The Tinder Effect: The Psychological Effects of Modern Day Dating

Do you usually use dating apps? Do you feel stressed out by dates that always end up being disappointing? Do you believe you'll never find a partner by using them? In recent years, we've started to see a new phenomenon that's well worth reflecting on.
The Tinder Effect: The Psychological Effects of Modern Day Dating
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 08 March, 2023

Do you or have you ever used a dating app to find a partner? It’s currently more of a challenge to find someone who hasn’t used one of these resources that have been around for more than a decade. It doesn’t matter if you’re looking for love, a one-night stand, or simply to ease the weight of loneliness or sadness over a recent breakup.

Indeed, there can be multiple reasons for signing up for these apps. However, the effect on your brain is always the same. At first, there’s an effervescent feeling of motivation, curiosity, and even addiction combined. You might spend hours looking at profiles and there are few things more exciting than finding a match.

On the other hand, apps like Tinder can also lead to exhaustion and even boredom. This is because many people feel overwhelmed by so many options and stressed by frequent disappointments. In fact, we might say that, while it’s easier than ever to find a partner today, it’s far more difficult to find love.

Although it’s true that many couples meet and achieve a solid relationship thanks to dating apps, there are also many who end up avoiding these resources because they’ve suffered experiences like ghosting.

girl thinking about the tinder effect
Now we have more dates than ever, but also more disappointments.

The Tinder effect

The Tinder effect claims that, although our sexual-affective needs haven’t changed, the way we flirt has. Furthermore, these new technological mechanisms aren’t always satisfactory. While it’s true that many people have found their current partners thanks to these resources, we can’t ignore the psychosocial phenomenon that they cause.

Research conducted by the University of Sydney (Australia) indicates that these technological tools are increasing our psychological distress. More specifically, those that use the sliding mechanism such as Tinder (if you like someone you slide to the right and to the left if you don’t).

The anthropologist and biologist, Helen Fisher, is also a Match consultant. She claims that people are becoming increasingly overwhelmed and stressed with these kinds of dates. It seems that while about 12 percent manage to consolidate relationships, others who use dating apps, after months or even years of using them, eventually feel that they’ve been wasting their time.

Although dating apps seek to facilitate an area of life that, traditionally, has been somewhat complex (looking for a partner or sex), many people feel that these resources generate more stress than benefits.

Apps that only seek to activate the brain’s reward system

No one can deny that these innovative resources have promoted the destigmatization of sexuality. Moreover, they allow those who sign up to have new experiences, meet new people, and possibly find real love. However, the Tinder effect suggests that these apps have a huge impact on the brain.

Our minds unconsciously search for attractive faces and bodies. We wait for matches (those who, like us, swiped right on our profiles). We crave new notifications and fantasize about future dates. In fact, Tinder causes hyperactivity in the reward-processing region of the brain.

While experiencing a dopamine rush isn’t a bad thing, expecting to feel one all the time is. It makes us addicted as we wait for new notifications or to connect with potential partners.

Tired of disappointments and ghosting

The Tinder effect claims that increasingly more users are feeling exhausted by so many disappointing encounters. Indeed, close to 50 percent of matches don’t even lead to messages to meet up. This can be disappointing. That said, users tend to be more stressed by unsuccessful dates and ghosting experiences (people who disappear without saying anything).

Seeing users as profiles and not as people

In effect, love, in the era of Tinder has been gamified. In other words, the search for prospective partners has been turned into a technological game. Occasionally, this dehumanizes the process to the point of turning it into disappointing marketing. As a result, signing up for a dating app means becoming a profile and not so much a person.

This means we frequently lose the processes and dimensions that only occur in face-to-face interactions. Moreover, sometimes, we may reject those who’d be great matches solely because their profile pictures don’t appeal to us.

On the other hand, the Tinder effect claims that these apps feed the idea that, sooner or later, the ideal person will appear or that there’ll always be someone better. The need to keep looking places the individual in a stressful position, overloaded with choices.

Often, Tinder’s algorithms can make matchmaking unsuccessful.

Tinder causes us to overload ourselves with both unsuccessful searches and dates.

Strategies to improve the use of dating apps

As stressful and disappointing as dating apps are, it isn’t easy to stop using them. Indeed, not everyone takes the plunge and deletes their profile. They don’t do it because there’s always that outside chance that the next date might prove to be ‘the one’.

It could also be suggested that we should look for love in the physical universe and not so much in the digital one. However, it’s difficult to do so when we spend our days online or looking at the screens of our cell phones.

So, if the Tinder effect claims that disappointment will arrive at some point, how can it be avoided? How can we ensure we make good use of these resources? Here are some tips if you’re interested in avoiding these negative effects:

How to use Tinder without suffering side effects

Believe it or not, your brain isn’t prepared to have so many sexual-affective options. Twenty dates a month can be too much for anyone. Spending hours looking at profiles can be similarly excessive. Therefore, your mental health will appreciate it if you reduce the time you spend on this app and the number of dates you arrange.

  • After a bad date or a disappointment, spend a while without accessing the app. Don’t fall into a rebound relationship trying to find someone to help you forget your bad experience. It’s best to let a few weeks go by, meet up with your friends, and put these apps aside.
  • Beware of biases and excessive demands. Naturally, you’re drawn to the most attractive profiles. But, don’t become obsessed with looking for the perfect person. Find real people who, beyond their appearance, can give you what you need most. Love, respect, complicity, and good times.

Finally, these apps that seek to satisfy our sexual-affective needs are here to stay. Knowing how to adapt and, above all, make good use of them to safeguard your mental health, is key. Make sure you use them correctly.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

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  • Erevik EK, Kristensen JH, Torsheim T, Vedaa Ø, Pallesen S. Tinder Use and Romantic Relationship Formations: A Large-Scale Longitudinal Study. Front Psychol. 2020 Aug 14;11:1757. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2020.01757. PMID: 32922327; PMCID: PMC7456855.
  • Rochat L, Bianchi-Demicheli F, Aboujaoude E, Khazaal Y. The psychology of “swiping”: A cluster analysis of the mobile dating app Tinder. J Behav Addict. 2019 Dec 1;8(4):804-813. doi: 10.1556/2006.8.2019.58. Epub 2019 Oct 30. PMID: 31663372; PMCID: PMC7044584.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.