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‘Tis the season of lookbacks

It’s that time of the year when every app turns out well-packaged year-end reports. How much should we care?

Tracking app trends makes sense mostly from a company perspective.
Tracking app trends makes sense mostly from a company perspective. (Unsplash)

Another year is ending, and this means almost every popular app will send us a lookback at how we used it over the last 12 months. Some apps, like Spotify, gamify the experience, rebranding their close eye on a user’s listening patterns as a way to know oneself better and share this streaming persona with friends and followers on other apps. Others, like Tinder, whose Year in Swipe, released last week, take an aggregated region-wise dataset, to track what the dating population wants.

The latest Year in Swipe revealed, for instance, that for Tinder users in India, the top 5 dating activities are meeting for coffee, concerts and festivals, stand-up shows, a movie night, and lastly, the arcade. The top dating mantra for this demographic they say, is “authenticity”, while the top social causes that daters were interested in include LGBTQ+ rights, followed by the climate crisis, animal rights, mental health, and the environment. A quick glance at this would assure a geriatric millennial that the kids are alright, after all.

Also read: How Tinder's new dating dictionary is a guidebook to modern love

We’d move on, too, but not before noting that this year’s top dating trend of ‘N.A.T.O” or “Not Attached To an Outcome” bears close resemblance to “situationships” from last year. “Tomayto-tomahto” said the geriatric millennial.

Ahana Dhar, country director of communications at Tinder India, says two of the app’s new features, “Relationship Goals” and “Relationship-types”, which allow users to state upfront what they are looking for, “were developed in response to a shift we have seen among our users increasingly becoming more intentional with who they spend their time with”—that is, after “situationships” emerged in 2022. Dhar adds that “65% of young singles in India using Tinder’s Relationship-types feature say they are “open to exploring”, and a quarter using the Relationship Goals feature say they are “still figuring it out”.

Tracking trends, therefore, makes sense from a company perspective—it helps keep a finger on the pulse and develop product features that cater to users’ changing needs. But why should the general public be bombarded with such information every December—including from food delivery services? The datapoint about Swiggy delivering a biryani every 2.28 seconds in 2022 can be an awkward conversation starter for only so long.

“Such data is maybe more valuable for advertisers or marketing professionals and companies,” says Shweta Mohandas, a lawyer and policy officer at the Centre for Internet and Society, Bengaluru, who studies legal and societal implications of technology. These reports are useful for researchers who study internet culture, too, but they don’t tell the full story in terms of cultural conversations and shifts, she notes.

While the worry of data privacy remains, Mohandas also highlights a slightly different concern: that of behavioural change following this sort of spotlight on trends. “Aggregated reports show only what a majority is doing…and this is actually not representative of society either (since, for example, gender ratio may be skewed on a specific app),” she notes. “If (such) a trend becomes a norm, it might make me feel isolated or left out…or it could influence you to change your bio to what’s more popular just so you’d get more matches.”

This year, we are reminded that authenticity is cool. Amid a deluge of more such reports, how true we remain to the term and not the trend, is on us.

Also read: Bumble dating trends for 2023: Why you need to know terms like guardrailing, wanderlove


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