Communities and Social Media

Online Dating: The Effect of Social Dating Applications on How We Create Community and Connect with Others


The purpose of this conference paper is to examine the effect that social media dating applications has had on how we actively create community and meaningful connections with others. I argue that this effect has been positive and transforms community as we know it and is done by presenting evidence for different concepts relating to the formation of community through the lens of the online dating world. This essay explores how dating applications have provided a space for those unable to connect in the physical world due to living remotely, or more relevantly, due to social distancing and isolation in the wake of COVID-19. The essay also explores how data collection produces a user-orientated experience in order to create a third space, and how dating applications such as Grindr and Scruff have constructed a platform for a marginalised group to come together in a safer environment. This essay also addresses some counterarguments to the idea that data collection is purely beneficial, through discussing how our personal data can be mishandled. Finally, this conference paper concludes with a recommendation for further study.


The ways we come together have been revolutionised by social media. This is particularly prevalent within the online dating sphere. Discovering relationships and friendships alike has been reshaped by dating applications such as Bumble, Tinder and Grindr, and many singles are finding themselves reaching out to these online communities for meaningful connections. Social media has created a greater sense of community by allowing for more people to connect than ever before, and the online dating world has enabled a plethora of opportunities to connect with others on both a local and global scale. Social dating applications have actualised a positive transformation in how we create community and connect in the online dating world. This conference paper examines this through considering how dating apps have created a space for those unable to connect, allowed for user-orientated tailoring and providing a platform to a marginalised group, the LGBTQ+ community. 

Community is conceptualised as a place or network where like-minded people with a common interest and normalities congregate and come together, according to an article from the Journal of Community Development. For community to occur, individuals do not have to share physical space or common geographical locality, as community can exist in an online environment. (Bradshaw, 2009). However, there are many individuals who lack community. For the 2021 millennial, time has become valuable and scarce. Commitments, work and study leave little time for socialising and forging new connections. Those living remotely may also struggle to make new connections outside their immediate physical geographical location. Additionally, in light of COVID-19, the cancellation of many social gatherings and events has damaged any means of forging new friendships and relationships for so many people around the world. This can make dating especially challenging. Fortunately, social media creates a space for community to form and individuals to connect, regardless of physical distance. “One of the main benefits of online dating in the context of COVID pandemic is that, as opposed to in- person encounters, virtual dates cannot result in viral transmission. Thus, dating from the comfort of one’s home was portrayed as a safer option.” (Willis, 2021). Connecting has become harder than ever before, especially in the new age of the coronavirus pandemic. The absence of socialising can credit social media dating applications such as Bumble and Tinder for their popularity. Bumble and Tinder allow for users to choose radiuses of exposure, which they can tailor to show other users from either their town, their region, state, their country and even globally. The social reach that social media dating apps enables is unlimited, and users can connect to all corners of the world for unique friendships and distanced relationships. According to ‘The Covid Crisis (2021)’, queer dating app, Scruff, released a statement saying, “Remember that being physically distanced from each other does not mean we’re alone.” Without community and connections, isolation imposes social challenges and barriers against healthy relationships. Social media dating apps have relieved social media users of any obstacles they have faced in finding community and making valuable connections beyond their physical locality. “Since confinement measures can lead to social isolation, dating apps were also presented as beneficial tools that facilitate meaningful intimate connections, thereby supporting the emotional health of single people, especially those who live alone.” (Myles, Duguay, Dietzel, 2021). Social media has transformed our sense of community beyond strictly geographical and has changed our ability to connect by opening up a realm of opportunity for people living in an isolated time to come together online.

Social media algorithms, cookies and data collection in privacy and GPS services have allowed for user-orientated content across linked platforms. This also applies for dating apps, who applies user’s data to algorithms that allow users to have a fully tailored experience. “Global positioning system (GPS) based dating apps such as Tinder and Grindr brought about a small revolution in the way individuals meet, interact, and sometimes fall in love with each other.” (Lutz & Ranzini, 2017). Services such as Bumble and Tinder allow users to link their Instagram and Facebook accounts to their dating app profiles. As written in the Journal of Computational Culture, using your existing Instagram and Facebook accounts to sign in to and create a new profile on another channel is known as ‘Single Sign-On’, or ‘SSO’. SSOs allow the flow of data between different channels. This convergence of social media platforms allows Bumble and Tinder to streamline their user’s information across their profiles. Information about page interest, likes, shares and comments, search history, age and geographical location are some of the data shared from Instagram and Facebook profiles to Bumble and Tinder profiles. “Tinder starts with a request to create a profile by logging in through their Facebook account. Tinder can then access the user’s personal information, such as profile picture, personal description, education, work history and friends list… The second and final step in the registration phase is the request to access the user’s GPS before continuing, location being an essential data point for this app.” (Weltevrede & Jansen, 2019). This data inbuilds information about users into their profile and helps curate and design the content they view. For instance, if a user chooses to create their Bumble account by using the sign in for an existing Facebook account, the Bumble account pre-fills personal information. Age, geographical location and interests are streamlined and inputted from one account to the other, tailoring their experience. This effectively creates a personalised third space dating world. This third place is separate from their work and study and is uniquely individualised. Different people have come together to occupy this third place with the same interest; finding people to date. With the aid of these algorithms and data collection preferences, the community who occupy this dating third place can discover each other and make meaningful connections based on the compatibility of their personal information. However, some research and experts disagree with the notion that personal data collection, cookies and algorithms create a purely positive impact on a user’s experience. Some experts argue that the effects of streamlining of sensitive data through different social media accounts is inevitably harmful and invasive. There are privacy concerns amongst the sharing of data onto dating applications such as Tinder, and whether these apps are being transparent or not. The authors at the 28th USENIX Security Symposium believe so and concerned about these applications using alternative channels to access protected data. “…Apps can circumvent the permission model and gain access to protected data without user consent by using both covert and side channels. Side channels present in the implementation of the permission system allow apps to access protected data and system resources without permission; whereas covert channels enable communication between two colluding apps so that one app can share its permission.” (Reardon, 2019). These experts argue that often users of dating apps agree to sharing their private information without understanding what exact information is being collected, where it is going and who has access. This therefore makes creating connections occur at the cost of your personal data privacy. 

Social media has allowed for community and connections to form over the web amongst marginalised communities and groups. Groups that have often felt pushed aside have flourished through the presence of online community, alike the LGBTQ+ community. According to an article from the Journal of Psychology & Sexuality, LGBTQ+ people may have found difficultly finding partners on typically heterosexual dating websites in the early 2000s and may also have experienced sexual intolerance and gender-based violence. Currently, there is no absence of an online presence in the online dating realm from this group due to new LGBTQ+ applications, as online dating shifts away from an outdated ‘boy meets girl’ agenda. “For millions of people, LGBTQ dating apps are the only way to meet new people on a romantic, sexual or social level right now…. Around half of lesbian, gay and bisexual people in the USA had used dating apps, and that those who were gay were twice as likely to say they’d used them.” (Steinfeld, 2020). Dating applications such as Scruff and Grindr have created a platform for the LGBTQ+ community to come together and connect with other like-minded people in their community. These applications are considered exclusive for LGBTQ+ individuals looking to make both meaningful and casual connections, and also cater to a friendship option and a group chat option. This online space creates community in a safe environment free from targeted intolerance. The friend finder option and group chat option found on Scruff and Grindr, as well as on Bumble, enables subgroups within this community to form, and results in a seamless transition for individuals into the online community. 

Community has been redefined and reshaped by social media, and in particular, by online dating applications. These applications have changed how relationships and friendships come to fruition by offering a seamless process in finding companions. Applications such as Bumble and Scruff have created a platform for different groups to come together and create community and meaningful connections from the comfort of their phones. This has been particularly rewarding during COVID-19, when many may find it hard to socialise the physical spaces they normally would. Dating apps have provided a safe non-physical third space where individuals can come together based on interest in groups, in pairs, locally and from across the different corners of the globe. Through understanding the effect of social dating applications on connecting those unable to connect, creating a tailored experience and giving a platform to a marginalised group, we can appreciate how these applications have transformed how we create community and connect for the better. In the occurrence of further research, the effect online dating has on more marginalised groups may be put forward.

#LGBTQ+. #Privacy  #Tinder  #DatingApps


Bradshaw, T. (2009). The Post-Place Community: Contributions to the Debate about the Definition of Community. Journal of Community Development, 39(1), 5-16.

Lutz, C., Ranzini, G. (2017) Where Dating Meets Data: Investigating Social and Institutional Privacy Concerns on Tinder. Journal of Social Media & Society, 3(1), 1-7.

Morrison, M., Parker, K., Sadika, B., Sameen, D., Morrison, T. (2019). ‘Newsworthy enough?’: media framing of Canadian LGBTQ persons’ sexual violence experiences. Journal of Psychology & Sexuality, 12(1-2), 96-114.

Myles, D., Duguay, S., Dietzel, C. (2021) #DatingWhileDistancing: Dating Apps as Digital Health Technologies During the COVID-19 Pandemic. Digital Health Technologies, 2-6.

Reardon, J. (2019). 50 Ways to Leak Your Data: An Exploration of Apps’ Circumvention of the Android Permissions System. USENIX Security Symposium, 28.

Steinfeld, J. (2020). Forced out of the closet: As people live out more of their lives online right now, our report highlights how LGBTQ dating apps can put people’s lives at risk. Journal of Indexing and Metrics, 49(2), 101-104.  

Weltevrede, E., Jansen, F. (2019). Infrastructures of Intimate Data: Mapping the Inbound and Outbound Data Flows of Dating Apps. Journal of Computational Culture, 1(7), 2047-2390.

Willis, K.(2021). COVID Society: Introduction. In D. Lupton (Eds.), The COVID-19 Crisis: Social Perspectives (3rd ed., pp. 12-16). Routledge. Retrieved from

13 thoughts on “Online Dating: The Effect of Social Dating Applications on How We Create Community and Connect with Others

  1. Hi Grace, thanks for a fantastic read.

    I concluded in my own research for my thesis that people only present their best selves online, and I feel that social media, especially dating apps, has affected the way we communicate with one another. I’d want to know, though, whether you believe that dating apps can help develop a feeling of community?  There is a sense of ‘peers’ present, as well as a shared emotional connection with potential partners and a sense of belonging. However, I think that Tinder or Grindr users lack a sense of integration or influence since there is no common conversation or dialogue in which an individual’s point of view has sway or effect.

    In my mind, online dating may be compared to a virtual marketplace where users shop for relationships by filtering for the characteristics they want in a mate, exemplifying the commercialisation of dating software. Additionally, the advantages of dating apps simplify the process of finding and exchanging mates. As a result, I’m of the opinion that dating apps reflect a network that has fundamentally altered how people connect to and interact with one another. Although this changes from person to person!

    – Callum.

  2. Hi Grace,

    Your paper was such an interesting read!

    I wrote about online dating in a different unit but had never really considered the community aspect within it. I particularly enjoyed your sentiment that the sense of community has been redefined and altered with the rise of social media and online dating.

    Thank you again for sharing your insights – it was a unique perspective on this topic!

    – Rebecca

  3. Hi Grace,

    Your paper was very interesting and enjoyable to read! You mention that online dating apps provide many positives for users and allow for meaningful relationships and friendships to form. I was wondering if you think that there are any new issues that have arisen from dating apps, and if the notion of matching with people based solely off their physical appearance makes the process harder for some who may not appear stereotypically attractive to some.

    You also mention that dating apps have created a space for those who are a part of the LGBTQ+ community. I was also wondering if you believe that there are any limitations for these people due to the apps infrastructural designs, and due to the fact that some may not feel comfortable displaying their sexuality in their bio.

    Look forward to hearing your response, great paper!

  4. Hey Grace,

    This was a good paper that really gave me a better understanding of how these dating apps work and are being used. I remember when dating apps first started coming out and they were still kind of taboo, but it seems like they have gained a lot of popularity since then and are increasingly common. Although I can see the benefit in having them, I tend to think the over-dependency on these apps to form connections is taking something away from our ability to form connections in the real-world, wouldn’t you agree?

    Where I can see these apps helping is by connecting people who have some legitimate reasons as to why they wouldn’t be confident enough to be able to engage with people in real life, because of things like: mental illness, social anxiety or low self-esteem. The reason this interests me so much is because in my paper I discuss the misogynistic radicalisation of members of the incel (involuntary celibate) community. Many incels do blame their failures in romantic endeavours on their unattractiveness or their social anxiety so I was wondering if you think dating apps may be especially helpful for these types of people?

    Here’s a link to my paper if you’d like to learn a bit more about the toxic incel community:

    1. Hello Cameron!
      Thank you for sending me your happy, it was a really interesting read.
      I love that you thought critically on my paper and related it back to your own paper. In response to your question, about if I believe many people such as incels may find these apps helpful; I believe people people with social anxiety and low-self esteem may benefit from these platforms, like you have mentioned. However, I believe that incels should stay away from dating apps because their unacceptable ideologies and misogynistic nature clash with the general public, and they may make these dating spaces uncomfortable for the average person, even dangerous. However, there is no way you can stop these people from joining.

      1. Hey Grace,

        I do agree with you that the more radicalised members of the incel community would most likely be an unwelcomed inclusion in the dating app space. I would say that these apps could be very helpful for young men who are struggling with romantic relationships and who could potentially turn to the incel community for support. They could help them with their problems before they are made worse by becoming entrenched in the toxic incel community. Don’t you think?


  5. Hello Grace,

    When I read the topic for your paper straight away I thought it would be very interesting because I had never considered dating apps in that manner, as creating a community, and your paper did not disappoint. I thoroughly enjoyed your paper and you helped me to realise that there are groups who will find meeting online through these dating apps as a far less stressful means of communication and making new friends than with face-to-face meetings.
    This is especially true during the COVID19 pandemic with snap lockdowns and social distancing. You are correct in saying that in these odd times many people will feel isolated and alone and dating apps are just another avenue in the social media sphere where users can make meaningful connections. I must admit to have never used a dating app thus far but after reading your paper you have enlightened me to the possibility that friendships can be made through these apps and they are not really just for finding a partner. I do believe, as you have portrayed in your paper, that there will be quite a number of users who would consider themselves as part of a friendly, loving community derived from the people they have met online through these dating apps.
    Thank you for a very interesting and well written paper Grace.


    1. Wow!
      Thank you for your comment Bernie!
      I really appreciate that you have taken the time to reflect on my paper. I believe you truely understand what I am trying to convey through my paper. I am glad it enlightened you and made you think deeper about this topic.
      Thanks, – Grace.

  6. Hi Grace,

    Thanks for your paper.

    I agree with the notion you put forward that dating apps such as Tindr and Grindr have been very useful in recent times to enhance the feeling of connection to those who otherwise would be physically restricted from it.
    However, I agree with what Cathy has said above in regards to the notion of the apps building a ‘Community’. Again, these apps focus more on the connection between two individuals, rather than the building of a sense of community through shared interest forums, etc.
    In saying that though, perhaps the main sense of community through these apps would, like you say, be found in it’s more marginalised user base? Considering the LGTBQ+ community is a minority, perhaps the simple fact that members of this community can venture onto these apps and see what is essentially a catalogue of other members would make them feel a lot less like a minority, thereby enhancing the feeling that they are part of a community?
    What do you think?

    1. Hey Jordan!
      Thank you for commenting! I am really happy that you addressed this.
      It is interesting to hear your point of view. In regards to considering how the LGBTQ+ community use dating apps, I understand that these apps work as a platform where the community can come together and feel secure. These platforms may work as a place for a sense of community and membership to build and ultimately effect how the community feels beyond the apps and enhancing into everyday life. As Cathy mentioned, if we consider McMillan and Chavis’ (1986) argument that a community has to provide membership, influence, integration, fulfilment of needs, and shared emotional connection, I believe that this set of prescriptions aline with what I am communicating, especially when considering that many apps include group chatrooms.
      Do you believe that dating apps targeted at minorities can strengthen community OUTSIDE the apps?

      1. Thanks for your reply Grace,

        I think you’ve hit the nail on the head there when scoping to the direction of strengthening community outside of the apps.
        I believe any opportunity to meet new people automatically leads to opportunities to meet more. Through meeting friends of friends, and potentially friends of their friends (And so on), the potential ripple effect of meeting just a single new person through a dating app provides the means for a person to be introduced to many new communities, or to be more submersed into those that they are already a part of.
        So yes, I certainly do think these apps provide the ability for minorities to strengthen their sense of community, but mainly under the scope of it occurring OUTSIDE the apps themselves.



  7. Hi Grace! I enjoyed reading your paper. I think you chose a very interesting topic.

    I think that social media – and dating applications, in particular – has changed how we connect with other people. However, I would like to pose a question: do dating apps form a community? If we consider David McMillan and David Chavis’ (1986) argument that a community has to provide a ‘sense of community’ (i.e. membership, influence, integration, fulfilment of needs, and shared emotional connection). I do think that dating apps do provide some of these to users. There is a fulfilment of needs (companionship) and a shared emotional connection with potential ‘dates’, and certainly a sense of membership. However, I don’t think that people on Tinder or Grindr receive a sense of influence or integration, mostly because there is no shared conversation or ‘sphere’ in which an individual can feel their opinion has some effect or sway. I would, instead, argue that dating apps are instead a network, and has changed how people connect and interact with networks.

    What do you think? I would be interested to hear your thoughts.

    1. Hi Cathy!
      Thank you for your comment!
      You have posed some really interesting points for me to consider. If we are following David McMillan and David Chavis’s definitions of community, I do believe that my article meets their criteria. I believe that dating apps can provide membership, influence, integration, fulfilment of needs and shared emotional connection. Dating apps provide a platform for this community to come together, and allow this community to strengthen as a result of the app. However, I do agree with your statement that dating apps are a network where people connect. I believe that dating apps can exist as both community and network where people connect.
      I am really happy that you shared your thoughts with me. Do you think that if more dating apps were to use group chatroom features, like Scruff does, it would enhance a sense of community?

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