Right after the performance relationship goals this year the dating app Tinder recently made headlines because apparently Many Tinder users are already in a relationship.
The claim comes from a new study in the journal Cyberpsychology, behavior and social networkswith the title “Find intimacy online“: A machine learning analysis of predictors of success.” The study focuses on satisfaction with Tinder usage and the app’s offline data, but more people have focused on one statistic: 65.3 percent of the 1,387 survey participants said they were married or being otherwise married is a relationship.
Tinder, meanwhile, calls the study a scam. Mashable contacted both the dating app and the study’s lead author to find out the truth.
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Dating app data discrepancy
Study researchers recruited participants through online ads looking for English-speaking Tinder users ages 18 and older. The data was collected in 2018 and 2019 and initially used for another study on the subject psychology of “wiping”, according to the Methods section of the paper. The majority, 45.1 percent, said they were in a relationship; 20.2 percent said they were married.
A Tinder spokesperson told Mashable that participants weren’t given the option to say they didn’t have a partner. “Based on Tinder data, the numbers highlighted in this study are highly misleading and do not accurately represent our members,” the spokesperson wrote to Mashable via email. “Study participants were only given three ways to describe themselves — ‘celibate,’ ‘in a relationship,’ or ‘widowed’ — and no option for ‘single.'” This likely led to a completely distorted portrayal of who Tinder members are are and what they are looking for.”
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Germano Vera Cruz, co-author of Finding Intimacy Online, professor of health psychology and data scientist at France’s University of Picardy Jules Verne, told Mashable that this is incorrect and the article provides four options for relationship status. In the PDF of the study he shared with Mashable, “single” is an option for relationship status:
Relationship status options from the Finding Intimacy Online study.
Photo credits: Screenshot: Vera Cruz et al.
When shown this, Tinder’s spokesperson claimed that the researchers altered the data set to change the “celibate” option to “single,” citing a recent change in the files github. Additionally, Tinder said the researchers removed participants from the original dataset without specifying how many or why.
“The primary investigators … apparently altered their incomplete data sets without explanation after publishing them publicly. They also removed participants from their datasets without specifying how many or why,” said Dr. Sara, a social psychologist and associate professor at Indiana University Konrath, in a statement Tinder provided to Mashable.
“As a social scientist, this makes me question the integrity of the study,” Konrach continued.
Vera Cruz told Mashable that three words in the data files had been changed: two French to English translations (“année” to “year” and “sexe” to “sex”) and “celibate” to “single” to ” to reflect the original questionnaire”. used for the survey.” In addition, a non-binary gender option was added to the files.
Regarding the removal of participants from the dataset, Vera Cruz said the number of participants in the dataset matched the number given in the paper. Mashable checked the most recent dataset and the number of participants matched that in the paper. This is a different number than in the previous study the data set was used for; However, gay and non-binary participants were removed in the process.
Disadvantages of the Tinder study
Aside from the back-and-forth between the dating app and the researchers, this study doesn’t reflect the actual dating landscape. For one thing, the data was collected before the pandemic; Three years later, data seekers know that COVID has changed the way people date. people are more open with what they want and about their sanity, and different Relationship Styles and Sexual Exploration increased when vaccines became available.
Furthermore, regardless of the “celibate” vs. “single” debacle, the options given to the participants did not reflect all possibilities. For example, there is no option for separated or divorced people. Also, there is no way to find out if the married people are in an open or otherwise ethically non-monogamous relationship. As people in the dating scene know, ethical non-monogamy or ENM has been booming since COVID. While it’s possible for monogamously married people to cheat on Tinder (maybe Ashley Madison makes them feel better?), it’s also possible for married people to be open.
And above all, it is an individual study with around 1,400 participants. Millions of people use Tinder. The headlines that many Tinder users are affiliated are disingenuous; It’s impossible to know, especially from a single study.
Analyzing dating app behavior is a good thing. Let’s hope future studies will better represent users.