The Complexity of Online Dating

I talk about my research on the latest Realities podcast, hosted by Mark Fonseca Rendeiro. The show is called The Complexity of Online Dating, and here’s a summary written by Mark:

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Impression management; your image on social media; online dating – everywhere you go in your internet life, you’re projecting an image of yourself. Today at the kitchen table, we’re speaking with researcher, writer and communications consultant Janelle Ward about what is going on when it comes to these online selves we’ve created and what impact this has on how our society functions.

“Match me if you can” at Pakhuis de Zwijger

On February 14, 2017, Pakhuis de Zwijger held an event called “Match me if you can.” The event featured a mix of writers, practitioners, and academics, all reflecting on dating app culture.

I spoke about “Making an Impression on Tinder,” with a look at my research and how we can use dating apps to confront our own stereotypes and prejudices. The talk is available on video here (the event was in Dutch, but my talk is in English). My presentation starts at 1:28:00.

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A Sign of the Times: The Dating App Photo

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Just published: “A Sign of the Times,” an e-publication which is a follow-up to the 2015 Sign of the Times: Social Media of the Middle Ages exhibition at the Zeeuws Museum in Middelburg, the Netherlands.

The e-publication presents articles written by experts from different visual disciplines. Each article discusses images that are emblematic of our time.

My contribution can be read here.

What are you doing on Tinder? Impression management on a matchmaking mobile app

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Information, Communication & Society just published my article What are you doing on Tinder? Impression management on a matchmaking mobile app. A PDF version can be downloaded here. The abstract:

 

Mobile dating applications such as Tinder have exploded in popularity in recent years. On Tinder, impression management begins with a motivation to download the app, the choice of one’s profile photos and an assessment of the expectations of potential Tinder matches. These processes occur in a technologically mediated environment of reduced cues and increased control, local proximity and a reduced filtering process. My focus in this paper is this first stage of impression management, which consists of both impression motivation and impression construction. Specifically, what are the pre-match impression management practices of Tinder users? I present the results of interviews with Tinder users in the Netherlands. Participants were recruited via a Tinder profile that advertised the study using the University emblem and a brief description. Interview questions focused on user under

standings of self-presentation practices and profile construction. The interviews also examined how users evaluated their potential matches. Results show users’ motivations for using Tinder range from entertainment to ego-boost to relationship seeking, and these motivations sometimes change over time. Profile

photos are selected in an attempt to present an ideal yet authentic self, and chosen as an illustration of not only one’s desirability but also of other indicators such as education level. Tinder users ‘swipe’ not only in search of people they like, but also for clues as to how to present themselves in order to attract others like them. This research offers insight into user experiences and perceptions within the still under-researched area of inquiry.

Swiping, Matching, Chatting

Human IT just published my article Swiping, Matching, Chatting: Self-Presentation and Self-Disclosure on Mobile Dating Apps. The full article can be accessed as a PDF and the abstract is below:

People have long used rituals of self-presentation and self-disclosure when looking for a romantic connection, whether they seek a passionate love affair, a spouse or a casual encounter. Mobile dating applications like Tinder have exploded in popularity in recent years. On Tinder, impression management begins with choosing one’s profile photos and viewing and assessing the profiles of potential Tinder matches. Self-disclosing to matches begins in a technologically mediated environment. This article provides an overview of literature that has focused on self-presentation and self-disclosure on dating websites and raises questions about whether and how this literature can be applied to new digital matching mobile apps like Tinder. It highlights two current research projects on Tinder users recently conducted in the Netherlands.

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“The Perfect Tinder Profile” lecture and event

It was a successful event at the Erasmus Pavilion on Monday! Despite the rain there was a great turnout for the lecture, and the participants in the “36 Questions” dating event really seemed to enjoy themselves. For those of you interested, here’s the back story on the 36 Questions for Intimacy:

“What was needed was a method to create closeness in the laboratory with strangers, so people could be randomly assigned to various conditions and other variables could be controlled. As such, the method has been used in hundreds of studies and the field has been able to learn a great deal.”

The questions originally stem from a 1997 study by Aron et al. titled “The Experimental Generation of Interpersonal Closeness: A Procedure and Some Preliminary Findings.”

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Lecture: The Perfect Tinder Profile

On Monday, September 14th starting at 7:30pm, I’ll be speaking at the Erasmus Paviljoen about my Tinder research. Please join! It’s open to the public. So is the top secret dating event afterwards.

Summary below – for more details please visit the website. Sign up can be done here.

Swipe left or swipe right? The dating app Tinder has 50 million global users and 1.5 million users in the Netherlands. Tinder has been praised for revolutionizing the dating game and empowering women. It has also been accused of being a hook-up app, resulting in the breakup of relationships and an increase in sexually transmitted infections. Social media has exploded with Tumbler blogs like Girls of Tinder and Tinder’s Finest Bachelors, where users are simultaneously mocked, shamed and praised for their choice of profile pictures or pickup lines. A Reddit community subgroup is dedicated to helping Tinder users tweak their profiles to increase matches.

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Creating the perfect Tinder profile: How do Tinder users make decisions about which photos and text to include on their profiles? Do they fine-tune their profiles based on the response or non-response they get from other users? How does a Tinder profile differ between a user looking for a relationship and one seeking a one-night stand? Janelle Ward will give us an academic perspective on how Tinder users present themselves on the dating app. Drawing on her interviews with users in the Netherlands, she will present insights into profile creation and match selection: What are Tinder users’ motivations for using the app? How do Tinder users choose their profile photos and text? How do Tinder users choose their matches?

If you’re not a Tinder user this lecture is an opportunity to learn all about the hype from an entertaining yet academic perspective. If you are a user, you can see this lecture as a personal Tinder consultation: Janelle will help you understand your own profile choices and why you swipe left or right on other’s profiles (hint: it’s more than just sex appeal).

First interview findings

Last month I met my goal: I completed 20 interviews with Tinder users. The interviews were with 11 men and 9 women. Interviewees were aged 19-­52, and most had been active Tinder users for about a year.

Though there’s still a lot of work to do on the analysis, last weekend I presented initial results from a paper entitled “All the World’s a Stage: Strategies of Self-Presentation on Tinder” at the Asian Conference on Media & Mass  Communication (MediAsia) in Osaka, Japan. Those slides are available online.

I’ll continue with my analysis in the coming months. Watch here for updates!


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Chasing women on Tinder

Two weeks ago, I started my interview recruitment on Tinder. It’s been successful, with eight interviews already conducted and four scheduled for the coming days (I’m aiming for 20). Successful, yes, except all of my interviewees have been men.

I immediately noticed a difference in response to my male and female Tinder accounts. For those who contacted me via the email address advertised on the Tinder profile, I received 21 emails from men and three from women. So far, only one woman has scheduled an interview with me.

In the first days, I became comfortable with the idea that my interviewees would simply come to me via email. And this has worked well with the men. In fact, one week in, on a Saturday afternoon, I deactivated the female Tinder account.

tinderWhat about the women? I was surprised by their lack of response. Then I realized perhaps this had to do with their perception of me as a man: My profile says I’m male (otherwise I wouldn’t get access to the straight female Tinder users). Men seem eager to contact a 25-year-old “female” researcher, but women are apparently less eager to reach out to a 25-year-old “male” researcher.

First test: reveal that I am actually a woman. Maybe that would help. It was time to do some right swiping on Tinder. First I messaged my original 11 matches. They received the following (with my name, also to point out that I am female):

Good morning! My name is Janelle and I’m conducting the interviews for the Tinder Study. Are you interested in participating?

I received one response, and she declined as soon as she found out the interview was in person.

Then, I swiped right on 50 more women. I got five instant matches, and sent them the same message as above. A week later, I’ve still only communicated with two of them, all without securing an interview. I exchanged a few emails with one – she wanted to know the name of my supervisor and more details about the project. She said a contact purely via Tinder was suspicious. I have not received such a reaction from a man.

Since I haven’t actually interviewed any female Tinder users, I can only guess at this point. But it seems that women approach Tinder with a more defensive posture than men. I’ll keep working on securing those interviews, because I would love to hear more about the female Tinder experience.