Swipe Right for Addiction? Allegations Launched Against Tinder, Hinge and Other Dating Apps

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Match Group Proposed Class Action Lawsuit Alleges Dating App Designed to Be Addictive

Whether looking for love, a romantic date, or just a casual fling, millions of people log on to dating apps each day and start swiping. But a group of love-seekers is alleging rather than leading to hook ups, Tinder, Match, and The League are just hooking them in. 

Match Group, which owns the dating apps, has been hit with a class action lawsuit alleging it uses a “predatory business model” that gamifies the dating experience. In other words, looking for love on Tinder has more of the qualities of a game of Monopoly GO! The proposed class action lawsuit claims the apps do this by using “recognized dopamine-manipulating product features” to incite addiction.

Designed to be deleted?

Six plaintiffs from California, Georgia, Florida, and New York filed the proposed class action lawsuit against Match Group on none other than Valentine’s Day in the U.S. federal court in California. They alleged the company’s “psychologically manipulative features” which ensured users remained paying subscribers went against Match's slogan that its apps are "designed to be deleted,” The Washington Post reports. The goal? More profit for Match Group, they argue

Features gamify the platforms “to transform users into gamblers locked in a search for psychological rewards that Match makes elusive on purpose” and create “compulsive” use, the lawsuit alleges. Some of those features include the ability to "like" an unlimited number of profiles, and the anticipation of not being able to see who will come next in the swiping rotation. 

Ryan Clarkson, attorney for the plaintiffs, told Reuters Match's apps deliver "a game, leading to addiction, and the loneliness, anxiety and depression that come with it.”

A dopamine hit, even for those not looking for love

One in 10 Americans in committed romantic relationships met their partners on dating apps or websites, a 2022 Pew Research Center survey found. And theory has it, those people would then delete the apps. But, a 2023 study found that nearly two-thirds of the 1,400 Tinder users surveyed were already in relationships, and some were married while they were using the app. Half weren’t even looking to go on dates! 

Tinder disputed the study in an email to NBC, saying based on its own data, “the figures highlighted in this study are highly misleading and do not accurately represent our members.”

Either way, there are a swathe of studies that show dating apps encourage compulsive use — there is even something called the Problematic Tinder Use Scale in research.

Clinical Psychologist Anastasia Hronis says the addictive quality of the apps can be attributed to the dopamine they activate in our brains, a chemical released when we feel or anticipate pleasure or reward. In the apps, matching with someone, or just the excitement of possibly matching with someone, can trigger that release and work at getting us hooked, she claims.

A business designed to make money

For its part, Match Group calls the proposed class action lawsuit ridiculous and says it has “zero merit.” "Our business model is not based on advertising or engagement metrics. We actively strive to get people on dates every day and off our apps. Anyone who states anything else doesn't understand the purpose and mission of our entire industry,” the company said in a statement. 

While psychologist and relationship coach Jo Hemmings doesn’t dispute the apps might hook you in, she also told The Washington Post the lawsuit was “a bit absurd, if I’m honest,” adding that “responsibility lies in the hands of the user.”

“Like any app, it’s a business; it’s there to make money,” she said. “Shopping apps are designed to keep you shopping and this is shopping for people.”

Dating apps not the only ones accused of addicting

Social media companies have also been subject to a slew of litigation accusing parent companies of designing features to addict millions of children to their platforms, keeping them hooked in and generating revenue. A letter from 50 psychologists to the American Psychological Association called for the association to do more to protect children from becoming hooked on social media.

There are sixaddiction components” that show signs you or a loved one might be leaning towards unhealthy  use of dating apps or other social media:

  1. The apps use dominates your thoughts
  2. It change your mood
  3. Your use of the app increases over time
  4. You get distress when app use is interrupted for a period of time
  5. Use of app negatively affects your reality
  6. You return to a previous pattern of app use after some interruption

If you find yourself falling into those patterns, a good tactic to tackle any addiction is trying to limit exposure, in other words giving up the apps. There’s a whole world out there of in-person events, some specifically designed for dating, so maybe it’s time to get out there.

If you do continue to use the apps do so mindfully and spend some time looking at each person and getting to know something about them rather than instantly reacting with a swipe. 

You can also look into this proposed class action lawsuit, where Match is accused of negligence, and violating several state consumer protection laws. The app users are seeking damages and new warnings about the risks of addiction, and removal of the "designed to be deleted" language, Reuters reports.

The proposed Tinder Dating App class action lawsuit is Oksayan et al v MatchGroup Inc, Case No. 24-00888 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

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