Online dating has become the new way to meet other singles, and dating apps like Tinder have skyrocketed in popularity over the last few years. Ironically, the majority of Tinder matches never actually hook up, let alone meet with the people they’ve connected with.
So why do people love it?
Tinder taps into the reward and reinforcement seeking areas of the brain through notifications. Even when not actively using the app, users’ profiles are visible to other users. The thrill of returning to the app after being away and gaining new matches keeps curiosity piqued—even if there is no intention of connecting with the person in real life. The attention of a match becomes addictive with many users confessing that the site is a good confidence booster. The dopamine released through notifications can be compared to the sensation of gambling. The possibility of hitting the jackpot and finding a perfect match keeps users engaged.
Just how quickly are users hooked? Just like any addiction, users are locked in after the comeback. The dopamine loop is not an immediate process. New Tinder users do not have an increased dopamine neuron firing rate until they view the profile of their new match. As time goes on, users begin to experience a reward response purely from hearing or seeing the notification. This is because the brain now connects a notification with the attention someone has given even before viewing their profile.