31 May 2016

Love the one you're near

From Afternoons, 1:23 pm on 31 May 2016

These days meeting a romantic partner can be a question of proximity. How is technology changing the way we find love?

There are more than 50 million Tinder users.

Photo: RNZ

A recent AUT study called ‘Love The One You're Near’ is the brainchild of senior psychology lecturer Dr Pani Farvid.

An edited snapshot of the conversation:

For those in our audience who are not out there in the dating pool - what is Tinder and how does it work?

Pani Farvid: Tinder is social networking app that is marked as a dating app, that is used to connect individuals who are already on Facebook. You can set up a profile very speedily. Once you set it up you have a picture of yourself, the opportunity to provide a few words about who you are, and you can set your criteria for the kind of individuals you’re looking to meet, whether you’re looking for friends, relationships or casual sex. You set your criteria for the gender you are and the gender you’re looking for, the age range that you’re after and the proximity you want the person to be in – anything from 1km to 50, 60km. The point of it is to meet people who are nearby.

Isn’t Tinder just a bit of a shortcut?

Pani Farvid: Typically the way in which we create intimate connections with others requires some kind of proximity. When the internet came along, suddenly you were able to make connections with others who weren’t so close – someone in a different country, in a different city… Now with dating apps which are location-aware, using GPS technology, it’s a swing back to emphasis on location.

Tinder gets dismissed as a hook-up app and people say it makes people more shallow. I had a bit of a go at [online dating] when I was in London and you start focusing more on the looks of the people. ‘No, no, no, no…’       

Pani Farvid: Some of the piloting that we’ve done with young people shows there is a different way that online dating is perceived in contrast to mobile dating. There’s a lot of effort which goes into setting up an online dating profile, whereas with Tinder all you need is a Facebook profile. Then you download the app and it populates your profile with pictures from facebook and your details from Facebook.

You spoke to a lot of young women about their experience of internet dating. Are they largely positive? Has it been a good experience for young women?

Pani Farvid: When it came to Tinder, the young people that we talked to saw it as a very useful multi-purpose tool to do lots of different htings – meet new friends, get over an ex, explore their sexuality, look for casual sex when they were feeling that way inclined. But at the same time there were some drawbacks and difficulties. For example, safety is always the number one issue at the back of women’s minds because of the social context that we live in where women are often victimised in the dating world.

[Our research showed that] men are not worried about the safety aspect at all. They’re aware that women may be thinking about the safety issue, so they will try and make the woman feel comfortable and make sure she realises they’re not a mass murderer or rapist. The biggest issue for women is safety, the biggest issue for men is whether the person is being honest abot how they look or what they’re like.

Is it increasing the amount of casual sex people are having?

Pani Farvid: We haven’t got enough data to answer that definitively, but I think it is certainly helping us make connections more quickly.

Is it making it easier or harder to meet someone you fall in love with?

Pani Farvid: Tinder is portrayed as a hook-up app but it does work on multiple layers. People do use it quite openly. The purpose is to always meet in person.