When Tinder came out in 2012, the people who made it didn’t think it was that great. Jonathan Badeen, one of Tinder’s co-founders and the person who came up with the swipe, says that the app was put together and launched in about six to eight weeks. The swipe was kind of like Tinder’s secret weapon. It seems obvious now, but the swipe made mobile dating into a game ten years ago.
Swiping was fun and hard to stop so people would stay on the app for hours. It makes dopamine, a chemical in your brain that makes you feel good, which, according to Dinesh Moorjani, another co-founder of Tinder, keeps people coming back to the site. “Some people use the app more than 30 to 40 times a day,” we said.
“It’s easy to fall a rabbit hole and spend hours there. “If you’re stuck in that loop, you might even miss a party,” says Natasha Schüll, an anthropologist at NYU who studies how technology and games are made. She says that Tinder is a game in the same way that slot machines are and that people who use it get stuck in the same kind of endless game loops she saw in Vegas.
Does swiping lead to love, though? This season of Land of the Giants: Dating Games looks at how well the dating app companies’ business goals match up with their users’ romantic goals. In our first episode, we look at Tinder and ask if the swiping game really helps people meet or if it just makes Tinder more money.
Tinder said in 2014 that it had matched more than 2 billion people, but that doesn’t mean that 2 billion of those relationships were happy. Tinder’s business model has always worked well— one of the highest-earning apps—but it’s not clear what effect it has on users. Allison Davis, a writer for New York Magazine, says, “I joined Tinder almost when it first started, and it’s been my leash for a decade now.” “Tinder is the longest relationship I’ve had.”
Listen to the first episode of Land of the Giants: Dating Games, a podcast by The Cut, The Verge, and the Vox Media Podcast Network. You can find new episodes on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever else you get your podcasts
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