Whether they’re swiping left or swiping right, male users of the popular dating app Tinder appear to have lower levels of self-esteem and all users appear to have more negative perception of body image than those who don’t use the app, according to research presented at the annual convention of the American Psychological Association.
“Tinder users reported having lower levels of satisfaction with their faces and bodies and having lower levels of self-worth than the men and women who did not use Tinder,” said Jessica Strübel, PhD, of the University of North Texas, who presented the research that she co-authored with Trent Petrie, PhD, also of the University of North Texas.
Tinder is a dating app available on mobile devices with a reported 50 million active users. Individual profiles are rated by other users as acceptable by swiping right or unacceptable by swiping left. If two users deem each other acceptable, then they are “matched” and can begin communicating with one another.
In the study, 1,044 women and 273 men (mostly undergraduate students) were asked to complete questionnaires that asked about their use of Tinder as well as about their body image, sociocultural factors, perceived objectification and psychological well-being.
Approximately 10 percent reported using Tinder. Both male and female users reported less satisfaction with their bodies and looks, compared to non-users, said Strübel, but only male Tinder users reported lower levels of self-esteem.
“We found that being actively involved with Tinder, regardless of the user’s gender, was associated with body dissatisfaction, body shame, body monitoring, internalization of societal expectations of beauty, comparing oneself physically to others, and reliance on media for information on appearance and attractiveness,” said Strübel.
As a result of how the app works and what it requires of its users, people who are on Tinder after a while may begin to feel depersonalized and disposable in their social interactions, develop heightened awareness (and criticism) of their looks and bodies and believe that there is always something better around the corner, or rather with the next swipe of their screen, even while questioning their own worth, according to Strübel.
While this study was primarily aimed toward women (hence the larger number of women in the study) and their perception of objectification and self-esteem, the researchers say the results suggest that men are just as affected by exploitation and low self-esteem as women, if not more.
“Although current body image interventions primarily have been directed toward women, our findings suggest that men are equally and negatively affected by their involvement in social media,” said Strübel.
It is important to note that while users tended to have lower self-esteem, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the app is causing it, warned Strübel and Petrie. It could be just as likely that people with lower self-esteem are drawn more to these types of apps.
Because this study is one of the first to examine Tinder as a platform for observing men’s and women’s psychological functioning, Strübel suggests additional research is needed to help psychologists better understand the immediate, and perhaps long-term, effects of individuals’ involvement with these types of social media platforms.