For Gen Z and Millennials, dating apps are basically a given when it comes to looking for any kind of romantic relationship. YPulse’s Dating & Realtionships report shows a third of 18-39-year-olds have used dating apps before, but not strictly for finding their forever partner. In fact, more than half (52%) of 18-24-year-olds specifically say they use dating apps for fun, or just to pass the time. So, naturally, dating apps need to mold their model to keep up with their young users—even if that means adapting to a dating landscape that’s less about commitment than before. And amongst those who use dating apps and sites, two thirds have used Tinder, making it the top one young people are using.
Tinder themselves reported in their 2022 “Year in Swipe” report that amongst users 18-24-years-old in the U.K., U.S., and Australia, “1 in 10 respondents prefer ‘situationships’ as a way to develop a relationship with less pressure.” Tinder also noticed a 49% jump in members adding the term to their profile status from January to October last year—and added new features to incorporate it fully. YPulse explored this trend in our What’s The Situationship? trend report, but to gain even more insight on how leaders in the online dating world are following Gen Z and Millennial trends, we spoke with Lisa Stratton from Tinder all about it:
YPulse: Today, online dating apps like Tinder are a staple for Gen Z and Millennials, but are you seeing any differences between the two generations that stand out to you?
Lisa Stratton: Our goal is to stay relevant for every single person who turns 18-years-old and wants to get on the app to meet new people. And how 18-25-year-olds approach dating online has changed drastically since Tinder was created 10 years ago. Millennials were coming of age during the golden age of social media apps that made it easy to connect with people outside of existing social circles. It created an environment where young people were into perfecting their profiles, curating photos to present their best selves to the world, and expanding their networks and influence. Today’s 18-25-year-olds have grown up to be way more comfortable in these digital spaces, and in some cases have approached them more cautiously than their elders. We’ve found that instead of curated profiles and polish, they’re looking for authenticity, realness, and radical honesty. Additionally, today’s young people are more fluid in how they view gender, sexuality and dating.
YPulse: Our research shows that 62% of young people say brands don’t understand how their generation dates. Are there any other ways the app and its marketing are changing to appeal to Gen Z as more of them become young adults?
LS: Our Year In Swipe report not only told us that people are embracing the situationship, but it also told us that things many [we] thought were core to the dating experience, like the dinner date, cocktails, and keeping politics out of the conservation, are now considered a bit old school. With this in mind, Tinder has evolved as our members have evolved. For one, we have created more ways in the app for people to connect with others over common interests with features like Explore and Interests. Additionally, we know young people expect companies to do their part to make a positive impact on society and enjoy putting these views on the table with potential matches, which is why Tinder has really embraced and leaned into important causes for people today such as marriage equality, reproductive rights, and voter engagement.
YPulse: YPulse’s recent What’s the Situationship? Trend Report found that friendships are just as important as, if not more than, romantic relationships for Gen Z and Millennials, and brands who only celebrate romantic relationships miss a huge portion of young people. Most dating apps have a finding friends option now, but are there any ways Tinder is working on furthering these types of relationships?
LS: Yes! We rolled out Relationship Goals, a feature that lets members signal what they’re looking for including just being friends, finding a fling, or connecting with someone for the long term. Knowing today’s 18-25-year-olds want to date with more intention and honesty, starting out on the same page is super important, reduces some of the awkward small talk after people match, and can get them on the path to whatever kind of connection they’re looking for.
YPulse: Now that more of Gen Z is using Tinder to find friends and other non-romantic relationships, do you see this as a temporary trend among this generation or think it’s here to stay?
LS: It’s less about whether these kinds of relationships are coming or going, it’s about how they’ve evolved for today’s generation. In fact, it’s the labels that have changed. For example, to Millennials it may have been “friends with benefits” or being in an “open relationship,” but for Gen Z these terms have different meanings. We’re now in an age of situationships with expanded ways that people view gender, sexuality, and dating. On Tinder, people have a myriad of ways to ensure they can present their authentic self, from setting Relationship Goals to using their bio as a way to share with potential matches what they’re into.
YPulse: Our data shows 17% of young people have been in a situationship. With situationship as a huge buzzword right now, how is the rise of situationships impacting the way young people use Tinder and how is Tinder shifting to accommodate this?
LS: Women are leading the situationships trend, empowering themselves by asking for a clearly defined relationship centered around transparency and freedom. In 2022, we saw both Gen Z and Millennial women posting about situationships nearly 4X more than Gen Z and Millennial men.
We’re also finding that people ages 18-25 come to Tinder often for their first dating experience. Given this group makes up more than 50% of Tinder’s community, we want to ensure people remain safe on our platform as they pursue a wide variety of situationships. Tinder has significantly invested in trust and safety product development, with more than 15 innovations in the last three years alone. Each and every touchpoint of the Tinder experience is created with safety in mind—from creating a profile, to swiping and matching, to chatting and to meeting up IRL.
YPulse: Does Tinder see the definition of a committed relationship changing for these gens?
LS: Yes! Our research shows that to today’s 18-25-year-olds, the term “dating” signifies a journey that has a finite goal, aka: a relationship, which is too serious of an outcome for them. Instead, they reach for terms like “talking stage,” “vibing,” “imaginationship” and, yes, situationship—all terms that evoke less pressure. This said, we shouldn’t confuse situationships for something that isn’t serious. Gen Z uses this term as a way to empower themselves by asking for a casual, yet clearly defined, relationship.
Lisa Stratton: Former VP of Communications at Tinder, Americas