Economy, Tinder and Tango

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Search and matching

Some months ago I saw a very interesting video from a greek professor of economics in Singapore. For Greek speakers, you can see the video here. For all the rest… it will all be Greek to you… so no point in watching. I will try however to summarize the main points here.

It all starts with the basic theory of supply and demand. Ideally, a market that supplies the exact amount demanded in the market is in balance. There are however a number of reasons why this is not the case. The most common denominator to all of these reasons is access to information.

Here comes the next theory, called search and matching, which was introduced by Mortensen, Diamond, and Pissarides who got a Nobel prize for it in 2010. It was developed to explain the problem of job markets where there are cases in which although there is a big demand for jobs, these positions are remaining open although in the general job market there is a big unemployment rate. The model presented is today used on many different platforms like Tinder, Amazon, LinkedIn, etc. which aim to match “suppliers” with “buyers”.

Asymmetrical motive and its result

However, the dating apps like Tinder present an additional challenge that is called asymmetrical motive. To explain this let’s assume there are two types of users in such a dating platform. The type of the “serious” member genuinely looking for a lifetime partner and the type of the “unserious” member who is just looking to hook up with other members for an ephemeral relationship or a one-night stand. The serious members always tend to present their real identities so that they will avoid unserious members and be able to find another matching serious member. However, the unserious types have a bigger motive to hide their real identity because in this way they will be able to match with both types of members and get what they want. Therefore, all members in the end present themselves as serious and the really serious members need quite an effort and time to really discover what kind of type is their potential match.

The video continues using the game theory to prove that based on the previous observations if the platform contains an equal number of serious and unserious members, it is more useful for unserious members than for serious resulting in attracting gradually more and more of them and discouraging the serious members from continuing. Therefore, the quality of the members in the platform deteriorates and stops serving its original purpose. However, there is a way to solve this problem. If the platform contains a critical mass of serious members, then the usefulness is bigger for the serious members and the rest are eventually pushed out of the platform because they don’t get the value they want from it.

Tango communities and Tinder users

In Tango, there is a similar kind of distinction between the dancer who joins and uses Tango for other motives than just having fun dancing and enjoying the music. These are the unserious type of members of a community. The rest are the serious ones. When we join the community it’s up to us to find out who is who. Of course, rumors and fame of people can help detect such unserious cases but there are sometimes well-hidden cases and circumstances that might still allow such unserious members to join and remain in the community.

So how can a community achieve the critical mass of serious members and automatically discourage the rest? The video has a long-time proven solution. Screening. If you think of it, matchmakers and dating agencies were existing and still exist for ages. How are they not swarmed by unserious members? Because they check out their member to make sure they are serious about it because otherwise their fame and business are in danger.

Gatekeepers and communities

So, who are those screening gatekeepers in our little communities? First and foremost the event organizers themselves. They carry the responsibility to exclude from milongas people with behaviors that will put other members in a difficult uncomfortable position. Only then, the members of the milonga will feel safer within the community. Tango is a dance that requires this safety to allow one to open up and allow this intimacy of the embrace. Otherwise, people in the community will hold back something being afraid of being exploited by an unserious member.

Organizing events in Tango can be a very challenging task, especially when you try to keep role balance and ensure that the level of dancers will be good enough. But for local milongas, there are sometimes other motives for the organizers (see economical profit) to turn a blind eye to such phenomena. Who wants to lose a regular “customer”? This type of thinking might be paying off in the short term but will it pay off in the long run? What kind of community will be built around this milonga? Is this going to serve the purpose of the community (enjoy a social dance) or the purpose of the organizer (make money)? Good milonga organizers know that sometimes they have to be strict, make remarks, force rules, and even send away dancers who misbehave. They know that it might affect their temporary economic benefit but it will certainly help in building up a better quality community and obviously provide a much longer and more stable economic viability. Who can influence that? Us! The members! If we realize that the organizers are turning a blind eye to misbehaving, and we continue going to their events, then we are complicit in the eventual deterioration of the community.

Tonight’s Goodnight Tango

Tonight’s Goodnight Tango is a milonga that tells the story of a charity milonga that was organized for the benefit of a man who is in prison. An accident was all it was needed to start a fight that evolved into a large brawl which ended the milonga much sooner than expected and left the man who tells the story with a bandoneon on his property.

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