What do you do on Tinder? Impression management in a mobile matchmaking application

The interviews also examined how users evaluated their potential matches. The results show that users’ motivations for using Tinder range from entertainment to ego-boosting and relationship-seeking, and these motivations sometimes change over time. Profile photos are selected to attempt to present an ideal but authentic self, and are chosen to illustrate not only one’s desirability, but also other indicators such as education level. Tinder users swipe not only to find people they like, but also to get tips on how to present themselves to attract others like them. This research provides insight into user experiences and perceptions within this under-researched research area.


Whether they’re looking for a passionate love affair, a spouse, or a casual date, people have long devised methods to present themselves in the most attractive way to potential partners. Mediated possibilities for connecting with others have evolved from newspaper ads to teletext to online dating websites, with the latest offerings being mobile apps like Tinder.

The management of impressions or self-presentation exists both face-to-face and mediated. Before a first date, a man shaves, applies cologne and dresses in his best. On Tinder, a woman selects an attractive picture of herself as her main photo. In a virtual environment, as in real life, impression management begins before a face-to-face meeting or even before interpersonal communication. On Tinder, this impression management starts with the choice of profile pictures. He continues with what Leary describes as impression monitoring: “In order for people to engage in self-presentation, they must monitor, at one level or another, how they are perceived and evaluated by others” (1995, p. 47) . Tinder users do this by assessing the expectations of potential matches.

There is a great exploration of self-presentation and romance in the latter; Hall, Park, Song, Cody, 2010; Manning, 2014), examining dating websites such as Yahoo! Personals (Ellison, Hancock, Toma, 2012), Match (Gibbs, Ellison, Heino, 2006) and OKCupid (Zytko, Jones, Grandhi, 2014). Recent work examines Grindr, the matchmaking app targeting men seeking men (Birnholtz, Fitzpatrick, Handel, Brubaker, 2014; Blackwell, Birnholtz, Abbott, 2015; Brubaker, Ananny, Crawford, 2016; Gudelunas, 2012). Research is emerging on Tinder users’ awareness of privacy issues (Farnden, ; Stenson, Balcells, Chen, 2015). Dating apps present a new technological environment for impression management, mainly due to signal reduction issues and greater control, local proximity and a reduced filtering process. These issues will be explained in more detail in the next section. First, I provide some details about Tinder.


While dating websites still account for the largest market share, dating apps 1 have grown in popularity in recent years. Compared to dating websites, dating apps ask users to provide limited information for potential matches, namely a series of photos and an optional small amount of text (Blackwell et al., 2015; Gudelunas, 2012). I distinguish Tinder from dating websites because it is a location-based dating platform available only as a mobile app. Additionally, Tinder does not ask users to answer compatibility questions and does not allow it www.datingranking.net/west-virginia-dating/ detailed filtering techniques, common features of dating websites. On Tinder, the first impression users get of a potential match is their main profile picture. If a user is interested in seeing more, they can tap the profile, which will reveal additional photos, optional text, and shared Facebook friends and likes. 2 Users swipe left to reject and right to accept a potential match. If the right swipe is mutual, it’s a match and Tinder allows users to chat within the app.

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