This year, Tinder is celebrating its 10th anniversary and it’s an opportunity to see how much the dating app has changed the way we meet. If the stories of Tinder’s children are legions, it is a little more complicated for those who leave the heterosexual model: the low number of places for lesbian socializing (in Paris these bars can be counted on the fingers of one hand) and two years of pandemic have prompted many women to check out dating apps, including the best known, Tinder. Especially since there are (very) few specialized applications for queer women. The only ones who stand out, like Zoe or Her, are American and have few members in France.
It’s an unpleasant experience for anyone who signs up on Tinder: women looking for women on the dating app often find themselves swiping profiles of couples, straight women … but also straight men. . A bug in the matrix for many of them, but one that sometimes repeats itself every four or five profiles. In fact, in a survey conducted by the Liberation newspaper in July 2021, we learn that “up to one in four profiles offered to a lesbian profile would be that of a heterosexual man”. Which adjusts the trace of a simple grain of sand in the car.
Fake profiles, couples looking for unicorns and straight profiles
Among the inconveniences that can encounter those who crawl in search of the love of their life (or a night), the false profiles trying to obtain nude photos, people who have made a mistake in informing their gender or their orientation sexual, or even more irritating, the profiles of couples looking for a “unicorn”, that is, a woman for a threesome. “Tinder in lesbian mode is a horror, there are 3 tons of straight couples looking for a girl,” testifies a user on Twitter. Beyond couples, many app users have reported coming across profiles of straight men – nonsense for those who feel their preferences are not being honored by the app.
When asked about this, Tinder France told us that the algorithm of its application worked according to a tree system: by registering on the application, each user will choose their gender identity, sexual orientation and the “type” of people they want. encounter . That is to say “men”, “women” or “all”. In fact, straight men who have chosen to see “everyone” will have access to women’s profiles, regardless of their sexual orientation. “It will compare users with other gender identities and other sexual orientations, because we want to leave the choice of meeting people I otherwise would not be able to meet, regardless of sexual orientation. Because we also consider bisexual people or people who put question their sexual orientation, “explains Tinder. Regarding the omnipresence of heterosexual male profiles in the choice of profiles offered to lesbian, bisexual or pansexual women, Tinder says it is “aware” of this problem, and is working to “try to change the tree structure.” “It’s not perfect but it can be improved” assures the application.
Algorithms favor a certain age and gender … But not sexual orientation
For sociologist and researcher specializing in dating application algorithms Jessica Pidoux, it should not be forgotten that the main purpose of dating applications like Tinder is that users “keep browsing profiles to spend as much time on the application as possible”, even at cost of proposing profiles that go beyond the conditions set by users. For her, this arborescence system is far from neutral and creates a gender asymmetry between the preferences established by men and women. “My preference depends on the criteria of the other: we end up with one-way preferences and conditions, such as age or sex, to be made visible or not,” she develops. Clearly, the algorithm needs a classification to work, and it gives more weight to some criteria (age or gender) than to others, such as sexual orientation. “In fact, the choices are more open, and there are more profiles to see,” concludes Jessica Pidoux.
Believing that algorithms are neutral, that they are cold machines that have no impact on our real life is a decoy, according to Jessica Pidoux. “Tinder sees itself as a facilitator, an intermediary, while not, the application has a responsibility,” she explains. By prioritizing certain criteria, Tinder and other dating applications encourage its users to stay online and possibly acquire certain paid options. But above all, Jessica Pidoux fears that the exposure of queer people to heterosexual profiles has the effect of endangering some people who are not yet. out with those around them. “All these parameters do not allow to protect these communities,” she concludes. For women looking for women, you’ll still need to scroll through a few straight profiles to hopefully find love.