Tinder users were more dissatisfied with their bodies and more likely to objectify their appearances than those who did not use the app, study shows.

People who use the popular mobile dating app Tinder could have more negative self-perception than those who do not, according to researchers in the US.

The popular app involves “swiping” right or left on photo-based profiles to select or reject possible dates.

To explore how users and non-users feel about their appearance researchers surveyed both, with the results revealing that Tinder users had lower body satisfaction and self-esteem.

“People are living in a surreal world, creating these unattainable ideals and expectations that no one can meet,” said lead author Jessica Strübel of the University of North Texas. “It’s creating a 24/7 constant need for impression and appearance management.”

The study, presented at the annual conference of the American Psychological Association, involved 1317 students from two American universities, of which 70 women and 32 men used Tinder. All participants were asked to rate their body shame and satisfaction, objectification and self-monitoring of appearance as well as the comparison of their looks to others. They were also asked questions to determine how much they internalised these feelings, as well as questions regarding overall self-esteem.

Tinder users of both genders were more dissatisfied with their bodies and more likely to objectify and monitor their appearances than those who did not use the app. Male Tinder users reported the lowest levels of self-esteem of any group, supporting increasing evidence that traditional social beauty and dating pressures may not be restricted to women.

“The negative effects that women have been experiencing pretty consistently for 40, 50 years, men might be now experiencing,” said co-author Trent Petrie, also of University of North Texas.

Research on other social media platforms like Facebook has already shown links to various issues, including self-esteem and body image problems. However, there has been limited research around Tinder, as the app only launched 2012. This study is one of the first to highlight potential associations between image-based dating apps and psychological trends.

“We already have heavily rising mental health problems related to body image and appearance, and appeal to the opposite sex,” said psychologist Helga Dittmar of the University of Sussex, referring to the burgeoning world of visually-driven social media. “It’s a downward spiral.”

But experts warn that the sample size within the study is relatively small compared to the recent estimate of 50 million Tinder users. The study also does not unpick, whether people with negative self-perceptions are disproportionately drawn to Tinder, or if use of the app itself is influential.

Clinical psychologist Lisa Orban said: “These initial findings do alert us to a possible negative relationship between self-esteem and Tinder, and additional research is certainly warranted.”

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