For better or for worse, the age of social media has transformed the search for love. No longer do we trawl bars or place lonely-hearts ads – it's a whole new world out there, romantically speaking, with even various animals looking for that special someone who's willing to swipe right for them.
And thanks to the rise of the dating app – and scientists' obsession with anything new – we've made some surprising discoveries. We've learned that Tinder is changing society for the better, albeit through the medium of gonorrhea and slightly terrifying levels of privacy breaches. We've learned that people are... mostly honest in their search for love.
And according to a new study published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior, one of the most intriguing things we've learned has been staring us in the face the whole time – and it's not reassuring.
"We noticed that several academic studies on dating apps consistently reported that a subsample of their participants were in a committed relationship while using Tinder or another dating app," lead author Elisabeth Timmermans told PsyPost. "We thought this was quite surprising, as dating apps – or hookup apps – are mostly aimed at attracting singles."
So what kind of person would carry on using Tinder after finding The One? After surveying 1,486 people on their Tinder habits and experiences, Timmermans and her colleagues have an answer – and it all comes down to the so-called "dark personality traits" that include, among other things, psychopathy.
"Partnered Tinder users reported lower scores on agreeableness and conscientiousness and higher scores on neuroticism and psychopathy compared to people in a committed relationship who did not use a dating app," explained Timmermans.
And this isn't the only finding that should worry those who still see the app on their partner's phone. Although partnered Tinder users reported lower rates than single users of using the app to find new friends, practice social skills, or – as you'd probably expect – find new romantic relationships, they actually reported higher rates of one-night stands and casual sex – also behaviors that have been linked to psychopathy.
Timmermans, however, urges caution, pointing out that the survey didn't specifically ask about respondents' behavior while in a relationship.
"It... might be possible that they are also reporting on these behaviors while being single," she told PsyPost. "As we did not measure this and did not have information on relationship length either, we are a bit cautious about claiming that partnered Tinder users are more likely to cheat on their partner."
There are some things the study hasn't answered. The question remains, for instance, as to whether those using Tinder to cheat on their partners would be unfaithful even without the app – or whether the availability of a "plan B" is pushing people to do things they wouldn't consider otherwise.
But for people worried about what these findings mean for their own relationships, the key might come down to communication.
"In a technological society, our ideas of what constitutes infidelity are constantly changing, yet rarely discussed between partners," Timmermans said in a statement. "Given the range of Tinder motives for non-single users, it would be beneficial for partners to discuss their ideas of infidelity on mobile dating apps to avoid confusion or disappointments."