Dr. Jessica Carbino’s path to becoming a digital dating expert began with a match made in Tinder heaven. Single and completing her doctoral dissertation in L.A., Carbino matched with Sean Rad, the founder of Tinder. Rad, who was using the app for user research, became drawn to Carbino’s studies on modern dating. Thus, Carbino swiped her way into success as the company’s sociologist. She now serves as Bumble’s sociologist and recently visited Vanderbilt in order to address the wooing woes of the modern era as a speaker in the 2018 IMPACT Symposium.

For Carbino, a typical day in her life is hard to define as she frequently flies across the globe presenting and gathering data. She is currently studying the potential impact of Bumble’s unique dynamic that empowers women to make the first move. Although her research still remains in the preliminary stages, her findings thus far have proved quite optimistic.

“My initial research shows that when people are in power initially, they’re more likely to feel empowered to make subsequent decisions,” Carbino said. “So when you change one part of the dating script, like messaging and making that first move, you impact your ability to feel confident making the first move in other areas.”

Bumble, with its feminist twist, has proven to be a progressive dating platform. In accordance with its zero tolerance policy of harassment and hate speech, it banned white supremacist Jack Posobiec from the app. Furthermore, Bumble empowers the often marginalized LGBTQ+ community by allowing users to choose whether they are interested in men, women, or both. At its core, Bumble thwarts the harmful norm of male dominance in a cisgender, heterosexual context by placing the power of initiative in women’s hands.

Privacy has become an increasingly significant concern for social media users, especially in light of Facebook’s recent Cambridge Analytica scandal. Bumble protects its users’ privacy according to stringent European Union regulations that prevent the app from reading user messages.

When it comes to finding love on dating apps, Carbino stresses the importance of standing out. All too many users highlight generic interests like traveling, watching movies, and trying out new restaurants. Carbino suggests online daters spice up their profiles with something a little bolder- like Gustav Klimt. This obscure Viennese painter not only signals an appreciation for art but also provides an interesting conversation topic for potential matches.

“With online dating we need to take risks,” Carbino said. “Avoiding being different and not breaking out of the proverbial online dating mold probably feels safe in the moment, but not taking a risk by offering more distinctive information does not serve users in the long run. People looking for relationships are seeking to find someone who is unique.”

Another common area for improvement that Carbino notes is online dating profile pictures. Many people choose to wear clothing with neutral colors, such as blue, black, white, and gray . These demure shades may not repel potential matches, but they don’t draw people in. On the other hand, more daring hues like red and purple, historically associated with royalty and power, signal that possible suitors should take notice. Furthermore, among a sea of sexy smolders and angsty angles, a simple, straightforward smile is statistically more likely to produce a favorable response. Smilers are 14% more likely to be swiped right on, while forward facers are 20% more likely to receive that coveted right swipe.

Another key component to successful online dating is the witty back and forth banter that often develops after a match is made. Carbino suggests shying away from the generic conversation starters of, “Hey, how are you?” and “How was your weekend?”

“People really care about knowing that you care about them rather than the 100 other people that you’ve just swiped left or right on,” Carbino said. “Whoever it is that you’re dating, go into their profile and look at their bio or their photos and pick something out, even if there isn’t a lot of context. “

A common concern among many users is that dating app profiles are inherently superficial. How can someone determine the potential for a deep romantic relationship with just one quick glance? According to Carbino, a concept called thin slicing proves that there really is little difference between a quick swipe online and an instantaneous first impression in person.

“In thin slicing, our brain takes a limited amount of information in a very brief period of time to create a very rich and robust composite of somebody and who they are,” Carbino said. “We use thin slicing in our daily lives, like when we’re walking down the street and trying to determine whether somebody is safe or is dangerous, or when we’re sitting  on the airplane and trying to determine whether the person sitting next to us will be interesting to talk to and also receptive to us talking to them.”

Furthermore, Carbino emphasizes that these seemingly short, superficial profiles really do offer a deeper insight into someone’s personality.

“A picture really is worth a thousand words,” Carbino said. “There’s a lot more we learn from a picture than whether or not someone is hot. They tell us whether someone is adventurous, thrill seeking, or arrogant. You can even tell by examining a man’s jawline in his photo whether or not he is kind and compassionate.”

Ultimately, the contemporary phenomenon of dating apps boils down to the age-old desire to find a romantic partner. While dating apps certainly expand one’s network of potential love interests, Carbino suggests that the quest for romance most often ends in settling- a comment approved by her boyfriend, whom she met online. While certainly not bashing the concept of true love, Carbino seeks to move away from the modern myth of Mr. Perfect and instead suggests embracing an authentic, imperfect human being with all of their ups and downs.

Don’t over romanticize it,” Carbino said. “We are all humans with flaws. Once you find someone that you actually like, give them a real shot.”

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