Dating Apps Disappointing You? Research Reveals Why Tinder Users May Feel Dissatisfied

According to a survey of users, half were never actually looking to meet up in the first place.

Russell is a Science Writer with IFLScience and has a PhD in the History of Science, Medicine and Technology

Dr. Russell Moul

Russell is a Science Writer with IFLScience and has a PhD in the History of Science, Medicine and Technology

Dr. Russell Moul

Science Writer

Russell is a Science Writer with IFLScience and has a PhD in the History of Science, Medicine and Technology.

Science Writer

A man lays in bed looking up at his phone screen.

Tinder can be a mixed bag of experiences for many users, but it seems that quite a few users actually have no interest in dating.

Image credit: - Yuri A/

Tinder is by far the most popular dating app in the world, boasting an estimated 75 million users each month. And while it has offered many a chance to meet new people and start a fulfilling relationship, for others it has been a source of disappointment and confusion. The experience of being “ghosted”, where initially exciting conversations are inexplicably replaced by a growing creeping silence, is all too common it seems. Now, new research may help explain why this is happening – it turns out that many users were never interested in dating anyone in the first place. 

In a survey of 1,387 Tinder users, half said they were not interested in actually meeting anyone offline, while almost two-thirds turned out to be either married or already in a relationship. 


It seems that, for many people at least, online dating may have become just another form of social media that provides distractions, entertainment, and a boost to self-esteem. This is not to say there are not individuals out there who are looking to date, it’s just that the psychological motivations for engaging with Tinder are far more varied than previously assumed and these motivations impact the levels of satisfaction someone may have with app and the dates it led to.

More than a dating app

To date, plenty of studies have explored the use of online dating services, but few have paid particular attention to user satisfaction with dating apps and the dates they (are meant to) facilitate.  

"I was quite struck by how little data there was when it comes to how satisfied people were with online dating in general and with the offline dates that it can result in," Dr Elias Aboujaoude, clinical professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and an author of the study, said in a statement.

Aboujaoude and colleagues from France and Switzerland provided English-speaking Tinder users with questions about their motivations to use the app; the number of matches and offline dates they had; their relationship status; and their selectiveness for choosing partners. They also asked questions to assess certain psychological factors, such as a person’s level of impulsivity, depression, loneliness, and self-esteem. Finally, participants were asked to rate their overall satisfaction with the app and any offline dates they managed to have. 


All answers were self-reported through an online questionnaire.

"The surprising part is that a big percentage, about half, were not going online to find dates," Aboujaoude explained. "It becomes an interesting question as to why someone would spend all this time on a dating app if they're not interested in finding a date."

Aside from looking for meaningful dates or casual sexual partners, it seems many users turn to Tinder for entertainment, distractions, and an attempt to boost positive emotions as a way to cope with negative ones. 

"We call them dating apps, but they're clearly serving other functions besides dating," Aboujaoude said.


He and his colleagues found that overall satisfaction with Tinder was rated at about 2.39 on a 4-point scale and that offline dates were judged on average to be about 3.05 on a 5-point scale.

Through a specially developed machine learning model, the team were able to assess the variables that predicted app satisfaction. Those that were most likely to lead to higher satisfaction included using Tinder for its intended purpose – dating and socializing. However, those who were less satisfied with the app tended to use it as a coping mechanism to negate negative emotions, or exhibited psychological qualities like impulsivity or depressive moods.

Ultimately, it seems that online dating is not an effective mechanism to cope with mental health challenges. According to Aboujaoude, such use can exacerbate such conditions for the user.

"You need to work on the unhealthy coping mechanism, but you also need to address what it is that you're trying to cope with," he added. "If it turns out there's an actual mental health condition, be it depression, ADHD, anxiety or something else, we don't want that to go undiagnosed. There are established treatments that can be very effective for those conditions."


Interestingly, the variable that seemed to predict the highest levels of satisfaction with offline dating was age. It could be that older people have less experience with dating apps and approach them with a more realistic set of expectations and are more selective with their matches.

"I think the average user could probably learn from this finding and be happier with their online dating experience," Aboujaoude said.

The study is published in Cyberpsychology Behavior and Social Networking.


  • tag
  • psychology,

  • relationships,

  • social media,

  • tinder,

  • dating apps