Mozilla Explains: How Dating Apps Might Be Keeping You Single

Xavier Harding

By Xavier Harding | April 27, 2021 | Advocacy

There’s Something About AI

In normal times, online dating was already on the rise — 30% of adults in the US have used a dating app or website while 12% have found a long-term relationship through an app. In pandemic times the numbers only get bigger — OKCupid saw a 700% increase in dates while Tinder reached a record 3 billion swipes. You’re probably wondering, with all those people swiping to find love, how does the app know who to show you next? If Tinder shows you someone who you deem a solid match, just know it isn’t fully serendipity.

Here’s Digital Dating Consultant and Mozilla Foundation’s own Ann Marie Carrothers to with more on the topic.

Along Came AI

Collaborative filtering: this is the same sort of machine learning that Netflix uses to suggest another movie and Amazon uses to prompt you with a product you should buy. This sort of filtering is also used in apps like Tinder. The decisions of current Tinder users can affect the options seen by future Tinder users. Put another way, if Tinder sees that you and another user swipe similarly on one option, Tinder assumes that you both may swipe similarly on future options too. This can affect what dating profiles you’re suggested. Nothing depicts this quite like the online game Monster Match (a previous Mozilla Foundation Creative Media Award winner!) which showcases how your options on apps that use collaborative filtering can become narrow.

She’s Gotta Have AI

For apps like Tinder and Bumble, submitting to collaborative filtering is a necessary component of the experience. In practice, this means Tinder and Bumble giving its users the “people who liked this profile also liked this profile” treatment. But it also means there are many, potentially-worthwhile profiles that you aren’t seeing. And then there’s the ultimate question: is our profile one of the ones being lifted up or filtered out? We’re afraid to know the answer.

So What Next?

With these AI-enabled features in dating apps, it can be confusing to figure out which service is for you. To help guide your decision, check out our Privacy Not Included guide to dating apps, which rates services based on their privacy, security and how (if at all) they use AI. As if finding love wasn’t tough enough already.