Although Tinder is a platform facilitating casual dating, some of the app's nearly 50 million users around the world are employing it for multilevel marketing, political campaigning, and promoting local gigs, a new study says.
The study, published in the journal The Information Society, found that Tinder's off-label use -- a term borrowed from pharmacology describing when people use a product for something other than what the package says -- appropriates its infrastructure, and sociocultural meanings.
"When people encounter a new technology, whether it's a hammer or a computer, they use it in ways that fit their needs and lifestyle," said study co-author Stefanie Duguay from Concordia University.
"However, once you buy a hammer, it doesn't undergo regular updates or develop new features -- apps do. They come with their own marketing, vision for use and sets of features, which they regularly update and often change in response to user activity," Duguay explained.
In the study, Duguay assessed media articles about people using Tinder for purposes other than social, romantic, or sexual encounters.
She also conducted in-depth interviews with four off-label users.
One of the users was using the app to conduct an anti-smoking campaign, the study noted.
Another, Duguay said, ran an anti-sex trafficking campaign on Tinder.
A third user, she said, was using the app to market health products, and the last was supporting US Senator Bernie Sanders's Democratic Party presidential nomination run in 2016.
"I also observed individual users adapting their Tinder profiles to self-promote, market local bands, participate in business networking, and conduct private sales," the researcher wrote in the study.
When Duguay compared and contrasted these different approaches to off-label use, she found that a lot of the time, Tinder's expected function informed or complemented their campaigns.
"There would be an element of flirtatiousness or they would draw on users' perception of Tinder as a digital context for intimate exchanges," she said.
According to Duguay, many Tinder users who were on the app for its expected uses became upset when they discovered these profiles' actual aims.
"That shows that off-label use can be somewhat disruptive on the platform. Though this depends on how narrowly people see that app's purpose," she noted.
"Platforms like this are more like an ecosystem, and when users adopt different purposes than the ones they are designed for, the platforms can change their guidelines or features in ways that greatly affect their users," Duguay added.