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Is There Something Missing? Self-Presentation Practices on Tinder

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The desire to connect with other people for romantic or intimate purposes is an age-old activity. Mobile dating applications have exploded in popularity in recent years. As these applications become mainstream, so does the urgency to re-explore the issue of virtual self-presentation: how men and women present themselves to potential partners. The matchmaking mobile app Tinder has 50 million global users and 1.5 million users in the Netherlands. The research question asks, what are the self-presentation practices of Tinder users? This paper presents the results of 21 semi-structured interviews with Tinder users in the Netherlands. Analysis revealed two types of users in terms of impression motivation: the indifferent and the ambitious. For all interviewees, impression construction was a carefully chosen process complete with various “props.” Interviewees used photos and texts to illustrate attractiveness, personality and interests, but also their social class and education level. Especially noteworthy was the mirroring of self-presentation with one’s potential matches, as users overwhelmingly reported searching for people “like them.” This research provides both empirical and theoretical contributions into user experiences and perceptions within a still under-researched area.

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Is There Something Missing? Self-Presentation Practices on Tinder

  1. 1. Is There Something Missing? Self-Presentation Practices on Tinder Dr. Janelle Ward Department of Media and Communication Erasmus University Rotterdam
  2. 2. A Tinder primer • A matchmaking mobile app (launched Oct. 2012) • 50 million global users; 6 billion matches • Tinder profiles: select Facebook photos, text, location, shared friends/interests • Users “swipe left” on those they don’t like, or “swipe right” on potential matches
  3. 3. A Tinder primer
  4. 4. A Tinder primer • Tinder users log in an average of 11 times a day and spend 7 - 9 minutes “swiping” during a single session • Women browse for 8.5 minutes versus 7.2 for men (New York Times, 30 October 2014)
  5. 5. Self-presentation (Goffman, 1959) • Two key processes (Leary & Kowalski 1990): – Impression motivation: how much people are motivated to control how others see them – Impression construction: choosing an impression to create and deciding precisely how to do so
  6. 6. Self-presentation online • Control (Ellison et al., 2006) • Proximity (Blackwell et al., 2014) • Desired impression (Toma & Hancock, 2010)
  7. 7. What are the self-presentation practices of Tinder users? • RQ1: What are Tinder users’ motivations for using the app? • RQ2: How do Tinder users choose their profile photos and text? • RQ3: How do Tinder users choose their matches?
  8. 8. Method • 21 semi-structured interviews conducted Sept-Dec 2014 (11 men, 10 women, ages 19-52)
  9. 9. RQ1: What are Tinder users’ motivations for using the app?
  10. 10. RQ2: How do Tinder users choose their profile photos and text?
  11. 11. RQ3: How do Tinder users choose their matches?
  12. 12. Discussion/Future research • Discussion: – Control; proximity; desired impression • Future research: – Self-disclosure – Female/male differences
  13. 13. Thank you! • Email: ward@eshcc.eur.nl • The project online: –https://twitter.com/missingsome47 –facebook.com/missingsome47 –istheresomethingmissing.com

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