Tinder is one of the most popular dating apps out there. Launched in 2012, the matchmaking app now has more than 50 million users. As of today, more than half of Tinder's membership is in the highly desired (from an online dating perspective) 18-24 age demographic. And it appears the app's developers desperately want to maintain their status as the young people's way to date.
Typically companies are eager to expand their demographic. After all, the more people who use your product or service, the more profit there is for you. But Tinder is taking the opposite approach, seeking to preserve and protect its youthful demographic with a "30-and-over" surcharge on its "Tinder Plus" premium service, which lets users manually change their locations and undo regrettable "swipes" of other people's profiles. Tinder users 30 and under pay $9.99 per month for these privileges; those over 30 pay $19.99.
You might be asking why users wouldn't just lie about their age to get the premium service for less -- after all, people lie about their age all the time on dating sites and apps. With Tinder, however, this is not so easy. You see, when you sign up for Tinder it pulls information from your Facebook profile to create a "social graph" for you. Then it recommends matches based on commonalities like mutual friends, shared interests and location. It's actually an awesome approach to dating -- sort of a digital age slant to the social networking of yesteryear, when we asked our friends to introduce us to people we might like. The only real difference is that these days our friend is Tinder, and Tinder, thanks to Facebook, knows a heckuva lot of people. Anyway, the good folks at Facebook know exactly how old you are, so unless you want to go to the trouble of creating a fake Facebook page with a younger age, Tinder is going to charge you based on your real age.
That said, the basic version of Tinder is free, and only folks who want the upgrade are charged. So why bother with premium when regular will do just fine? Well, the simple truth is that the upgrades are actually quite useful. The ability to change your location increases your odds of hooking up when you go out of town, and it also lets you expand your dating pond, so to speak, by giving you new potential matches. (Remember, your suggested matches are based in part on your location.) As for erasing regrettable swipes, the desire to do so is easily understood when you realize that if you swipe someone's profile, the service automatically alerts that person, which makes it difficult to surreptitiously keep tabs on your boss or your sister or your ex -- not to mention wanting to occasionally check out potential matches without them suddenly stalking you afterward. So yeah, a few bucks a month might be worthwhile.
New Take on "Ladies Drink Free"?
Have you ever been to a bar or club that lets women in without a cover charge or offers them free drinks? If so, it's because the club knows that if there are women inside, the men will follow. Maybe that's what Tinder has in mind. Except it isn't. Tinder's play isn't to invite the young people in, hoping that the older people (and their wallets) will follow. It's to keep the older people out. They're saying, "You're not wanted. We can't keep you out completely, but we can charge you more to be here."
The real question that must be asked -- and I am not sure there is a clear-cut answer -- is whether Tinder is doing anything wrong by persevering and protecting its demographic. On the one hand, it's easy to say that Tinder is ageist and we should all boycott in protest. On the other hand, Grindr is an app designed for gay and bisexual men hoping to meet other men. Similarly, JDate is designed for Jewish people hoping to meet other Jewish people. BlackPeopleMeet is the same, but for African Americans. Nobody is caterwauling about these apps' focus on sexual orientation, religion and/or race. So why are we so upset about the blatant ageism of Tinder?
Maybe what people are upset about is the inevitability of getting older. I'm in my early 50s, and although I have no interest in returning to the mental and emotional anguish of my early 20s, I wouldn't mind looking like I did back then. And I'm fairly certain that a lot more people would want to date me if I did. Thankfully I'm married, so I don't have to worry about that sort of thing, but if I were dating, I would absolutely want to look and seem younger. And I know that I'm not alone in this.
To be honest, if I found myself in the dating pool again, I would only be interested in people 35 or so and over. It's not that I don't find people in their 20s attractive -- it's that for me, there is more to a relationship, and I know I'm more likely to find that extra element with someone who possesses more life experience. If I found myself for some inexplicable reason on Tinder, I would likely be an unhappy customer -- not because of its pricing, but because I wouldn't be finding many potential matches. If I were 21, however, I would probably think that Tinder was great, and I wouldn't care that some folks find their policies ageist.
Robert Weiss LCSW, CSAT-S is Senior Vice President of Clinical Development with Elements Behavioral Health. A licensed UCLA MSW graduate and trainee of Dr. Patrick Carnes, he founded The Sexual Recovery Institute in Los Angeles in 1995. He is author of numerous books, most recently Always Turned On: Sex Addiction in the Digital Age, coauthored with Dr. Jennifer Schneider. For more information you can visit his website, www.robertweissmsw.com. Weiss is also an expert blogger on addiction.com.