Hacking Tinder


Let’s face it. Virtually every “single” person you know has tinder on his or her phone, and probably 1 or 2 (or 3, 4, 5) more dating apps. The online dating taboo has been lifted. (Unless you’re on adult friend finder… I’d still keep that a secret for now.)

Now every time you’re in the bathroom or the elevator or at a boring dinner you’re casually swiping past the most carefully curated set of selfie’s the world has ever seen. Is it a little transactional? Yes. Even a little depressing? Sure. But we’re here! The age of technology! Can’t argue tinder ain’t efficient.

So now that we’ve accepted this new world of swipes, awkward gifs, and Vanity Fair writing some dating apocalypse nonsense every few months, we have to make the best of what we got. No point lamenting. Embrace! It’s time to optimize your digital love life.

People spend a lot of time choosing their tinder pics. There are even dating profile consultants out there! Fuck, what a world. But mathematically, what are they really trying to accomplish with all this TLC to their profiles? It boils down to something pretty simple: increase the likelihood that the puppy loving, Machu Picchu climbing, hopefully not sunglass wearing prospect you’re swiping right on, is going to swipe right, right back.

Well listen carefully. There is a secret to increasing that likelihood and it doesn’t require spending hours AB testing your selfies or awkwardly surveying your friends. Or even changing your profile at all. It’s all about the settings baby. Specifically the distance setting.

The intuitive, yet naïve approach is to increase this setting to the max distance you’d be willing to live away from someone you’re dating (or the max distance you’d be willing to travel at 2am). And of course the surface logic is understandable. The higher the setting, the more people you can match with. Glorious swiping for days!

But don’t be seduced by the naïve approach! It’s wrong, and here’s why.

There are two types of people on tinder:

  1. People with a distance setting of which you’re outside
  2. People with a distance setting of which you’re inside

Consider the people whose settings leave you outside their radius. Take Alice for example. She lives 10 miles from you, but her distance setting is only 5 miles. She will never see you and your cute dog. But that doesn’t mean tinder won’t show her to you. Since your distance setting is 20 miles (20>10), she will pop up on your phone. That’s no good. If she isn’t gonna give you the time of day with her stingy 5 mile setting, you should reciprocate. So you drop your setting to 5 miles. But now you still have this problem with Beatrice. She is only 3 miles away from you, but her distance setting is 1 mile. She ain’t gonna see you but, you are gonna spend a good five minutes examining her pics (5 miles > 3 miles). Don’t do it. I think we all see where this is going. Go ahead, set your distance to 1 mile. (Caveat: of course if you are in a sparsely populated area, there may not be enough potential matches within a 1 mile radius, so set your setting as low as it can go as long as you have people to swipe through.)

Now it gets a little more complicated but you can do it. It’s for love after all right? Or some shit like that. Anyway, consider the people whose settings generously include you. There is a wide spectrum of such people, from the 1 milers, to the ultra-marathoners (think 100 miles). And the number of profiles you can see on tinder is proportionate to the square of your chosen radius. Think about this: Candy set her distance to 2 miles and Desiree set hers to 100. And you happen to be within both of these girls’ radii, 1 mile from Candy and 50 miles from Desiree (simplified average distance for each girl). Now Candy has 1000 potential matches on tinder in her 2 mile radius. What does that mean for Desiree? It means she has 1,000,000 potential matches in her 100 mile radius! (Assume same age settings, uniform density of tinder users by location, etc etc etc.). You don’t want this, unless maybe you’re Jim Carrey (so you’re telling me there’s a chance!). Basically, Desiree is never even going to see your profile. But Candy definitely will! We want lots of Candy. Not so much Desiree. So you drop your distance setting way down to 1 again. Now you can still see Candy but Desiree is out of the pic. Sweet.

Luckily, both types of people, those with distance settings that include you and those with settings that exclude you, require you to drop your distance setting to the lowest possible level. It’s nice when things work out.

So to recap, be like Beatrice, and go find Candy. Don’t swipe on anyone with a radius that you aren’t inside, and don’t swipe on the ultramarathoners. So keep your distance setting to the golden “1 mile” and you’ll be set. Just make sure your phone’s on silent. (Expect a 5X lift in number of matches.)

We made it! Now when you meet the love of your life, or have the best sex you’ve ever had, or find your new bff (does anybody use that setting?), just remember……math gooood.

Happy Swiping!

— The Love Professor

P.S. Sorry for the simplistic mathematical treatment. DM me for more deets.

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