10 years of Tinder: how the app has transformed love, sex and relationships (and what the future holds)

“I married the love of my life, thanks Tinder!” wrote Alexis Gutierrez, a 24-year-old girl who lives in Tacoma, United States

His mobile cupid was the app that created the iconic system of “swipe right” if you’re interested, or “swipe left” if you’re not, and believe it or not, is turning 10 years old.

A decade after it was conceived, Tinder leads a thriving market for online dating apps, with more than 1,500 similar apps, and revenue projected to reach $2.85 billion in 2022according to the German data site Statista.

But how has this app impacted love, sex and relationships? And what next?

Let’s take a look at the evolution of internet dating.

The “first dating ad”

Before, people posted classified ads in so-called lonely hearts columns. (Photo: GETTY IMAGES)

It is believed that one of the first dating ads to be published appeared in 1727.

supposedly appeared in the Manchester WeeklyJournal and it was written by an English woman who was looking for someone with whom “she could share life”.

But this is far from a love story.

The literary magazine Lapham Quarterly reported that to Helen Morrison they punished for your ad and the mayor sent her to a mental asylum for four weeks.

Two hands show phones with Tinder profiles.
Tinder turns 10 on September 15, 2022. (Photo: GETTY IMAGES)

Almost 3 centuries later, it is believed that over 300 million people around the world are using personal ads, dating apps and technology in general in your search for casual and romantic relationships.

Before the existence of dating apps, some people posted classified ads in what was commonly known as the lonely hearts column.

Today, the stigma of using dating apps is gone as it was a decade ago and it has had a long evolution since the time of Helen.

“I found my husband on Tinder”

Alexis Gutiérrez and her husband, on their wedding day.
Alexis Gutierrez says she didn’t expect to meet love on Tinder. (Photo: GETTY IMAGES)

Not that Alexis Gutierrez was feeling particularly optimistic when she “swiped right” on Tinder four years ago after seeing an interesting man.

After “a week or two” of virtual chats, they decided to meet in person.

“He picked me up and I could tell he was very nervous. Luckily I didn’t”, he remembers now, nine days after saying “yes” to the same man, wearing a long white lace dress.

“I wasn’t expecting to find love or a marriage because it’s true that most men, especially young adults, are just looking for casual encounters,” the newlywed tells the BBC.

“People are more interested in how you look”

Photo by Chelsea Stirling
Chelsea Stirling says that people are more interested in how you look than what you say or think. (Photo: CHELSEA STIRLING)

But not everyone is convinced.

“I’m not sure I have anything positive to say about Tinder,” says Amy Marie, a 30-year-old accountant in Texas, USA.

She adds that “countless men” have sent her vulgar or violent messages through the app.

She shows me a screenshot of one of those messages that a man sent her, immediately after she had said “hi”.

Amy Marie selfie.
Amy Marie says she has a “love/hate” relationship with Tinder. (Photo: AMY MARIE)

“It’s definitely a love/hate relationship. [con la aplicación]. With more emphasis on hate, yes.”

Chelsea Stirling, a 35-year-old from Nottingham, UK, has also had a frustrating experience with Tinder.

“People are more interested in how I look than what I think or say,” he argues.

“I make match and they start talking. And then they read my profile and make me unmatch“, He says. Or do they just unmatch without even starting to speak.”

Harassment and unwanted images

A woman stares at her phone in terror.
Research shows that women are more affected by harassment situations on dating apps. (Photo: GETTY IMAGES)

The hatred that Amy Marie feels for the app is not an isolated case. If you are a woman, the chances of you having a bad experience with dating apps are higher.

A 2020 study from the Pew Research Center showed how women are disproportionately harassed.

Among women between the ages of 18 and 34, a 34,57% said they had received explicit messages or images that they had not requested.

A high incidence of physical threats was also reported: 19% (compared to 9% of men).

The sociologist and researcher at the French Institute for Demographic Studies (INED) in Paris, Marie Bergstrom, studies what she calls the “privatization of dating” through applications such as Tinder.

“These applications are very insular in the sense that they are completely disconnected from your social life. It’s different from traditional settings where people meet, like through friends, family, work or school, where you actually share something with others, whether it’s friends, colleagues or places,” says Bergstrom.

“Showing your genitals in a bar is showing your genitals to the whole world.”

But that’s not the case with a screen, since you can simply disappear at the touch of a button. This “extremely private and hidden” setting becomes a dangerous terrain for violent behavior, and that is not likely to change in the future, says the expert.

Tinder says keeping women safe is “at the heart” of the world’s biggest dating app.

In July 2022, the technology company announced a partnership with the group No More (“No more”), which seeks to end domestic violence, but Renate Nyborg, the company’s first female CEO, acknowledged the difficulties involved. the ones they face when it comes to protecting women in the application.

At the time, he told the BBC: “Our security work is never done“.

sexual freedom

A couple embracing on a bed
Sociologist Bergstrom says that a positive aspect of apps is that they contribute to sexual freedom. (Photo: GETTY IMAGES)

However, Bergstrom acknowledges that “less social control” can also have positive effects.

“Women are judged much more for their sexual behaviors, and there is still this social stigma of being too sexually active,” he says.

“What we really see is that digital dating platforms allow women to have short relationships and have casual relationships more easily because you can do all of this without judging you and having the whole world talking about you.

“So not only is this disconnect negative, it’s also, in large part, the reason why these apps are so popular.”

But what does this future of virtual dating look like?

Caresses and kisses in the metaverse

Futuristic illustration of a man and a woman on a virtual stage
It is believed that virtual experiences can leave psychological scars similar to those left by real experiences. (Photo: GETTY IMAGES)

You’ve probably heard that in the future, your work meetings will take place in the metaverse: a virtual reality environment where your character can sit at the table and interact with your colleagues as if they were all together in person.

Well, that goes for the future of dating apps too.

“With virtual reality you can simulate kisses. You can simulate touching a body,” says Douglas Zytko, an associate professor of human-computer interactions at Oakland University in the US.

“People who date online value that kind of experience as part of compatibility,” he explains.

But that it’s also risky.

“There is a strong possibility that the negative experience that some people are having right now will be amplified with virtual reality because of the immersion it achieves,” says Zytko.

Imagine the case where you are rejecting a romantic or sexual advance from someone on the dating app.

“In virtual reality, not only would the perpetrator have the possibility to express a very negative comment. He might as well use his character to do it.”

What does this mean in practice?

Zytko replies, “They can touch someone else’s character in a negative way. Or draw phallic images in the virtual environment. And what a lot of that early research shows is that those kinds of experiences of unwanted caresses through virtual reality can have psychological effects very similar to those that would occur if the event occurred in the real world”.

Of the parts of the metaverse that currently exist, only some -such as Horizon Worlds- belong to Meta.

However, the company has introduced new safeguards.

An example is Boundary Staff (“personal border”), which prevents characters from getting close to a certain distance, making it easier to avoid unwanted interactions.

The company says it also offers a number of ways to block and report other users.

“We have seen how trends come and go in recent yearsZytko says. “So I think it’s too early to say if the metaverse tenure is going to hold.”

Will GPS be less relevant?

A person looks at your Tinder profile
One of the most attractive aspects of apps is meeting someone who is nearby. (Photo: GETTY IMAGES)

One of the most attractive features of dating apps is the ability to meet someone who is sitting across the street from a restaurant, across the street, or from your neighborhood.

Some apps are already exploring this. Single Town (“Single Town”), for example, is a dating app consisting of a metaverse city where real-people characters “roam, pick where they want to go and who they want to chat with.”

If you touch any of the characters you can see the real photos of that user, start a conversation and interact in a virtual world.

“Those kinds of apps are introducing a virtual date between meeting and physical dating.”

“These apps do not presume that you will not want to see each other face to face, the objective seems to continue to be to support a face-to-face meeting or a personal relationship.”

And Zytko thinks this could even cut back on real-life bullying.

“By adding virtual reality to the mix, you could have that first date experience online, before you even venture out into the real world where all these potential risks and harms exist.”

Forget flirting at the bar?

A man and a woman chat in a bar
Has meeting someone at a bar become a thing of the past? (Photo: GETTY IMAGES)

As virtual reality opens up new possibilities for developers and the number of users explodes, dating apps tend to establish themselves as the “trusted place” to look for sex and love.

“My hypothesis is that dating platforms are going to be more and more important when it comes to meeting partners,” says Bergstrom, who wrote the book “The New Laws of Love: Online Dating and the Privatization of Intimacy.”

“There has never been a specific site to meet a partner. Now it exists and it is becoming less acceptable to approach sexually and romantically in other types of contexts. This is the case in workplaces. It used to be a major dating site and now it’s less and less acceptable to be sexually intimate with colleagues,” she says.

For the expert, this can be expanded to other contexts: “It would be less acceptable to approach someone in a bar and start flirting, or less acceptable to start flirting at a friend’s party, with this idea that there is a platform for that ”.

“As I said, this is a hypothesis: we would like to separate things more and more and less and less things coincide. So there’s a place for work, there’s a place for sports, there’s a place for meeting friends, and there’s a place for dating.

“A compartmentalization of social life,” he argues.

It may interest you:

* Tinder owner fined by Moscow court for failing to locate user data
* Tinder announces new feature to find love anywhere in the world
* Say goodbye to uncomfortable “matches”, Tinder integrates a new tool

Remember that you can receive notifications from BBC News World. Download the new version of our app and activate it so you don’t miss out on our best content.