Is This Why Mobile Dating Is So Popular?

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Why are we so attached to our smartphones? And why has mobile dating become the greatest thing since sliced bread (and online dating)?

Psychologists think they have the answer.

Mobile dating apps are not soaring in popularity because they offer an easy way to meet potential love interests, but because they replicate ‘real world’ dating experiences better than traditional online dating sites. Apps like Tinder and Grindr allow users to scroll through pictures of potential dates (or less) in nearby locations, and then chat with members who show interest in their profiles. That focus on the first impression – especially of a user's physical appearance – mimics people's real-life, instinctive impulses much better than traditional online dating sites.

That's not to say that photos aren’t important on traditional dating sites, because of course they are. And of course people make snap judgments based on physical appearance. All the time. But most online dating sites ask members to create detailed profiles outlining their personal attributes and preferences in a partner, in order to match them with potentially compatible dates. The emphasis is on something deeper and more serious, an attitude that's reinforced by the increased time commitment required to use a traditional online dating site.

Some psychologists now argue that mobile dating is a much more social experience that can lead to more "serendipitous" meetings. In the long run, they say, the mobile dating approach may be more romantic than being matched by a scientific dating website algorithm.

Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, professor of psychology at University College London, told The Times: "[Using a dating website] is almost like booking a holiday or a job application, as you try to customize your partners. Mobile dating – and Tinder is a good example – is different. It is more linked to impulse and emotions and focuses on attractiveness and looks, which is more realistic, even if it is a bit more lazy. It replicates the traditional version of dating more closely than Match.com or eHarmony as it allows for more serendipity."

Graham Jones, an internet psychologist said: "Mobile dating apps are a more sociable activity that you can use with friends down the pub rather than sitting at home on your laptop on a dating website."

The tendency is to overestimate the impact of technology on human behavior. In reality, it is usually human behavior that drives technological changes and is responsible for their success or failure. Mobile dating apps like Tinder and Grindr are an extension of mainstream, real-world dating habits – even more so than traditional online dating sites.