Newspaper article The Canadian Press

What Your Profile Pic Says about You in the Tinder Age

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

What Your Profile Pic Says about You in the Tinder Age

Article excerpt

What your profile pic says about you in the Tinder age

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This article was originally published on The Conversation, an independent and nonprofit source of news, analysis and commentary from academic experts. Disclosure information is available on the original site.

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Author: Chaim Kuhnreich, PhD Candidate in Marketing, Concordia University

While dating and personal ads have been around for decades, the way we meet the people we date has changed dramatically in the last five years.

Dating apps such as Tinder have captured a large portion of the online dating market. These apps, but especially Tinder, have transformed the way we represent ourselves online when we date.

Tinder is one of the first dating apps specifically designed for mobile phones as opposed to a full dating website. Launched in 2012 across college campuses, it has quickly become the most used dating app in the world, with more than 10 million daily active users.

On Tinder, date seekers upload profile photos and concise bios between 100-500 characters long. Compare this to more conventional dating sites which use more information -- longer profiles as well as algorithms to match people.

Most online dating sites give the users the option to fill out a full profile, or even complete a survey about themselves. But because of Tinder's popularity, online daters must now selectively convey more information using less: Fewer words and more information through their profile pictures.

Although Tinder is often stereotyped as a sex app or a hook-up app, research suggests there is little difference between the motivations for using online dating websites versus using Tinder.

Swipe right, swipe left?

Tinder pulls from a user's Facebook profile information about their gender, age and page "likes." This information is strictly limited, and users rely on their reactions to profile pictures and brief bios to determine if they like (swipe right) or dislike (swipe left) a potential match. When two users swipe right for each other, they are connected -- and only then are they able to start chatting.

Because Tinder is based primarily on pictures with limited substantial information about a person, it is often assumed that Tinder users focus solely on the appearance of their potential match.

However, in my preliminary research as a PhD candidate in marketing at Concordia University, I examine underlying motives for the the way people present themselves on dating apps. I use theories from evolutionary psychology to help provide an explanation for mating behaviours.

I also conducted a content analysis of Tinder profiles. Tinder profiles were examined and coded for signals people may be displaying such as conspicuous consumption, blatant benevolence and virtue. I argue people signal more than just attractiveness in their profiles.

While attractiveness is important, users are actually signalling much more than just stereotypical looks. Instead, they use specific visual cues in their profile pictures and keywords in their short bios.

Psychologically speaking, how we compete for dates

Men are likely to signal specific resources or potential for acquiring resources, while women are more likely to signal pro-social behaviours such as benevolence, charitable work or virtue. These cues are not necessarily at the forefront of our mind, but rather instinctual decisions.

Some of these gender differences in online dating behaviour and self-representation can be explained by parental investment theory. Differences manifest due to the levels of investment in one's offspring. That is, the amount of time we invest in child-rearing has an impact on how picky we are with our mates.

According to parental investment theory, the sex that has the higher investment in their offspring is likely to be more selective when choosing a mating partner.

Therefore, women will be more choosy when it comes to selecting a mate, given that they are more invested in their potential offspring. …

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