Study Finds Using Dating Apps Does Not Lead To More Casual Sex

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Photo-focused dating services like Tinder and Grindr are no strangers to stigma. Since day one, conservative singles and media outlets have called them “hookup apps” designed for the desperate, horny, and swipe-obsessed.

But if you’ve been holding off on joining over fears of friends’ ridicule or a chock-a-block casual sex schedule you just can’t keep up with, put those worries to rest. A new study published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences found that the reality of dating apps is far more chaste than its salacious reputation.

Researchers at NTNU examined the "sociosexual orientation" - the degree to which an individual is open to short-term sexual relationships that don’t lead to a committed partnership - of 641 students at the university between the ages of 19 and 29.

They found that, while it was true that the most open and unrestricted singles tend to use picture-based dating apps more often, their uninhibited approach to intimacy does not result in a larger number of casual sex partners.

"Apps have become the new public arena for dating. But to a large extent, the people using them are the same ones you find dating other ways," says Leif Edward Ottesen Kennair, a professor in Norwegian University of Science and Technology’s Department of Psychology and one of the study’s authors.

"Nothing suggests that people use dating apps more because they are more or less attractive as a sexual partner than most people," adds Trond Viggo Grøntvedt, a researcher in NTNU's Department of Public Health and Nursing.

The researchers did, however, find differences in the ways men and women use dating apps. Women tend to spend more time on apps, perhaps because they take longer to consider each candidate before making a decision. Men tend to be more efficient in their swiping, viewing more candidates in less time and make faster decisions about whether a match is someone they want to pursue.

"Women are more discerning. Men are more eager. This has clear evolutionary reasons. Women have more to lose by engaging with low-quality sexual partners than men do. That's why men swipe right more often than women do," says Kennair.

In other words, using Tinder isn’t much different than meeting someone at a bar - or anywhere else, for that matter. Singles still want to meet - sometimes for hookups, sometimes for relationships - and though the method has changed, the end result has not. Dating app technology is merely a new tool for doing what humans have always done.