Whether you’re swiping on Tinder, Hinge, Bumble . . . most dating apps are the same. You check out potential matches’ photos and their bio. If you’re interested, you swipe right; if not, you swipe left. Some daters have a simpler strategy: Just swipe right on everyone.
The intuition is straightforward: By swiping right on everyone and then waiting for people to like you back, you save time and increase efficiency. Instead of evaluating everyone, you only have to look at the ones who have already “liked” you, so you don’t waste any time on people who haven’t. Even though this makes logical sense, swiping right on everyone has several costs to consider. Here are two of them.
Blindly swiping right makes us more prone to what psychologists have called the bias of reciprocal liking. Basically, this means that we are more inclined to like someone if we already know that they like us. Although seemingly nonproblematic, this bias can actually prevent us from finding a good match. You might end up dating someone that you otherwise wouldn’t have — and ultimately shouldn’t have — just because he or she liked you first.
Take, for example, a woman named Suzy. Suzy rapidly swipes through 10 people without looking at their pictures or bios. A few hours later, she sees that she’s matched with Jason. Only after matching with Jason does Suzy carefully consider Jason’s profile. If Suzy had evaluated his profile before she swiped right, she would have rejected him. (Maybe he is a smoker, lives with his parents, or just isn’t that attractive.) Now, however, since Suzy knows that Jason likes her, that makes Suzy want to date him. She starts chatting with him and even goes out with him.
Suzy spends time, money and effort dating someone who she eventually realizes is not up to her standards. Suzy may even spend time crying over the demise of the relationship. By blindly swiping right and being faced with a reciprocal liking bias, Suzy has acted inefficiently; she could have been trying to date other, more compatible people. Or even spent more time appropriately swiping left to the Jasons of the world and getting closer to someone she really wanted to swipe right on.
Biased decision-making aside, strategic decisions designed to increase efficiency might not seem appropriate when applied to dating. Daters who swipe right on everyone are attempting to save themselves time, but they end up exploiting the time and effort of other daters.
Now let’s think about Justin. Justin looks at each profile carefully and decides if he is or isn’t interested in someone. After a day of swiping left on almost everyone he sees, he swipes right on Suzy and matches with her. Justin then sends a message and receives no response. Then he sends another message … again, no response. What Justin didn’t know was that Suzy swipes right on everyone, so when she matched with Justin, she never intended to chat with or date him specifically.
In a way, Suzy has saved herself time by wasting Justin’s. She has taken advantage of him to increase her efficiency. Although pursuing efficiency makes sense in many areas of life, it can be counterproductive in more human endeavors, like romance.
By always swiping right, we treat our fellow daters as means to an end rather than ends in themselves. If I were to say: I have a best friend only so that I have someone to watch movies with, most people would find that self-interested and callous.
The negative reaction to exploitation should be even stronger in the romantic context. Imagine what might happen if you told your boyfriend or girlfriend that you were only with them to fulfill yourself sexually. Exploiting a potential partner for your personal self-interest seems extremely cold-hearted, especially if he might want to spend the rest of his life with you.
Yet in the world of dating apps, many people forget this intuition. We stop treating people as actual people and instead focus on using them as widgets for our own efficiency goals.
So before you blindly swipe right on your next go around, think about whether it’s really more efficient and whether you might be taking advantage of someone else’s time and energy, just to save a few of your own seconds. There’s no need to rush; if you find The One, fortunately (or unfortunately), you have the rest of your life to spend with them.