Written by: Alexandra Palmer | Best Company Editorial Team
Last Updated: February 24th, 2020
So what's up with this Tinder thing?
No digital dating service is as hot as Tinder right now. You've probably seen friends swiping away at a mobile dating app called Tinder. And all that swiping has added up to phenomenal growth over the last couple of years for the app. According to some estimates, 50 million tablet or smartphone owners now use the app to swipe through local dating prospects and hopefully match up with some of them. On a daily basis, this culminates in an average of 1.5 billion swipes and 21 million matches. In fact, just this last January saw Tinder surpass 1 billion total matches. So, needless to say, Tinder is very popular right now-so popular you might feel the need to give it a spin.
But before you hit that 'download' button, you need to ask that critical question: is Tinder the right online dating tool for you?
Before you install Tinder on your phone, here are 10 critical facts to help you figure out if it's the best digital dating tool for your needs.
1. Tinder is available only through mobile app.
Let's start at the very beginning: unlike many of the other online dating services we've reviewed on our site, Tinder is not a website. Instead, it is found strictly via mobile app to be used on most smartphones and tablets. As we'll discuss below, the way the app functions relies very much on the touchscreen features on mobile devices. You just couldn't do Tinder on a laptop or desktop.
If you're not a savvy user of mobile devices, this fact alone might give you pause when considering Tinder as your digital dating tool. If you and your smartphone or tablet can't be separated, read on.
2. Tinder keeps it simple.
If you've ever tried to create a profile with many of the top online dating sites like Match or eHarmony, you know that it can be a pretty lengthy process involving uploading photos and filling out drawn-out questionnaires. This is partially due to the type of audience these sites are trying to serve, people who are looking to be matched on a deep level with people they could potentially spend the rest of their lives with. But what if you're just looking for someone to meet up with for some casual romance?
Tinder is specifically built to get you looking at and matching up with people quick. Users are asked to provide one photo and a 500-character blurb about themselves. That's it. Then, based on their mobile device's GPS, Tinder sends them a photo and a quick description of someone in their area. If they like what they see, they swipe to the right. If they want to pass, they swipe to the left. If they swipe right, and that person does the same thing with their image, they are officially matched by Tinder and can start exchanging texts with one another.
What does this mean for you? It means that if you aren't looking for some deep, potentially lifelong connection but are more interested in just meeting up with new people casually, Tinder could be right up your alley. If you're fed up with casual relationships and want something more substantial, you might want to swipe left on Tinder and try one of the established online dating sites out there.
3. Tinder can be really superficial and focused only on casual hookups.
This point can't be overstated. Yes, all dating sites seem to be fighting a constant battle between trying to supply their members with as many options as possible while keeping out the creeps and perverts, but Tinder wears its shallowness on its sleeve. Originally touted as casual sex app, Tinder has progressed a little more toward promoting healthy relationships, but it's still pretty open about how superficial its whole approach is. Sally Newall, writer at Marie Claire, comments:
"This dating service is extremely superficial up front. Members rate other dater purely on their photos and a short one liner. There's not much depth in actually getting to know the daters until both members have matched. This may leave out potential matches that could work out long term. Generally the personality is overlooked because this app focuses on an all or nothing approach to rating pictures... It is still very casual sex-focussed. Many men are only on Tinder for a quick hook-up, so if it's a serious relationship you're after this app might not be for you."
This superficiality can be rough on daters who are honestly looking for real, long-term relationships, says Huffington Post dating expert David Wygant:
"This app is far from making love connections. It's all about look connections! Unless you have a very thick skin, you should stay well away from places like Tinder. They'll destroy what little confidence you have. Imagine sending out 100 hearts and not one-person contacts you back. How are you going to feel about yourself?"
4. Tinder offers free and premium subscriptions.
Like so many digital dating services, Tinder offers what we call a "freemium" model: consumers can download the app and get access to a certain range of features for free, but if they want to use the app's full range of features they need to pay. This means if you want to try out Tinder without risking any greenbacks, you can. Just know that you won't be using the full app and it will be designed to nudge you toward their premium package (a.k.a. Tinder Plus).
A recent update to Tinder, however, made Tinder Plus more pricey than most of their users were willing to pay. But more about that later...
5. Tinder does feature auto renewal.
Like its online dating counterparts, once Tinder users sign up for Tinder Plus, their subscription is renewed and their account is charged automatically every month. This can cause some confusion and frustration with Tinder users, but it is written in their terms and conditions and on their iTunes pages for all users to see:
"Your account will be charged for renewal within 24-hours prior to the end of the current 1 month period. Auto-renewal may be turned off by going to the user's iTunes Account Settings after purchase. No cancellation of the current subscription is allowed during the active subscription period."
So if you do get Tinder Plus, you can deactivate the auto-renewal feature, but you must do it before the end of your current subscription comes up. Our advice: if you're not sure you want to continue with the service, don't wait until the last minute to deactivate this feature.
6. The refund process for Tinder is less than clear.
When you subscribe to an online dating service and you want a refund, you can go straight to the site to get that refund (depending on which site it is, you might get that refund and you might not). But when you use Tinder, because you purchase the app through an app store like iTunes, Google Play, or another app store, refunds have to be obtained through your app store.
Unfortunately, we're unable to tell how well these app stores respond to refund requests, since Tinder is not listed with the Better Business Bureau. This doesn't necessarily mean their customer service in regards to refund requests is bad or good. There is simply nothing to point one way or the other-which could be a good thing. No news is good news, as they say.
7. Tinder lets you block people you've been matched with and report members.
Too many dating sites let undesirables hang around your profile, stalking you virtually while giving you very little power to stop them. But Tinder, in the spirit of keeping things simple, first only gives people who you've been matched with access to you. Then they give you the ability to unmatch that person, removing them from your Matches, removing you from their Matches, and disabling their ability to message you.
Important note: once you unmatch someone, you can't undo it. That person is permanently banished from your Tinder life. So unmatch with caution.
Also, if you come across any member that you feel is violating Tinder's rules, you can report them to Tinder, whether they are one of your matches or not.
Whether or not these measures actually work to keep Tinder daters' experiences safe is a big question mark. Again, there aren't a lot of complaints out there to draw from. Overall, most reviews we read from publications were generally positive about safety and the ability to control who can see you and who can't on Tinder.
8. Tinder is overrun with men.
It's raining men. At least it is on Tinder. Attracted by the simple, straightforward, and visual approach of Tinder, men have flocked to the app, if only for the ability to gawk at local women without being reproached. Unfortunately, this has created a very competitive field for males. Of his Tinder experience, David Wygant laments:
"I saw women very close to my age and they still didn't respond. They were probably swamped by every man within a five-mile radius of them. The odds are stacked so far against guys on sites like this. If you've ever tried online dating as a man you'll know what I mean. It can be torturous."
9. Tinder's recent update ticked off a lot of members.
If there is one major misstep Tinder has made, it is their most recent update. This update placed daily limits on how many likes free users could use per day. If these users wanted to be able to go back to having unlimited likes (like they did pre-update), they would have to pony up $9.99 per month for the privilege. The algorithm used to serve dating options to users was also tweaked. Tinder apparently thought their users were ready for this big of a change and predicted that they would see an astronomical uptick to $150 million in annual sales by 2016.
They probably didn't anticipate the firestorm that ensued. Angry app users bumrushed iTunes to voice their disapproval, leaving thousands of one-star rating and scathing reviews in just a couple weeks after the update.
What does this mean for you? It means you will still be able to try it out for free, but your daily likes will be much more limited than what users had in the past. It also means that some of the praise you'd heard about the app over a month ago might not be so true today.
10. Tinder can turn your dating life into a game (and that's bad).
Users have reported that just using Tinder is fun, even addictive, even if you don't find that special someone. Some people flip through Tinder just to ridicule the photos that come across their screens. However, longtime users also report that Tinder's superficial approach to picking potential mates has tainted the way they view dating, relationships, and people in general.
Dayna Evans at Gawker reported her Tinder fatigue in these words:
"Not until I used the app for a year did I begin to process the effects Tinder was having on my ability to find men attractive or desirable. Tinder is fun and lighthearted until it no longer is... I'd swiped right on everyone I liked already and was left with the Sisyphean task of swiping left until eternity... Tinder had bludgeoned my brain, stripping all the fun out of seeking chemical attraction in real life and in real places."
Should You Swipe Right or Swipe Left?
So is Tinder a keeper for you, intrepid online dater? There seems to be no doubt that Tinder provides an engaging, fun platform for meeting potential mates. But maybe all that fun also pushes out the more serious, yet important, business of forming long-lasting relationships. Bottom line: if you're looking for casual hookups and are willing to pay $10 a month for it, Tinder is perfect. If you want a more mature, level-headed approach to relationships, you might be better served on Match or eHarmony.
Have you had a bad experience on a dating site or app? Maybe you met the love of your life? Make your voice heard and leave your review today!