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Algorithms are shaping our dating lives

Algorithms only enrich our dating opportunities

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Image Credit: Tinder

When was the last time you swiped right on Tinder? Were you feeling lonely on a Sunday night or were you immersed in a drunk swiping splurge for the sake of it? In the past year, while bars and nightclubs have remained mostly desolate, an increasing number of us have given online dating apps a ‘go’. Every day Tinder is creating millions of new connections, with these  connections originating from an algorithm rather than spontaneous human interaction.

When I say a ‘go’ I refer to our endless scrolling through awkward photographs in the hope that there was a snap taken of us which will elevate us to ‘superlike’ stardom. As you become accustomed to Tinder and alternative dating apps like Bumble and Hinge, you become aware of the pressure to tick certain boxes to receive a healthy number of likes. Dating apps are by no means without their disadvantages, as Tinder punishes difference and eccentricity. Everyone remembers that time you asked your friend for advice before a date, and they replied with the cringe and heartfelt message of “Be yourself”. Unfortunately, dating apps are a numbers game and success depends heavily on your ability to assimilate and satisfy the basic desires of the many.

Tinder’s own vice president of branding and communications has spoken of the importance in having a catchy or enticing opener to your Tinder bio. You then find yourself attempting to strike a balance between cringe anecdotes and rolling off all your ‘esteemed’ hobbies. As an avid runner, I stuck with “If your house is 5km away, then my ETA is 18:07 minutes” but even that line took some teeth clenching. Though in reality, the cheap quip you spent 15 minutes pondering over has little impact on who sees your profile and which potential matches become ‘swipeable’.

In learning how Tinder’s algorithms work, it is naïve to assume that you have absolute control over which profiles become visible to you or your own profile’s visibility. If you dare to not open the Tinder app for a while (I know, it takes some restraint), then your profile is penalised by receiving reduced coverage. Too few or too many swipes right are moves which can only hinder your match rate. Your latest AI wingman is Tinder’s updated algorithm, and this harnesses Amazon’s ‘AWS image recognition’. Next time you are tempted to include your dog (I mean who seriously includes cats), then do it!

Under the new image recognition, if a user is consistently swiping right on profiles with cute dogs in, then your profile is almost guaranteed to be shown to that same user. The advanced algorithm seeks to satisfy your preferences by identifying any logic to your swiping. The algorithm therefore plays a large role in determining who you choose to meet for those five pints at the pub.

So, here comes the long awaited Borisonian-like U-turn.

Tinder’s algorithm efficiently eliminates those users who are less likely to fit your ‘type’. Dating is often superficial, and appearance tends to strongly determine first impressions whether we like to admit it or not.

A great strength of Tinder is therefore its ruthless ability to prevent such scenarios taking place further down the line. There is no halfway house with dating apps, you either express your interest in someone, or choose to give them a swipe left. This binary choice may sound harsh, but it’s imitating the same thought processes which take place through in person interactions. Tinder’s algorithm is just a more efficient and virtual method of finding matches you are attracted to, although might not necessarily meet exclusively in your day-to-day social interactions.

Having been on six dates through Tinder, to describe them as not necessarily successful would be an understatement. However, you do gain the opportunity to meet people with different perspectives and different life experiences outside of your social orbit. Like many others, I hadn’t ventured onto any dating apps before the pandemic hit. The fact that Tinder registered three billion swipes globally on 28 March 2020 is testament to the closure of normal areas of social interaction persuading increasing numbers to give online dating a punt. My dating experiences have taught me that it doesn’t always matter how you find your date. Regardless of whether the introduction was online or in person, dating is still a gamble in which you must prepare for rejection, lies and heartbreak as your date assesses which ‘match’ is a better bet.

But in most cases, it’s extremely rewarding when you take that ‘leap of faith’ and ask someone you fancy out for that drink. Before your date, it is natural to feel a combination of excitement and dread as adrenaline rushes through your body. You may even play your favourite tracks to psych yourself up to meet your match for the first time – mine being John Newman’s ‘Come And Get It’.

Algorithm or no algorithm, dating leads to you learning more about yourself and bad experiences can only serve as a guide for how not to treat others in the future. With the number of relationships started online surging to 32 percent between 2015 and 2019 compared to only 19 percent between 2005 and 2014, more singletons are embracing using the internet to order their amazon parcels and find their future lover. If the current trajectory of couples meeting online continues, then by 2035 50 percent of people will have met their partner through the internet. Algorithms are becoming more powerful in facilitating relationships globally, inadvertently transforming lives.

So, don’t let Tinder’s algorithm and the perceived toxicity prevent you from downloading the app. Regardless of how you met, dating can always be a tricky affair. Engaging in online dating doesn’t have to replace social meetings but can complement those real time interactions, in which you bucked up the courage to ask that special someone out for a drink.

And you never know, you might just meet your match.

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