurate number for how disproportionate it is because a lot of the studies and reports out there are neither standardized or conducted on a regular basis, so it’s hard to actually compare trends when the data points are different each go round. You’re basically comparing apples to oranges to kiwis each time a new study comes out. That said, pretty much every study I’ve seen shows that straight women get significantly more matches as their straight male counterparts, regardless of how subjectively attractive they are. My own anecdotal experiences tell me the same thing, and hearing about the anecdotal experiences of my readers also tell the same story. I’ve seen match rates as low as less than 1% in one study for men in a recent study. Yes, straight men are matched and messaged significantly less than straight women, but straight men use swiping apps in a completely different way and that’s part of the reason why those numbers are so different.
Tinder debuted in 2012, but I think it’s safe to say that in 2014 it became a big freaking deal. Lots of factors why, but I’m sure that having IAC increase their majority stake in the company in 2014 really signaled a turning point in the direction of the app. Besides debuting a paid option, and being valued as a billion dollar company, the turning point to me was when Tinder, and how people use Tinder, became a pop-culture topic. With that popularity came a clear and accepted method for how straight male users should use the app: Swipe indiscriminately. Indiscriminate swiping by straight men is not only widespread, it’s also widely accepted. There’s a Buzzfeed Community post published in 2014 about how men use the app and why it makes sense to swipe right on everyone because of game theory. Here’s a piece that popped up on Broadly in July of 2016 that dives into the Queen Mary University, Sapienza University of Rome, and the Royal Ottawa Health Care Group study that seemed to freak everyone out, and also dives into the reason why so many men swipe right indiscriminately. Which I’m not a fan of, at all.
Sure it would take more time to be selective, but if all things are equal, and you’d match and message the same people whether you swiped blindly or not, and you’re going to unmatch a lot of the people you match with, what is even the point of getting all those matches you’d get by swiping indiscriminately? Seriously, think about it. If your match rate is 0.06% and you don’t even message the people you match with, even that low number is artificially inflated. More importantly though, a lot of these posts and articles operate under the assumption that you risk nothing by swiping indiscriminately but, here’s the thing, they don’t know for sure that swiping indiscriminately isn’t actually changing what potential matches you’re being shown.
Did you know that Tinder has an algorithm that assigns a certain level of desirability to all of their users, and that that level is used to determine who sees your profile and whose profile you’re shown? I know it might surprise you to consider that Tinder, with its ease of sign-up and simple interface, is actually a data-driven company, but they are. We tend to think of sites like OkCupid and eHarmony as data and algorithm focused, and Tinder as basically the app version of a hookup bar, but Tinder is also data and algorithm driven, they’re just hush-hush about it. I wouldn’t be surprised if you didn’t realize that Tinder used a desirability algorithm because outside of a handful of articles, no one is really talking about it, probably because there weren’t any scare-stats in the article. Tinder all but confirmed that they show their most desirable users to other desirable users in a piece that appeared in Fast Company in January of 2016. Here’s a quote from the piece from Sean Rad, Tinder’s CEO, on the algorithm (emphasis mine):
"It’s not just how many people swipe right on you," Rad explains. "It’s very complicated. It took us two and a half months just to build the algorithm because a lot of factors go into it."
They don’t get into the details of how the desirability rating is calculated, or how the algorithm works, but it’s a rating of desirability, not attractiveness. I’m almost certain that part of your desirability is in how you use the app, since it’s clear that it’s not just based on how many right swipes you get. You can draw your own conclusions as to what data sets they use, but considering that Tinder has a very limited amount of data to pull from, I think it’s safe to assume that how you use Tinder says a lot about your desirability. Attractive people, especially attractive women, tend to use Tinder one way (99% left swipes, 1% right swipes), so it makes sense that frequency and direction of swiping, in addition to other factors like how many times you’re swiped right or left, whether or not someone clicks into your profile, checks out all your pictures, etc., would determine your desirability level. Oh and some food for thought, Tinder calls your desirability rating your “Elo Score“, which I think says a lot. I could probably write 1000 words on the Elo rating system and still not do it justice so let me just say this: Nate Silver and his website FiveThirtyEight are widely known for being very good at creating accurate predictive models using modified Elo ratings. Apples to oranges to kiwis, obviously, but I doubt Tinder decided to call their desirability rankings an Elo score if it wasn’t data driven by multiple factors.
Obviously I could be wrong, but I genuinely think how you use a dating apps, especially Tinder, changes who you match with, and to make it worthwhile we should all be more cognizant about that. Men (or anyone), using Tinder (or any dating app), I want to reiterate, that it can be worthwhile as long as you do so in a way that you actually enjoy, and that can actually lead to results. Using dating apps will never be worthwhile if you’re wasting your time, and potentially putting yourself at a disadvantage without realizing it. Swiping right on everyone is never going to be something that you’ll enjoy, and having to unmatch the few matches you do get is only going to make you feel like using dating apps isn’t worthwhile. The way to make Tinder (or Bumble, or whatever) worthwhile is to do so in a way that you enjoy and that can actually work. Swiping right indiscriminately isn’t putting in work, nor is it enjoyable, it’s wasting your time. If you want to make online dating worthwhile, slow down and try to online date in a way that’s enjoyable. If you’re not finding matches on one dating app using this method, don’t give up and just start swiping blindly, try using more than one app.
Personally, I find online dating more enjoyable, and thus more worthwhile, when I swipe methodically and get a handful of matches, compared to swipe indiscriminately, getting 50 matches, unmatching most of those messages, and messaging the same handful I’d probably have messaging if I’d been methodical. If that means swiping slower, then so be it. I’ve been online dating for over 13+ years and let me tell you, it’s always better to use dating apps in a way you’ll enjoy, even if it means fewer matches. I’d rather get 1 match and be excited about them then getting 100 matches and having to unmatch most of them.
Good Luck Out There.