This is why men don’t message first on Tinder, according to science

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Moya Crockett

Tinder was supposed to make dating easier, wasn’t it? In the ‘real world’, figuring out if someone likes you or not is a process that can take weeks, if not months, of detective work. But on Tinder, everything is simple. You swipe right, they swipe right, it’s a match, a conversation starts, and romance blossoms.

Except, of course, it rarely happens like that. If you’ve ever used Tinder or similar apps, you’ll know that – more often than not – you’ll get a match, and then… Nothing. Nada. Nobody says hello. And the person who once seemed to hold so much potential sits silently in your phone forevermore, like a spam email that you can’t be bothered to open. 

But why do people bother swiping right on Tinder if they don’t want to actually speak to the person they matched with? It’s a question that researchers in the UK, Italy and Canada set out to answer in a new study.

Researchers from Queen Mary University of London, Sapienza University of Rome, and the Royal Ottowa Health Care Group created 14 fake Tinder profiles in London – male and female – and automatically liked everyone within 100 miles. They then waited to see how many people would swipe right in return – and how many of those would initiate conversation.

"Swipe left, SWIPE LEFT!"

The fake male profiles didn’t do particularly well, matching with others just 0.6% of the time. The fake female profiles were much more popular, being liked by about 10% of other (mostly male) users.

Perhaps surprisingly, considering the still-pervasive cliché that men will make the first move, men were found to be much less likely to start a conversation with the decoy profiles. Only 7% of men who matched with a fake profile actually followed through with a message. In contrast, 21% of women who connected with a fake profile sent a message. (Overall, more men sent messages than women, but that was because the vast majority of matches came from men.) 

The results are illuminating in showing us how men and women use Tinder differently. Men, according to the researchers, are much less discriminating in who they attempt to match with – that is, they’re far more likely to swipe right. But once they’ve got a match, they’re also much less inclined to contact the other person, implying that the thrill of getting a match is satisfying enough.

Women, conversely, tend to swipe right much less often – but when they do, they’re more likely to initiate conversation, suggesting that women try to match with people that they are serious about connecting with.

"Yes, a match! No, of course I'm not going to message her"

The results, arguably, aren’t that surprising. As the Washington Post points out, there’s lots of anecdotal evidence for the phenomenon of swipe-happy men and choosier women. A follow-up survey of Tinder users has confirmed that about a third of men say that they “casually like most profiles” most of the time, while the overwhelming majority of women say that they only swipe right on profiles they’re actually attracted to.

A little confusingly, the researchers warn that these behaviours could be self-reinforcing. That is, when men approach Tinder with all the restraint of a video game character wielding a machine gun, women who take a similar approach will quickly find themselves overwhelmed with attention – making them pickier. And if women only swipe right sparingly, men will become even less discerning about who they like, in order to increase their chances of getting a date. And so the cycle continues.

“This gaming of the system undermines its operation and likely leads to much confusion,” the researchers write. To which we can only say – well, yeah. 

Images: iStock


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Moya Crockett

Moya is Contributing Women’s Editor at and Deputy Editor of Stylist Loves, Stylist's daily email newsletter. As well as writing about inspiring women and feminism, she also covers subjects including careers, politics and psychology. Carrying a bottle of hot sauce on her person at all times is one of the many traits she shares with both Beyoncé and Hillary Clinton.

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