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Dating apps become the new norm in Argentina

More and more relationships in Argentina are being established via mobile dating apps such as Tinder, Happn, or Grindr.
By Santiago Del Carril
Herald Staff

Mobile dating apps such as Tinder, Grindr consolidate their presence in the country, as they begin to change the way new relationships start in Argentina.

With Argentina’s capital crammed full of cafés, bars and nightclubs, porteños have always had thousands of places to meet new people, whether it be a casual date, a chance encounter or a a long-term romantic interest.

For generations in Buenos Aires — a city well-known for its fast-paced social life — most typical encounters went something like this. Relationships blossomed from paths that crossed at social gatherings bringing together friends or acquaintances. Phone numbers were exchanged and if the first went well, a second date was scheduled. But now, things are different. With the rapid adoption of smartphones over the last decade — over 16 million Argentines now own one — former customary social practices have been radically transformed as mobile dating apps arrived on the scene. Unlike social dating sites such as Eharmony or OKcupid that were created when the Internet was in its infancy in the 1990s, the new dating apps don’t use carefully set up algorithms to fix matches — at least not yet. Instead, they are mainly based on looks from a pair of photos, abbreviated texts and descriptions, the availability of potential partners and their location.

The most popular dating application in the country is Tinder (launched in 2012), which simplifies the search for a romantic partner to a simple right or left swipe after gazing at a profile photo (if both people swipe right, a match is made, allowing a conversation to begin). Over 15 million swipes are made per day in Argentina on the app, the statistics reveal. Although Tinder’s representatives didn’t want to reveal the amount of revenue generated, nor total number of active users in Argentina, mobile statistics site App Anny reveal that they are the fourth-highest grossing mobile application in the country in terms of revenue.

“Generally, Latin American users have been more open toward using these dating platforms, and with Argentina being one of the most technologically advanced countries (in the world), the success of Tinder here is because of this," Stella Villable, a representative from Tinder, told the Herald. "There is both a cultural and technological reason."

There are other big players on the local scene, too. Another popular dating application is Happn, which is the second-most downloaded dating app in the country. However, in contrast to Tinder which organises potential partners by the single swipe system, this new app offers a platform that streams photos of people that crossed by in close proximity to a user. Though Happn was launched in the country only two years ago, in February, 2015, it has quickly grown to be one of the most popular applications in the country, with 1.4 million users. Buenos Aires now is the city with the third-highest number of Happn users in the world — 950,000 people out of the 12 million people that live in the metropolitan area, according to statistics provided by a Happn representative.

Another popular dating application that is also used locally is Grindr, which is for the gay community. It faces the challenge of two other similar apps, Scruff and Growlr.

“Grindr helps people that have difficulties socialising in person, it's kind of like a having pre-drinks with your friends and acquaintances before going to a party,” app user Martin D’Agosto told the Herald.

Undeniably, the success of dating apps locally has reshaped romantic relations in the City.

“I started using the dating apps after breaking up with my girlfriend in December," Eduardo, a 34-year-old doctor told the Herald. "I use both Tinder and Happn. I think it really suits people who have jobs and don’t go out as often as those who are younger," he added, revealing that three out of the four most recent dates he has had with women originated from dating apps.

There are several stages to using dating apps. First a match has to be created between the two users, and then the users exchange phone numbers or Facebook profiles and begin a conversation. This serves, in part, as a way for each party to get to know each other better, but also acts as a substitute for a "background check" in the absence of having friends or associates in common that would — in the past — have given second opinions or information about the propestive partners.

When Tinder and other dating apps first came onto the scene, they were initially viewed by many as applications that were soley used for sex. But as the years have passed, their reputations have improved. They have become less of a social taboo (much like the first Internet dating sites), as more people download the apps and begin to use them. For some, however, the taboo still remains. While many users will still not admit to their relatives or friends that they met their partner through the dating app, it has become more customary to hear of a friend or relative explaining how they met their significant other through them.

“I started using it two years ago because I was bored, and went on several dates. It’s there where I met my future wife. It's weird that the woman I’m going to marry I met through an application. It’s really surreal,” 33-year-old Federico Laverista told the Herald.

Despite the new popularity of many of these dating apps, however, experts say there are some downsides. Some studies have shown that such apps can lead to negative self-image problems or even addiction, as users become hooked, similar to the way casino attracts new gamblers. For example, Tinder uses a variable ratio-reward schedule, the same behaviour psychological system used in slot machines, computer games or when scientists perform experiments on animals, argued one study published by social psychologist Jeanette Purvis. Even if a user has many matches, the application spaces out notifications to make sure that there is an unpredictable number of responses, ensuring potential matches are randomly allocated.

Moves toward monetisation of the apps has altered the way users approach the service too. In 2015, Tinder began to limit the number of daily right swipes to around 100, making those who wanted to continue having unlimited swipes to pay for the upgraded 'Tinderplus' service.

Maybe its due to changes such as these that some users are beginning to get tired.

“I stopped using them because there are a lot of idiots on it, and many of my guy friends got tired of having to talk so much just to get a date with a girl,” 24-year-old University of Buenos Aires (UBA) student Fernanda told the Herald.

D’Agosto, the user of the Grindr app, agrees. He says that he no longer uses the app because he preferred meeting potential partners in real life, as it much easier to communicate and less hassle.

In spite of such sentiments, dating apps are clearly here to stay, as smartphone usage continues to increase in Argentina. Tinder reported that its users had grown by 10 percent over the last summer in Argentina, while Happn is continuing to experience a surge in popularity in the region.

As more of our offline life gets transferred online, even relationships that began without techonology are now seeing the majority of interactions take place through online messaging services such as WhatsApp, Facebook messenger or text messages. Such moves lead toward the use of dating apps becoming normalised. As Canadian social theorist Marshal McLuhan once said: “We shape our tools and thereafter our tools shape us.”

@delcarril

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