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Who Trolls on Tinder?

What are the characteristics of Tinder trolls?

Source: Wpadington/Shutterstock

Within two years of its launch in 2012, the dating app Tinder had attracted in excess of 50 million users. The app allows users to search for dates by age, gender, and distance, and if a user likes the profile of a potential date, they indicate this by swiping their phone screen to the right. The advantage of Tinder over other dating sites is that communication can only take place if both parties like each other. Despite these advantages, Tinder has nevertheless attracted antisocial behavior in the form of trolling, which may be defined as a type of online communication intended to be offensive, menacing, or provocative (Bishop, 2014). Internet trolls create conflict and aim to cause distress to other online users simply for their own amusement (Buckels, Trapnell, & Paulhus, 2014).

In order to identify the types of individuals likely to troll on Tinder, Evita March and colleagues employed 357 participants between the ages of 18 and 60, of whom 71 percent were male, and 29 percent were female. In order to be selected for the study, participants needed to report experience using a dating app, of which Tinder was the most frequently cited. Participants were then assessed for:

Narcissism, Machiavellianism, and Psychopathy measured with items such as:

  • I insist on getting the respect I deserve (narcissism).
  • I like to use clever manipulation to get my way (Machiavellianism).
  • People who mess with me always regret it (psychopathy).

Sadistic Impulsivity measured with statements such as:

  • People would like hurting others if they gave it a go.

Dysfunctional Impulsivity on items such as:

  • I frequently make appointments without thinking about whether I will be able to keep them.

Trolling on Dating Apps measured with items such as:

  • I have sent people on the app shock comments for laughs.
  • I like to troll people on the app.

Gender Differences

Contrary to previous research, March and colleagues found that there were no overall gender differences in trolling behavior. Indeed, location-based dating apps seem to be a platform on which both males and females troll in equal amounts.

Consistent with the above finding, trolling scores in the current study compared to trolling rates in previous research indicated that female trolling rates have increased, whereas male trolling rates have remained the same. The researchers explain that this is not due to an increase in female levels of sadism and psychoticism over the years, but more likely has to do with the fact that females are engaging in higher rates of trolling behavior overall, such as on social media platforms like Twitter.

What accounts for the increase in tolling behavior on dating apps?

March and colleagues suggest that users of dating apps such as Tinder may be perceived by trolls to be soft targets, because of the stigma associated with using such apps. In other words, many people still judge them to be a place for those desperate for a relationship, and therefore more vulnerable.

In terms of measurements of sadism and psychopathy, dating app trolls appear to enjoy taunting users of Tinder, which is typical sadistic behavior. Furthermore, trolls show a disregard for any pain or suffering inflicted on other people, which characterizes their psychopathic tendencies. Dysfunctional impulsivity, characterized by such behaviors as promising to do things, but not following up on them, also predicted trolling behavior on dating apps, with higher levels of dysfunctional impulsivity being related to higher scores on trolling behavior.

However, the researchers did not find narcissism and Machiavellianism to be related to trolling behavior. Maybe because one of the characteristics of narcissism is being totally focused on oneself, whereas Machiavellianism is characterized by being manipulative. Each of these traits is unlikely to be linked to the disruptive behaviors associated with dating app trolling.

One thing the researchers did not report was the gender of the person being trolled. Therefore, it may be relevant in future studies to look at whether men trolled women or women trolled men, whether trolling was confined to the same sex, or whether this didn’t matter. Online harassment has serious psychological effects on victims, and therefore understanding what motivates people to engage in trolling behavior, and how such behavior may be prevented, is vitally important.


Bishop, J. (2014) ‘Representations of ‘trolls’ in mass media communication: A review of media-texts and moral panics relating to ‘internet trolling’.’ International Journal of Web Based Communities, 10, 7–24 (Retrieved from jhome.php?jcode=ijwbc).

Buckels, E. E., Trapnell, P. D., & Paulhus, D. L. (2014). ‘Trolls just want to have fun.’ Personality and Individual Differences, 67, 97–102.

March, E., Grieve, R., Marrington, J. & Jonason, P. K. (2016) ‘Trolling on Tinder® (and other dating apps): Examining the role of the Dark Tetrad and impulsivity.’ Personality and Individual Differences, 110, 139–143.

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