HOW TINDER IS CHANGING SOCIETY – A fascinating read about what seems like a fascinating study about a fascinating topic. How is Tinder changing society? By connecting complete strangers.

For more than 50 years, researchers have studied the nature of the networks that link people to each other. These social networks turn out to have a peculiar property.

One obvious type of network links each node with its nearest neighbors, in a pattern like a chess board or chicken wire. Another obvious kind of network links nodes at random. But real social networks are not like either of these. Instead, people are strongly connected to a relatively small group of neighbors and loosely connected to much more distant people.

These loose connections turn out to be extremely important. “Those weak ties serve as bridges between our group of close friends and other clustered groups, allowing us to connect to the global community,” say Josue Ortega at the University of Essex in the U.K. and Philipp Hergovich at the University of Vienna in Austria.

Loose ties have traditionally played a key role in meeting partners. While most people were unlikely to date one of their best friends, they were highly likely to date people who were linked with their group of friends; a friend of a friend, for example. In the language of network theory, dating partners were embedded in each other’s networks.

Indeed, this has long been reflected in surveys of the way people meet their partners: through mutual friends, in bars, at work, in educational institutions, at church, through their families, and so on.

Online dating has changed that. Today, online dating is the second most common way for heterosexual couples to meet. For homosexual couples, it is far and away the most popular.

That has significant implications. “People who meet online tend to be complete strangers,” say Ortega and Hergovich. And when people meet in this way, it sets up social links that were previously nonexistent.

Every Tinder date I go to, my date and I end up agreeing that one of the best things about Tinder, and online dating generally, is that you get to meet new people that you would not otherwise cross paths with in an internet-unassisted life: people beyond your networks. Some of these people might become your romantic interests, others might become your friends, but either way they can radically expand your friendship circles and broaden your horizons – something I have been very fortunate to experience over the years (you know who you are, many of TDC readers).

The kicker:

“Our model predicts nearly complete racial integration upon the emergence of online dating, even if the number of partners that individuals meet from newly formed ties is small,” say Ortega and Hergovich.