In our society, Tinder is touted as a great app for casual hookups, like a veritable Seamless for sex. But according to a new study published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences, while there are plenty of people looking for one-night stands on the popular dating app, not that many people are actually having it.
More than 600 Norwegian university students between the ages of 19 and 29 were asked to complete a questionnaire about their use of Picture-Based Mobile Dating Apps. Nearly half of the students described themselves as former or current regular users of dating apps, and those men and women were found to be more “sociosexual”—meaning: comfortable with casual sex and picking up strangers—than those who were old-school with their dating preferences. However, the researchers found no evidence to suggest that these participants actually had more casual sex.
“Apps have become the new public arena for dating. But to a large extent, the people using them are the same ones you find dating other ways,” Leif Edward Ottesen Kennair, a professor at NTNU’s Department of Psychology and lead author of the study, said in a statement.
Mons Bendixen, an associate professor at NTNU’s Department of Psychology and co-author of the study, reiterated that while Tinder may provide a new possibility for hookups, “dating app users don’t have more casual sexual partners than others with the same short-term preference.”
Those who have experienced dating app culture can easily speculate as to why this is the case. The illusion of a seemingly endless rotary of options plays into the paradox of choice, a psychological theory that argues that people are less likely to make any decision at all when they have too many options to choose from. In the past, the thinking goes, people might have been more likely to get to know someone well before shooting them down, while today’s online daters are quick to write each other off in pursuit of another, newer option, thereby becoming trapped in an endless litany of first dates. This tactic might make for a packed schedule, but it doesn’t bode well for making it to the bedroom.
The fact that dating apps make people seem disposable is also what encourages a slew of terrible new behavioral norms, such as orbiting, ghosting, breadcrumbing, and benching.
Based on recent research, it seems like technology isn’t doing our sex lives many favors in general. A recent study found that more and more people are watching Netflix late at night instead of having sex. Sexually active couples have gone from having sex an average of five times a month in 1990 to only three times a month in 2010. (At this rate, no one will be having sex at all by 2030.) On the other hand, a recent study found that people over the age of 65, who are notoriously tech-averse, are still going at it like rabbits.
Another interesting finding from the new Norwegian study shed light on the different ways in which men and women use dating apps. Women take more time considering the candidate, whereas men speed through the options. “Women are more discerning. Men are more eager. This has clear evolutionary reasons. Women have more to lose by engaging with low-quality sexual partners than men do. That’s why men swipe right more often than women do,” Kennair said.
While boredom is high on the list for both genders, men are more prone to use the apps in order to secure sexual partners, whereas women are seeking validation for their appearance, researchers said.
“Women use dating apps to feel better about themselves more than men do,” Bendixen said.
The study, however, shot down the myth that the men on dating sites are only looking to get some.
“Men tend to report a desire for casual sex and short-term relationships as a reason for using dating apps. But it should be noted that the myth that men on dating apps are only looking for casual sex isn’t accurate. Men who use these apps also seek long-term partners, but to a lesser extent than short-term partners,” clinical psychologist and co-author Ernst Olav Botnen said.
If there’s one thing that’s good about dating apps, it’s that they’ve provided an analytical way of gathering data about how dating norms reflect today’s changing society. Studies have shown that women today aren’t nearly as interested as they used to be in flashy men, and men are more interested in women with high-power jobs than in years past—a surefire sign of living in an era that celebrates financially independent women. Other studies have shown that women tend to prefer sensitive men for long-term relationships and believe an ideal sexual partner is one who is in touch with his feelings and the emotions of those around him, adding fuel to the current movement against toxic masculinity.
Now, if we could just spend less time on our phones, we’d all be golden.
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