What Tinder Is Doing To Your Self-Image

Stephen Hussey

I’ve wondered for a while about how Tinder is making us feel.

For the first time this week, I found some actual research that confirms that both male and female Tinder users report a lower self-image after using the popular dating app.

Scientists asked 1,044 women and 273 men – mostly university students – to complete questionnaires detailing their use of Tinder, and reported the following:

“We found that being actively involved with Tinder, regardless of the user’s gender, was associated with body dissatisfaction, body shame, body monitoring, internalisation of societal expectations of beauty, comparing oneself physically to others, and reliance on media for information on appearance and attractiveness.”


There’s some irony to this, considering that we are constantly told Tinder is little more a validation-seeking app. Turns out, we’re getting the opposite.

Tinder = 100 tiny rejections

Instead of a confidence boost, those who sit swiping absent-mindedly with their friends, with coffee at lunch, or secretly at the office, are feeling more and more disposable, probably because, for every 1 or 2 matches, it’s hard to shake the feeling that you’re also receiving 100 tiny rejections. 

At least, that was how I felt when I used Tinder.

Aside from the feeling I was burning a pile of hours swiping away when I could have been out with friends or reading a book, or doing anything productive, I couldn’t help but feel that I was being more judged every time I would open up to look at my matches.

This seems to agree with the research, since men were more likely than women to feel their self-esteem lowered after using the app. My guess is that this is because men tend to get far fewer matches than women (at least I’m told) and are probably more likely to treat their results as a definitive scorecard on their looks.

Why Does Tinder Make Us Feel Worse?

By the way, I don’t have any beef with online dating.

Some guys I know love and swear by it. Plenty of women I know use it regularly with varying results. A fair few women at Matt’s seminar events have told me the worst horror stories about it. One university friend of mine told me she’s getting married to a guy she met on Tinder (so clearly it is capable of producing at least some matches made in heaven).

So I don’t think I can sit and moan about dating apps.

But it’s interesting to have something I’ve often felt confirmed by some hard data.

But then the question is: Why does Tinder make people feel worse about themselves?

  • Maybe it’s because in real life we’re not used to facing actual judgment from so many people, whereas on Tinder we have our fears confirmed if that hot guy or girl turns out to have no interest (or if they actually do match with us and turn out to be a huge disappointment).
  • Maybe it’s just exposure to so many attractive people, which causes us to get a kind of “dating FOMO” as we become aware of all the people out there who we’d like to attract.
  • Maybe it just that Tinder makes us focus on our looks too much.

I’d love to hear a woman’s perspective on this, so here are my questions:

1.  Does Tinder make you feel worse or better about yourself?

2. Have you deleted Tinder? Did your self-esteem improve afterwards?

Let me know in the comments below!

Until next week ;)


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98 Replies to “What Tinder Is Doing To Your Self-Image”

  • I used tinder for a while and what I found sad and disappointed was the sweeping thing. I felt bad judging guys just for a picture (what if they have an awesome heart and sense of humor??) and that feeling was worst thinking that they would do the same with me!!!!

  • I used Tinder for close to a year and I really enjoyed using it. My self esteem went up, and although there was a little disappointment in non-matches or failed dates, there was another match/date not that far away that would take my mind off it. And those little disappointments weren’t even noteworthy- they were part of the experience for me. I was bullied all the way through school and i was always the one to go after the guy, but on tinder, I had guys coming after me. It was a huge confidence boost and it was a nice change. I became a lot more comfortable in my own skin and I felt great about myself, which in turn had me out and about being active a lot more, which made me feel good… Endorphins or something? ;)
    I met a few crazy guys (and a stalker) that weren’t worth my time, but I also met some really interesting and fun guys who I had a great time with.
    The only reason I stopped using tinder is because I met a guy I fell in love with. That was 2 years ago and we just got engaged.

  • Hiya! (from The Other Place)
    I recently started reading your articles, your material is beyond great!

    I was on Tinderland for two months in total last year.
    1. I stuck to University people for safety reasons. Even so my overall experience on the dating part was negative. On one hand, some guys would undermine themselves telling me I am “so far ahead” of them. On the other hand, others would grunt on the fact I don’t do rowing or other sport and just jog to de-stress.
    2. I felt pressured because I knew whoever I speak to is probably speaking to a dozen others. I have never feared competition, but the attention jump from one person to the other within a single day is not my style.
    3. After these two months, I met the perfect man for me in real life (at a hackathon!), and it’s mutual and fantastic. He has supported me through the best and worst times and respects me in every way. Tinder went to the bin asap. Actually, I’ve been watching Matt’s videos for the last 1.5 years. The concept of “getting out there, meeting at least 3 new people” got me where I am now, in addition to the other tips, which resonated with me and made so much sense. His free advice was more than enough for me to find love I didn’t know existed. (so yes Matt, you helped 2 programmers find each other :D, and I owe you lots of green smoothies, not suggesting alcohol as we gotta keep healthy)

  • I’ve been using Tinder for 6 months now. I’ve got quite a lot of matches (just a little over 100), but hardly any of them actually chat, even if I say hello first. And the ones who do chat get into the sex talk straight away. If you refuse to indulge them and ask them to tone down the sex talk at least until you’ve gotten to know each other a little better, they unmatch you. If you don’t say yes to a meet-up straight away after you’ve been matched, they delete you.

  • i tend to delete Tinder after 3-4 days of using. after 5-6 months when I want to distract myself I tend to install and same thing happens. i tend to uninstall because I hardly see response from matches which I would like to continue conversing with. its mostly the creepy ones who initiate the conversation and its kind of annoying

  • Tinder has been a mixed blessing. I should preface this by saying that I live in a foreign country and have a job that has odd hours. When I first downloaded it, I was pumped at being able to take initiative in European country where men tend to be reserved compared to what I’m used to in the states.

    My self-esteem did waver at first. But then I met my ex-boyfriend after about a year of going on one underwhelming date after another. He and I were together for a year that taught me so much about relationships and myself.

    So I’m back on tinder and feel much more immune to rejection. Why? Because meeting so many duds before meeting my ex reminded me that (1) having your picture rejected is not the same as real rejection, (2) it’s fantastic practice for being assertive about standards and investing time in someone who treats you well and (3) it’s just a facilitator. You still have to see what happens when you meet in person — and there are only so many hours and so many days in a week. Even if you matched with 100 fantastic guys, how many are you really going to meet in a month? And, of those, how many are you really going to like? Just got to be patient and remind yourself that none of these people can reject you bc they don’t even know you.

  • Dear Stephen,

    (sorry for my english…am german….and l did not answered your questions perfectly, but tell a little story about my experience there)

    l did not use tinder, but sth similar though. And it turned out, that l actually fall for a guy. But as it was that web site, he told me, that he would never really consider dating a woman who uses this site.
    We had an affaire…a short one…and each time l saw, that he was online but would not contact me, it hurt. And l also couldnt distract myself with other guys….l actually really fall for him.
    Than l talked to one of the guys, who constantly contacted me.
    And we had a straight talk. lt was so much fun.
    He said, that men there just want to fuck. They dont care about the looks, they just need to fuck. He made laugh a lot. And he asked me not to judge him. I said: we are here for the straight talk now!
    We looked at the profils of women and l could reald in between the lines, that most of the women where looking for love and affection. Than we looked at my profil and he explained, how he would read it. It really was a cut in the heart.
    So l could also see how easy l could be played. How obvious it was, that l had bodyshame. Eventhough l seem to look kind of good, because l get enough attention from men. Well l am curvy, though… and l could read in my text, that l appoligized for it.
    Than l met a guy, who asked me in the first minute, if he would be my type. l told him, that he wasn´t, but l reallyy like his directness. And if l would be his type. He sad: no. I offered, that we would tell us all our funny stories, that we had on that forum and that we could be super honest and it would be fun.
    He was lame, though…
    In the end he texted me, that he wants to feel his penis inside me…. Irgh. l asked him why? As l was not his type. So he sad, that he was unfucked and needs to get rid of all the tension.
    Oh my god….
    So there are guys who are just out there for easy sex. They are not interested in connection. They are some strange women, too. Who are kind of nymphomaniacs. But what l heard from, they all must be in strange psychological conditions.

    Ans l realised, that l enjoyed the attention from a lot of men. l could easily get in contact and they were nice.
    (The “straight-talker” sad sth hilariously funny: on that site, ugly women become arrogant!)

    Also l would think, that there are men, who really use, that usually you never ask them: hey. what is going on between us. lt makes it easy for them to have an affaire without anykind of commitment. And l guess most of the women want commitment. Whether they use tinder or other sites/apps. Women seem to have a tendency, that when they have sex, and the sex is good or can develope, they want a closer relationship. A friend of mine (male) uses tinder regurlarly. He told me, that he has 3 women now. He also uses viagra, because he has to perform and be good. He does not want to see one of them for a longer time, because he does not want to fall in love…
    My selfesteem grew in matters of conversation i generall and awarness about what l want and need.
    I still use the site everyonce in a while.

    In the end l found out a lot about myself (6 months of using it). Some experiences have to be paid with tears. And you can train all the things your brother is preaching all the time. Like have a fun conversation, ask interesting questions and so on.
    But when you use these kind of sites/apps as a woman, you better know, what you want! And you better not forget it.

    There are men, who are also looking for commitment on these kind of sites, but as it is a strange place and you see when people are online and “searching” for sth better, it is not a good basis for trust. At least if you do not talk straight forward…(and who does in the begining?)

  • I have tried a few dating apps and initially it was a great boost having all these men say how pretty I was but a few failed meetings later the negatives started to outweigh the positives. Thoughts of what’s wrong with me that I can’t find someone, the frustration of not feeling the same in person as you did online and then the rejection or guilt when you or the other party end it after a few dates or worse just disappear without any explanation just when you thought you’d found ‘the one’. As you said in your article I am not against Internet dating but unfortunately in my experience it has caused me more harm than good.

  • Hi!
    I understand the point of your article but i wanted to share my point of you which is different.
    I am a curvy woman(people tend to prefer that word instead of fat lol) and never got the attraction i always wanted from men. I did got a few but not as much as my friends.
    Then i started using tinder…and turns out… there are way more guys that are into curvy girls than i thought! So for me this was a real boost of self esteem and since i started using it i got more confortable with my body (even completely) and i learned how to love myself the way i am. Of course you get rejected but i prefer to look at the bright side of this app.
    I met amazing guys on there… and i still believe that it can create some magic. Girls just have to make sure they arent getting involve with the bunch of assh*les that are there too unfortunately.

    All the best for the future ;)

    1. Wow Nokomis This Is Such A Cool Response!! I Know What You Mean, I Have A Much Softer And Curvier Body Than What Mainstream Media Pitches As Skinny/Buff = Perfect And Hot Too. It Wasn’t Until I Was out Of High school That I Learned A Lot Of Guys Find A Natural Womanly Shape Very Luscious And Sexy. I’m Happy Tinder Helped you Embrace And Happily Celebrate Your Natural Shape, I Think True Happiness And Self-Acceptance Produces An Infectiously Magical Glow And You Definitely Have It!!

  • Hi Stephen!

    There are many facets to Tinder, from reasons of use, to affects it has, and I could discuss them all day. I find it fascinating.

    Tinder makes it incredibly easy to “meet” people and date and I think that’s the problem, laziness. I know I am guilty of downloading it in my pyjamas, food down my front, Bargain Hunt on the TV, just to see what’s out there. Possibly even whilst I’m still dating a couple of people… I’m already not putting the effort into these interactions that I would do when talking to someone in person after spending a couple of hours getting ready for a night out.

    I think the answer is approach. It’s a bit of fun that may end up in something amazing, but most likely it will end up in an amazing story. Don’t take it seriously. Meeting someone in person is like spending a few hours cooking yourself a slap up meal, Tinder is a Pot Noodle you eat standing up in the kitchen. Treat it that way.

  • I’ve been on and off tinder for more than two years (currently off it) and this is how I see it:

    It’s based on pictures, obviously. I’d read the bio of a person if they decide to text me, because I don’t really keep my attention on somebody for more than 3 seconds (that’s how long it takes me to swipe either left or right). Sounds pretty bad, but that’s how it is and it’s not just me.
    You can’t go on tinder with the idea to impress with your great personality.
    And that’s the downfall. Online dating is a trap most of the time.
    We all had this guy or girl we were texting tor ages, getting into them and their personality, their images, the way they think… But this is like a tunnel- you see only them towards you. No social behavior, no reactions, no habits. And because we are humans, we start to imagine all those things.
    With a head in the clouds, of course, we imagine all the best things….
    And then the date comes and there is this person that doesn’t smile exactly the way we thought and doesn’t really react to the waitress the way you’d like to. Instead of falling for all those small things in a person, we compare the perfect image in our heads to the reality. And this is how the chemistry dies.
    You meet a brand new person for the first time. But it takes a lot of effort to forget the person you expected and liked and adored, and start all over with a not that perfect version of them. Most of the people are not bothered because they think that it’s catfishing.

    in my opinion, there are much better ways to find a partner. Id be much more impressed by a man or a woman in an art course, with passion in their eyes, than a bunch of pictures.
    Don’t take this freaky app too serious.

  • I agree with Inna and like her have been on and off it for the past two years with mixed success – mostly negative outcomes actually if I’m to be honest.. Before Matt’s retreat I was only meeting guys on dating sites including Tinder.

    Having put myself out there to start meeting guys more naturally through socialising with new groups of friends, common interests and at the gym – decision I made following lots of realisation at Matt’s retreat in May- I have noticed however a massive change in the quality of guy I am mixing with as a result of coming off the app. As Inna mentions below, it’s so easy to conjure up an image of the guy you meet online only to be sorely disappointed after meeting them in person. Although occasionally the person you meet can be better that what their profile suggests, it’s a risk you need to be willing to take. The stakes are just as likely to go one way or another in terms of outcome on whether you’ll meet your life partner I feel.
    I recently went back on, only to get hurt quite badly again but I think this was more to do with my personal approach to dealing with rejection if I’m to be really honest. I know at least 3 friends who are in current relationships with guys they met on the app and 1 married couple.. So in summary id say it’s just another possible means of potentially meeting someone IF you use it properly (assuming readers here are looking for meaningful relationships longer term) which means only swiping right to those who are clear about what they want and have full written profiles. It should be one other method to finding someone.. Not the only one.. And your head has to be in the right space.. Or else the risk of lowered self- esteem is too greater one to take… As someone who is taking time out currently- that to me is the most important factor..

  • Hi Stephen! The first thing that comes to my mind is to reverse the reasoning: aren’t people who use Tinder already less confident than people who don’t use Tinder? With that I mean: I don’t understand well enough from your writing whether the research compared levels of self confidence BEFORE and AFTER use of Tinder, or whether it examined the self confidence of Tinder users. I’m assuming it’s the first, but it’s an important distinction. From my perspective, being a confident 27-year-old, I don’t need the validation of Tinder to feel good about myself. In other words: I wouldn’t let a dating app influence my self-esteem, because my self-esteem comes from within (this sounds a bit woolly, I admit). Also, I think the time spent on Tinder (weeks, months or maybe years?) might be indicator. I’ve spent a few weeks online there, and then deleted the app because 1) I prefer to make new connections in real life and 2) I have other things in my life to focus on right now (career). I consider going online again at some point, might I feel the urge I’m not meeting enough fun guys in real-life, but that’s not the case at this point in time :) (partly thanks to the wisdom of the Get the Guy book, so thanks guys ;) ).

    To also answer you questions:
    1. Neither – I’m not really bothered by people’s judgements about me unless they know me really well (read: my close friends).
    2. Yes, I did delete Tinder. However, I just used it for 2 or 3 weeks. That was neither a long enough time to influence my self-esteem, nor would I hope any app would influence my self-esteem (positively or negatively). I believe my self-esteem comes from real-life connections with true friends.

    Keep up the good work here, I enjoy the blogs and videos, even though this is my first comment here ever ;)

  • 1. Does Tinder make you feel worse or better about yourself?
    When i was use Tinder, it makes me feel unrealistic, the more I using the more I feel empty inside, although you get plenty matches but its just not what i want i never get serious or willing to having a deep conversation, i feel worst when i use Tinder. Feels like i have to using Tinder to get to talk but then it’s not the way i want to talk,its just not helpful.
    2. Have you deleted Tinder? Did your self-esteem improve afterwards?
    I use it for a quiet long time, for like a year then i deleted it,after i deleted it i never feel like that free before, suddenly i can do a lot things instead based my life on searching matches or talk to those people i’m not even insterest, i learn how to be alone instead being lonely, and my self esteem did improve, its hard to get rid of Tinder at the first month you try to focus on other things happens in real life instead focus things happens in internet life, its makes me such a different person, and i’m proud of myself did a good choice.

  • Actually I never felt less attractive. However it did bother me that almost no one seemed to read the text below the pictures – the only way to show / tell something about yourself beside the looks.
    I deleted Tinder because at the end of the day I felt like only my looks count. And everything else is so not of interest. Or scaring people away. I know, matt told lots of times that guys aren’t afraid of smart / successful women but in my experience they are. Ok. Could be that I only picked the wrong guys (but I’m not only talking about Tinder here). When I meet guys it often goes like this : smalltalk, followed by a nice conversation. Then they learn eventually about my work / education. The look on their faces : surprised to frightened (I’m a chemist. With a phd. Maybe they think I’ll poison them if they annoy me lol). Then again some conversation in which they tell me how impressive my cv is followed by “u know, you’re a really nice and interesting person. And also hot. We could have friendship with benefits but I’m not looking for a rs” – when 24h before that they told me they’d in principle be open to one.

    So, no. I’m not feeling worse about my body or looks. I seriously questioned my personality. That’s even worse I guess.

    Hope somebody reads this sermon lol

  • I used it for months, with only two dates. which was nice fun guy never spoke to again and the other was just looking for one thing….I passed. I didn’t feel that it affected my self esteem at all. My issue is that there were so many self absorbed a**holes on it. I’m in South Florida.

    I never deleted it, just don’t use it right now. Contemplating going back to it…

  • You are exactly right! I don’t know “Tinder” but use a similar app which the FIRST thing they see is your age. Whereas in (real) life, I don’t have that problem –noboday goes around with a banner around their forehead with their age pasted upon it– on the on-line dating* site there is simply no way around it unless you want to lie about your age and…why should I?
    *By the way, I find the term “on-line dating” a in itself a contradiction in terms: if you’re “on-line”, you’re not “dating”, any more than “on-line dining” would fill your stomache with great food!

  • 1) Tinder made me overall feel worse for myself.
    For awhile, my self esteem was up because I was able to get good matches – by good, I meant guys who were good looking. I already knew that it’s now reputed to be a “hook up” app. Just had one date over it and it was a bad one. One sent me a dick pic. I didn’t get any good connection even with any of my matches. So it made me feel like…am I just good enough for hook ups?
    I know one friend who got a boyfriend over Tinder so I should not shut it down. It’s a way to meet new people but just have the lowest of expectations.

    2) Yes, I deleted it and my self esteem was the same as it was before Tinder.
    I was on Tinder for study and a dare. So I tried,,,then I knocked it. In real life without Tinder, I have met some guys who are interested in just hookups. The big difference is at least you get to see them, talk to them, know how they smell, etc.

    Self esteem is built with or without dating apps.

  • hi I’ve been using Tinder and while getting matches is easy and even getting the date is easy… I find once on the date it’s a different thing…. this is where I feel worse after or rejection lies, that’s where the “what did I do wrong” or “did I say something” self doubt and rejection step in. help….?

  • I use Tinder and Bumble (similar) and find it to be an emotional rollercoaster, but I can easily feel like that about life anyway. I make a point of only checking it once or twice a day so that I can focus on my ‘real’ life more and so a match doesn’t become a big deal for me. I also recognise the reasons I stop replying to people are not a negative representation of them (unless it’s because they’re rude, don’t ask questions or are needy), but it’s a reflection on us a a pair who may not have much in common. I know so many people in long term relationships through online dating that I give myself a little boost if it gets on top of me. Don’t take it so seriously. The great thing is, unlike ‘proper’ dating sites, with Tinder you don’t have endless boring facts about hair colour and shoe size to read, you just go with an instinct and see what happens. You also don’t have a list of those you like sitting there unmatched. You forget who you’ve swiped so don’t dwell on it until they appear in your matches page. My confidence comes from being discerning; ditching the ones who annoy me or seem inadequate, just as I would if speaking in real life.

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