A Social Psychologist Explains How Tinder has Become a Real Addiction

Swipe left. Swipe right. Swipe, swipe, swipe. There goes 30 mins of your life. And another 10, so what’s another 20? The convenience and immediate gratification of the ever popular dating app Tinder has swept the nation over the past 6 years, and for some is breeding a new type of addiction. Tinderitis! No, it’s not actually called that, but it’s my name for it. It has become the most downloaded Lifestyle App in the Apple App store for the last two years. Some say Tinder is the cause of a sort of Dating Apocalypse.

With sex so readily available, STDs have steadily been on the rise since the app gained popularity also according to the CDC. Tinder certainly has an evil side. Many marriages and relationships have ended over someone finding someone on Tinder who wasn’t supposed to be there. I witnessed this first hand earlier last year. He was married and on Tinder. I found her on Facebook and told her. She didn’t even care! Her reply? Yes, please pray for him as he recovers from Heroine addiction. Shocking. Since when are drugs an excuse for cheating? Some people stay in a marriage for money. I’ll just leave it at that. It’s not ALL evil though.

I’ve used this app off and on and met some decently cool guys. One of my best friends in the world I met off Tinder. We met three years ago and are still friends to this day. We ended up being incompatible for dating, but we made great friends. He helped me move, bought me groceries once, and even baby-sat for me once so I could go on a DATE with someone else. Oh the irony! I know he would have my back if I were ever in a crises, but we’re not in love. And NO we’re not that weird type of friendship that occasionally hooks up. Were. Just. Friends.

But ultimately I never found anyone I loved off of Tinder, that’s not to say someone couldn’t though. I did date one guy for six months, but he was a chronic partier and coke head. Eventually, I just couldn’t deal anymore. I couldn’t see him in my future or as a positive role model for my daughter. It does happen for some however. I know people who have gotten married from meeting on Tinder! Crazy to think an app could bring someone their spouse.

But for most people, especially younger people. Say early to mid-twenties, the app is actually posing a real threat to their social and psychological development. Much like other social media platforms, the same problem persists. The poisen of immidiate gratificaton. It conditions your brain to be impatient. Being impatient is dangerous for your daily living. It bleeds over into other areas of your life. Things like: running red lights, rushing your children, being snappy with co-workers, throwing homework or papers together haphazardly and getting a bad grade etc. You get the idea. Once you start training your brain to get immediate pleasure, which in this case would be “a match” or a tinder date, you are simultaneously training your brain to expect the same sort of reward in other areas just as quickly.

Social psychologist Jeanette Purvis who earned her PhD in Psychology at the University of Hawaii wrote her dissertation on sexual conflict on Tinder.

“I’ve analyzed hundreds of surveys, interviews and internet posts from Tinder users describing their experiences with the app. My preliminary results suggest Tinder users do, in fact, have different outcomes than those who either use online dating websites or don’t use any dating technologies at all. In terms of psychological conditioning, Tinder’s interface is perfectly constructed to encourage this rapid swiping. Since users don’t know which swipe will bring the “reward” of a match, Tinder uses a variable ratio reward schedule, which means that potential matches will be randomly dispersed. It’s the same reward system used in slot machines, video games and even during animal experiments where researchers train pigeons to continuously peck at a light on the wall.”

Our brains are wired to seek pleasure and avoid pain. Tinder feeds this addiction with brutal efficacy. That’s why it’s so addictive. It’s easy and immediate ego feeding.

So what? Is this really a big deal? You may be asking.

Well, for some, yeah. Absolutely. Because some people take it overboard and become addicted to the point where other areas of their life get drastically neglected. Much like addiction does.

Dr. Purvis further explains, “In a study on the brains of drug addicts, researchers found that the expectation of the drug caused more release of the feel-good neurotransmitter dopamine than the actual drug itself. Similarly, for those who may be expecting the next swipe on Tinder to lead to reward, serial swiping can start to look and feel a lot like addiction.”

You are training your brain to expect an immediate reward by swiping with Tinder. You don’t think about it because it happens subconsciously. It’s a cognitive shortcut, Are they nearby ? Are they available? Hot? The age I like? Swipe-match-reward. It can turn into a problem because, like most addictions, it’s eating up your time. It especially makes me cringe when I see single moms ignoring their kids because they are too busy SWIPING. Yeah, that’s not okay. Your baby wants your attention but you’re too busy chatting up some rando who may or may not just be trying to get in your pants. Kids grow up fast. Time is the most valuable asset we all have.

Time you should be spending working, driving, chatting with a friend…Too much of anything can evolve into an addiction, even if it’s something healthy like doing Crossfit. Dad’s not home for dinner for the 6th day this week…Crossfit is more important. It’s healthy for his body but not for his role as a father. Not for his family. Sex is great. But there are such things as sex addicts. When it impairs your day to day life, it’s an addiction.

When it keeps you from doing things you need to do, it’s an addiction. When it causes you to start LYING it’s definitely an addiction. That last one is probably the biggest indicator you’re amidst the throws of addiction, since humans are born with an innate sense of right and wrong, and we all know it’s wrong to lie. That’s why we have a conscience to guide us and shame us when we do something wrong. Guilt is not always a bad thing. It’s an indicator to you that something is amiss.

In conclusion, keep swiping if you have self-control and are of a sound STRONG mind. If you can keep this from making yourself a cheater and neglecting other important areas of your life, then by all means, indulge. But even if that’s the case you could still be weakened over time. If however, you are the type of person with a low self-esteem, too much time on your hands, or have a constant need for approval and validation, I advise you to stay away from Tinder. Because you are prime prey for Tinder addiction. Because Tinder can temporarily meet all those needs in you. Temporarily. And as I explained above, that sort of instant gratification can be damaging to your life and others in your life. Tinder cautiously.


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