In the gay community Tinder is arguably the more relationship-oriented app compared to something like Grindr. Tinder for love, Grindr for sex. You’ll hear that often. Apps like Hinge and Bumble offer another path towards love, but they simply don’t have the robust user base that Tinder has, leaving Tinder on top when it comes to finding a relationship online for gay men. Combined with the historical norm of gay men being unable to express their desire for another man in public out of a fear of rejection or aggression (apparently knowing that the guy is gay first is an unspoken prerequisite?), it’s understandable that so many men seek men online, where they feel safe. I believe this will change in time, but for now let’s take a look at how Tinder works for us here in Sydney.
'There are 381 779 men between the ages of 25-34 in Sydney.'
There are 381 779 men between the ages of 25-34 in Sydney (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2016). Of these 381 779 men, 4202 (1.1%) use Tinder to search for other men (primary data). This figure aligns closely with the estimated 4000 men aged 25-34 who live in Sydney, identify as gay, and are single (see ‘How many gay guys are there… really?’).
Over the course of one month a representative sample size of 500 of these men (11.9% of the 4202 users) were selected at random within a 60km search radius of Sydney’s CBD. A geographically-centred app’s user base is fluid, so to produce this initial 4202 user count, a reset profile was used to swipe through every profile available until no new profiles could be found in the area (i.e. men on Tinder aged 25-34 in Greater Sydney - this process took approximately 45 minutes and allowed for a momentary ‘snapshot’ of the total users to be obtained). Greater Sydney includes the Western Suburbs out to the Blue Mountains, up to the Northern Beaches, and part of the Central Coast. To the south, the proximity of the next city, Wollongong, was taken into account - using a search radius any larger than 60km would start to include men from that city.
The randomised swipe function of the app allows for an unbiased presentation of men in terms of age and proximity. A profile was only selectively overlooked if it contained no image of the user at all e.g. a landscape or object.
'The research profile was left online for a month and collected 1350 likes.'
To account for any algorithms that may be causing bias based on selection preferences, and to collect richer data, the additional functionality of Tinder Gold was utilised. One such function is to see the users who have already ‘liked’ (swiped right) on you. The research profile was left online for a month and collected 1350 likes (i.e. 32.1% of the 4202 users liked the profile). NB: not all of those likes would have come from the same 4202 users over the course of a month as people visited and left Sydney, but it can be used as a point of reference, as long as we assume that a man’s interest and tastes don’t change when they visit or leave a location.
250 users were sampled chronologically (thus still at random) from the list of men that liked me. Profiles that appeared to now present outside of the search radius were ignored. To reach the sample size of 500, the remaining 250 men were collected from those presented at random in the standard carousel. There were 250 men who liked me, and 250 men who may not have.
The profile used was my own, including images and a profile description that I genuinely would use on the app. I would like profiles that I genuinely felt attracted to either physically or physically in conjunction with their profile bio. This differentiation was captured in a question related to why I liked them: to have sex with them, or to go on a date with them.
All data was collected using a 27 question online survey that was completed 500 times over.
For reference, I was 28 years old at the time of this study.
Using the sample size of 500 men, the following data has been extrapolated for 4202 men seeking men between the ages of 25-34 using Tinder in Sydney.
Who are we?
How do we express ourselves?
What do we look like?
* this is one of the most subjective data points, but considerable effort was taken to ensure consistency.
What are we looking for?
How do we act?
Who do I like?
'There appears to be no difference in the way we express our values and interests online, gay or straight.'
There is so much that could be unpacked from this data, and some fascinating discussions to be had. However, there are two observations that are particularly significant to me: 1) how we express ourselves on the app and 2) that I would only consider 1.3% of guys for a relationship.
It appears that talking about the concept of adventure, travel, or your love of dogs really takes the cake when it comes to online profiles. This correlates to another Tinder study of 10 000 US Tinder profiles that found buzz words like travel, music, outdoors, and adventure were the most common (Hempenius, 2016). Alternative studies like this prove the reliability of the data found herein, and also demonstrate that there appears to be no difference in the way we express our values and interests online, gay or straight. Apparently we all want to describe ourselves as being exactly the same as each other? Interesting. To me, that comes across as a ‘please like me’ mentality, or simply that they don’t know anything about themselves that makes them unique. The fact that we use about 40 different words or terms to define what we’re looking for - the majority of which essentially mean ‘a relationship’ - could be evidence of the non-committal and even confused nature of many men.
'I know I have some significant mental, emotional, and physical qualities to offer a guy, so I want my equal. Is that wrong? Could that be dangerous?'
I’ve always felt that I couldn’t find many dates because I wasn’t holistically attracted to enough of the guys I found online and elsewhere. I’ve always wondered whether this was because of the fish in the ocean, or something that is going on inside my head. 1.3% is not a large proportion at all. I’ve even found myself thinking ‘I want in another guy what I have to offer’. It’s like my self-confidence gone awry. I know I have some significant mental, emotional, and physical qualities to offer a guy, so I want my equal. Is that wrong? Could that be dangerous?
Out of curiosity, and as a very quick experiment, I jumped on Tinder as a straight woman looking for men and swiped through roughly 100 profiles. On average there were far more men exhibiting masculine physical traits (broad shoulders, facial hair, engaging in certain activities in their photo’s, even being with groups of other men), and, even though I’m not attracted to ‘big’ guys, facial hair, or muscle, I found myself liking a lot more profiles. The men just seemed more handsome and attractive to me. But was this because I knew that they were straight? Were they giving off signals that I don’t see amongst gay men? Or, genetically speaking, are straight men just more attractive on average? It certainly gives weight to the argument that being gay is not a genetically isolated disposition, that it comes with a visible physical expression (i.e. 'gay face'). There’s also a lot to be said about the torture of being a gay man when you don’t have access to the plethora of straight men in the world…
To keep this article relatively digestible, I didn’t want to go too far down the rabbit hole. My most basic conclusion: men have trouble talking about themselves and their feelings, and thus what they want most of all. Stay tuned for other articles that dig deeper into the results seen here. You’re welcome to write your own article and submit it too!
Oh, and the most common name on Tinder in Sydney? Tim.
Australian Bureau of Statistics (2016) 2016 Census QuickStats. Retrieved August 4, 2019, from here.
GlobalWebIndex (April 24, 2015) What to Know About Tinder in 5 Charts. Retrieved August 4, 2019, from here.
Hempenius, K. (September 8, 2016) What do people mention in their Tinder profiles?. Retrieved August 4, 2019, from here.
Nathan helps people to express themselves at home, at school, and in the workplace, all around the world. He's passionate about thinking, and engages in it regularly. He's not overly fond of writing in the third person though. It's weird. Connect with him on Facebook to continue the conversation, make a video at colourbeat.com, or even share a dance with him at movewithcolour.com!
There are approximately 4202 gay men on Tinder in Sydney between the ages of 25 and 34.
There is no difference in the way straight and gay people articulate themselves on apps like Tinder.
Men appear to struggle to describe what it is they really want, opting instead to identify what they like to do.