Representational image | Jeffrey Greenberg/UIG via Getty Images
Representational image | Jeffrey Greenberg/UIG via Getty Images
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It turns out that unpleasant experiences on Tinder are far fewer than happy dates. This could be because of our mating instincts from centuries ago.

Bengaluru: The ongoing #MeToo movement in India has brought forth several points of nuance in how society perceives sexual harassment and misconduct. While several women (and men, of course) insist that the stories tumbling out should be confined to those from the workplace, the dam that has finally burst has been spilling out all kinds of stories — from sexist jokes to sexual misconduct on dates, physical intimidation and even rape.

Then there’s the question ‘where is the sexual misconduct in situations that the woman has consensually entered’, like a date or relationship. The debate first started when a story about a date with Aziz Ansari gone wrong hit the headlines, with several people arguing that his forced attempts to make her perform sexual acts was “just a bad date” and not a #MeToo story.

The debate has flared up again, after a spate of stories where Indian women described their negative experiences on dates. Many of these stories started with “My Tinder date”, leading to another minor debate: Is Tinder messing with our social norms of safe dating and mating? Is it even safe?

Tinder and society

In India, Tinder very much launched as a dating app as opposed to a hook-up app that it was elsewhere. It is used, of course, for both purposes.

Several surveys conducted about the use of Tinder have shown that it is one of the most popular dating apps in use today. It is often touted or dismissed as a “shortcut” to a meaningful relationship, and survey data tends to prove this.


Also read: What we can learn from Shakespeare when it comes to online dating


It encourages people to ‘cancel’ a mate and instantly identify another one, reducing our natural instinct to introspect and modify our needs. The instant gratification obtained by getting a match increases its addictive value, reducing inhibitions in searching for a mate drastically.

Studies also seem to indicate that the instantaneous obvious rejection reduces self-esteem, especially among men. The human brain also tends to go into a “cognitive overload” where it can no longer make rational decisions and users just stop choosing anyone.

It provides a sense of achievement at having matched without making any effort for it, making our relationships tricky. People also act differently when they meet as opposed to how they appear online, causing cognitive dissonance and a tendency to trust less.

This is especially aggravated when two users who match expect different things out of each other.

Evolutionary indicators

However, it turns out that unpleasant experiences are far fewer than happy dates. And this could be because of mating instincts from centuries ago.

A 2017 study found that Tinder very much kick-starts our inherent evolutionary mating habits. A team of psychologists at the University of Aberdeen have found that the usage patterns and differences between men and women (in Scotland) have brought out ancient mating and survival strategies.

The team found that men often swiped right to select women based on physical attractiveness, while women swiped right on men who scored higher on intelligence, career, and financial stability. These selection habits closely mimic survival strategies from centuries ago.

Dr Mirjam Brady-Van den Bos, from the University of Aberdeen’s School of Psychology, said: “Our research demonstrates that we haven’t really changed in all those millennia of evolution.”

But while we might be led to think that a “hook-up app” like Tinder was not made keeping long-term relationships in mind, it does in fact lead to those long-term, stable relationships. It turns out that counter-intuitively, making quick judgements under short seconds of evaluation actually might be making us choose better. This, despite conventional wisdom that we need to invest time and effort in a relationship to decide if the other person is ‘The One’.


Also read: How liberal, feminist women in Delhi’s colleges navigate the dating world


The speed at which a user is forced to make a decision on whether to swipe right brings to life evolutionary patterns of quick assessment. The fact that apart from just attractiveness, the accompanying text is informative enough lends to more parameters on which decisions can be based.

Additionally, the body language of a person in a photograph itself lends some important hints: How they conduct themselves physically with women (in group photographs), whether they post long shots or close-ups (exposing minor flaws on the face indicating confidence), lifestyle choices, etc.

This process is surprisingly much more accurate in filtering for a life partner than one would think. Even more so than websites like Bharat Matrimony or even OkCupid, where there is a lot of scope to make detailed profiles that can be exaggerated. Tinder doesn’t really allow for this.

The cherry on top here is the wait for a like back (adrenalin and hormonal surge) and the subsequent chat, which acts as an additional filter that enables perceived character judgement.

So, in the larger pattern of #MeToo India, Tinder might be safer than most workplaces.

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