It's a match: Tinder and Tourism

8 minutes to read
Lieke van der Wielen

Current forms of globalisation and digitalisation have snuck into all aspects of our lives, without us fully grasping the ways in which this process occurs. By using a popular app like Tinder in the context of tourism, we can uncover a concrete and transparent perspective regarding theories about modern globalisation and digitalisation.

Tinder tourism: what is it?

When travelling to a new town or country, feeling lonely and wanting to meet new people is a familiar experience. Whereas people used to visit bars, parks, and museums, it has now become attractive to swipe through strangers from the safety of your hotel room. Tinder has become an increasingly popular medium to find yourself a tour guide for a day or a roof over your head, with a little action on the side if desired. 

The popularity of Tinder is not rising solely among single millennials in search of love. The expansion of functions on Tinder has engaged more and more users. This development is an example of globalisation at its finest: our interactions, behaviour and experiences are shiftingwith the technologies that are now available to us.

Simultaneously, our needs and desires create new dimensions for apps like Tinder. The new global concept of Tinder Tourism has influenced the way we experience travel, and the fashion in which we travel is shaping Tinder. Our experiences all over the globe are now vastly altered by the profiles we scan through and chat with. 

The transformation of Tinder is a phenomenon that represents modern globalisation in its most concrete form. The transformation that Tinder has undergone reveals how digitalisation and globalisation are intertwined, and how people handle this new digital world and the globalisation that comes with it.

The theoretics

The current use of Tinder – and transformed platforms in general – represents our habits regarding modern ways of connecting and communicating. In her book Personal Connections in the Digital Age, Baym rightfully stresses that every time a new ‘technology for interaction’ is developed, there is a certain amount of time in which this platform is ‘new and norms for their use are in flux’. According to Baym, this particular period in the process of shaping the app into a widely used platform ‘offers fresh opportunities to think about our technologies, our connections and the relationships amongst them’. 

Whenever a new medium arises, new boundaries develop too. Naturally, in our time of new dating and interaction platforms emerging on a daily basis, new boundaries and values are appearing so quickly that they are nearly impossible to keep up with. We experience telepresence, where we can be mentally present in other places than where we are physically. We are simultaneously present and absent. Baym asks the question: ‘Where are we?’when we are present, yet absent'. 

The fact that such a large portion of our interactions takes place online leads us to adjust the definition of what communication is. We perceive connections and relationships differently due to this digitalisation and globalisation of contact. Our contacts have now spread all over the world. Whereas our connectionsused to be locally centred, the way in which we maintain contacts has shifted from talks in the flesh to semi-present chats. 

Tinder Tourism is the perfect example of this spiral of convergence.

A spiral of developments has come into place because providers of these platforms play into the trend. This in turn encourages users to utilise the platform in such a way that it accelerates the process of global and digitalised contact. Tinder Tourism is a perfect example of this spiral of convergence. Convergence is ‘the flow of content across multiple media platforms, the cooperation between multiple media industries, and the migratory behaviour of media audiences who would go almost anywhere in search of the kinds of entertainment experiences they wanted’ (Jenkins, 2006). This last feature is especially applicable to Tinder and its modern uses. It illustrates the spiral of constant ‘feedback’ and subsequent change between users and creators of media, as seen when researching Tinder.

Tinder as the exemplary model for theory

Tinder has been an incredibly popular app since its release. In March of 2013, no more than 8 months after its initial release, Tinder was one of the top 25 networking platforms available (Hamedy, 2013). Within a year, Tinder was processing more than 1 billion swipes every day (New York Times, 2014). 

In the following years Tinder was developed even further, generating more users and activity as it grew. This development included numerous updates, such as options to buy 'Tinder Plus' or 'Tinder Online', to cater to users who want to 'tinder' on their laptops. Apart from Tinder updating itself, its rapidly growing user base also prompted adjustments not just to the format of the app, but to its eventual purpose. This shift in purpose was caused by a shift in users' motivations. 

New motives for Tinder usage were uncovered in a study by Sumter, Vandenbosch and Ligtenberg (2016), who were the first to investigate 'why emerging adults use Tinder’. They surveyed 163 Dutch 18 to 30 year olds in order to determine what they perceived to be the purpose of Tinder in their lives. They were asked how often they made use of Tinder, if they had met one of their matches before, and whether or not they actually ‘hooked up’ with their matches. They were then asked to respond to a series of sixteen statements regarding the reason for their use of Tinder such as ‘To find a steady relationship’, 'To find someone to have sex with’ or ‘To feel better about myself’. The sixteen statements were condensed into five categories for motivations of Tinder usage: Ease of communication, Love, Self-Worth Validation, Excitement and Casual Sex.

The research concluded that Tinder is indeed not the classic dating app that it was designed to be, at least not anymore.

The research found that the motivation to use Tinder to find Love exceeded the motivation of Casual Sex overall. However males put forward Casual Sex as a motivation more often than females. The research also found a high rate of responses concerning Self-Worth Validation. This high rate was explained by concluding that ‘receiving positive feedback about one’s appearance and feeling more confident and happy by receiving validation in general’ is a primal psycho-social need. Besides Validation, only a few respondents acknowledged that they saw Excitement as a motive for their Tinder usage. According to Sumter et al. (2016) these responses were not as significant as Love, Casual Sex and Self-Worth Validation. Ease of Communication, just like Excitement, was not a popular motivation.

The study concluded that Tinder is indeed not the classic dating app that it was designed to be, at least not anymore. Sumter et al. (2016) state that the globalising and ever-changing environment around us influences the manner in which we use social media, and dating apps specifically. The digitalisation of our day to day lives also includes a transformation of our dating lives, with more importance granted to dating apps such as Tinder. This should in turn shape how people engage with these apps; a never-ending transformational circular process is born. The apps are altered to fit the needs of its users, and to maximize their satisfaction. Whether that may be what the app was originally about is no longer relevant .

We can see this conclusion coming to life in new app features, such as the ‘Tinder Passport’ function. It is part of the ‘Tinder Plus’ package, which is a possible in-app purchase. This function allows you to manually select a location from which you want to start to start swiping, instead of letting your GPS decide this location. The Tinder Passport function shows the spiral of convergence that was discussed before. This new function is the result of a shift in motives ofusers. It is part of the cycle, with creators reacting to the wishes and demands of their users by implementing a new feature.

Tindstagramming and YouTube

We can see a similar transformation of the motives for using an app in the trend of Tindstagramming. This is the phenomenon of using Instagram as a means of meeting new people with the intention of dating, i.e., using Instagram as if it were Tinder. It consists of swiping and scrolling through Instagram profiles, judging them and using Direct Messages to approach your potential "match". People are using Instagram as a dating app, possibly out of a desire for efficiency, as they don't need a separate app for this function anymore. 

A similar transformation can be observed in the development of YouTube. The way it has evolved from what it was supposed to be into what it has actually become was largely a consequence of the desires of its users. The initial idea of its founders was for YouTube to be a video version of an online dating service (TIME, 2006). 

In earlier versions of YouTube, users could write on each other’s pages, people responded to one another through video messages and even sent friend requests to other users. YouTube was remodelled and now is much more focussed on the video material, rather than on the community. People now have channels that people subscribe to, and the only direct contact is through comments. This shift in how the platform is modelled and used is a result of ashift in what users wanted YouTube to be. The platform changes along with the wishes of its users, even though it is not the type of platform the founders intended.

Going beyond traditional borders and norms

The fact that we can identify this same trend of transforming to satisfy users in multiple platforms means that it must be a trend, typical of our time. What does this suggest about us?

The fact that Tinder has transformated into a platform for international connections rather than romantic ones reveals that there is an increasing desire to go beyond our traditional borders and norms. The way in which we view ourselves in relation to the world has evolved: we consider ourselves global citizens, we seek these international contacts and are not bound to our nation state or our people as much as we traditionally were. 

Whereas Tinder was supposed to connect you to locals within a certain radius of your location, there is an apparent desire of internationals to mingle with the locals, and the interest is mutual. This is a dominant characteristic of modern generations and modern globalisation; people greatly value their ability to connect with everyone around them and like to think of themselves as global citizens. We value our international connections more than the traditional national borders and the nationalism that is attached to them. The fading of nation states and of identification with astate implicates the extent to which globalisation is of importance to the public. 

Apps have become tools where we determine their function, rather than being services that we can use.

The manner in which we experience media has undergone a vast shift too. Not only have we begun to utilise online media more, we have created a culture in which we seem to be able to influence and shape these media to fit our needs and benefits. Even within one app or medium, people do not feel restricted by the norms and values that prescribe how the app was intended to be used. It has become more common to use apps for purposes that we feel they should cater to, which indicates the power we feel we have over these media. Apps have become tools where we determine their function, rather than being services that we can use. This transformation illustrates our quite stubborn but confident stance toward media and globalisation overall. Globalisation and digitalisation are no longer processes that determine our world, people now use them as tools to shape their own environment.

Swiping on Tinder or the bar?

Digitalisation and globalisation go hand in hand. The perfect way to showcase this intertwining is the extensive popularity of dating apps like Tinder, and how and why these apps are developing. Tinder can tell us fascinating things about ourselves and what stance we take regarding digitalisation and modern globalisation. Taking action to make sure that we have a say in the purpose of particular media is desirable. However, next time you areswiping away at fascinating people from your hotel room, try the bar downstairs. For all we know, the most captivating people are actually around us, rather than on the other side of the globe. 


Baym, N. (2015). Personal Connections in the Digital Age. Ch. 1 + 2. Polity Press.

Jenkins, H. (2006). Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide. New York: New York University Press.

Sumter, S., Vandenbosch, L., & Ligtenberg, L. (2016) Love: Untangling emerging adults’ motivations for using the dating application Tinder. Telematics and Informatics, 34 (1), 67-78.