Dating Apps

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Time on Dating Apps vs. Dating In Person

We calculated that the average person spends 540 hours per year on dating apps. Additionally, we calculated that the average person spends 130.13 hours per year dating in-person.

Time Spent on Dating Apps

1. Overall

  • As the findings below will show, the average person spends 540 hours per year on dating apps.
  • The average amount of time per day a person spends on dating apps is 90 minutes. That data (and the research findings that follow) came from a global survey conducted by Badoo (a dating app company) that polled 370 million people who use dating apps.
  • Those 90 minutes per day equate to 2,700 minutes per month on dating apps (which amounts to 45 hours per month; 2,700 / 60 (minutes per hour) = 45).
  • Those 45 hours per month equate to 540 hours per year (45 x 12 (months per year)). Therefore, the average person spends 540 hours per year on dating apps.

2. Other Interesting Data

  • Men spend an average of 85 minutes per day on dating apps.
  • Women spend an average of 79 minutes per day on dating apps.
  • The average amount of time per week that millennials spend using dating apps is 10 hours.
  • The average number of times that people log-in to dating apps per day is 10.
  • On average, a person spends nine minutes on a dating app per log-in.

Time Spent Dating In-Person

  • As the findings and calculation below will show, the average person spends 130.13 hours per year dating in-person.
  • We were able to triangulate the amount of time people spend dating in-person. We triangulated this data point because we didn't find any pre-compiled, quantitative information about such.
  • To triangulate the amount of time people spend dating in-person, we needed to find (1) the average number of dates people go on and (2) the average amount of time spent on a date.

1. Number of Dates

  • A survey asked 1,000 now-married Americans about the average number of dates they went on each month prior to getting married.
  • More than half (528) of the 1,000 participants "went on between one and five dates per month." That equates to an average of 36 dates per year (1 + 5 = 6; 6 / 2 (to calculate the average) = 3; 3 x 12 (months) = 36).
  • The aforementioned survey also found that 22% went on between "six to 10 dates per month."
  • Together, the two aforementioned statistics accounted for 74.8% of the survey participants (22% + 52.8% (528 / 1,000 x 100)). The results from the remaining 26.2% of individuals weren't provided.

A. Calculations for Number of Dates

  • Since the percentage of individuals who went on a different numbers of dates varied, we needed to calculate the average number of dates by using the weighted averages of those values. To do so, we used this weighted-average calculator.
  • We plugged in two numbers into that calculator. In the first row, the weight we entered was 0.22 (representing the 22% of participants who went on between "six to 10 dates per month") and the data number we entered was eight (the average of the 6-10 date range; 6 + 10 = 16 / 2 = 8). In the second row, the weight we entered was 0.528 (representing the 52.8% of participants who went on "one and five dates per month") and the data number we entered was three (the average of the 1-5 date range; 1 + 5 = 6 / 2 = 3).
  • The aforementioned calculation resulted in a weighted average of 4.47. Therefore, according to that calculation, the average American in that survey who went on between one and 10 dates per month (the only participant groups reported and for which we calculated) went on an average of 4.47 dates per month. That equates to an average of 53.64 dates per year among Americans (4.47 x 12).
  • An eHarmony survey found that 41 dates is the average number of dates that people go on each year in Australia.
  • Since the above findings pertaining to time spent on dating apps was global in scope, we decided to calculate the average number of dates per year based on the data previously stated for both the U.S. and Australia in order to make the time spent dating in-person global in scope as well. That average comes out to 47.32 dates per year (53.64 (average dates per year among Americans) + 41 (average dates per year among Australians) = 94.64 / 2 = 47.32).

2. Time Per Date

  • The other data point we needed to triangulate the time people spend dating in-person is the average time spent on one date.
  • We found a source that stated the time spent on a date ranges "from 30 minutes to 5 hours." We used the average of that range (2.75 hours) as the data point for our calculation (0.5 (representing 30 minutes) + 5 = 5.5 / 2 = 2.75). We then converted those hours into minutes (2.75 x 60 = 165 minutes).

3. Final Calculation for Time Spent on In-Person Dating

  • After calculating the two data points we needed, we entered those values into our formula for calculating the estimated amount of time that people spend dating in-person. That formula is as follows: 165 (average date length in minutes) x 47.32 (average number of dates per year) = 7,807.8 minutes a person spends on in-person dates per year.
  • We then converted those minutes into hours (7,807.8 / 60 (minutes per hour) = 130.13).
  • Therefore, according to our data-based calculation, the average person spends 130.13 hours per year dating in-person.

Research Strategy

To find how much time people spend on dating apps and in-person dating, we first looked for data-based reports and survey results about those two topics. From those searches, we were only able to find publications and articles pertaining to time spent on dating apps. The data we used pertaining to dating apps was from a global survey of 370 million people who use dating apps, thus rendering that data very comprehensive. Though the main findings presented above pertain to people in general, there were also findings specific to certain cohorts, which we also included above due to their direct applicability to this topic.

As was mentioned above, we had to triangulate the estimated amount of time people spend dating in-person because that information was not directly provided in any of the many sources that we reviewed throughout our research. However, we were able to use applicable data and plug those values into our triangulated calculation, in order to arrive at that estimated answer. We converted the data to the same metric (hours per year) so that the findings can be directly contrasted. Examples of sources we consulted throughout our research included Daily Mail, Market Watch, and research findings from Badoo (dating app company), among others.
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Dating Apps & Validation Seeking

In a world where people are constantly seeking instant gratification, dating apps and social media manipulate the brain’s chemistry to create addictive patterns. Seeking validation is one common reason to use dating apps, as people are drawn to the emotional pleasure of being categorized as desirable.

Validation Seeking Behavior

  • Receiving external validation boost positive feelings about oneself. Participants in a qualitative examination referred to Tinder as an “ego-booster,” describing the number of matches as an indication of value.
  • In another qualitative study, a female participant further explained, “matches on dating apps are a form of social validation regarding desirability, which could have a positive impact on one's self-esteem.” Overall, dating apps present users with the opportunity to sell themselves and assess their value, which is why some scholars compare it to a marketplace.
  • For example, those who perceive there to be a limited number of potential mates tend to exhibit greater intrasexual competition. People's perception of the number of potential partners may affect their behaviors, including their mating strategies and willingness to engage in casual sex.
  • As most dating apps apply a bilateral algorithm, when people see a high number of matches, they are prone to believe they have a lot to offer as a partner. Perceptions of one's mate value can have important implications for sexual attitudes and behavior.
  • Unlike dating sites, Tinder’s matching process emphasizes the importance of physical appearance and attraction, which encourages users to objectify potential partners; users are aware of the superficial nature of matches based on profile photos, yet drawn emotional pleasure from being categorized as a desirable match by others.
  • On the other hand, those who are unsuccessful express the anticipated frustration, but also resentment and a feeling of unfairness.
  • The need for social approval is commonly cited as a reason to use dating apps. Another common purpose is “fun,” people consider Tinder a fun app and use it for entertainment. Social pressure, curiosity, and information about people and places are also frequent reasons.
  • In fact, many individuals who originally downloaded Tinder for its intended purpose now use it only for entertainment and validation. The constant seek for validation is exemplified by the fact that two-thirds of people surveyed have never gone on a date with someone they met on the app.

Gender and Self-Esteem

  • Male heterosexual Tinder users reported significantly lower self-esteem compared to non-users. Interestingly, this was not the case for female users, as their self-esteem did not considerably differ from non-users’ self-esteem.
  • Female users tend to receive more validation wherein they are more likely to experience matches and other-instigated conversations compared to male users, which might partially explain why only male dating app users report lower self-esteem compared to non-users, as they are less likely to receive the same validation.

Self-Branding and the Commodification of the Self

  • Social media platforms, such as Twitter and Facebook, have been analyzed in terms of user practices of "self-branding and the commodification of the self." Self-branding techniques and edited authenticity are commonly used to increase one’s attractiveness.
  • Dating apps present a "network of intimacy" that dramatically enhances the user’s social capital, but also encourages them to offer an altered version of themselves to participate in the social game. Tinder, like other social media platforms, produces reciprocal visibility and can thus be "conceptualized as an architecture of social surveillance."
  • A theory called “impression management” notes that people tend to exhibit themselves in a way they believe is more likely to gather attention and validation. The ultimate goal, nevertheless, is to have control over the impressions other people have about them.

How it Affects the Brain

  • Attractiveness modifies how someone is perceived by society. People tend to feel that attractive people are more intelligent, sociable, competent, friendly, and trustworthy; even mothers are more affectionate toward beautiful babies.
  • The nucleus accumbens, part of the brain that controls the reward and punishment centers, is more active when people view attractive faces.
  • Tinder activates the reward system by providing “unpredictable rewards,” which generate more activity in reward regions of the brain than those that are predictable.
  • According to Natasha Dow Schüll, a cultural anthropologist who studies gambling addiction, dating apps have the same deliberate design of slot machines and present the same risks.
  • A lack of satiety cue can explain the addictive nature of dating apps. While natural rewards carry built-in satiety flags at consummation, such as feeling tired, when people are deliberately left in a state of “craving” by effective design, there is no “stop sign.”
  • The “infinite scroll” mechanism in dating apps benefits from this vulnerability by automatically loading the next page. That way, users don’t have to pause, urging them "to take just one more hit by swiping on only one more profile, and then another, ad infinitum."
  • The constant unpredictable quality of dating apps, such as not knowing who will match with the user or new matches appearing, keep users curious and hooked. The process is further amplified by the brain’s weight assignment varying according to the goal.
  • According to the value-based decision-making model, the brain integrates various values and assign a weight to each value depending on someone’s goal. When a person is eager to meet a romantic partner, the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex assigns a higher weight to the value of checking Tinder often.
  • Tinder may also overload one’s brain, as it offers too many options. As studies found, people are more likely to make a decision and be satisfied with that decision when presented with fewer options.

Dopamine and the rewiring of the brain

  • The reward system activated by Tinder is also associated with the releasing of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure. Repeated actions set grooves in neural pathways to give them the path of least resistance, enabling the brain to preserve energy.
  • The constant use of the app wires the brain to respond to the possibility of the reward, meaning that “When individuals first get a reward, dopamine neuron firing increases in response to the pleasant sensation they feel. Eventually, dopamine neuron firing intensifies not in response to the reward itself, but to the reward predictor.”
  • In other words, Tinder creates an association between cue and reward. The cues that predict the reward, such as getting a notification, increase the releasing of dopamine even more than the reward itself. The user derives more pleasure from knowing something good is about to happen than by the reward.
  • Initially, when users receive notifications, the dopamine rate does not increase until the user views the profile of the match; however, over time, the notification alone may be enough to experience a reward response from the brain.
  • The process is called variable-ratio reward schedule, an important actor in the operant conditioning process. Tinder randomly dispenses the profiles it believes users will like, which causes users to continue to “swipe” looking for that perfect profile.
  • This reward-based system relates to the workings of a drug addict’s brain, where the expectation of the drug causes more release of dopamine than the drug itself.
  • A 2017 survey discovered that 15% of users say they feel addicted to the process of looking for a date. Men are 97% more likely to feel addicted than women, who, in turn, are 54% more likely to feel burned out by the process.

Social media

  • Much like Tinder, positive interactions on social media, such as “likes,” trigger chemical reactions similar to gambling and recreational drugs. When people get a social media notification, the brain sends dopamine along a reward pathway. When these rewards are random and easy to access, the “dopamine-triggering behavior becomes a habit.”
  • Social media provides immediate rewards — in the form of attention — for minimal effort. Therefore, the brain rewires itself, making people crave likes and retweets. Brain scans of social media addicts are similar to those of drug-dependent brains; there is an apparent change in the regions of the brain that control emotions, attention and decision-making.
  • The motivations may be triggered by different events but are ultimately the same. When a Tinder user gets a notification, it validates his or her worth and attractiveness and releases dopamine. Social media, on the other hand, is all about showing off one’s life, so people talk about themselves 80% of the time. When a person posts a photo and gets positive social feedback, it prompts the brain to discharge dopamine, which again rewards that behavior and perpetuates a social media habit.

From Part 02