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Today, the Tinder algorithm is really good at introducing people - online dating is now the most common way couples meet. But whether or not dating apps' algorithms are designed to make successful matches, or keep users on the app longer, is unclear.

Meet Josie Luu, a seasoned veteran of dating apps. Josie started using online dating services in 2007, long before it was common. With the growing popularity of dating apps and advancements in their algorithms, surprisingly, one thing hasn't changed: Josie is still looking for the one. 

How Does the Tinder Algorithm Work? 

Josie is looking for an Asian-American partner, but whenever she swiped left on Asian-American guys in the Tinder dating app, she wouldn't see another one for days. Realizing that the Tinder algorithm sometimes doesn't show you the sort of people you're interested in made Josie wonder just how her actions affected the profiles it was serving up.

According to a blog released by Tinder last March, their app doesn't keep track of race. To start, it simply evaluates age, gender, and distance. So, was Josie's lineup of potential matches just a coincidence?

Probably not. Unlike other dating apps, Tinder doesn't curate stacks based on personality assessments or potential compatibility, but their blog states that the algorithm does evaluate a user's behavior, likes, and dislikes, when creating a stack of potential matches.

It also looks at other users' data and activity to populate stacks with active users -- rather than people who have ghosted the app entirely.

While Tinder is unwilling to reveal the entirety of their algorithm's magic, they do admit that they did away with the Elo rating system. This was a system which considered how others reacted to you, effectively creating separate categories of "hotness" based on how other users rated you. As a result, users of similar desirability would only see each other.

Even though this is supposedly not how the Tinder algorithm works any more, it seems clear that when someone initially signs up for the app (before they've even swiped right or left on anyone), the app presents the user with what they deem the most attractive profiles, first.

The Tinder algorithm evaluates age, location, and app behavior, but many users have no luck finding a mate.

The truth is, the Tinder algorithm can't "understand" much more than your physical appearance and geographical location. And once you've become a seasoned user of the app, you'll start to see certain profiles recycling through your stack - especially if you live in a less populated area with a smaller dating pool. 

The Algorithm's Success Rate

With algorithms that claim to understand our preferences, people who have been using the apps for years are forced to ask the question: does online dating work? And it doesn't help that online dating statistics are murky.

There isn't currently a feedback loop that reveals how many matches turn into dates, long-term relationships, and marriages, or how many matches fizzle out and yield negative results.

Tinder statistics tell us that the app has around 50 million users and 10 million who use the app every day. The proprietary Tinder algorithm has facilitated about 20 billion matched users since 2012.

Tinder doesn't keep track of how many matches turned into dates, long-term relationships, or marriages.

A match on Tinder occurs when two users both swipe right on each other, expressing mutual interest. Whether that interest leads to a conversation, meeting in real life, and - dare we say - happily ever after, there's no way to know.

The rest of Tinder's process is still a mystery, but your behavior and results don't have to be. Thanks to new legislation, we now have the right to access our data. 

The Little-Known Tinder Hack from a Data Expert

The California Consumer Privacy Act, and the European Union's GDPR, mean that dating applications now have to make user data accessible. The top three in the U.S., (Tinder, Match, and Bumble), now allow users to conveniently request and download copies of their stored data. How can this information be used to our advantage?

Jack Ballinger, a data scientist based in the UK, convinced eight of his friends to give him their Tinder data. With the information, he put together an entire analysis to look for patterns based on use, behavior, and success - defined by getting a phone number or meeting in person.

Although the study was limited based on the small data set, Ballinger uncovered some interesting trends which led him to these five Tinder tips for his friends.

5 Tinder Tips From Jack Ballinger
  1. Use Tinder on Sundays at 9 p.m. to maximize your audience. 

  2. Send thoughtful messages and use complete words (no textese).

  3. Ask for a date or phone number between the 20th and 30th message.

  4. Be positive, but not overly positive.

  5. First messages matter -- say something other than "hi," aim for eight words in length, include an emoji, and don't be explicit (with cuss words or overly suggestive language).

Although these online dating tips might not apply to everyone who uses the app, they're a great example of how we can use our data to refine our strategies. Understanding your data can help you use the app more effectively and improve your own personal success rate.  

Should We Solely Rely on the Tinder Algorithm?

Data or no data, human attraction isn't something we can totally predict. It's not an exact science, as there are countless factors that affect our desires. So, it's understandable that the Tinder algorithm doesn't completely understand our hearts either.

Understanding your data can help you use dating apps more effectively and improve your personal success rate.

You can perfect your message length and smooth out your cyber moves, but in the end, meeting "the one" might just be a numbers game. After all, the more definitely-not-the-ones you meet, the greater chance you have of eventually finding someone you're compatible with.

Yes, dating has gone digital, but we're still human. Even though most people meet online, they still tend to fall in love in person, the old-fashioned way. Perhaps the best advice is not to be afraid to put yourself out there, go on lots of dates, and enjoy yourself while you're at it.

For more interesting news about the people and ideas that are changing our world, subscribe to Freethink.

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