The Problem With Tinder

Nearly everyone has heard of Tinder. It was the “original” dating app that gamified trying to find love, or get laid. If you’re not familiar with it – likely because you haven’t been dating anytime over the past 10 years – then it’s really a simple concept. You match with people you like, you chat, date, and ideally things go well. However, there’s a whole world of nastiness behind it, and some of it’s users will gladly attest to these things, with others being completely oblivious.

I began writing this article as last week I got a shock I never saw coming. My account in Tinder got banned. I wish I could tell you why, but I’m absolutely clueless – with one exception that I’ll get into later in this post. With so many other apps out there, why would I care – especially with Tinder in hot competition as the worst dating app out there. Well, they kind of own everything and have the dating market cornered. Oh, and they’re evil.

How It Works On The Surface

OK, you’re fresh into the dating scene and download this fabled app. You signup, upload a couple photos of yourself, enter your name, select if you’re male or female (our first problem), add a short bio (think 100 characters or less), and get to swiping. Essentially you’re swiping right if you can see yourself ever wanting to talk with this person, and left if there’s no chance. If they also swipe right, you match, and you’re able to open a conversation with them. The app allows you to set a “radius” which is basically a threshold of how physically far away a potential match can be located. Filter with age ranges, and if you’re looking to match with males or females (the first problem repeats itself).

When you open a chat with a partner you are limited to sending a pre-set list of “reaction” photos from their couple thousand, and plain text. You used to be able to send photos, that was until half the dudes in the world thought it’d be a great way to send dick pics to everyone. After a LOT of women fled the platform, that ability was removed. But it took them 7 years to address that problem. Fun already, eh!

The Experience… As A Man

For a dude, it gets broken down into a simple formula. (1) Be attractive, (2) Be funny, (3) Be Rich. That’s not some angry little incel inside of me talking, that’s just the truth. If you’re not attractive, women won’t match with you. They’ve already got a whole inbox of other guys begging for their attention, and they know they generally have the pick of the litter. When you do get a match, you’re going to need to stand out from the rest of her matches to get a chance at a date. Where you go from there is totally up to you, but being rich to impress a lot of these women helps.

The types of profiles you’re going to see will boil down into one of a few categories. (1) The basic white girl who takes photos at iconic places, has nothing interesting to say, is moderately attractive, but is only marginally more fun to talk to than a brick wall. She’ll get a healthy amount of men interested. (2) The cover girl. She’s hot, and she knows it. Every guy swipes right on her. She’s got at least one photo with her girlfriends (who are also all bombshells), absolutely a bikini photo in a blow up flamingo raft, probably one in an exotic place, and her bio reads “Be funny. IG: steph_lovexx”. If you check her Instagram, she’s got 5k followers, and follows 200 people back. (3) The Bad Profile. There’s one blurry photo from a distance, and the rest have nobody in them. There’s no bio, and you wonder what the hell this person was thinking. (4) The Outlier. She’s attractive, but she’s not flashy. She’s got a decent bio, probably with a witty tag line, and she’s got character. Her photos are excellent, and none of them have been touched up. She’s intelligent. This is what I personally look for. (5) The Sex Worker. She’ll be an escort, cam-girl, or have an OnlyFans account. She’s almost exclusively here to try and cash in on horny dudes. They’re usually easy to spot, but once in a while you get a little shocked. As for the rest, they just kind of do their own thing.

When you do start talking to a woman, you’re going to have to anticipate that she’s got another 50+ matches trying to talk to her. You’ll need to capture her attention in some way. If you make it to exchanging phone numbers, you’ll now be competing with a lot less guys. When it comes to meeting, you’re now likely one of only a few. Godspeed.

But, As A Woman, It’s a Little Different

Right out of the gate, expect to feel like a commodity within 4 minutes or less. Ohhhh boy, nothing says “a good time” like being objectified. You’re going to match with a LOT of men. Who will proposition you for sex. Repeatedly. Think of it as walking down the street wearing only a G-string and getting to talk to all of the glorious guys who’s heads have turned. Now, naturally this isn’t going to be all of your matches, but it’s going to feel a lot like it is. If you’re a bombshell, expect to match with basically any guy you swipe on, and if they don’t proposition you, they’ll likely ask “are you actually real” as their opening line. Hard pass. You’re probably going to have a _really_ hard time finding someone who will treat you normal. If you’re that basic white girl, you’re in for the same treatment, except you’ll probably have a much better chance at finding a couple respectable dudes. It’ll probably still be hell, but not as bad as the bombshell, and certainly not as bad as the less attractive women. Their experience is going to be a living hell. Not only will they get less matches, but the ones they do match with are going to see them as a last resort. They’ll get messages like “DTF?” (down to fuck), with nothing else. They’ll be treated as little more than a nameless body for some guy to get off to. They’ll have a hard time finding someone that actually respects them as a person, and this endless cycle will be soul crushing.

That’s because your matches are probably terrible. While I don’t have any personal experience doing this as a woman, I have heard a lot of stories. You’ll come across one of the following guys… (1) The tech/financial/real-estate bro. His personality will be an extreme and there will be no middle ground. Either attractive and an asshole, or unkept/ugly and socially awkward, but not in a fun and cute way. (2) The Punisher. He’s a cop, or wants to be a cop. If not, he likely works in some form of construction. He’s got a picture with his truck, he’s either quite fit or way out of shape (there will be no middle ground), and will likely talk to you about Jordan Peterson or Joe Rogan. (3) The Misfit. He’s going to be nerdy or some sort of an outcast, socially awkward, but without the tech/finance bro vibe. He has nothing going on in his life, really. (4) The Middle Ground. It’ll be your average everyday dude, the equivalent to the basic white chick. They’ll have a decent job, may have some good conversation, (hopefully) they’ll be normal, but not a whole lot stands out about them among the rest. They’ll most likely have a picture with their mother/niece/nephew, and will vary widely on personality. Your mileage will vary here.

You’re going to have to wade through a lot of crap to fish out a couple people of real interest. You’re going to get totally normal guys turn creepy and controlling overnight, where-as others will be super needy, and you’re going to effectively take up dating as a second job if you want to try and juggle your matches. You give a couple people your phone number, and hope for the best. Dates will be boring and moderately disappointing, but every once in a while you’ll have a guy you think you really connect with. This may lead to a great start, or it may all come crumbling down when he ultimately reveals that he’s really only interested in casual sex. Isn’t dating fun?!

And The Problems Begin.

Now that we’ve got the lay of the land down, and you’re likely sitting there thinking “this sounds bloody horrible”, so let’s talk about some of the problems (you know, besides the terrible user experience). Early on one of company’s co-founders named Whitney Wolfe filed a lawsuit against the company for sexual harassment. Her abuser was named Justin Mateen. After some settlements, a new CEO gets hired. His name is Greg Blatt, and he lasted only a short while before being canned for sexually harassing one of the Tinder VPs. Is a pattern emerging?

Staying true to their apparent ethos, the app notoriously has a reputation for enabling predatory men. They know this, because in 2019 Tinder outright said “there are definitely registered sex offenders on our free product”. So much so, a study of 150 cases of sexual assault originating from matches found on Tinder revealed that 10% of them were previously accused and/or convicted of sexual assault. Yay!

Now comes the money. They’ve got to make it, and that’s completely understandable, but how they do it is downright evil. They essentially push non-paid members (who aren’t in those 10% of people who get ALL the swipes) down and their profiles aren’t seen as much by other users. This creates a massive disparity, with a lot of users getting very little attention (read: most men, and conventionally unattractive women – their target market). They then offer a “premium” service which gives you features like being able to change your location (so you can match with people all over the world), see if someone has read your message, or even see who’s already swiped right on you. The thing is, the price for that subscription totally changes depending on how old you are, and if you’re a man or a woman. You better believe there’s a lot of discrimination going on there. Sexual misconduct, and discrimination now seems to be their brand!

Let’s not forget about what I said earlier. You’re either a man or a woman. They have no tangible options to identify as Trans, Bi, Queer, or otherwise. When you need to select who you’re looking to match with, you’re presented with “men”, “women”, and “both”. I guess that “both” option is their answer to “yes, we totally cater to the queer community!” Cool.

Back to The All-Mighty Dollar.

The revenue sources are pretty clear : desperate people. So, they need to create them, and they did one hell of a good job doing it. Super attractive people – especially women – are who they want to keep on the platform to attract everyone else. And it’s those “everyone else” who they need to cash in on. They do this a couple ways.

By pushing down your profile unless you’re a paid member, you’re less likely to be seen by others as the paid and super attractive profiles get all the love. This goes skyrocketing for men as there’s a reported 9:1 ration of men to women on the app. When you’re 1 of 9,000 men competing for only 1,000 women, you’re going to need a little advantage. You’re hardly getting seen, and as a result, you’re getting next to no matches. So, you pay to play.

Manipulating the system to get people to pay is really the name of the game here. They need to give the illusion that you’re going to get laid, or find that special someone, but “it’s tough out there, and we can put you at the front of the line for only $14.99/month!”. Trust me, every time they released a new “tier” of paid service, I noticed the amount of matches I got dropped by nearly 1/2 or more. There was a point where I’d get 1/20 matches (a damn good number), but that’s probably down to 1/100 at this point (if you don’t count the sex workers, and women from the Philippines).

If there’s a period where I get a handful of matches, I’ll see a dramatic increase in matches for the day or two following. This is because they have an algorithm that effectively tracks your “hot or not” rating, and as that rating increases, you’re going to be shown to more users, resulting in more potential matches, resulting in… more matches. But, remember, you can pay to get past this.

Then comes the micro-transactions. You can pay to “boost” your profile temporarily (where it’s seen by more people for a short period of time), or to “super-like” someone, which puts you at the front of their stack, and notifies that user that you’ve effectively paid to tell them “Hey, you’re hot. Let’s have sex” before their have a choice to match with you or not.

At the end of the day, they’re doing everything possible to keep you on the app, keep paying them money, and doing so by giving you just enough hope that you’ll find what you’re looking for, while only giving you a small chance at achieving it. If you think about it, you’re more or less playing a carnival game, where the odds are stacked against you, and they’ll let you increase your chances of winning just so long as you pay them a little more money.

But, Love Can Be Found!

I speak first hand about it. I have matched with some absolutely wonderful women in the past who still to this day remain in my life and I consider close friends. I met a woman I fell in love and moved to a new place together with. Granted, we haven’t been together for over 5 years now, but it’s entirely possible.

What it comes down to is how you use, and view the app – and the experience. It’s a rough go more often than not, but there’s absolutely a chance you’ll reach the finish line. If you can separate emotions from your experience (hopefully now knowing some of the facts I’ve listed above), you’ll be able to understand why you may feel less attractive because you’re not getting the experience you’re looking for. If you can think logically, and not rely on the little dopamine hits you get when the app alerts you that you’ve got a new match, you’ll probably have a much better time than if you allow it to be an emotional experience.

Tinder has also completely revolutionized how we date. The whole “swipe culture” is a full on shift in the dating world. No longer do you actually need to approach someone on the street, or in the grocery store, or at some crappy club. You’re not fearing rejection, as you never have to admit interest in someone unless you know they’re into you too (at least, in some level). It’s a dream for introverts, as it provides a low risk way to try and talk to someone you think might be cute. This idea has now permeated all other dating apps out there as they follow a similar model of “swipe for hot or not”. I literally can’t think of another app (and there’s many) which don’t incorporate the “swipe to match” idea as the primary function.

The Other Apps.

Since Tinder hit the scene, others have popped up in rapid succession. If you look on whatever app store, you’ll see at least 30 of them. They’re all more or less carbon copies of each other, but market themselves as something unique. There will be one for “Casual Hookups”, promising the idea that you’ll just swipe for a one night stand. I have no idea what these are like, but I can only imagine it’s not a 9:1 ratio, but more like a 9000:1 ratio. Have fun!

There’s another platform called Badoo, which has been literally skinned to be about 5 other apps. They’re all slightly different, but the hilarious part is that they share the same user database and info. As such, you could be using the app “Badoo”, but you’ll match with someone from the app “Local Love”. I won’t go into the details of how this all works, but it’s all trash basically.

However, a few have emerged as the front runners. They are Bumble and Hinge, with apps like OKCupid, Match.com, Coffee Meets Bagel, and Happn taking a smaller back seat. Personally, I always loved OKCupid because it allowed you an extensive profile, and you could fill in a lot of personality traits and also read those things about others before matching. It was a chance to really get to know someone before interacting which is a rarity these days.

Hinge is by far my favorite app as it allows you 10 “likes” a day, meaning that you need to be selective in who you message. It allows you to send a short message (140 characters) to anyone you like, and you’ll show up in their “people who like you” stack. It feels a lot more natural, and is arguably the best experience (at least, for me).

But then there’s Bumble. Remember that woman who was a co-founder of Tinder who was sexually assaulted by one of the other co-founders? Well, she left the company and created Bumble. An app made by women, for women. Same idea, you swipe hot or not, and only match with people who like you, but the twist is that the woman has to message the man first. This allows women more control over having a ton of matches, while also not having to be bombarded with “hey, what’s up” from 50 dudes all within an hour. They can choose who they actually want to interact with, and if they don’t message the guy within 24 hours, that match disappears from their stack. That leaves the guy 24 hours to message back to the woman, else it disappears for him, too! This drives more meaningful interactions as you’re going to be more apt to want to talk to people you actually want to interact with. They make their money by selling premium subscriptions where you can “re-match” with expired matches (if you don’t check in on the app often), and also gives you abilities like “undo” if you swipe left by accident. You can also “super like” 5 people a week, much like Tinder allows. This is a far less predatory model, and that’s really no shock seeing as they set out to be more ethical. I’ll add again, it’s an app made by women, for women – so they take abuse reports seriously. They don’t allow “fake” profiles, and they will remove any photo that doesn’t feature you. By and large, Bumble has been a very positive experience over every other app (besides Hinge).

Tell The Story Of Getting Banned, Dammit!

What did I do to achieve such a scumbag status you ask? Well, I wish I could answer you, and that’s part of the problem. If I’d sent an inappropriate picture to someone, or acted in a way that would be dangerous or predatory, I’d totally understand. But, that never happened. Even then, Tinder does have a pretty lax policy on banning people who have been reported (within their app, mind you!) for sexual assault and a whole list of heinous things.

Instead what I got was a message “your account has been suspended”. It provided no explanation, and no way to appeal or ask a question. If I’m being completely honest, I never noticed I was banned from Tinder as I only open that app very occasionally at best. I actually noticed my Hinge account had been suspended. I contacted their support team who was fairly quick to reply explaining that I has been suspended for violating their terms of service. I took a good hour and read the entire thing and all I could come up with was I had a voice “note” which had a copyrighted song in the background, and that could have possibly violated their copyright clause. They claimed this wasn’t the case, and it was actually as a result of being banned from one of their “partner” companies. It turns out that Hinge is owned by a parent company “Match Group” who also owns OKCupid, Tinder, Match.com, and many others (except Bumble). My ban came from Tinder, and as a result, my account on Hinge was also banned. Crazy.

So, I go to appeal to Tinder to find out what the hell they think I have done. Here’s the first problem. There’s no appeal process. There’s nobody you can contact, easily, anyways. I find a way, and they more or less tell me “your account has been suspended for violating our terms of service. There is no further assistance I can provide at this time”. I rebut, explaining that I’m wildly confused and this has to be a false report or a misunderstanding. They don’t reply. I send new messages after racking my brain.

Just over a week ago I matched with someone. Her profile had a link to her Instagram, which had a pretty healthy following of 10k or so people. I messaged her on Tinder “are you legitimately looking for matches, or are you just farming Instagram followers?”. She didn’t reply. However, I did get a handful messages on Instagram 2 days later from a bunch of various accounts telling me to kill myself, I’m a weak little boy, and other well put together thoughts from strangers. The funny thing was, almost all these Instagram accounts also “followed” this woman’s account on Instagram. It was shortly after this that my account on Hinge was suspended.

Coincidence? Well – it’s the only thing that’s been “not normal” on those apps for a very long time, so it seems like the most likely candidate. Although I have no actual proof, I suspect this user reported me for something that never happened and they kicked me for that reason. After all, I suspect her profile is likely fairly popular, and she’s the type of user Tinder would want to keep on it’s platform to attract more paying men. I also think she sent her mob of followers towards me to harass me. It’s the only thing that makes sense.

I put this theory, along with the fact I was being harassed by people who follow her into an email to the Tinder support team who then took 2 days to reply only saying “we can not assist any further”. They provided no reason for the ban outside of “you have violated this incredibly vague and long set of rules that allows us to ban anyone for any reason, effectively”. I have tried to provide them proof of the harassment I received from accounts linked to her, but they simply haven’t replied for many days now. I expect this won’t change. I even tried to contact Hinge support and plead my case because that’s truly the only account I care about, but they have also not replied and I don’t see that situation changing either.

But, maybe it wasn’t Instagram girl. Maybe it was my old roommate from in my 20’s that turned into a nightmare and I had to kick her out? I wonder how many people remember that saga as it unfolded. Maybe it was the roommate before her who only stayed for a week and had to be removed by the police, then told the cops she had powers, and that me and her were dating, and

Let’s Talk About The Rules

If you read them top to bottom (which, I’ve actually done), the language is so incredibly vague on some things that it could be interpreted in many ways. How exactly do you define harassment? Or hate speech? Sexual content? I sure as hell would hope that we all have an excellent grasp on what those things are and would never willfully engage in such activities, however when it comes down to it – it’s all up for interpretation. Except, there’s no jury. There’s no hearing. You aren’t even told what has allegedly happened. And, you are provided no way to defend yourself or even ask questions.

I just cringed a bit reading that last sentence back. I got some /r/MensRights bullshit vibes so I want to make something absolutely clear. I fully support listening to victims. The stats don’t lie, and the reality is that false reports of abuse are insanely small in comparison to ones that are true. We even know the amounts of cases that go unreported is many multiples of the amount that do, which when you now think of that new “true” number against the amount of false cases, it’s not even in the same discussion anymore. We need to listen to every.single.report.seriously.

Except one massive fallacy. This isn’t real life. These abuse reports on apps aren’t being forwarded to the local authorities, or any authorities for that matter. Nobody is getting interviewed, or questioned, nothing! And, what if I do make a false report? There’s no consequences. I don’t face any repercussions if it’s completely fabricated. I could tell Tinder that I went on a date with a girl, she came home and stayed over, then when I woke up she was gone and had robbed me. The reality is that I acted like a bit of a creep on the date, stared at her chest all night, and when I asked her if she wanted to make out in the booth at Denny’s (that’s where we went on the date), she got up and walked out. In a fit of revenge for being rejected so violently, I decide to report her with some horseshit story. Now she’s banned, meanwhile she’s the victim in the story – and I get to go back to disappointing yet another poor woman in a sub-par diner.

But, if the vagueness of the usual suspects of “don’t do this stuff, it ain’t cool”, there is one which can effectively act as a catch-all rule that everyone breaks; “Private Information”. If you give out any sort of private information (with “an unlisted phone number” explicitly stated as covered in this clause) then your account has violated the community standards. I don’t know about your experiences, but typically within a day or two of talking to a match we’d have exchanged phone numbers and moved our interactions away from the app. We’ve just both broken the rules by doing so and are eligible to the banned. Crazy right? Maybe that’s why I was banned, although I truly can’t see that as the truth.

Oh, and the community standards continually change “from time to time” as they say. Naturally, they don’t alert you to these new changes, what has changed, or in what form. They don’t alert you saying “hey, we changed some stuff, go take a look before you continue”, then make you click “I still agree” or whatever – instead, it just changes and you’re unaware. Damn.

How Do We Fix It?

The reality is, we don’t. Tinder isn’t going to change unless there is massive backlash, some sort of super negative press coverage, or they start losing swaths of users suddenly. An issue like this is never going to catch any sort of publicity or public support because it’ll easily be interpreted as “some dude is pissed off because he got banned for probably acting like a creep”.

Maybe I could be like that Bumble lady and start my own dating service. Well, I did have a really awesome idea for one like a decade ago. I hadn’t fleshed out the exact science of it, but the idea was (in my mind) brilliant. The same “profile, photos, bio, etc” stuff. But the differentiator was that you could review your dates. You could mark yourself as “I’m meeting this person”, and then they confirm to prevent false positives. You can even put where you’re going on the date and a timeframe. Hell, that’s a built in safety feature so if anything was to ever happen, we have some sort of “they went here before someone went missing”. That’d also be some cool metadata to collect. Heck, the logic could track locations of both users in that timeframe and determine if they did in fact meet.

When you get back from the date, you can optionally fill out a short questionnaire. Simple yes/no or 1-5 type answers such as “did your date look like their photos?”, “was your date respectful of you as a person?”, “did you feel comfortable while on this date?”, “would you recommend this match as someone other users should meet?”, and others. They’re not talking about “do you want to see this person again”, it’s “was this person a good person, regardless of your connection”. As users get rated higher, they get exposed to more people. Also, this will prove that they are likely more trustworthy, meaning that the answers they give about their dates becomes weighted higher as being accurate. And, in reverse, if a user consistently is getting bad reviews, their reviews of other users will be weighted lower as being accurate, and they’re also shown to less people. You’re building a “trust” score per user.

Then, on your profile your trust score is displayed so people can make a more informed choice before contacting you. It wouldn’t be a 1-100 type thing, but more of a “low”, “medium”, “good”, “great”, “outstanding” type thing. You’re driving better people together and giving them a better chance at a good connection. The whole idea can easily be expanded almost entirely based on this trust score, along with metrics that other people are already using to determine how profiles get displayed.

The return on investment is fairly simple. You can sell premium accounts like everyone else does. But those features won’t completely allow you to game the system. Set better preferences, travel mode, a limited amount of “super likes”, or maybe a profile spotlight for an hour a week. And a feature that nobody has thought of, “see your peers”. Switch into this mode to now see the profiles of the people your potential match preferences are seeing. What do their profiles look like? This will drive up the quality of profiles, I would suspect and give paying users a leg up because they have “inside information” on what looks stupid and what looks good. Go back to that location data, and the info people are submitting into the app on where their dates are. Now you have tangible info to market to bars, restaurants, and amusement type places. “Hey Dukes pub, it looks like a lot of our users are going to ‘the watering hole’ pub across the street, would you like to market to these users?”. Allow businesses to buy “we suggest going to [ad here] for your date”, and incentivize them with a 15% off discount off their bill coupon. Incorporate that trust score again and allow dates to rate the establishment they went to. Crappy places get pushed down, better places get pushed up. Simple. The businesses will see a better ROI if they operate in a respectable manner.

This really only scratches the surface of the idea that I have. I’ve got ideas on how to respond to abuse reports in a more “interactive” way while still completely listening to the reporter. A simple “please provide us more information” would be considerably better than what we have today. With all reports, take into account the timeframe in which it was reported, have some sort of “check” into the interactions these matches have had before taking action (because I’m confident that if this was done in my case – I wouldn’t be writing this right now), or even have a way for the victim and the accused of being able to anonymously rebut each others claims? I feel there’s got to be a better way here. Granted, this type of thing takes a lot of employees and wages, so there’s got to be a middle ground somewhere.

Although, as much as I believe in this idea, I’m hardly no app programmer, and I’m not sure I have it in me to see this into a reality. It’s my “million dollar idea”, and the more I’m writing this, the more I realize I should at least try to take the first steps to see if it’s possible. Maybe I should. Maybe I’m completely out to lunch. What do you think?

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