Wandering Lust: Do We Really Need to Travel to Find Ourselves?

Tucked away deep within the Andes mountain range in Peru, fifty miles from the city of Cusco and almost 8,000 feet above sea level, lies the ancient Inca settlement of Machu Picchu. The site was well-known to historians and geographers, but was not heavily visited by Western tourists until the past decade, highlighted by a tourist count of over 1 million in 2011, the centennial anniversary of its discovery by Hiram Bingham.


The biggest growth in the tourism economy from 2002 to 2012 was from young travelers, and as of 2012, over 20% of the 1.088 trillion dollars spent on tourism was from this same demographic. This figure is more impressive when one considers that a great deal of these travelers earn far less than mature individuals would; many of them are in fact still students who are unemployed. During spring break and the post-graduation spring and summer months, social media is abuzz with countless pictures of the excursions of young travelers. The precise purpose of these trips vary, but the ultimate reason for travel is to escape modern civilization in the search of something new. Many travelers depart on lengthy vacations as a self-proclaimed voyage of self-discovery. In fact, a comprehensive study by the World Youth Student and Educational Travel Confederation (WYSE) surveyed 34,000 students and found that the average trip duration was 58 days, while the average cost was 3,000 Euros. Both of these figures were deemed “substantial increases” from the previous study’s results.


From an economic standpoint, it seems perplexing why there has actually been an increase in youth travel despite the fact that the average student debt in Canada is pegged at $26,300 according to BMO Group, and at $33,000 in the US according to an analysis of government data, which are both the highest these figures have ever been, even when adjusted for inflation. However, according to the WYSE, a growing number of travelers used their vacations to find work, study, or learn a new language. This desire for growth and purpose aligns with the results of a survey of Millennials by Deloitte, which determined that 60% of Millennials desire a sense of purpose with their work. Historically, travel has given Westerners a sense of purpose and perspective about the world by exposing them to different cultures and allowing them to rethink their current situation in the world, so due the mountain of debt and crisis of unemployment many youth face today, many have taken to foreign soils to seek a sense of purpose. But is it really there?


The pinnacle of infatuation with foreign culture and its integration into our own lives occurred during the 1960s, when remnants of the Beat movement were adopted by hippies as part of their culture. Eastern spirituality, medicine, and even musical influences were co-opted into Western society as an alternative to the repressive, square mainstream. Buddhist and Hindu ideas and terminology were heavily featured in the work of Beat writers such as Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac. This style of writing embraced travel as nourishment for the spirit and a necessary prescription to remove the repressive castes of Western society and embrace true self-discovery and spiritualism. Much of this countercultural touristic revolt was borne out of the critique of mass society of the 1950s. Many youth did not want to become trapped in a sea of conformity, but instead desired the freedom-granting flight of individualism.

Jack Kerouac

Jack Kerouac

The situation is no different today; in fact, it has increased in its potency due to a number of social innovations and changes. More youth than ever are attending university, which has encouraged more youth than ever to become free-thinking young adults who are exposed to a variety of opinions from their professors along the way.

Most universities create an atmosphere of exploration in all aspects of the self as students grow from youth into young adults. This increase in student uptake has no doubt led to an increase in the rejection of mainstream society as more youth seek purpose and fulfillment from employment and life in general. This pattern has also led to a rise in the number of new entrepreneurs due to a desire for individualism and widespread shunning of the corporate world by young adults.

The exaggerated fear of conformity and widespread embrace of individualism has led to “mainstream shaming” among many Millennials. For example, the term “basic” has recently been adopted as a derogatory slang term to describe those who are average, conformist, or stereotypical. This could include wearing popular items of clothing, having a certain taste in music, or it could even describe the general stereotypical behaviour of a group. For example, the stereotype of the “basic white girl” includes trips to Starbucks, wearing Ugg Boots, and an overly spiritual outlook on life that includes hobbies like yoga.


This cultural shaming of those who conform is a form of status posturing that is consistent in egalitarian societies. Additionally, those who are aware that their lifestyle reflects these violations of good taste shield themselves from criticism by acknowledging their faults in an ironic fashion. Essentially, many people who are deemed “basic” openly acknowledge the lifestyle and the social “sins” they are committing, but continue to indulge in them because of their ironic acceptance of their lifestyle.

To be individual is to be hip, to be conformist is to be square. Those who aspire for higher status posture themselves according to how cool their lifestyle is and how good their tastes are. By casting off the supposed suffocating shackles of mainstream society and escaping to foreign soils, young travelers aspire to gain a great sense of self-worth and fulfillment. However, the notion that one has to “escape” mainstream society and the conformist lifestyle in order to achieve fulfillment or enlightenment is a societal illusion created by countercultural viewpoint of mainstream society.


In recent years, cash has been replaced by social currency as the most important form of capital in the eyes of the cool youth. It doesn’t matter how much your salary is; only how happy you are, and this notion is supported by psychological research on happiness. I support this notion of chasing happiness over personal affluence, but unfortunately, many of the popular methods of acquiring social currency and happiness are, ironically, also quite expensive. Travel is one of the popular methods, as is eating organic or local foods, living in industrial loft-style apartments complete with designer furniture and accessories, or even living in a minimalist-style home. Although these methods may seem attractive when dressed in layers of happiness and a spiritual mantra, what is always hidden is the increased cost of these lifestyle choices.

Traveling, as evidenced by the report referenced above, is certainly not cheap, and will continue to become more expensive as the price of jet fuel continues to climb, as well as the increased costs of living experienced in foreign countries as they develop more. Organic foods, while they may appear holistically better on the surface, are in fact no better nutritionally for you than conventional versions of the same foods, but the name organic carries a premium price point. Local food is a better option only if you choose to support small businesses, because much of the produce at large supermarkets is purchased from local or domestic farms that just happen to operate a large scale.

A minimalist cottage

A minimalist cottage

Minimalist living spaces that are visually attractive are treated with a great deal of affection in the media, but if the prices and actual construction details were also included in these descriptions, people’s opinions may not be so favourable. Minimalist dwellings are much more expensive than a typical suburban home despite their smaller square footage, and this is due to the level of customization and complexity of the actual construction process.

Essentially, a labour-intensive design and build process combined with expensive (read: custom) materials makes for a pricey home, even if it is the size of a garage in your average suburban home. Unfortunately, these facts are often overlooked because an increasing amount of people are unaware of what goes into the construction of a house due to the diminishing amount of common knowledge of trades.

With that in mind, it becomes evident that the whole mantra of chasing happiness over material wealth and possessions has become quite hypocritical. It seems that happiness, while not directly related to a higher salary or a more expensive car, still seems to ultimately be a product of social status and wealth according to the bulk of articles aimed at Millennials. If happiness isn’t a product of monetary wealth, then why is there so much emphasis placed on relatively expensive pursuits in the discussion on happiness? It is because, in our current society, the value of individualism has skyrocketed, and the cost of almost all experiences or products associated with it has followed the same trajectory.


Let’s consider an everyday example: the purchase of your morning coffee. In Canada, the two largest coffee shop chains are Tim Horton’s and Starbucks. Tim Horton’s targets the every day customer and builds value on the efficiency of service and relatively low price they provide. People who regularly go to Tim Horton’s more often than not have simple orders, and the simplicity of the menu reflects this. Starbucks, on the other hand, caters towards the more individual-minded consumer. Their menu is much more diverse, exotic, and, most importantly, more expensive. A specialty beverage at Starbucks can reach almost $6 (CDN), while the most expensive specialty beverage at a Tim’s would barely surpass a peasantry amount of $4. The cost to make a specialty beverage is only a few cents more per drink than a standard one, but because of the sense of individualism gained through the purchase of a specialty drink, these retailers can get away with charging a premium price.

The same metric can be applied to the surge in youth travelers. At its core, traveling does present a unique set of challenges: going to unfamiliar territory, expanding your comfort zone with a new culture, physical demands, planning an itinerary, dealing with inevitable setbacks; the list goes on. It is this combination of challenges and opportunities that most youth travelers attribute to “finding themselves”. What is overlooked in this scenario is that these opportunities are just as prevalent in domestic locations as they are in foreign ones. One could experience virtually the same set of challenges on a canoe trip through Algonquin Park as they would backpacking in Southeast Asia, yet we hardly attribute a week-long excursion through the Eastern Ontario wilderness as a life-changing experience because Algonquin Park isn’t wrapped in same foreign mystique that a trek through a Cambodian rainforest is.


If the WYSE report is any indication, the youth tourism market will continue to increase as long as youth in the Western world continue to seek purpose and validation on foreign soils. With the increasing burden of student debt, a relatively poor job market, and an increasing level of status anxiety from social media, youth will continue to flee mainstream society. I argue that this need to escape is misplaced, as the happiness that awaits a traveler on foreign soils can also be found domestically. The fact is, when people are put in a new environment, they’re very good at finding happiness with whatever is available.

This is why when you hear the stories of people who volunteered abroad in a third world country, you will always hear how the experience changed their life, put their life in perspective, and made them realize that we just need get rid of our meaningless possessions and live simpler in order to be happy. This is not true at all. North American society is fundamentally different from the average third world country’s, so there is no reason to think that by altering our way of life to mirror theirs we will magically become happier. Helping people abroad will leave you with a good feeling because you helped somebody less fortunate than you (and even this notion has been thoroughly refuted), but that same feeling could have just as easily been realized at a local soup kitchen.

Vacations and travel certainly have their merit and value: they enrich our understanding of the world and are excellent educational experiences, but the notion that travel is the end to a means of self-discovery is an expensive fallacy. Travel obviously has it merits, but the degree to which we attribute personal transformations as a result of travel is often misplaced and is simply a product of our own maturation, which would have occurred whether we traveled or not.

I will conclude with this paragraph from the book The Rebel Sell that does an excellent job of putting everything in perspective:

Perhaps then it is time that we learned to make peace with the masses. There are more than six billion human beings on this planet, each of whom has hopes, dreams, plans and projects very much like our own, and each of whom wants food, housing, education, dental care, a family, a job and probably a car – maybe a bicycle. Isn’t a certain loss of individuality inevitable in a world of this type? How many of the features of so-called mass society are a simple product of population pressure – the fact that we need to share the planet with so many other people – and how many are the product of genuine inefficiencies or inequalities in the organization of our social institutions? Isn’t individualism becoming more and more a luxury? If we are going to figure out how to live in harmony in an increasingly populous world, the insistence on individuality at any cost is not a helpful point of departure. We need to start figuring out which compromises are inevitable and which can be avoided.”


Knowledge Dilution and the Authority Illusion: Now Anyone can be an Expert

When I was a child, my parents would force me to get outside the house almost every day. I questioned their motives, as messing around on my PlayStation or watching TV seemed like a much better option, but their insistence combined with their authority got me out the door each day. Authority is quite a powerful force to wield. With authority, one person can get millions to obey their commands, or two parents can get one child to forego an afternoon of laziness.


In addition to your parents, one of the figures who commands a great deal of authority is your family physician. As a child, the authority of a physician is unquestionable; partly because, as a young child, you may be frightened of a visit to the doctor’s office, but a great deal of authority comes from the knowledge and experience possessed by a physician. The notion that knowledge and experience commands authority can be applied to numerous other professions held in high authoritative esteem, such as professors, lawyers, or bankers. These individuals have authority because they are experts in their respective field of study, and have the educational training and experience necessary to command respect and authority.


Before the advent of the Internet, knowledge was a powerful commodity that was possessed by relatively few people. Only those that decided to pursue careers based around absorbing and producing knowledge had access to this rare commodity. Today, almost everyone has access to a wealth of information with the touch of a button. Unfortunately, this increase in the availability of knowledge has also lead to a dilution in authority and expertise.

Our daily media feed is awash with authority figures who lack knowledge and a critical understanding of the issues that they advocate for or speak out against. Human health is one of the most contentious issues today due to the dilution of knowledge being produced on the subject. Our physical health is an area of great concern for many people, but due to authority figures constantly bombarding our lives with mixed messages about what is truly beneficial for our health, the knowledge of human health has not only been diluted, but polluted.

Dr. Oz: physician, but not a very ethical one.

Dr. Oz: physician, but not a very ethical one.

Most authority figures who advocate for human health are, ironically, not physicians. Some may possess the letters “Dr.” in front of their name, but that does not lend them credibility nor authority on the matter. Even specialist physicians are not adequately qualified nor informed enough to comment on certain health issues. For example, if you were having issues with your cardiovascular system like high cholesterol or angina, you wouldn’t seek the advice of your dermatologist. They could offer you some basic advice due to the fact that they do possess a working knowledge of the human body, but they likely wouldn’t feel comfortable in their skin doing so.

Which begs the question of why so many human health authority figures exist today. Why aren’t there any gastrointestinologists promoting detox routines? Why don’t dentists promote oil-pulling? Why aren’t neurologists or radiologists speaking out against the dangers of cell phones, wifi in schools, or microwaving your food? If all of this “knowledge” and “research” exists on these topics and countless more, why aren’t they regularly being promoted by the individuals with over a decade of educational training on the subject, but are being promoted by individuals with access to the internet, hands, and a flashy website?

I’ve discussed in a previous article why pseudoscience promoters practice what they do, and a great portion of it is a combination of a prophetic desire and a dissatisfaction with their career earning potential. One of the major reasons why you will almost never see a physician promoting bad science and poor health advice is because they’re generating a satisfactory income, and their authority with patients is enough to satisfy the prophetic component. Unfortunately, thanks to the dilution of knowledge in the past decade, even the expertise and authority of physicians is being questioned by their patients thanks to external influence or misguided individual research.


Profit is a big motivator for many pseudoscience peddlers

The notion that one can employ the Internet to replace the knowledge of education of their physician is ludicrous if you consider the intense educational process physicians undergo to become licensed health professionals. Our ability to access such vast amounts of information has ironically made us incredibly ignorant and arrogant when it comes to our health. Simply put, WebMd, some random quack’s blog, or even reading one scientific paper on a subject is not a valid substitute for the advice of a trained physician, dentist, pharmacist, or optometrist. Anecdotal evidence is not a valid substitute for peer-reviewed science.

One of the main problems is that doing “research” online is very narrow in scope; you fail to see the whole picture that an education from a professional school gives you. For example, one of the common knocks against vaccines is that they contain a “dangerous cocktail of chemicals and toxins”. First of all, water is a chemical by definition, but the word chemical carries a very negative connotation. Same goes for toxin: any expert in toxicology will tell you that the dose makes the poison. One of the chemicals commonly found in vaccines is formaldehyde, which most of you will recognize from funeral homes as the preservative used during embalming.

Formaldehyde is indeed a powerful preservative, and toxic to humans in large doses, but recall that the dose makes the poison. In fact, formaldehyde is present in humans all the time! There is a higher concentration of naturally occurring formaldehyde present in your bloodstream than there is in any vaccine dose. Why? Formaldehyde is a metabolic intermediary formed during the breakdown of methanol and other products in the bloodstream. Even that formaldehyde present in a vaccine you’re receiving will be broken down without any hesitation from your body; the chemical was only needed to preserve the vaccine to make it safe for transport and storage.

Formaldehyde pathology

Formaldehyde pathology

However, when your average internet health authority hears formaldehyde, they follow a very narrow-minded process. First, they Google “formaldehyde”. They see words like “chemical” or “toxin” and get scared. Then they see facts like “toxic to humans in large doses”. Using this narrow-minded way of thinking, they fail to see the big picture (formaldehyde is naturally occurring, what a “toxic” dose amount actually is) and proceed to use their authority to instill fear to their followers about something they simply lack the education and training to properly understand. Unfortunately, due to a fear of large institutions that many individuals today possess, whether it’s large corporations, big pharma, or even hospitals, this way of thinking is catching on.

What’s troubling is that the “research” and knowledge that these individuals are passing on isn’t even novel; it’s widely available on the internet and essentially just recycled content. Anyone with access to the internet and a basic scientific vocabulary can do what many pseudoscience-based health advocates do: present a narrow-minded, fear-inducing view of our current societal state of physical health. The only difference is that these individuals often hide behind the guise of academic pseudoauthority; essentially, using the letters before or after their name is a sort of authoritarian currency. What’s most upsetting is that these individuals prey on the ignorant and sell false promises and lies to their clients. They promise miracle weight-loss methods, cancer-free lifestyles, and overall “wellness”.


If there is a common theme found among pseudoscientific practitioners, an oversimplification of incredibly complex health problems is certainly near the top of the list. Quality health and disease prevention are not 1 step solutions. There is no magic pill. You cannot cure nor prevent cancer simply ingesting more cumin. An extract of a plant will not make you lose weight. Detox routines and kits are a scam and a marketing ploy. The human body and the diseases that afflict it are so complex that even today, entire legions of specialists still routinely make mistakes and learn from them. Environmental, nutritional, biological, and genetic factors all come into play when determining the prevention, cause, and cure for disease and overall health quality.

With knowledge so accessible and important in today’s world, no one wants to appear stupid, because that implies helplessness and vulnerability. However, we have to understand that there are limitations to the knowledge available to the public, and the education and training reserved for those capable of applying it. Educating yourself is still a very valuable tool, but an abundance of knowledge should not breed close-mindedness; quite the opposite, in fact. Know what basic lifestyle choices you can make to live a healthy lifestyle, but don’t start conflating letters in front of someone’s name to automatically award them with medical authority. There’s a reason why not everyone is capable of becoming a doctor, or dentist, or whatever. And that’s fine – but trust in the empirical-based system of knowledge these individuals have been trained under. You wouldn’t go to a plumber with your electrical questions, so don’t go to a chiropractor for advice on cancer prevention.

The Tinder Gamble: The Problems with Swiping Right

An early personals print ad.

An early personals print ad.

When the first printed newspapers appeared in the 1600’s, it wasn’t long before matrimonial services found their way into print circulation. At this point in history, young adults were all expected to be wed before they started into their 20s, so taking out a personal advertisement in a circulated newspaper was a necessary measure to take for some young adults at the time. Conceptually speaking, this was the first inception of what would eventually evolve into online dating.

Since the website Myspace.com was founded in 2003 after the dot.com bust of 2001-2002, social networking has been the most popular form of internet leisure in the world. Despite the fact that MySpace, Facebook, and other social networking sites are not designed specifically for the purpose of online dating, they paved the way for a mass adoption and cultural acceptance of the online personal advertisement.


Online dating is, at the core, an online personal advertisement, and the only difference between social networking sites like MySpace or Facebook and online dating sites like Match.com or OkCupid is the focus. Both types of websites are social networking sites in their purpose of advertising carefully constructed versions of ourselves for those who we interact with, but an online dating site is more direct in advertising their users’ desire for a relationship. Even the early iterations of Facebook had online dating-esque features like an “interested in” section of your profile and widespread use of the “poke” feature, which was essentially a flirting button. The most recent evolution in online dating is not even a website, but an app, and unless you’ve been living under a rock for past two years, you’ll know exactly what I’m referring to: Tinder.


The Tinder dating app has revolutionized how people interact. Tinder has succeeded in removing the social stigma of online dating, which used to be thought of as a weird practice only reserved for awkward, anti-social individuals, and packaged it in an easy-to-use platform. With widespread mainstream media coverage of the app, Tinder has essentially made online dating omnipresent in the 18-27 demographic, and much of this has been achieved by a mockery of the app itself. Tinder is often discussed under a guise of irony or satire, with entire websites or blogs dedicated to funny or awful experiences users have experienced using the app. Yet, despite all of the mockery, the app has surged in popularity in the past two years, and Tinder was purchased by Interactive Media Corp. (IAC), who also own Expedia.ca, Collegehumor.com, and online dating giants Match.com and OkCupid. Clearly, the industry believes in the earning potential of Tinder.

Gregory R. Blatt, CEO of IAC corp.

Gregory R. Blatt, CEO of IAC corp.

As is the case with most free services, the features available to users leave more to be desired, and this situation creates demand for a premium service to be made available. Tinder is no exception; the app will be rolling out a premium service in 2015 with a variety of new features like an undo button to prevent erroneous swiping and a passport feature to place your signal location in various cities around the world.

Despite Tinder’s widespread adoption and use, is the app’s popularity due to user success or merely the byproduct of the addicting premise of stress-free social interaction? And is the app even an effective tool considering how many people are using it? Let’s first deconstruct the premise and function of Tinder to determine the answer to these questions and more.

How to Meet Thousands of People by Swiping Right

The premise of Tinder is simple: users are able to view other users based on their location, and can control factors such as sexual orientation, age, and the proximity that the app searches for other users, which extends up to 100 miles (or 160km). Users have two options: they can like or dislike a user based on their profile, which includes up to 6 pictures, a brief bio, and a list of mutual friends and interests (as the app itself is tethered to Facebook).

imagesIf one user likes another user, Tinder’s algorithm is designed to bump the former user’s profile to appear near the top of the deck in order to facilitate faster matching. However, for users who abuse the like system and simply like every user to generate a higher number of potential matches, Tinder’s algorithm is designed to discriminate against such users, and the top-decking factor is lessened. Some users even take it one step further and employ the use of one of several “auto-liker” apps that can instantaneously “like” hundreds if not thousands of profiles with the touch of screen, but again, Tinder’s matching algorithm is actually designed to discriminate against this type of usage.

As is the case with any online dating site now, the first impression you get of someone is from their appearance. The difference with Tinder is that there is no hope in messaging another user unless they also find you physically attractive. While it may be a great mode of pre-selection when compared to other dating sites, it can also hinder many users’ experiences due to the differences men and women perceive physical attractiveness.

A study of OkCupid users found that men rated women in a normally distributed curve of attraction; essentially, there were small percentages of very attractive and unattractive female users, and most were clumped around the middle, in the “average” attractiveness category. Women, on the other hand, rated 80% of men in the study as below average in terms of physical attractiveness, and almost none were given a perfect score. In other words, women are a lot more choosy when it comes to physical appearance than men are. Much of this is supported by research on human behaviour that has demonstrated that men are more likely to engage in a casual relationship than women are, so their scrutiny for physical appearance may be less intense as a result. Based on this trend, one can already see a problem for a method of online dating like Tinder that is so heavily invested in the user’s appearance. In relative terms, males will be a lot more liberal in who they find attractive, but will not get that same relative lack of scrutiny in return.



The Casual Paradox

One of Tinder’s greatest strengths is also one of it’s greatest weaknesses. The casual nature and simplicity of the app allows users to fly through hundreds of profiles just by swiping, but the problem with this design is that a match between users has no depth. Yes, you find each other attractive, but without any tangible topics or interests to talk about, the conversation will likely hit a snag very quickly.

Because of the casual nature, most users don’t invest that much time into a dating service that is essentially a game; the more invested individuals will likely go that extra mile and sign up for a legitimate dating site like Match.com or OkCupid. Therefore, it can be expected that the majority of users aren’t treating it all that seriously, and due to the sheer number of potential contacts, the app can be quite exhausting devoting that much time and energy towards, which is antithetical to the casual and simplistic nature of the app. Basically, because almost no one wants to put any effort in, most matches and interactions fall flat and fizzle out.

Communication Breakdown

Then we have the whole issue that plagues online dating in the first place: the jump from virtual to real. Even if you matched with someone you really like and they managed to peak your interest long enough to trust them with having your phone number, the interaction has to retain that level of interest in the real world as well. One of the common criticisms of online dating is the lack of real social skills put into practice during communication with other users.


When you’re communicating with someone online, you can edit, filter, review, and even copy content to send to your crushes. The problem with this mode of communication is that real-life interaction isn’t like this at all, so the familiar situation of someone who is a great texter but a poor conversationalist comes into play. It’s more common nowadays because of how often we rely on texting and email for communication, and how we are fearful of using the phone or talking to someone in person. Due to the rampant fear of communicating with people in person that is prevalent in our society today thanks to the comfort that technology provides (especially in instances of potential sexual relationships), most interactions on Tinder are ultimately doomed to fail.

The Tinder Gamble

I would compare the addictive nature of Tinder to that of operating a slot machine. As is the case with all forms of gambling, a slot machine is statistically proven to provide the user with a net loss. The odds are stacked against a user, yet they continue to pump coins into the machine with the hope of winning. Hope is also what causes people to keep swiping right. Hope is what keeps us going out every Friday night despite the fact that the odds are stacked against you at a nightclub as well. Hope is “…the quintessential human delusion, simultaneously the source of your greatest strength, and your greatest weakness.”

Oddly enough, most Google image results for "people playing slot machines" were all high quality pictures of groups of attractive women having a blast playing the slots. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Oddly enough, most Google image results for “people playing slot machines” were all high quality pictures of groups of attractive women having a blast playing the slots. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

There are major parallels that exist between Tinder and gambling, specifically using a slot machine. Anderson and Brown (1984) describe compulsive gambling as the result of a combination of both positive and negative reinforcement; winning money is a form of positive reinforcement and the escape from negative emotional situations provided by playing the slots is a form of negative reinforcement.

Similar conclusions could be drawn from the main activities of Tinder. Getting a match is positive reinforcement and the “avoidance” of being lonely and single through use of the app is negative reinforcement.

McConaghy (1980) described the random ratio reinforcement schedule (RRRS) as being important for persistence in play. As per the RRRS, when an element of unpredictability exists related to whether or not the next trial will result in an award, persistence in play is maintained. Tinder operates under the same metric: you never know which user will appear next and if you’ll match with them, so an addicting situation of “just one more swipe” occurs. Many of the motivations to gamble – psychological arousal, avoidance of negative emotional states, altering one’s life, or overcoming boredom – are also common reasons people would use a dating app like Tinder.

The eventual result of most repetitive gambling.

The eventual result of most repetitive gambling.

So Tinder is addicting because it employs the same principles that slot machines do, but so what? After all, a successful app should be designed with addictive qualities to some degree; you do want people to use it after all. The problem is that for many people, using an app like Tinder is simply another form of avoidance. Instead of speaking to people in person and interacting with other potential partners in the classical sense, Tinder allows its users a form of escape and distraction. While many users may enjoy speaking to each other from the safety of their phones or iPad, the reality is, eventually the game has to end and you’ll need to meet up in real life, which is a scary notion for many people actively avoiding in-person social contact in the first place!

Misplaced Happiness

The online dating industry has continued to grow at an astonishing pace since the early 2000s due to many young peoples’ struggles with finding time to interact with strangers in person. Today more than ever, young, career-driven people can’t seem to meet strangers anywhere except at work or at a nightclub, which both present their own unique set of challenges. Our intimate relationships are ultimately rooted in our pursuit of happiness. All things we get out of them -whether it’s intimacy, sex, laughter, or learning- all provide us with some degree of fulfillment. As with almost everything, the more you invest in something, the more you stand to gain in terms of happiness or lose in terms of regret. The fact that the design of Tinder encourages a minimal input sets it up for failure; we simply don’t invest that much effort into the app, so any connection that results out of it is far less likely to provide us as much happiness as with a traditional interaction or even an online dating service that requires more user input and “work”.

Increasing the amount of sex in your life may not always be the clear cut answer to greater happiness, despite what society may lead you to believe.

Increasing the amount of sex in your life may not always be the clear cut answer to greater happiness, despite what society may lead you to believe.

Tinder’s focus on casual sex is also the reason why many of its users have a sense of misplaced happiness while using it. Simply put, we often mistakenly believe that an increased number sexual encounters correlates with an increase in happiness, not to mention that females experience a much higher rate of climaxing with a committed partner than with a casual one. One of the golden rules of statistics and data analysis is that correlation does not equal causation, and this scenario is no exception.

Many Tinder users are simply chasing an impossible reality: they use the app because they think sex will make them happy, but they aren’t having sex in the first place because of a host of other factors, and instead of addressing those parts of their life, they get stuck in the Tinder gamble. Much like gambling, you never really win unless you’re in the minority who can actually come out ahead, but the premise of instant success keeps you hooked. It’s like the people who invest way too much time in purchasing lottery tickets. Instead of recognizing that perhaps there are better ways to financial security and stability, they place their trust in a system that is designed to con them.


No one wants to be told that they can’t accomplish something, but the fact of the matter is that, for the majority of users, Tinder is simply not an effective method of dating. Either you aren’t going to be rated attractive enough, you won’t be interesting or witty enough to keep a match’s attention based on the limiting context of the app, or you simply won’t care enough to keep up with your interactions because you’re simply treating the app like a game or form of gambling.

The reason that Tinder is rolling out a premium service is first and foremost to make money, but is also a result of user feedback that the app is becoming stagnant; people are starting to wise up to the “game” of Tinder and they’re growing tired of the app. If you’ve had luck on Tinder meeting someone who genuinely makes you happy, then that’s great! The purpose of this article was to caution those who keep using it despite minimal returns. One can only hope that in the future, we seek more intuitive ways to satisfy our relationship needs, no matter how casual or serious our desires are.