Your reasons for using Tinder shape your dating experience

Are you using an online app to find potential partners? Why? Are you looking for love? Hoping to have fun? Or maybe you don’t want to feel lonely and are just hoping to avoid any rejection and embarrassment?

People have many different reasons why they choose to date, and why they use online dating apps. In a set of studies, researchers at York University set out to uncover whether these reasons matter. Do people's reasons for using Tinder help determine how much they enjoy the experience and successful they are at finding potential partners and going on dates?

People’s reasons for making choices or goals can often be categorized along two dimensions: approach and avoidance. Approach goals focus on gaining positive outcomes. For dating, these might be goals like trying to have new experiences and connect with other people or hoping to find love. Avoidance goals, on the other hand, focus on avoiding negative experiences. For dating, these might be goals like trying to avoid being lonely or hoping not to feel rejected or embarrassed.

To understand the role of approach and avoidance goals in online dating, researchers asked participants to report on their reasons for using Tinder as well as their experiences with Tinder. What did they find? People with more approach goals, such as wanting to have fun or have new experiences, had more positive beliefs about the people on Tinder. They thought Tinder would have people they would be interested in; people who had the traits they were looking for in a potential partner. People who had more avoidance goals were more anxious about using Tinder and were more worried about what people on Tinder would think of them.

Did people’s reasons for using Tinder matter for dating success? People who had more approach goals thought they were having more dating success on Tinder and actually were going on more second dates than people who were less approach-oriented. People with more avoidance goals thought that they were having less dating success and actually did have fewer romantic partners than people who were less avoidance-oriented.

Why do reasons or goals for dating matter? Goals shape perceptions and guide behavior—when you are focused on gaining positive outcomes, you seek them out and are more likely to see the possibilities of positivity in an experience. If you think that dating will be a fun experience, you’re more likely to say yes to a potential date and have a positive attitude about it. When you are focused on avoiding negative experiences, you are more likely to behave in ways that minimize the negative, rather than maximize the positive. If you are worried about being rejected or embarrassed, you are less likely to say yes to dates that have the potential for rejection, and when you do say yes, you may find yourself spending the time together being wary of possible embarrassing situations, rather than seeking out fun experiences with the person.

This research links approach and avoidance goals with online dating, but these goals also play a role in many other areas of our lives, from how we cultivate and maintain relationships to our level of sexual desire.