While popular media outlets are gathering their ‘highlights of 2015’ stories, I thought I’d share some of the most interesting Tinder developments and articles that I came across this year. They are fascinating (or even bizarre) pieces of data that I came across in attempting to understand the evolution of this popular dating app as we see it today. Some of these developments are important to my thesis in that they highlight the vision and values programmed into Tinder’s design as well as the public’s reaction to Tinder. Others are simply fun to reflect on as we anticipate what could be next in the world of dating and hook-up apps in 2016.
Unless I missed something in the frenzy leading up to my confirmation, the year didn’t pick up for Tinder until March. That’s when the company unveiled it’s profit model, Tinder Plus – a monthly subscription giving premium users access to the Rewind button (to undo a swipe) and a Passport function allowing them to swipe on users in other cities.
Later in March, Tinder clarified that the introduction of Tinder Plus included the imposition of a swipe limit for non-paying users, declaring that it was “keeping Tinder real” and dissuading users from right swiping without scrutiny.
This didn’t necessarily work, as the BBC reported in April that Tinder was still overrun with spambots pretending to be hot singles.
Media outlets also railed against Tinder Plus’ pricing plan as ageist, since it charged older users higher rates.
April saw Tinder’s first advertisement in the form of Budwiser’s #Whatever Campaign. Though the app previously allowed TV shows and musicians to promote themselves through fake/fictional profiles.
Tinder added a feature allowing users to showcase their Instagram photos in their profiles, providing another social media-vetted outlet for photos (and still prohibiting the use of profile photos not hosted on Facebook or Instagram).
In May, the press picked up on an art project called “Tender” involving the creation of a machine that right swipes profiles with a rotating piece of raw meat.
Hillary Duff also released her music video for “Sparks” in May, which included interviews and clips about her Tinder escapades. Later in the month, she released a “fan demanded version” without all of the Tinder talk.
In June, people freaked out about a report from the Rhode Island Department of Health stating that an increase in sexually transmitted infections was due to “high-risk behaviors that have become more common in recent years” including “using social media to arrange casual and often anonymous sexual encounters”. The media interpreted this as: Tinder + other hook-up apps = STIs.
My photo of a sexual health campaign in Los Angeles.
In July, Tinder ran the #UltimateCrew contest, giving users a chance to win a spot on a private yacht in Croatia at The Yacht Week, a massive party like schoolies or spring break but created for young professionals.
In August, the media picked up on an influential hashtag created by a Canadian First Nations woman, Jessica Deer. She had been generating social media conversations for a while about racism on Tinder by tweeting the discriminatory remarks she received using the hashtag #shitwhiteguystellme
“I didn’t know your people came in blonde.” #ShitWhiteGuysTellMe
— Jessica Deer (@Kanhehsiio) June 6, 2015
//platform.twitter.com/widgets.jsAugust marked a particularly difficult time for the company as Vanity Fair released a long-form piece titled, “Tinder and the dawn of the ‘Dating Apocalypse'”. The article focused on Tinder’s involvement in New York’s hook-up culture, closing with a quote from a 29-year old guy from Brooklyn: “‘Whereas I would just be sitting at home and playing guitar, now it’s ba-ding’—he makes the chirpy alert sound of a Tinder match—’and … ‘ He pauses, as if disgusted. ‘… I’m fucking.'”
While the Vanity Fair article drew attention in its own right, it entered the spotlight when Tinder reacted by publicly calling out the journalist on Twitter and reacting to the article in a string of more than 30 tweets, throwing what The Verge called a “Twitter fit.”
So it’s no surprise that Tinder has stuck with its #SwipedRight campaign for most of the year, showcasing happy (presumably monogamous) couples who met on Tinder and are in it for the long haul.
LOVE THIS! “Even though my husband and I attended the same college, we didn’t get to meet until several years later. I will forever be grateful that I decided to take a chance on #Tinder!” Congrats @nataliegorecasey & @jmscsy! 👏🏻👏🏻😍🎉 #SwipedRight A photo posted by Tinder (@tinder) on Dec 7, 2015 at 2:12pm PST
In September, Tinder introduced the Super Like feature, allowing users to indicate that they like someone BEFORE that person swipes on them (essentially side-stepping a major design aspect of the app).
In November, an artist matched individuals’ LinkedIn profiles with their Tinder profiles and I think this is wrong on so many levels – I’ve definitely got an ethics in recontextualizing data rant in my brain waiting to be written.
Also in November, Tinder scrapped the Moments feature, which allowed users to display a photo from their phone camera for all their matches to see for 24-hours. While this feature would have been redundant for users exchanging Snapchats or photos in other ways, it was the only means of showing a non-Facebook or Instagram-approved photo.
Tinder’s CEO Sean Rad had a very awkward interview in November, just before Tinder debuted on the stock market, in which he confused the meaning of the word ‘sodomy’ and seemed to make a veiled threat toward the journalist who wrote the Vanity Fair article, Nancy Jo Sales. She responded in an open letter asking him to elaborate.
The app introduced “Smart Profiles” in November, which imports users’ job and education information from Facebook and display it on profiles. The Atlantic described this as a way for “privileged people to date each other.”
And now, in December, Tinder has partnered with Coke in a holiday ad.
Well, I hope this recap gives you an idea of Tinder’s ups and downs over 2015, its interesting reactions to press coverage, and some pretty significant changes to the app throughout the year. There’s already lots to be analyzed about this app’s lifetime to date.
I’ll leave you with a story that I genuinely had some positive feels about. Here’s the widely-reported video of a women receiving news that her girlfriend, whom she met on Tinder, will be her life-saving kidney donor – click the vid for the whole backstory (d’awwww).