19 Feb 2016

Tinder: Love and... Economics?

The Author's "research" bio :)
Geerte writes*

My first ever Tinder-date was a guy who on his profile claimed to be ‘obsessed’ with specialty beers. I, seventeen at the time, thought of this as a reassuring sign of undoubtable masculinity, and agreed to meet him at a small pub in Amsterdam. Two hours into the date I had solely counselled the boy through his family problems, while quietly sipping away four recommended types of beers – each price approximating my €5,66-an-hour salary at the Albert Heijn bakery. We split the bill. I deleted his profile from my phone that same evening.

Still, I wasn’t sorry. Laughing at myself with some friends I had informed about the Big Event beforehand, I concluded that despite the fiasco I had managed to enter a ‘mature’ new crowd – the Internet-Daters. What does Tinder do to our minds? Why do we endlessly rethink buying a €19 concert ticket that we know will give us pleasure but agree to go on dates that often result in the opposite? In other words, why do we decide that the tiny possible prospect of love is worth our money?

Thirty years before the birth of Tinder, Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky concluded that people do not weigh gains and losses linearly. As their theory of loss-aversion [pdf] shows, losing will often feel much worse than winning will feel good. When observing Tinder-daters, this notion of loss-aversion might lead to the radical idea that romance isn’t dead – people value the possibility of "winning" love so highly, they are willing to lose some money if they don’t succeed.

Luckily however, there are more rational souls out there. Like the guy who texted a girl to send him back his £3.50 after an unsuccessful date, because he did not like ‘wasting money.’ More direct tips to keep your cash can be acquired from a gentleman claiming to have ‘lost his wallet’ when seeing the bill, or, if you’d rather make a profit, a woman stealing her date’s car.

Keeping the above in mind, perhaps Kahneman, Tversky, Tinder and I together have just provided you with a great opportunity to test how much you value love yourself. How many €5 specialty beers does it take to regret your na├»ve, hope-fueled excitement? Without receiving a cent from its marketing team, I’d suggest you simply download the app and try. For apart from some money-hunters, Tinder has managed to create a fairly enjoyable market for people offering and searching for love. It is freely available, making time, energy and perhaps some self-esteem your only loss if you spend an afternoon swiping left and right.

Bottom Line As Kahneman and Tversky have argued, most people hate losing more than they love winning. Since the odds of a Tinder-date turning out very successfully are often small, internet daters seem to be more willing to risk ‘wasting’ money in order to find love than you’d perhaps expect.
* Please comment on these posts from my microeconomics students, to help them with unclear analysis, other perspectives, data sources, etc.

DZ's Addendum: The Economist says dating apps "thicken markets" (a good thing), and the BBC on people meeting in different ways (online may take over from "via friends").