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Why Tinder's "Epic" Study Misses The Mark On Dating & Human Behavior

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Why Tinder's "epic" study misses the mark on dating & human behavior
Buzz, Love

Swiper beware: Tinder's recent dating study reveals biased conclusions and ignores our humanity.

 "Percentage of daters who have had more than one committed relationship as an adult: 49 percent offline vs. 74 percent online."

That's one of the statistics from the new study that Tinder just put out (pun intended) abut online versus offline daters. That stat essentially claims that online daters are 50 percent more likely to have had two or more relationships than their offline counterparts.

But I have considerable trouble accepting research where every statistical result favors its sponsor — which is exactly what this study does for Tinder.

In this case, what we get is the alleged superiority of a heavy data-driven dating approach which (as we all know) has a singular emphasis on physical attractiveness versus, well, everything else humans had to rely on to create a romantic connection up until the late 90's.

We'll call the latter offline dating, which can be summed up as a mix of instincts, common sense, and techniques to facilitate comfortable contact in real life.

In any situation — from research studies to arguments — it's crucial to show both sides in order to get an accurate full picture, which means including the results and viewpoints that don't only support one party's desired outcome.

As an offline dating coach who helps single women get the skills to meet their partner in the real world, you can bet I'm writing this article with my own offline bias.

But at least I'm openly admitting it.

With singles already overwhelmed with too many dating options and regularly shamed by society for their solitary status, a study with blatant biases like Tinder's can serve to make them feel even worse about their situation and "failure" to find a romantic partner.

Here's an example.

Tinder’s study claims that "two-thirds of Tinder users go on 1-2 dates per week." Imagine you've been active on the app for six months, but you've only gone on two first dates — neither of which led to a second date.

According to the study, not only are those 10.5 hours per week you spent swiping not leading to anything long-term, but you’re now behind pace with the (apparent) majority of your peers in simply getting a date.

Ouch.

But what if we take a look at the Tinder study through a different and blatantly pro-offline dating lens, just to offer a counter-perspective of their pro-online "modern dating myths"?

Chances are we'll get a broader and more in-depth picture of the real advantages between online dating vs. offline dating, so that singles feel empowered to make their own decision about their dating approach of choice — no matter where the stats try to steer them.

First though, let's examine some examples of how Tinder's survey methods, questions, and conclusions clearly favor a rigid online dating approach:

1. The study says that 74 percent of survey respondents were Tinder users.

Tinder polled 7,072 Tinder users ages 18 and older about various aspects of their dating life. In a separate survey, researchers asked a group of 2,502 U.S. singles ages 18 to 35 questions about their dating lives, then Tinder combined both surveys into one giant study.

That means 74 percent of the survey respondents were Tinder users (recruited for the study via the app), and the "offline daters" quoted throughout the study were only,  at the very most, 26 percent of the respondents — basically a quarter.

Choosing three-quarters of survey participants who already have a bias toward one of the outcomes (being active users they clearly had some level of enjoyment with the app) could be compared to a politician redrawing his district's voting boundaries to encompass the areas who support him.

Did he win the election? Yes.

Were the district votes an accurate representation of the broader population? Not so much.

2. The study includes only pro-online dating stats.

Red flag alert: all statistics in the survey were in favor of (or at the very least, neutral toward) online dating. The closest a stat came to painting offline dating in a favorable light was "Offline daters are 3 times more likely to initiate conversations based on the weather than Tinder users."

When a study includes only outcomes that are favorable towards one side, its credibility goes out the window.

Publishing all (or at least most) results from the study — especially those that don't support a clearly desired outcome — instills better trust in readers that they're indeed getting the full picture of the situation and can come to their own conclusions.

3. Some stats don't even make sense

According to the study, "46 percent offline daters vs. 57 percent online daters open a conversation with a question about their match." This wording is not only confusing but doesn't even make sense for offline daters unless they were set up by a matchmaker.

Same story with "34 percent offline vs 51 percent online reported messaging 2-4 potential dates each week." Offline daters aren't "messaging potential dates" — they're actually meeting them in real life.

And "20 percent offline daters vs. 8 percent online daters never speak to their dates via phone prior to meeting in person" is irrelevant for offline daters. Meeting offline means both people have already experienced each other in person, making the need for a phone call before the first date completely obsolete.

4. Diving deeper, some stats are extremely questionable.

Next up are two stats that Tinder is very proud of, as noted in their press release about the study.

The first is "For Tinder users, age and education are the top two most important factors, with appearance ranking third when considering a potential date."

But what people want their natural first reaction to be ("I want a well-educated woman") and what it actually is ("wow, she's hot") rarely match up.

Someone please find me a Tinder user who can honestly say they looked up a potential match's education information before judging the person's profile picture.

Humans are hardwired to look at pictures and physical appearance first, above and beyond everything else. Even OkCupid founder Christian Rudder states in his book Dataclysm that, based on data from his own site, photos drive 90 percent of the action in online dating.

Another swayed stat of contention in the Tinder study: "Nearly 70 percent of Tinder users always use condoms when having sex for the first time with a new partner; this compares to the 58 percent of their offline dating counterparts who report the same."

Question: What's the best way to avoid getting an STD?

Answer: By not having sex.

Next question: What's one way to prevent having sex?

Answer: By avoiding apps that encourage casual sexual encounters.

What that stat really should reveal is the average amount of sexual partners Tinder users have versus offline daters.

Clearly, having sex with a lot of different people, even while using a condom, is a lot riskier than just avoiding a means that enables (encourages?) endless amounts of casual sex partners.

5. It's not all Tinder's fault most studies have a bias.

Studies contradict each other all the time and they can be incredibly subjective depending on the phrasing of questions asked, the pool of participants selected, and, of course, the people or companies conducting the survey.

On the dating front, some studies have found that those who started a relationship online were 28% more likely to end within a year, and married couples who first met online were three times likelier to get a divorce than those who initially met offline.

But other research concluded the opposite — such as this study that surveyed 20,000 singles and found that couples who met online were 25 percent more likely to last than those who had met offline.

Confused yet? Good.

Research studies can help us make better sense of the world by revealing patterns that occur on a macro level by surveying the masses. But "confirmation bias" (the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms one's pre-existing beliefs or hypothesis) is very real.

So as soon as a few published numbers make you feel like you're not up to par with the rest of society, it's time to question the intentions behind what exactly you're reading and perhaps use a more qualitative (emotion-based) approach when deciding what's right for you, personally.

And that said, here are six blatantly biased, statistics-based advantages to having your first encounter with a potential match occur offline:

1. It’s instant confirmation of the basics

When you’re face-to -face with someone, there’s zero chance either of you can lie about what you look like or fake your social skills.

Boom!

In a matter of seconds, you just confirmed the basics — saving hours, days, or even weeks of back and forth messaging with someone who may not have been totally honest in his online profile.

According to Phactual.co, more than half of users fabricate some or all of their dating profile, like the 20 percent of women who use photos from when they were younger.

Also, the Tinder study confirms that 95 percent of their users wait 2-7 days before meeting their matches in person — that's up to a week you might have to wait to see if that guy you swiped right on (who apparently looks like Bradley Cooper's younger brother) is even the person in that picture.

2. It saves you precious time and energy.

Sifting through hundreds of online profiles and messages takes your already scarce free time away.

Plus there’s the burnout: the amount of energy you invest in online dating doesn’t always equal your success in finding a match.

With the average millennial checking their phone 157 times per day and taking an average of 10-15 hours online per week to generate just one date, ain't nobody got time for that.

On the flip side, offline dating techniques are integrated into your existent daily routine - they aren’t another item on your To Do list.

You can attract and engage with someone as you simply go about your normal day.

3. It’s really, really fun.

Aziz Ansari said it well when he wrote that online dating has "morphed from something fun and exciting into a source of stress and dread." So it's no surprise one study found that 78 percent of women and 85 percent men want to meet people in real life.

I mean, how cool would it be to go on your weekly grocery store run and get a date in the ice cream aisle?

Or drop by a friend’s BBQ and meet your next relationship?

Or rendezvous with an ex for friendly catch-up over coffee and have another man ask for your phone number right in front of him?

Those are just a few of my personal offline dating stories, and they felt just as amazing as they sound. Especially that last one.

No swipe will ever come close to the natural high of enjoying a surprise romantic connection when you least expect it. It's your own personal magic movie moment.

4. You’re more likely to find a real match.

With online dating and apps, Gizmodo reminds us that we can’t tell from a picture how good of a potential partner someone would make.

That makes it tough to tell if a guy swiped right for you because he found you attractive or, as the Tinder study would try to tell us, your education level greatly appealed to him.

On a similar note, one study found that 88 percent Americans who have been with their spouse or partner for five years or less met each other offline. And another one found that only 17 percent of married couples in the last year met online. Heck, even eHarmony states the best chance you have of finding your partner is through a friend.

When you’re out and about just being yourself, you’re going to attract a partner who likes you for YOU — your energy, body language, eye contact, conversation skills, and all the other key traits that humans instinctively look for in each other to assess potential compatibility.

Instincts which have clearly served us well enough to successfully populate the planet for hundreds of thousands of years.

5. You will be treated much better.

Humans are hardwired to value the things they put effort into. Online dating has become so convenient that many people, unfortunately, don't value it nor the people they encounter there.

As one Cosmo article put it to their females readers, "If you've ever attempted to navigate the minefield that is online dating, the chances are you'll have received a dick pic."

Imagine a major media source claiming the offline equivalent: "If you've gone to the grocery store in the past month, chances are a man has flashed you his privates."

As if that's simply what you should expect in today's world.

The latter example just doesn't happen, not only because the man could face jail time for it, but more that he simply wouldn't have the gonads to do it in-person!

And let's not even open the can of worms about all the nefarious creatures from pimps to murderers that we regularly hear are using online dating to find their next victims.

As FBI Special Agent Patrick Cullen sums it up it up, "We see common sense going out the window sometimes when people are doing things online."

It's true, people can literally pretend they're in a different reality and adopt a different persona when they're online. It's scary.

(Sidenote: why would those same misbehaving people suddenly become honest in an online dating survey?)

When you’re just a first name with some photos, it’s easier for someone to take their bad day out on you by hiding behind a screen and avoiding any negative repercussions caused by their hurtful words or explicit pictures.

Think those offenders would be that mean when standing face to face with their targets?

No way.

When we’re looking someone in the eye, we naturally step up to the plate and put a more respectful foot forward. It’s a win-win for everyone.

6. It will restore your faith in humanity.

Besides Vanity Fair's eloquent yet slightly horrifying article "Tinder and The Dawn of the Dating Apocalypse", HyperChange TV's Galileo Russell put it well put it well when he said "Go to any restaurant, you'll see all these 5 to 7-year-olds playing with their iPad or iPhone, none of them look up, I don't even know if they can talk to humans unless it's through an Apple product."

You know you've seen it too.

But there's still hope.

While the premise of "offline dating" implies searching for a romantic relationship, those who regularly interact with the (real) world and people around them are continually creating genuine connections with other humans, whether that results in getting a date, making a new friend, or just enjoying a moment of heartfelt rapport with another person in passing.

And by creating meaningful touch points like that as you go about your day, it’s not only giving your social skills a boost, it's fulfilling our basic need for human connection, which was found to be just as important as our need for food and shelter.

Screw the studies, date the way you want to!

To sum it up, no one's going to argue that you'll meet more people online than you would offline or that it's easier to avoid the pang of rejection from someone you've never actually met, as opposed to initiating a conversation with a stranger in real life.

But quantity doesn't usually equate to quality. And easier rarely means better, which is why I wouldn't have a start-up business with women from 50+ countries seeking offline dating advice if everyone loved online dating so much.

And that is the mark that Tinder's study misses entirely: The human side.

The fun side is going through the process of finding a potential mate for life and actually enjoying it — or at the very least, not having it suck the life out of your soul.

So if you feel like you're losing your sanity (or years off your life) with your current dating approach, it's time to change it up,  no matter what the numbers say or who's sharing them.

Everyone in the business of love is trying to get your attention and sell you something, including me.

We don't need a study to tell us that when we enjoy something, we tend to do more it often and the more often we do something, the better we tend to get at it (and get better results from it).

Dating is no exception, so find small ways to make it fun again, whatever that means for you personally.

And if you need some help doing that on the offline front, I got you covered.

Camille Virginia is founder of Master Offline Dating, helping single women who are burned out with online dating find love in the real world through private coaching, online courses, and live workshops. Get her FREE gift Best Date EVER: The Ultimate Guide to Turning a Chance Encounter into an Epic First Date by clicking herewhich gives you the key tools to find love as you simply go about your day.

 

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