Is Tinder Being Used Mostly For Friendship?

by Rachel Sanoff

Swipe right for friendship? If a newly published survey of 200 students is to be believed, more college kids use Tinder and other dating apps to find friendship than to find romance or casual sex. WayUp, a startup for college jobs, recently conducted a survey to gather statistics on the dating habits of college students and discovered this surprising trend: Fifty-eight percent of the respondents said that they had never used apps to go on actual dates, and 53 percent said that their intent on the chosen app was finding new friends. And while over half of the surveyed students claimed a lack of interest in dating through apps, only 27 percent reported using apps to find a significant other. The smallest number of people, only 20 percent, reported using Tinder to look for a hookup — which is an outcome that we typically assume most Tinder uses relate to. Additionally, the survey found that 73 percent of respondents listed Tinder as their favorite dating app, followed by Bumble at a much lower 13 percent, and OkCupid at 10 percent.

Some researchers and college students find flaws in the survey methods and doubt the honesty of the survey respondents. Sydney Mastandrea, a sophomore at University of Miami, told CNN Money, "I think people use [Tinder] for random hookups rather than [finding] friends — but say it's for 'friends' so they aren't judged." Aditi Paul, a Ph.D. candidate researching online dating at Michigan State University, questions those who claim to only use dating apps to form friendships. Paul argued to Inside Higher Ed that, in her opinion, college students' frequent social interactions with such an incredible number of peers eliminates any need for an app that assists with friendship.

In 2014, Justin McLeod, the founder of dating app, Hinge, told Elle, "Finding friends online is something I'm sure some people could benefit from (especially if they've just moved to a new city), but I don't think it will ever be as big as dating... Friendships are simply forged more regularly and with less pressure and exclusivity. People tend to make and keep multiple friends, so there just isn't the same urgency."

Inside Higher Ed also points out that universities constantly release conflicting research about online dating, with some stating dating apps are the future, and others arguing that dating apps will destroy us all. We should probably interpret all of these surveys with a grain of salt, and not assume that dating app research findings can be black and white.

What do other experts have to say about Tinder being mostly used for friendship?

1. Less Defined Relationships May Encourage The Search For Tinder Friendships

Kathleen Bogle, professor and author of Hooking Up: Sex, Dating, and Relationships on Campus, told Inside Higher Ed that the use of dating apps on crowded college campuses in the first place demonstrates that "[students] are not finding what they want on their own campuses, where they are surrounded by so many other singles who are so similar to themselves." That, she argues, is an interesting research topic in itself. Further more, Bogle argues that frequent unlabeled romantic interactions, which are very common among this demographic, may encourage students to use Tinder for "friendship" since they can't really be sure what they are getting out of the connection, anyway. Bogle said:

Many college students are not very clear what they want in terms of sexual or romantic relationships. That is part of the reason the vague concept of hooking up has flourished on college campuses. ... A hookup can be a one-night stand or the beginning of seeing each other or the start of a committed romantic relationship. It can also be anything from kissing to intercourse on the sexual spectrum. My guess is that when college students use Tinder, they don't know exactly what they want — or what they'll find. So, they may say on surveys that they are open to many different possibilities, including just making some new friends (who they may or may not actually hook up with).

2. There Is A "Stigma" Toward Labeling These Interactions

Bogle continued that the respondents are not dishonest, but uncomfortable labeling their actions as anything beyond casual friendship. She blamed this on the dating perspectives of their peers and the fact that their age range does not prioritize long-term relationships. While college students may not truly join Tinder only to find friends, they are open to any kind of connection that forms — be it romantic or friendly. Bogle told Inside Higher Ed, “Although many students are in romantic relationships, they treat that outcome like an accident, not something they searched for and found... I don’t know that I believe that people are just trying to make friends via Tinder and have no other intentions beyond that … I think that’s just a sign of being open to whatever happens, happens.”

3. Tinder Doesn't Care What People Do With The App

Tinder has stated that the college age demographic, 18-24 year olds, makes up 50 percent of the app's users. From a business standpoint, it doesn't matter how that large chunk of users implements the app into their lives as long as they are swiping. Additionally, from a relationship standpoint, Tinder does not advertise itself as a solely romantic or casual sex app. In 2014, the vice president of communications at Tinder, Rosette Pambakian, told Elle, "The purpose was never just for dating, it was for social discovery in general ... The co-founders wanted to create a really efficient way to meet people around you who you probably would have never met before."

4. There's A New App To Help Women Find Female Friendships

Beyond this survey and its findings about Tinder and friendship, there is a new app specifically meant to help women find new BFFs. It is called Hey! VINA and it had its first launch on January 26. The app, founded by two women, "aims to solve the challenge of making new friends as adult women with a Tinder-style UX and a proprietary matching algorithm to suggest potential new friends based on mutual friends, proximity, and quiz data.” The app's mission, according to the founders, is eliminating competition among women by creating a larger community and network of potential friends.

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